The Law of Nothing
"Notwithstanding all the diverse ways in which various forms of motion can transform into other ones, a fundamental law of nature — that of the eternity of matter and its motion, is accurately observed. This law governs all kinds of matter and all forms of its motion; no kind of matter and no form of motion can be obtained from nothing or converted into nothing. This is confirmed by the entire century-old experience of science."
N. L. Glinka, 1958
from General Chemistry Volume 1,
Translated from the Russian by G. Leib ~ Mir Publishers Moscow
All Things Needful
Born poor and raised in a house of fear, I'm never too far from a haunting by the haint Scarcity. I look dead ahead and conjure-up emotional dank, quicksand on a moonless night. I see me, broke and eaten-up with the negative self, lost 'n wandering through a desolate marsh, confidence sinking into grim and intractable mire. It's a bad situation, the sudden absence of love in a place where love abides — and then, and then — someone dear shouts, "Get ihm to the Hope!" Ouer hil and hoip, bank & bra to the haven in the hollows, inside the bastion erected against contrarie winds. This is my story, this is my fate on the bitter moonless night.
Haint is an expression of local color,
peculiar, some say, to the South of the United States [not]
and imbued with two meanings.
One is a backwoods form of ain't, a vulgar contraction of have not [ain't got].
The other is otherworldly and spooky.
For the first, we look way back to the 1850s and the visage of Doctor Rattlehead, country physician, who at the end of his rounds is delayed by storm to the edge of night after ministering to a stricken woman in backcountry Arkansaw.
I went on until dark, and as it was yet five miles to the house of my acquaintance, I concluded I had better stop at a little cabin on the roadside, just ahead of me. I rode up to the house and hallooed. A little boy out in the woods heard me and came up, when the following dialogue took place.
Doctor.— "My little boy, what's your name? can I get to stay all night with you?"
Boy.— "Mr. my name is same as my daddy's; don't think you can stay all night here; we no way komidatin' strangers nohow."
Doctor.— "I am willing to put up with any sort of fare, so I can stay; can't you find some place for my horse, and feed him a little?"
Boy.— "Well, I rekin not; for we haint no stable, an' we haint no corn, nor we haint no fodder neder."
Doctor.— "Well, if I tie my horse up, can't you find some place for me to sleep?"
Boy.— "Well, I rekin not; kaise we haint no bed, nor we haint no straw, nor we haint no floor in de house nedur."
Doctor.— "That looks pretty bad, my boy; but if I stop, can't you give me something to eat? I feel hungry; had no dinner to-day."
Boy.— "Well, I rekin not; kaise we haint no meet, nur we haint no bred, nor we haint no taiter nedur."
Doctor Rattlehead, "feeling somewhat insulted at such language from a little knock-kneed, bow-legged, bandy-shanked, dried-up, hump-backed boy," mounted his horse and rode off into the silent and dismal wood — and straight into a harrowing scrape with Indians.
The Life And Adventures Of An Arkansaw Doctor by satirist Marcus Lafayette Byrn was published in 1851 under the pseudonym David Rattlehead, M.D. The good doctor from Raccoon Bayou in Poinsett County advertised himself [so to speak] as "the man of scrapes . . . a roller of pills and masher of boluses in the backwoods." You can find Rattlehead's fanciful memoirs on Google Books — and if'n you haint got no money to spend on books don't worry it's a free read if'n you got a 'puter.
Another kind of haint
brought me here tonight, lured me like a Siren on the olive foam
to a raw and naked white and shimmering page:
the haunting kind of haint,
creature of psychic pestilence and the midnight shakes.
in the time required to maneuver through the language
to this snarl in the narrative, imaginings of scarcity
pass away like the night horse on a lunar mare,
galloping 'cross Galileo's pale scope into a high sea.
Of a sudden I am awash in exhaustless riches.
I am healed again, washed ashore.
Fulfilled, I am [nevertheless] compelled to complete my meditation on the haint, difficult though it may be to bring another something to an end. I'm so weary of the weight of another ensuing beginning. I'd prefer the happy ending to every tale — at times even for the last tale to end. I long to hear the heavenly trumpet sound, announcing the opening of the seventh seal. Will you sit with me on the far side of the distant moon and cry for the joyous silence? It won't last too very long. Will you kneel with me at the marbled altar, accept the offer to repent?
I brought forth the first haint as a way to express the emptiness of invisible riches — Woe! Woe! Woe! for all I do not own and all I'll n'er possess — and the brittle dryness of a depleted cornucopia. I was hungry in a vast storehouse of limitless substance because I refused to eat. I sought to make sense of my dearthful imaginings, and from my childhood came the illuminating image of the haint, the ghost that is not the ghost but the terrifying figment of the overwrought mind. One's shadow in the streetlight back there in the alleyway becomes through fear an ambush sprung. The darkness under the bed hosts a vast lair for monsters in the night. A future without love is the lie accepted.
Haint as spectre or spook was not common usage as a written word until the twentieth century. A variant of haunt, it harkens back to Middle English haunten, which means "to frequent" — and where else but home? Other than the graveyard and the battlefield, one's familial dwelling place and its anchoring neighborhood give harbor to the haint. Frequent there, we pause to invent our fears.
As language follows us from place to place, some elements of the vocabulary gradually assume new forms and come to mean a different thing. Words from one tongue slip quietly into commonplace usage in another, especially in a land like mine, where peoples from all the Earth's tribes settle and then begin to communicate through an evolving hybrid language.
I'm supposing tonight that my spooky Arkansaw haint is very likely rooted in the language of nineteenth century Wales — Haint y nodau, the plague; or more simply, haint, causing a contagion. Transplanted to the USA by immigrants from the mining communities of Denbigh, Glamorgan, Flint, Carmarthen, Monmouth and a spate of hardscrabble villages scattered throughout the snaking Welsh coalfield — there were farmers, too, who crossed the swelling Atlantic from Cymru to America by the tens of thousands in the late nineteenth century — the word haint gradually entered the lexicon of local color to become something new.
So, tonight in the presence of the crow, in far-off America and a century and more removed from the time of the passage, the Welsh haint bespeaks a malignant distemper. It rises in vapours as a twenty-first century haint, the haunting from within.
Haint . . . Haunt . . . Hant . . . and Chet Atkins
Once a word becomes part of pop culture and takes a foothold on the shifting sands of commonplace usage, the word is free game for writers, storytellers, singers, and any ole soul with a flair for language. Practitioners of the lingua franca of local color can spell and pronounce a word in any manner they see fit — language police ignored. While reading this web entry, my friend Roger Pauley thought of the tune "Don't Monkey Round My Widder" by Chet Atkins and Doc Watson. Roger sent a link from YouTube. "There's a curious country song by Chet Atkins that talks about 'hainting.' I heard it on Prairie Home Companion," Roger wrote on October 19. When I replied [in so many words] that Prairie Home Companion is a show from way up north, Roger politely replied, "I think Chet was a southerner. Just happened to be on the Minnesota show."
A Tennessee gentleman and one of country music's greatest guitar pickers, Chet Atkins (1924-2001) released "Don't Monkey Round My Widder" on his 1980 album, "Reflections." The tune's hook is the warning, "I'll haint you, boy, if you monkey round my widder when I'm gone." The warning comes from a man on his death bed, who admonishes potential postmortem suitors to leave his widow alone after he dies. "If you monkey round my widder I'm a-tellin' you true, some dark night I'll scare the hell out o' you," the dying man sings. The word "haint" is heard five times in the song, and Chet clearly pronounces it to rhyme with "ain't." However, the publishers of Chet's lyrics spell the word as "haunt" — and that's odd, given the presence of widder, a-tellin', sparkin', and come a-sneakin' in the written-down version of the tune. There's but one rational explanation: the lyrics editor must be a Yankee. It's also interesting that the noun haint is "verbified" into Chet's haunting haint.
On another note, the word "hant" is sometimes tossed into the wind to indicate the presence of a ghost, either on premises or dwelling in the mind because of some horrid childhood memory. It is pronounced to rhyme with "can't."
David 'Bugs' Stover writes
from his home in Mullens, West Virginia:
"Many Welsh, Irish, Scots, and Scots/Irish came and worked here and brought along their tales. And haint is often used in both those ways! When I was a young lad I remember hearing an adult holler out, "It haint a haint fors I know that man...."
Bugs is a renowned story teller and one of the nicest folks you'll ever meet. When he isn't spinning tales in the classroom or at Twin Falls Resort State Park, he serves as the elected clerk of the 27th Circuit Court and Family Court of Wyoming County, West Virginia. Here are links to a couple of stories about this most remarkable citizen:
Stover pedals 90-plus miles for a cause:
Wyoming County Report
Life! Love for environment, office:
Sunday Profile in The Register-Herald
Ebenezer's e-mail address:
Bicycling in Dreams
I can travel through my past on a bicycle in my dreams. The light is never bright and sharp but dull and heavy with shadow, though I am light afoot and glide o'er the landscape like a pony. I peddle effortlessly along city streets long lost to the now, see structures that no longer stand, great trees felled, the concrete lanes of neighborhoods devoured by a Great Society's war on poverty.
My dreamy urban jaunts inevitably lead toward a childhood home on Commerce Street beside MacArthur Park. I never quite get there. How could I when all the familiar things are taken away? The recompense is a sense of reclamation, appearing among pillows and quilts while the dream fades, a feeling of freedom on the wheel, of freedom in the breeze, of joy in the rush of unbridled movement — things lost to me now in the twilight hours of a leveraged and arthritic life. Sometimes I wish I could go back.
I listen, woeful,
to the language of the tweet, the herky-jerkey discordant melody of a fractured age,
a bawldered form of communication better left to the robins and the crows,
and hawks on the hunt in broad daylight.
I don't want the Universe to die. Ever. A scientist down the hollow was overheard last night saying all of existence might one day arrive at a place of maximum entropy. But there's not enough time to fix it today, not sufficient energy to make the entropy go away. Heat Death they call it. I'll call it tomorrow's problem. Right now I'm trying to keep my head above a torrent of bits 'n blasted expectations.
You could say that my being here is an act of desperation, but I'll claim otherwise. If being here matters to me, and if I'm pure of motive and clean in intent, and if I follow the rule of Do No Harm, then my typing and design are no big deal. Who cares if it all falls on unseeing eyes? I'll not give up. Ever.
The barking dogs announced the arrival of a real estate agent with a little hammer and big sign, listing the lot at twenty-nine grand. I could hear the clank, clank, clank of hammer head on steel frame. I stepped outside and walked across the lane to greet her. We discussed the prospects for a deal. Nothing tendered, nothing resolved.
Consciousness becomes radically fragmented in the bit torrent, so much so that I'm having a hard time keeping hold of an idea. Three sentences ago looks far, far away. Some urgent and trivial thing rares up to vie for attention — it's a flash here, a flame there, a current intervention demanding recognition — and when I allow any one of 'em to pull me away from this straight and narrow thread, I've soon forgotten where I was only a fragment or two ago. Out comes an engaging image, or a sweet turn of phrase, or a melodic melding of action and description, but then I look back and see the error of inattentive repetition.
Present. Current. Relevant. Connected. Noticed.... Part Three.
It's not who am I ? but rather who are You ?
If I am present and current in the context of a time and a place — the time is this very moment, set by the electric concrete of bytes and bits into a clearly defined place, which is a singular browser page on the World Wide Web — then the only way I can become relevant is to be connected to you, here and now, and then have the connection mean something to the both of us.
To [be able to] connect with you at this place and now, three related notions ought to take form and manifest before the act occurs:
one is the means to connect,
another is the will to connect, and
the third is confidence that a connection is viable and worthwhile.
We can. We want to. The other person ... in another place ... exists and matters.
With those essentials satisfied, all that remains is the act: Click and go.
At genesis is the N E T W O R K , but which one?
The means to connect arise from one type of network, computing: vast, transient, and unknowable as the one thing. It can be observed and partially understood only through its discrete parts. Connections in this network reside in the Global Machine of One and Zero, always open and instantly closed; an interlaced net of routed nodes and alternating gates, of silicon chips and wafers, of gaseous plasmas and liquid crystals, of subatomic energies and magnetic fields, of copper and plastic, fused alloys and stretched glass.
The interface, the point of connection between human and machine, presents a perpetually scrolling image of sequential symbols, upon which blocks of words and clumps of pixels are expanded and then squeezed into malleable expressions, known at the core as data, which is transformed into content, and then transmitted and delivered by personal computing devices linked to the Internet.
The will to connect arises from perceptions of value applied to another kind of network, the human network: blood relations, school mates, friends and colleagues at work or at play, neighborhood pals, like-minded souls engaged in shared passions, enthusiams, or beliefs. Not one of these others — any one of you — is here now in my lonely laboratory, but I must believe you are out there on the other side of the gulf and available for a connection — should the moment of intersection arrive. Otherwise, futility. Abject futility. Uselessness. And uselessness again. Without one another we are unvisited islands, charted by naught but self.
Not everyone we know fits into the blended network of machine and human. Membership is qualified by one's possession of the necessary technological implements and the willingness to participate in Internet-based realities, either through an e-mail address, a social networking presence, or the proclivity to visit websites. The network lives out there in the World Wide Web and in here in a personal-computer fantasyland. Amorphous and flickering, it is populated by an original set of imagined folk, who are tethered to keyboards or keypads and moored on the other side of the screen and the firewall. It is a net brimming with opportunity for community and acceptance, or for cold indifference, of for flaming criticism and outright rejection — lurking always in forbidding shadows.
Hello World! Activate the portal. Enter into the electric mystery realm, a terrible place so swift and ephemeral that naught but imagination and blind faith can hold it together or make it real. Are you as fascinated by it as I? No longer a child, do you yet experience awe and wonder where contempt and ennui deign to intrude?
I know you are there. You are.
Present. Current. Relevant. Connected. Noticed.... Part Two.
Deadlines and due dates when linked to a paycheck or a grade book grab hold of the now with necessary urgency. The clock advances, merciless and finite, toward an end point charged with temporal consequence. The appointed time comes, the demand is satisfied, and for a while the timeline becomes current.
Then, the inevitable: What's next?
Here in the confines of a sanctuary — once ago I called it a hovel, my place of respite, but I'm not so desperate now — the paycheck and grade book appear as constructs in the argument, mere objects for comparison and contrast, not forces to compel the act.
[ Oksob sighs, O goodness! Nothing is happening here. O my! ]
No Money. No Grades. Just Numbers.
Corvus and host CornDancer are unbound from the demands of a commercial web. Money doesn't change hands here. No paycheck is issued, no dun is proffered. Who would pay? Why ask?
Judgment in this here place isn't dished-out in the language of A B C D F, pass or fail. Assignments are self-generated, exams are personal exercises in either angst or euphoria, and the final exam forever awaits completion.
But judged we are.
On a practical level, the evaluation of cyber relevance is ordered by the science of Net analytics, [which is] the study and interpretation of statistical data provided by the interface of embedded code and software packages on browser and server. Analytics offers raw statistics and clever metaphor about web traffic, visitor metrics, search engine rankings, links from other webs, and a slew of other arcana extracted from the data mine.
From these evaluators is judgment passed on the relevance of a web.
We ask: How many unique visitors and pageviews did the embedded tracking script detect today?
We ask: Where on a scale of ascending and descending importance does any one page or a collection of pages (a domain or subset of a domain) register in search-engine hierarchy?
We ask: Who is linking to your web?
These are fundamental questions, lean and direct, whose answers provide a quick and ready indication of a web's relevance.
A Soft Round Zero
Were we a commercial enterprise rather than an altruistic player of the Great Game, we would be able to extend the breadth and depth of analytics into realms of profound and mysterious temporal complexity based on principles of sales, marketing, and other manic engines of corporate capitalism. But we aren't. CornDancer and its participants ascribe to an older model of the Web's purpose, a not-commercial model based on ideals of community and respectful communication among far-flung sharers with a computer, access to the Internet, and a mutual idea or two. Ours is an openhanded, eclectic, freely chosen model, one that's fallen from favor lately but shall regain currency over time — after the ad-riddled smoke clears and the social media fragments are swept away, after the serial outbreaks of rapid-fire newness grow stale, and a quieter age emerges from the necessary retrenchment, and cyber subcultures mature and coalesce to create and enjoy content and authenticity.
But.... We've come to answer a few fundamental questions regarding relevance, and in doing so, we admit: Journal for the Corvus earns a soft round zero — or very close to it.
Unlike many of CornDancer's webs, Corvus attracts few visitors. The first post in this series drew a half dozen. Two arrived after e-mail invitation. The third e-mail invitee respectfully declined on account of demands and responsibilities. And on this warm day in mid-June, I can find nary a direct link to the Corvus, though one of my favorite bloggers, Leecee, sent a welcome handful of visitors to CornDancer's homepage last week, and some of them clicked our internal link to this page.
As for search results, they are rendered meaningless when relevant search terms are not posed to the engine, be it Google or Bing or some other web crawler with an interface. Who's searching? No one we know.
No complaint here. Obscurity is a state of mind, and no matter what, I'll hold to the notion that the Corvus is and shall remain an expression of the heart's desire, existing outside the judgment of science and the interesting evidence it provides. I choose again to exercise hope — a childish emotion, perhaps, but one I'm not so cynical to abandon just yet.
I want to be relevant — I do! — but I'm way too sleepy most of the time. When I do wake up sufficiently to do something, I look around and realize: It's already been said and done. All of it.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Come, Relevance, Come!
Nevertheless, I form the words — pneuma go forth — and push them outward. It can be done again. Maybe some others will listen. Maybe some others will see. Maybe some others will acknowledge that I exist — I do! — and by doing so, acknowledge that we exist, too.
In the act of sharing physical or psychic space in the Universe, we find meaning. Isn't that the essence of relevance? To impart meaning to the passing moment when any two of us come into the same space and acknowledge one another's existence?
Maybe so. There's scant rest in CyberLand for those on the Long March to being current. We are here. The timeline is satisfied again. That the land of the Corvus isn't very relevant becomes a thing we intend to fix. Come back. Watch and see. We pledge to seek greater cyber relevance, to move the markers from the zero point to a higher plane on the upward seeking axis of analytics. We do!
N E X T : Connected, Noticed — and Done. (maybe)
Present. Current. Relevant. Connected. Noticed.... Part One
I entered the Web in the summer of 2000 by creating CornDancer. It was an act of bravado rooted in retribution, a poor boy's way of dealing with a disrespectful culture. Having just been fired from gainful employment by a blood clan in the city, I retreated to my sanctuary in the suburbs, searching for an avenue of return. Twelve years later I'm still searching, undaunted.
Someday you'll find everything you're looking for
Someday you'll find everything you're looking for, yeah.
Twelve years of changes between CornDancer's first page and today's submission to a cluttered universe have not diminished my understanding of the Web's foundational premise: Universal Participation. Anyone with the Will, the means of production, and a few units of currency can spin a thread on the great World Wide Web. By the trillion we stand. Because there are so few limits to participation, the act of getting there, being Present, assumes the character of operating a household appliance or an office machine. Prepare a meal, post a blog entry. Photocopy a set of documents, compose an e-mail. Microwave a snack, tweet a comment. Box and ship a package, upload a photo. The commonplace and the mundane prevail.
Calling a thing commonplace is not to devalue it. Without the ordinary, nothing becomes special. Unless we be grounded, we cannot transcend.
Being Current when distraction and diversion are everblooming [more or less] requires a basic level of craft, steady attention to the relentless pace of timelines, and the realization that everyone out there is thirsty, too. You open the refrigerator door in anticipation of a cold beverage just like you visit a familiar web — a forum, a blog, a podcast, a social page — in anticipation of the fresh and the topical. How important to holding your interest online is a current dateline, timestamp, or calendar notation? How likely are you to return to a particular web if you're sure to find something new?
If we so incline our argument to the notion of a wasteland, to the incessant crawl of fragmented posts upon a facebook wall, or the chattering rat-a-tat of tweets from the twitters, or urgent links to the next viral YouTube video, then we proclaim the truth of Eliot's lament of 1922, that "you know only a heap of broken images" in a shadow land with no shelter, no water, no nothing but the stony rubbish of a demented age. Can it be so bad?
Frankly, I can't go there just now, won't rush into the street shouting BAD!, won't damn the universe because it continues to ignore me, won't gossip about your failings because you refuse to do what I want you to do. Go ahead. Send me a check — right now — for twenty-five dollars, fifty if you're feeling magnanimous. Go out tomorrow and tell everyone you know how very, very much you adore and admire me.
For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny
Despite all disclaimers, I'm reluctant to enter into the land of the wall and the tweet, even though I know I should in the interest of knowledge and knowingness — it is the thing to do, is it not? — but facebook compels the wanderer to look into glass houses or stand helplessly naked as if trapped in a recurring a bad dream, and twitter appears from the outside to snare the mind in a distended string of snap judgments and surface skimming. The both collectively are akin to couch time with a reality TV show or chit-chat with posers at a dinner party, but....
....the BAD! is merely a theory, something alien to the quest for harmony and peace at home. I won't succumb to its cynical power of dissolution. Not now, not when I'm only a few steps away from home. No number of upwardly thrusting thumbs shall dissuade me from the struggle to overcome gloom and distrust, clamoring to emerge as the misanthrope from within. Got one in there? Do you?
Being RELEVANT presents the greater challenge. I want to be. Relevant. But how [to be so] in a playing field so vast, an electric grassland of the trillion webs, floating like blades of shimmering pampas and bluestem on the infinite silicon wafers of the World Wide Web? How might I break through the clutter and the maze to find my place before the last day comes?
N E X T : From Relevant to Connected, Noticed — and Done.
Eleven thousand five hundred and thirty-seven days ago . . . .
some several days before cynicism arrived as a besieging legion, enemy at the gates, camping beside the walls of psyche and mocking the dotering mind.
"In the name of The Creator, I abjure those thoughts!" shouts the Guardian, Oksob de Opposite, resident eternal of the Opposite Loft.
[ Be there with the luminary or be square with the limitary. ]
See the candies, stolen from the hoarding house. They crumble in the gnarled fingers and liver-spotted hands of the wretched old refugee.
Care not to see?
Then look away, retreat under the dark of night to another place . . . .
some several days before cynicism arrived.
As children, citizens of the USA are taught that their nation is the melting pot of the world, taught that dreamers from all of Earth's peoples meld together within our sylvan shores. In Arkansas, this meld is a mixing of whites and blacks — descendants of fair-skinned European settlers and ebony-skinned freeborn Africans and liberated slaves. Curiously, great swathes of Arkansas are populated almost entirely by whites, especially in the deeper reaches of the mountains, but the state's collective character is indelibly stamped with colored hues.
The population of the river delta lands to the west of the Mississippi shows these colored hues in their finest light. There we have a seasoned mixture of the two dominant American races, demonstrating Arkansas' striving for practical racial equality through the daily sharing of society between the white majority and the black, ascendent minority — if not always together, then side-by-side. Try as they might, utopian populists cannot dismiss the existence of racialism and its insidious vapours; hence, the coexistence of different-coloured peoples is gained through attitudes of prevailing grace and acts of mutual respect, becoming an achievement of distinction won by the arduous effort of native Arkansans.
Asians are few but not unknown to Arkansas. Chinese settlers have been Arkansawyers for multiple generations, while more recently many thousands of Vietnamese refugees have turned to the Arkansas hearth to find a new home, smoke trails of defeat stretching into the horizon, all guilt and reparation, slender arm extending, bending to the sea.
We of Arkansas share very little with American Indians, who weren't encouraged to stay here along their trail of tears, dismal trek westward into Oklahoma, and whose presence in the wooded hills of today is but a faint echo of a lost age.
To describe Arkansas, one is led again and again, tendril strands from the vitals, to its folk.
Arkansawyers are consciously independent in their perceptions of self. Freedom of action, freedom of assembly, belief in the right to do what you damn well please within limits of civil society are traits of the people's character. Live and let live.
Arkansawyers are considerate to strangers, but usually mildly suspicious and prone to ask, "What are you doing here?" The best way for a stranger to visit Arkansas is to wear the mask of guest, inviting conspicuous hospitality from residents of an insular land overflowing with ready hosts. Ultimately, once an affinity is established between guest and host, the latter attempts to bring about a conversion: Why don't you move and live here?
True! Arkansawyers will invite you to become their neighbor if they take a liking to you, and the basis of this seemingly instant acceptance of strangers is often little more than intuition. Intuitive judgments, influenced by honesty and a warm heart, are prominent particles flowing within the vital fluid of Arkansawyers.
Arkansas is a star on the flag of the United States of America, a mythic bonding of two million humans living consciously together within boundaries imagined and plotted and stratified by surveyors, map drawers, and nation builders. Arkansas is private farms and national forests, fertile fields and thick stands of trees. Its clarion call is Nature, around whose charms all the citizens revolve, mankind among the flora and the beasts. From seeds of all the world's tribes its peoples sprout to sink roots and mature.
Arkansas' boundaries contain a symphony of life, led by the great conductor. Families are comfortably sheltered in mostly humble abode, and from that familial core arise great numbers of industrious beings, merging and congregating into a dynamic society based on nationalism, religion, and shared aspirations of the better life. This Great Society and all its trappings — splendid cities, comfortable villages, smooth motorways, an abundance of sustenance — flourish amid the spacious and enveloping wilds, wherein roam expansive natural families of mammals, reptiles, fowls, and fishes.
Delta and mountain are prominent in Arkansas' geography. Flanking the Arkansas River, which runs all the way through, are the sister ranges, the southern Ouachitas and the northern Ozarks. While the Ouachita Mountains are scenic masterpieces, their granite bluffs, tumbling falls, and stretching ridges a wonderland of Nature, the Ozarks are the wiser, more fascinating peaks, their jagged and singular mountains an ancient wilderness of earthly mystery and primal power, a paradise of primeval dimensions.
Then, lying eastwards, nudging against the mountains, are the millions of acres of Mississippi River delta, rice 'n cotton 'n beans, flying duck, scrambling squirrel, swimming bream and bass. Lest we be derelict, we point southward to the vast stands of piney woods leading to the bayous and swamplands of neighboring Louisiana.
Symbols of shared identity? There are many. One is the grizzled, tusk-toothed Razorback, a strain of swine, reddish and snarling beast of hills and hollows. The Razorback is aspiration, ambition, desire to be accepted because of excellence — an appropriate symbol for a people too oft afflicted with doubt and shaky self-esteem. The Razorback, then, becomes the lofty ideal and the earthy endeavor, each rooted in accomplishment — the creature of a majestic Arkansas mountain, racing toward the highest peak, where the trees glisten in the golden light of the rising sun.
Eleven thousand five hundred and thirty-seven days ago is way back there. Since that time, the browns have joined the whites and the blacks as major players in Arkansas' racial blend. Likewise, the metaphor of the melting pot falls from favor, having been replaced with the metaphor of the salad bowl, affirming Uncle Bill's lament of 1919: the centre cannot hold. It hasn't. It won't. Eaten up with race and perceptions of difference, we as the human species uncenter our union. Thus do we swirl and tumble in the swift channels of a vortex with dubious end.
The Old Order crumbles like dry crackers in trembly hands, and the Dancers of Saint Vitus prance and spin on the streets of Athens and Oakland, and the fallen wish for a lion to arrive in a cloud to lick their wounds, but all they see are jackboots and hot smoke. . . .
and Word comes from afar that the Fourteen Holy Helpers
are kidnapped and handcuffed by black-tongued followers of the prophet Muhammad,
and held for ransom as a venerated prey
in a neglected loft
not far from Our Lady of Paris
on the Left Bank
of the rock-lined Seine in Gay Paree. . . .
[ O so Gay! ]
but here in the quiet of Three Dog Acres the falling down,
the drifting in the wind,
is an Order of Leaves, oaks and hickories, old in their time
and here we cannot know the comings and goings of the Old Order over there. . . .
only the well-connected high fliers can know the depth of the fall
the rest of us are blinded and smothered by information welling up
like fracking gasses
to rouse a quaking of the earth there is no single reliable source
all we have to do
to get back,
is bring home the factories, the smelters and the forge,
great boiling vats of production where did the money go?
Did the sly cagey masters of high finance gather it all into a heap,
into flammable crates for a secret rite of incineration?
Are they testing the oven?
Where did the money go?
Democracy is dead!
Long live the oligarchs!
Representative government in the US of A is long gone dead. Won't be revived any time soon. We The People have lost our mojo. There's no turning back.
Future Cast. I knew it was coming:
Waves sweep 4 out to sea in Crescent City as tsunami surges reach west coast. Mr Kan remained seated during the quake as chandeliers swayed and desks shook while aides rushed to his side. Radiation level rising
You can take all the tea in china
Put it in a big brown bag for me
Sail right around the seven oceans
Drop it straight into the deep blue sea
US Tightening Noose On Gadhafi
Jewel was hit by a fire truck this morning in Texas the rep says it sounds like everyone is ok but Jewel had quite the scare when she and her unborn baby were involved in a car accident
wore a leather minidress by Raquel Allegra who is famous for customizing T-shirts once worn by inmates of LA County Jail. Lindsay was given one last chance to accept a plea deal in the case which sees her accused of stealing a necklace from a Venice jewelry store probation report might send her to jail
You can't stop us on the road to freedom
You can't stop us 'cause our eyes can see
Men with insight, men in granite
Knights in armor intent on chivalry
She's as sweet as tupelo honey
Monkey In Woman's Bra Makes Waves At Amherst Courthouse
I'm really just hoping they hear that there are a lot of people fed up with having legislation rammed down their throats. I think he just kicked the wrong hornet's nest a woman a floor below sang the national anthem over a microphone
hundreds of bodies found get government out of our toilets Senator vows investigation a lurid loopy utterly ludicrous enterprise Whip My Hair star talked about Gaga's prosthetic shoulder implants ends deal with Target Girl Scout cookie lover's dreams about to come true invited to take trip to Big Apple
Robbers Stuff Victims Heads in Bags of Sliced Onions
Republican recision of bargaining rights in Wisconsin was a Pyrrhic victory for the plutocrats bank pays price for supporting governor these union bosses that are acting like thugs leading some of their good union members down a road that will result in unfortunately somebody getting hurt move to strip most public workers of collective bargaining rights a corruption of democracy
She's as sweet as tupelo honey
She's an angel of the first degree
She's as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like the honey from the bee
Protesters Removed From Capital Before Vote
Critics Fear Anti-Muslim Hate After Hearing
one of the girls tried to blind her helpless enemy with acid wanted to burn the eyes out of honor student
Riveting 'Love Lab' Footage Reveals Early Signs of Divorce
unfortunately we have too many mosques in this country we should be finding out how we can infiltrate them this is an enemy living amongst us.
The misinformation is stark when it comes to Islam the coverage was mostly about violence and militancy paranoid propaganda by the leadership gullible consumption of it by the public knee-jerk reactions by
You know she's alright
You know she's alright with me
She's alright, she's alright, she's an angel
She's an angel of the first degree
Think your vote means anything? Let's be clear. The elected players in Washington and the fifty state capitols are straw women, straw men — servants of the few. They are walking symbols of the illusion that citizens of the republic are in control of their work and their fate. Not. USA is an empire ruled by an oligarchy. The rich ones, unbound. Getting richer.
Seven thousand and ninety-seven days ago . . . .
The voice rumbled in the racing wind at midnight, bringing premonitions of an eruption. Everyone waits for it. The dirt, the melee, a leader.
Admit the confusion. Admit the impossibility of piecing together a coherent image of reality from the fragments, the repulsive parts of a broken vessel. Over there, see him: the blind man, wandering through a manufactured electron cloud beside the ruins of Raba ETO's ironworks. The good comrades command him to identify the elements. Sounds good, but that's not what he was searching for way back in the beginning.
How to put a positive spin on an emerging picture of chaos? He wants to know. How to find good in the machinations of power? He wants to know. Is the exercise of personal power inherently bad? Can power be achieved without aggression, cynical manipulation, the raising up of the necessary enemies so that the minions my be marshalled to commit profane action?
The noise is off, turned off for the night, but the echoes, O the echoes! They come on the lying winds of the zephyr, carrying waves of recrimination for undone things. How can he help the blind man when the both of 'em are too far removed from the arena, isolated and undone, not allowed to roll with the moving flesh, prevented from smelling the pumping blood? It gathers in pools on the concrete. It won't pump for long. The water trucks are parked on the margins, ready with their hoses. The masons with their periodic tables stand ready to cement the losses.
All that remains, then, is the ritual cleaning of the slate, the sharpening of knives, the resting-up for a new run to begin on the morrow.
I'm surrounded. Gotta be. Tales of drama from afar arrive on modulated waves to rattle the walls of the study, crashing at every hour of every day, fresh and breaking waves of hot and urgent news, unsettling, ceaseless, threatening to erode the very foundation of ties that bind. I'm convinced the reports must be true. Who would lie about the epic and the dirge?
Insurrection, faux revolution, ardent wailings about freedoms lost, opportunities stolen away: I hear the urgent shouts of distant messengers. They cling like asexual Sirens to hot lampposts on urban squares, repeating the demands for liberty and a living wage, the end of corruption and coercion, the beginning of democracy and freedom now. How lofty on high! How violent and desperate on low, where acrid gasses roll o'er the throng like phantoms, and where batons and bullets stand as representatives of the State, and where every surface concession is met by opposite and equal acts of core repression.
Are the suffocating edifices of a groaning State actually falling down?
The voices tell us the tyrant of Egypt is driven away. But who arises to replace him? The old generals of a well-heeled, power-thirsty military band? Really. Blood is dripping from the honey in the comb, and everyone is falling into the deeper well. So she sings. An invisible empire of chaos rips into the civilized regions beyond the cottage walls, out there, where great and tumultuous cities rise like fractured quartz crystal, jagged above the plains. The people trapped inside are rapidly going mad. It appears so. It does.
Take up arms. Do everything possible to make their use unnecessary. Against the army, the only victory is political. There is no such thing as a peaceful insurrection. Weapons are necessary; it's a question of doing everything possible to make them unnecessary. An insurrection is more about taking up arms and maintaining an "armed presence" than it is about armed struggle.
— from The Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee
Even then, knowing the squads of marauders are surging toward every gate, I cannot bring myself to be afraid. So what if they have their mighty arms. I have my wits about me, my feet under me. Don't you?
I am struck, though not dumb, by the apparent disconnect between the tales I hear about my tumultuous planet on the one bloody hand, and my daily experience here in the pacific heartland on the other oft washed hand. Are we not the greatest nation on the globe? "That's what they always say," the Englishman Chris Rea sings. "Just one more little thing left in my way. That's what they always say." What meaning can I find in Egypt or Bahrain other than intellectual exercise when here in the comfort of my cottage I want for nothing of substance other than escape from the angst of prosperity and relief from the infirmities of survival?
Exiled from the fray, bathed by a stream of ease and comfort, I question the validity of my viewpoint on far-away insurrections. How idle the distraction? How distant the truth? Our little gardens here at the cottage seem insignificant in light of the seriousness so abundant on the globe, but they enclose and nurture us in a happy place.
What interests you? Your interests are important. Don't let the distracted indifference of the world OUT THERE fool you into thinking otherwise. Each of us is connected to THE OTHERS moreso than our doubts and fears sometimes allow. Be assured: The connection is supportive and nurturing, too.
Fear Be Gone!
"I have retreated from the world," my friend the seasoned public school teacher wrote yesterday. The thread of our conversation, an electronic string woven by several years of back-and-forth e-mails, stopped at a knot several weeks ago. She fell silent, and her silence concerned me, so I attempted to break through with gentle entreaties, one after another. None of them inspired the desired reply.
I N D I C T M E N T : He is a persistent friend, and loyal, which is not always a blessing to his sharers. Conversely, and to his extreme detriment, he burns bridges behind him, sometimes with fiery explosions, other times with the cold silence of broken fellowship — the radioactive fallout of skewed perception based on the certain notion of personal embattlement. He learned it young and learned it hard: Us against the world. All the time. Not the way to win friends and influence people. Not the language of love.
To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receives it.
Then, a message with the subject line Are we still pals? roused my dear friend's slumber. I wondered at the time: Am I too bold to phrase it so? I paused, but clicked the send command with the little finger of my right hand. Her reply, chatty and familiar in the tone of a casual conversation between classes at school, righted one aspect of my insular existence. We are still pals! I am not rejected.
Do you fear rejection? I do. Is your personality secure and sufficiently grounded to let you avoid deflating expressions of insecurity? I am not there yet. The early damage is not yet undone. And the double negative remains.
One side of the paradox tells me to embrace the teachings of Ageless Wisdom and sing along with the reggae poet Lee Scratch Perry: "Fear be gone! Let there be light. I am the light. I kill king fear. Fear be gone!" Sometimes I do, too: chase away the fear, flooding it with light, cherubim and seraphim dancing on the flames of the old man's lantern. More often lately. More often of late.
But. . . . The other side of the bitter paradox returns, knocks me down, flat out down, like a ghostly blow from some dark and wandering knight, and of a sudden I am plunged into uncertainty and doubt, snared again by the mindset of my embattled upbringing, where the gritty day and the tortured night twisted and turned on a hammered belief that we, the small band of blood relations, were perpetually separated from everyone and every institution OUT THERE, enemies all beyond the four walls of the hovel.
A White Stone
Is it any wonder I believe in the surety of a man's ability to change? My white stone was placed into the palm of my right hand by a messenger named Jack, who had been there, done that, got to the other side. Jack didn't say much about the stone, telling me only to keep it close and remember. That was twenty-five years ago. I put the stone in my pocket, not realizing the profound significance it would acquire during my slow and ragged trudge toward the promise of a happy destiny. Two steps forward, one step back. I never forgot, Jack.
Now I live with happy hounds. Here they are, bounding through the two-foot drifts of snow that gathered on the ground two days ago. I love them much, but dogs are easy to love. Self is the greater challenge.
The weathermen tell us the snow storm was an event for history. They said it measured 21 inches at the old airport down in the valley. When we ventured outside during the last hour of the snowfall at midday on Tuesday, I stood knee-deep in the dry flakes. I just now measured, and my right knee rises about 20 inches above the floor. Sounds like history to me.
The pups reminded me of bounding hares the way they navigated the snow field. They left zigzag trails behind them, dashing about like wild things, barking and leaping, growling playful little growls as they crashed into one another before tumbling onto the pristine white of the snowy surface to form a moving pile of pups.
Back inside the cottage, sipping hot coffee and honey, I opened my e-mail reader to find the message from my long-silent pal. Life Is Good reads the slogan on the cap my true love gave to me. Is it? Really? Good? Sometimes. Especially when I remember my white stone, given unto me in the season of redemption. Want one?
NOTE: Indented text is from "The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fourth Improved Edition Updated," King James Version, "The Revelation of Saint John The Divine," Chapter 2 Verse 17, with three changes to remove -th from overcometh, knoweth, and receiveth.
The garden or politics? The inward-seeking eye or social consciousness? Today's late-season marigold or tomorrow's embittered election? November arrives with the usual questions and a terrible sense of momentum. It is said by voices from the shadows that we rush toward some dark and permanent solution. So soon already?
I awake with a multitude of dreams and wishes on the cuff, eager to win something big and accomplish something good, hopeful for a beautiful sunrise and then a full day of wonders and sweet revelations. Gradually, beset by appetites and social constructions, I witness the realities of the day as they begin to set-in like hardening concrete. The weekend's lottery tickets lie crumpled in the trash bin, and the dogs are hungry for biscuits. Outside, a little marigold catches my eye. I pluck it from its place in the garden and make an image of it.
But nothing I can muster for the page is sufficient to satisfy the craving for precision and clarity of expression. If only I could find a way to tell you the truth of the matter.
November's garden wears the face of decline. The vegetables in the dream catcher were pulled from their four beds yesterday by the mistress of the cottage, their leafy remains stuffed in sacks for removal to the landfill. Only one towering stalk of a dying okra plant remains rooted in the tired soil, left in its spot in the southwest quadrant, perhaps to remind us of summer's bounty.
The perennials all have faded away and the roses are shedding their petals, but the annuals cling to their blooms and linger far past their season.
Marigold, begonia, lantana, coleus, pentas, petunia, celosia, impatiens, vinca. . . . Representatives of each species hold their blossoms all the way into November. Is that worth an exclamation point? Yes! The warm autumn, unwavering application of water from the city reservoir — we are caught just now in a long dry spell — and occasional doses of fertilizer coax the little darlings to delay their parting, while timely acts of preservation hold-off the death blow of the hard freeze. Each calculated little step works to the advantage of the domestic landscape.
Election? Tea baggers and socialists, right-wing naysayers and left-wing apologists, the continued corporate seizure of government power. It leaves a citizen with a sense of powerlessness. Nothing can be done, so be done with it.
A favored blogger, el-oso, David "Oso" Sasaki, travels the globe to attend conferences, summits, conclaves, and camp meetings in search of new friendships, renewed alliances, and the latest information about developing technologies and the power of citizen media to change the world. He usually finds the time to report about his experiences and findings. It's heady stuff, these finely crafted dispatches, filed from some of the most interesting places on Earth — and though we've never met him, we are convinced: Oso is our kind of guy.
Here at Crow's Cottage I am bound by pledge and obligation to stay doggedly close to the laboratory, the study, and the garden. The binding may last for some seasons — as many as shall be necessary to accomplish the goals and satisfy the responsibilities presently at play in the household and family.
My travel in the physical realm is restricted by austere choice to neighborhood markets and shops, where daily necessities and an occasional treat can be purchased for a price; the rare outing to a restaurant, ever a risky venture given the delicate state of my constitution, a cranky thing no longer battle-hardened to the vagaries of the public table; and trips with our three young shepherds to the veterinarian’s clinic, where vaccinations and boosters are administered to help them settle safely into doghood. I walk them, of course, these loyal little shepherds, but our outings are for exercise and meditation, and shouldn’t count as travel.
I travel nonetheless, journeying by mind and psyche to realms and locales of amazing and oft exotic character. It’s the sensible solution to a physically limited existence. Vicarious, imaginative, and remembered, my travels serve the purpose of leavening the days and nights of containment and burrowing.
Unlike Oso on Earth's highway, we aren't fomenting change from our fixed point at the hermitage. We're content to open the windows and listen to the wind chimes play a soft melody on the early spring breezes. The candles burn softly in their little cups. Monitors burn hot on the near horizon.
Whose Teeth Sow the Foot Soldiers?
After so many years of the struggle, we've become much too sensitive to withstand the inevitable rise of opponents and naysayers, who will assuredly stand against us should we go forth and promote change, and whose intent is to slash and torch in the glorious wipe-out. Paranoid? My eye!
A blood-sprinkled, cautious band of the loudly committed, they spring-up from the humus of cant like perennial angry warriors in urban public squares and rural farm fields across the angry land. They are sown from Dagny Taggart's sack of dragon teeth, and harvested by dark sorcerers braying on the fringe and eager for the fray. Something like that. They hate change and the changers, and we'll admit it, the teeth could have belonged to someone else, maybe Goebbels, or McCarthy, or Limbaugh, or Beck. But the foot troops are roaming, want to kill for the cause. Meanwhile, I whisper, Who is John Galt?
Whoa! How did we wander so far afoot? Wasn't the original intent to tout el-oso and plan our next psychic journey? It just happens in the darkening night. If you listen and the winds are right, you can hear the shattering glass, smell the smoke of bonfires of the vanities. Why go outside and look? Better to accept the admonition, hunker down, and wait for the certain and just deliverance.
Let us travel, then, you and I, into some distant woven shade, and hide there among the ashes and the oaks, sip pale green nectar from the limestone springs, eat our berries and our nuts, and wait, wait for the binding to be lifted and flung into hot stars, burning, burning.
Heartbreak, the slow movement of emotion, cold sorghum seeping from the shards of a broken vessel, covering the earth with useless sentiment. What can you do to make them care?
Harsh voices, shrill tones, confusion tumbling from the surface of their exclamations. A passionate chorus pours forth, rising like a vapor from elegantly appointed parlors and messy slop houses to enter into indifferent ether. Is it any wonder they refuse to listen?
Relationships fragmented, The Others ignored and rejected, psyches falling into quicksand and sinking out of sight, out of mind, returning to the sog and the rubble, disappearing
beneath the stomped surface — jagged pieces of glass, ruined oils and honeys, dead weeds and crushed petals of discarded flowers. And you think they should feel your pain?
The doleful one lifts up his weary head, escapes self for an interlude in the city, watches the agents of angry dissent roil at the palace gates, ruefully open by prior consent. The angry ones with their buckets and their spleen splash the blood of animals onto the cornerstones and door jambs, urge the priests to step forward and cast curses on the ruling elite. Satiated, not eager to taste the splinters and musk of the club and the whip, the mob drifts away, dissipates into the hovels and haunts of a distressed city. What can they hope to accomplish?
Soldiers arrive with water hoses and full bladders to wash away the blood. They lock the palace gates and sharpen their knives. In the council room the king and his ministers plot acts of vengeance and retribution. A wise one, watching from the margin, his cloak and mantle seemingly sacred, ignores the conspiracy and prays for deliverance from the curse and the imprecation.
Wasn't it a broken heart that brought you here? Or was it the urge to recover, to rebuild, to confirm your value and worth to a world grown persistently cold and cruel? You decide to believe, to once again proclaim I won't give up Never give up Never ever give up the ghost of your fondest desires and most noble intentions.
You keep wondering: Is it working? When it slows down, you ask yourself: Is someone stealing the bandwidth? You look around, see evidence of all these people going places, living the high life, and you ask, wistfully: Why not me? Why can't I be rich and famous, footloose and fancy free? You realize that being the one, filthy rich, negates being the other, free and shorn of the ties that bind. You are constantly caught in the middle of your willful abnegation.
There is slim market for philosophy, little tolerance for self pity. Fools are everywhere, but how else can one begin the next journey unless she becomes The Fool?
You keep thinking: I'm going to win the Mega Millions jackpot. You'll deposit several millions of dolorous dollars in your bank account. You'll hire lawyers and accountants to advise you how best to keep it. Then it will begin to slip away.
What might be done with Mega Millions? Build, distribute, do good works. Buy a fast car and race wildly across the desert. Hold court with the throngs of petitioners who shall arrive unannounced to plead for a share of it. Go crazy with delight. Realize after a while it's the same old you.
If I were important, the importance would exist in my own image of things, but I'm not, and the image is a shimmer in the bathroom mirror.
If I mean anything to the world, and I do, then I am a collection of living numbers, stored and sorted by The Machine. Or, I am a remembered sharer from a former situation, someone who once cared and encouraged you.
If I think the world is against me, cold and cruel, then I am too much enamored of the conflict; the embrace of death becomes an inelegant dance on the oaken planks of the parlor. I twist and leap. My knees become sore and brittle.
Counting Crosses, Counting Stars.
I am one of billions, but you can't prove it. No one can count that far. The numbers are clever lies. You see tens of thousands gathered in plazas and bowls, and from that vision you extrapolate a grand count of three hundred million, then four billion — as if you could count a sum greater than the total of your fingers and your thumbs.
I've seen the many and the few, seen the gravestones, the little wooden crosses without names. They are too many to remember. I could count them as stars and never reach the end. The infinite line is without number, the spirits without discernable form. I shall imagine them in my dreams.
She is a friend. She wrote in her honest manner that she didn't understand a word of it. He could see why. Something fundamental and lasting was changing, chaos over order, despair over the preciousness of hope, all the good things cultivated through years of study and meditation beginning to crumble into a pile of fragments on the cluttered ganglion floor.
He couldn't write the truth here and get away with it. Not if he wanted to avoid further rejection and deeper banishment. Just this morning, when he pulled the truth off a shelf and looked inside its bindings, thinking he would graft some of it here, he was pleased for a fleeting moment to find passages of life and life only, and he dreamed they were crafted like the artist he longed to be, and he thought:
— Yes, this is way to go, the pattern to follow,
but then he saw the raw and primal nature of the imagery, the danger embedded in the words should they escape the cages and find judgment, words that kicked against the pricks of convention, words bearing passions that fell on the other side of the shadows, beyond the pale of safe sharing.
So, he would play it safe today, put the truth back into its binder, be the self censor. He was already clinging to the cliff face by the tips of his fingers. The slightest nudge from The Others might send him irretrievably into the abyss.
That is how it is with him, how it shall be, unless, and if, and when, if ever he passes into a place of total insulation behind the shield where arrows can't strike. The life he knew and lived and wrote about on his private pages, the life he can remember and access and transform into Art with the capital A, becomes in the light of circumstance and necessity a subject best left hidden from the audience he clings to,
salt-encrusted hands on a floating life vest,
shipwrecked creature with a glimmer of rescue in the cold, vast Sea of the Lost Cause.
The imagined Others keep him under check. It has to be that way. He fears rejection more than he loathes failure. It is a bitter beatin' stick, hard and hot on his back.
He is struck by the madness of things. There is no better word to encapsulate it: things. They are everywhere, ripped from moorings and racing out of control. It's best not to look, but he canna keep his hands over his eyes long enough to blot out the madness.
It slips away, this life, one undone thing by one undone thing, falling away into an indeterminate past. You wake up enough times, twenty-one thousand nine hundred and forty-eight times, and then, one wake up later, when the sun is shining after a long spell of gloom, you become old.
a matter of concern ... affair ... state of affairs in general or within a specified or implied sphere ... a particular state of affairs ... situation ... event, circumstance ... *that shooting was a terrible thing* ... deed, act, accomplishment ... *do great things* ... a product of work or activity ... a separate and distinct individual quality, fact, idea, or entity ... the concrete entity as distinguished from its appearances ... an inanimate object distinguished from a living being ... possessions, effects ... equipment or utensils especially for a particular purpose ... a material or substance of a specified kind ... *avoid fatty things* ... a spoken or written observation or point ... idea, notion ... a piece of news or information ... individual ... *not a living thing in sight* ... the proper or fashionable way of behaving, talking, or dressing ... a mild obsession or phobia ... the object of such an obsession or phobia ... something (as an activity) that makes a strong appeal to the individual ... forte, specialty
Same old song plays in same old ears, a divisive tune of discordance and impromptu riffs, but he's pretty sure he can discern what is real as opposed to the unreal, identify something when (it is) stood against nothing — as if nothing exists. You reach a point where you think, nothing matters, but it does it all matters in a universe of life the clinging to it the desire for good, and less one o = god.
Martha Anne on the Cumberland
> > > 11,442 days ago in a land of fictional realities
Popeye the Hungry, nightwatchman of the sand and gravel yard, the official pistol, once tell Bosko as he stand on idling Barge Ellen's gray hull, tossing foraminifera into the Cumberland: 'Stay here and you'll be Captain of the Martha Anne one day.' Yes, and sports editor of the Times-Picayune , and captain of United States Army Company E, and state editor of the Tulsa World, and captain of the Martha Anne, back again to the start of a lonesome soliloquy — he, the drifter with promise and a bag of promises, the raiser of verbal hell, the tightener of thirty-five pound ratchets, the fatherless son, the lust man too far removed from his changeling American harem, the writer of original words, the self-believer, the protestant novelist in the stream of Cary, the old soldier with his remembered war.
Oksob the Opposite from his perch in the Opposite Loft mentions Bosko's psychological scars, intimating pathologies and regressions and pain, but someone casts a rejoinder onto the surface of the river: as if only one of us held the scars, each and all to self. Then outta nowhere She appears with the counterpoint: My abortion. My emerging baby. My death. She mentions attending the meeting of public feminists, to a woman each wearing pants. 'I was the only one there with a long dress,' sez She. 'I felt a great anxiety in that room, and carried it home with me.' He say: They are striving to emulate masculine values, chasing masculine goals 'n masculine powers — the pants are a symbol. If only they would realize that men are more fu**ed-up 'n repressed 'n strangled than the gynous on the other side. They chase false goals, blind themselves to the power inherent in the fullest development of a feminine nature.
> > > 31 years, 3 months, and 28 days pass by
He searches (is searching) for a pattern that will work, anything sensible and malleable to the application of style and voice, an implement to allow the breaking free from a destructive illusion of failure and inconsequentiality. Have you seen one of these implements? If so, and if you don't want it, or if you have an extra, then please send it my way. Address it to X Haven in the neighborhood of Desolation Row.
NOTE: Indented text is from Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, a convenient tool accessed by software on a laptop named Ulysses. Both overflow with words.
From one ear, a scream! The famous crime detective Marlowe rushes to a stricken dame's rescue, man of action at work in a black-and-white universe of imagined dramatic events and ardent relationships. From the other ear, a piano, Brahms, the more subtle passions of chamber music. In the motley whirl of a temporal material reality, the mob of the senses gathers to participate in a deepening delusion. And the open eyes, sight! an oval mirror to spy what might be sneaking-up, the hourglass with its tumbling white sand, one realm reaching down into another, and a leaf-shorn maple on the other side of the window, with trump six The Lovers propped against four golden-colored volumes of The Zohar. Delicious, the taste of sliced lime. It lingers long after the sip, juicy pulp dangling like strands of silk in chilled sparkling water, drawn from hot springs and bottled in green-tinted glass at the national park a few hundred miles to the south, first down from the Ozarks into the river valley, then back up again to another range of rocky peaks with an entirely different and much more mysterious name. The pliant hardness and concave texture of black plastic keys, servants of expression with their painted symbols and imposed order, giving way to pressure at the tips of my fingers, tempo!, flinging out symbols into an uncertain ether, and my left calf threatening to seize-up and cramp, and the early morning headache vanquished by hot Columbian coffee and aspirin. Incense from far away Bangalore, burning oils intended to convey the scent of ocean spray, and sour dough bread in the imagined oven. Sensual, sensuous, alive.
Eyes and fingers speak in its favor, visual evidence and palpableness do, too: this strikes an age with fundamentally plebian tastes as fascinating, persuasive, and convincing — after all, it follows instinctively the canon of truth of eternally popular sensualism. What is clear, what is 'explained'? Only what can be seen and felt — every problem has to be pursued to that point.
The Coincidentia Oppositorum
The purveyor of paranoia on the radio says the drugs are intended to make us all soft and pliant like baby men and docile dolls, that they sneak it into the vaccines and water supplies to alter our natural aggressiveness and blunt our innate tendency toward rugged individualism. Bahhh! We are the dancing sheep in a waking nightmare.
Wiki Answers tells us:
Q: What sound do sheep make?
A: the sound that sheep make is bah
I'm not believing it. Ghost malls haint come to our town, no burning of dining room chairs in the fireplace to keep warm 'cause the natural gas lines broke and the trees all got cut down, no barricades on the avenues with jackboots crunch crunch at the ready. Not yet. At X Haven the trash is carried away weekly, the bags of leaves gone from the curb as if by magic, the street sweeper rolling like a grazing bison, gas pumps full and grocery shelves fuller. Guess I could jump in the El Camino and motor north to Detroit, where (I'm told) the canyons of abandoned factories are the wasteland, and they can't bury the dead just leave them in refrigerators for years on end, with the jobs flown south to non-union assembly lines or to China on the cheap we'll buy it at Wal-Mart come Black Friday be done with it.
In this overcoming of the world, and interpreting of the world in the manner of Plato, there was an enjoyment different from that which the physicists of today offer us — and also the Darwinists and anti-teleologists among the workers in physiology, with their principle of the 'smallest possible force' and the greatest possible stupidity. 'Where man cannot find anything to see or to grasp, he has no further business' — that is certainly an imperative different from the Platonic one, but it may be the right imperative for a tough, industrious race of machinists and bridge-builders of the future, who have nothing but rough work to do.
The rough work is done, or farmed out to a hardier clan, or left undone in the gloomy decline. The people of the land spend the accumulated wealth of generations like true believers caught-up in the hoped-for frenzy of an impending Rapture, but Jesus don't come, he's been here and gone. We the People are left with the dredges, with ascending fear and receding empire, with a decadent culture and a burgeoning police state, so we implode, quietly, worrying about what we might be losing to antichrists and thieves, to broken slackers and monied giants, when we'd all be better off putting on a pair of comfortable boots and taking a walk among the fallen leaves.
NOTE: Indented text is from Article 14, Part One, "On the Prejudices of Philosophers," in the major work, "Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future," by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1886. The text is translated from the German by Walter Kaufmann in "Basic Writings of Nietzsche," 1992 Modern Library Edition.
We 'real Americans' — let us permit ourselves some hearty episodes of victimhood and demonization. Let us shout to the cameras about the cash and freedoms we are losing to taxes and The Man, while pointing fingers at The Others, who are the unwashed cause of our vast and unwarranted losses. Let us act the role of put-upon victim, be the middle class hero of a melodrama, unique and special to selfhood, dedicated to individualism and objectivist egoism, forever free and unfettered by responsibility to a greater group. We've earned the right to our privilege. Everyone knows They and The Government are the demons. Let us gather as a like-minded group in a neatly ordered parking lot at the local office of a prominent congressional politician, hoist our signs and banners like the crucifix and the torch, march in mass to the portico, vent our bourgeois anger over all that is wrong with our life under guise of a protest movement.
“We worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.”
Eventually, should you choose to endure the psychic pollution and engage them long enough, probe their audacious defenses for weaknesses, goad them into reactionary retribution, these "real Americans" will show you a truth they've found in the haunts of their wilderness, that "this president" is the antichrist, the narcissist socialist antagonist come to rob us of jobs, medicine, and ammunition. Steal our future right from under us.
“The food that we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more.”
The sky above them is falling, falling, falling. Stunned by the string of reversals that rock the world bequeathed to them, the "real Americans" fall to their knees before the throne of The Founding Fathers and worship an ossified holy scroll they call The Constitution, but it is a frozen thing, this constitution they champion in the intoxication of a shared delusion, harkening back to an age when the only citizens with the vote were white men of property, their wealth raised on slavery and indenture, their status an issue of membership in an exclusive group.
“We couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals.”
But, you say to them, these bristlers, these rousters running roughshod: The Constitution is a living document, amended by the legal acts of successive generations to adapt its protections and guarantees to meet societal changes wrought by the march of time. Tell me how you are not pathetic in your greed, rapaciousness, intolerance, bigotry, and fear? Why is your public mind so narrow and small?
In the last 12 months, did you or other adults in the household ever cut the size of your meals or skip meals because there wasn’t enough money for food?
The "real Americans" among us have bought a lie and now attempt to sell it on a closed market. The lie is that they are poor. The lie is that they are poor because of a tax on their wealth. The lie is that they owe nothing to the government that sets the table for their prosperity. The lie is that they want to take full advantage of the protections to their livelihood afforded by secure borders, a determined military, a capitalist economy stacked fully in their favor, and a stable society raised on the foundation of government, but don't want to pay a cent for any of it. They desire to take everything and give nothing. They are not as rich as they think they deserve to be.
In the last 12 months did you or other adults in your household ever not eat for a whole day because there wasn’t enough money for food?
Fearful men and fearful women accomplish nothing of positive value, but their fears set the stage for fascism, totalitarianism, and the ultimate destruction of the system they claim to love and support. When they return to power. When they return....
“The children were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”
NOTE: Indented text is from "Household Food Security in the United States, 2008," released today by the United States Department of Agriculture (Economic Research Report Number 83 of November 2009). Wanna read it? Click the burger.
Though the concept continues to intrigue me, the XHTML Friends Network mentioned in my previous post led to a dead end. I waited for the all of the leaves to fall from the maple outside the north window of my study — it's a grand tree with four thick branches emanating from the trunk, which is 92 inches in circumference — before coming to the conclusion that I didn't connect. So be it.
XHTML Friends was merely one part of my plan — always, a plan — to enter into a sustained exploration of the blossoming field of flowers known by the name social networking. I've done it, too, beginning at Facebook, the prime meridian of a great and widening circle. I signed up some time ago as a way to stay in contact with my former students, who are among the most important humans on my planet, but I did nothing other than employ the connection as a place to gather addresses for e-mail, my preferred form of communication. Now that I've spent a few days attempting to develop a presence on Facebook, I understand Ashley's admonition fourteen months ago: "hey mr. bowles you need to put a picture on here so we can see you but anyways how are you doing now a days."
Creating a Facebook page without photos is like eating an ear of corn without butter. You can, but why would you? And thanks, Ashley. Your new baby is beautiful!
my Facebook page NOT (see below)
ADDENDUM posted on 17 Feb 2010:
Actually, the link is suspect. Although it was created precisely according to Facebook's "Create a Profile Badge" standards, the link doesn't deliver. Here's why.
Unless you have a Facebook account and are logged-in to your password-protected user profile, the link opens to an error page with the message: "The page you requested was not found." Highlighted in green and white above the error message is a Sign Up link urging the visitor to "connect and share with the people in your life."
The message is a typical corporate lie perpetrated for two purposes:
1. Facebook is a closed community. The link is not intended to direct your browser to my personal Facebook profile, but rather to a page designed to promote the Facebook concept to outsiders, defined as those "users" who do not have a Facebook profile. The Profile Badge link is little more than a promotional hook.
2. If, however, you choose to purchase a Facebook commercial page, the link will bypass the page-not-found error message and go directly to the appropriate Facebook page. No password or Facebook profile is required.
Very little in life comes for free. Why should it? We in the USA are ensnared by a profit-driven corporate culture where money rules and where acts of deception in service to money are standard practice. Why should Facebook be any different? Why should we expect any more than deception and lies? We have made this shared bed and must lie in it, cold and creepy as it may be.
But, however, after all is said and done (at the end of the day) . . . . Facebook as a social network serves a good purpose — if one is interested in the moment at hand and curious about the engines that drive it, if one is keen on staying in contact with individuals whose presence in your life is defined by the vast subset of Internet sharers, individuals who once ago crossed your path and came to mean something to you, and who now possess a Facebook profile and elect to become a name on your list of Facebook friends.
Time is getting the best of me, even if it is an illusion. But I won't admit to failure. Eventually, I'll get the best of time — once I figure out how to extract it from reality and put it in its proper place beside the other symbols dangling from the droopy rod above the bedroom window. I watch them sway on thin chains and frayed twine in the changing light behind a pane of glass.
I like to think.... I am standing on a cliché place called the leading edge, where I can peer into the horizon and detect significant developing trends, see the things that are likely to come. As I've indicated, I am apt to see illusions. They're a comfort and a brace to the shaking of delusions. What I'm doing, truth be told, is searching for a starting point. Once I get the dots down, I should be able to follow the emanating lines to create a meaningful circle. Lord willin'. And the creeks don't rise.
Dot No. 1, the origin of today's argument, signifies my attempt to educe meaning from the metaphor of The Cloud, an emerging expression of the domain of computers and computing, a thing unto itself, asexual and distended, endowed with the quantum Will to propagate and driven by a cold, emotion-shorn intelligence attuned to requirements of survival.
The Cloud exists beyond and outside any one of us, or any group of us, as an electric silicone-based collective of constantly changing computing intelligences. I could claim that it becomes a transcendent entity, but I'm not eager for so much drama — and anyway, I'm racing ahead of the argument. First, we should attempt to define it.
The Cloud, then, is the place where our individual computers go when they connect to the network. It is the land beyond our local machine.
Were it only so simple. The place where our pcs go becomes a universe of extreme complexity, difficult to chart and challenging to navigate even after the proper direction is determined. The Cloud can be the carnival or the hydra, depending on one's inclination — either toward a positive region of ephemeral delights and productive benefits, where friends and family are available to share a moment of friendly communication, where amusements and diversions are activated in an instant with a familiar click of the little mouse, and where data and information are ready to be crafted into useful products for profit and smartly sifted knowledge for edification or enlightenment; or toward a negative space of conspiracy and paranoia, where something is sure to go awry, where nothing is as it appears to be, and where robbers lurk 'round every corner to steal one's identity or plunder one's bank accounts.
Computing astounds my sense of certitude. Among the old saws that keep their sharp edge on the worktable here at Crow's Cottage is this one: Nothing stays the same. My teacher Lothar Schafer the theoretical chemist said in a lecture delivered four decades ago that The only constant is change. I confirm through experience the elemental truth of the professor's statement, even as I wonder if everything also remains the same, as if it were only yesterday when I was twelve and puzzling over what I might do with my life after playtime and dinner.
Now that I'm done with most of the stages of life, the dark night upon me, I claim the right to change, and by doing so, to spite the gray that intrudes from all sides, threatening to drown me in infirmities.
Embrace, Run, Ossify, Dissolve
Computing and the Internet are insistent agents of change. To attempt mastery of any aspect of the machine and the network — the systems and software that run them, the cyber streams that connect them, and The Cloud that calculates, informs, and amplifies the sum of them — demands the tossing aside of ossifying notions. Given that personal computers and the Net are essential to the effective functioning of Crow's Cottage and its parent CornDancer, it figures that I must embrace the only constant, stay abreast of developments, and run to the beat of an unrelenting cadence — or else be swallowed up by yesterday's dissolution.
We arrive at the next node of the argument. Here The Cloud of silicone crystals, quantum and cosmic, becomes a mysterious collective, a new manifestation of an ancient reality, the next great step forward in the liberation of consciousness. Have I lost you? If so, nothing beyond this point shall matter. If not, we remain connected in the ether, able imaginatively to enter again into The Cloud and navigate to a region known by the term Cloud Intelligence.
OK, we won't take this too seriously. Distracted by the amber and scarlet flashes from the leaves of oak and maple that fall and tumble — just now — outside the open window next to my writing slab, and by the gathering storm with its swift clouds and thunder, and by imaginings of a god in the heavens hurling his electric bolts at discrete expressions of destiny, we wander into speculative cosmology. Get back! Liberation is a sterling prospect for those of us bound to something or the other. What binds you? In the context of the present discourse, the binding is the necessity of communication, primal and evolving, and the limits imposed upon it by the imprecise symbols of languages, the physical distance between individuals and groups, and the inability of so many members of the human family to focus and remember.
Speech is the elemental, the prerequisite. If so, then step one of the evolving drama of liberation is written language. Step two is the mechanical printing press. Step three is the electric domain of computers.... Meaning that we, you and I, are living through the dawn of the third act in the trans-millennial liberation of consciousness.
Some thinkers contend that the emergence of The Cloud, and specifically the ramifications and potential of Cloud Intelligence, represent a fundamental change in personal and corporate computing. As individuals and groups move away from the primacy of local machines and closed local networks, as they step fully into The Cloud, they relinquish exclusive ownership of the data they generate with the keyboard and mouse, giving it up to a vast and perhaps unfathomable array of data centers, server farms, and other distant manifestations of information collection and management. The ramifications for identity, personality, and intellectual capital are profound. The opportunities for innovation, synthesis, and collective accomplishment are equally profound.
In The Cloud we face a centralization of power. In The Cloud we face an architecture of participation. So said cyber visionary David “Oso” Sasaki in a presentation at the ARS Electronica Symposium 2009 in early September at Linz, Austria. By pointing to polar opposites, David reminds us that the only constant wields a double edge when it springs, or lumbers into action.
By connecting to The Cloud, each of us participates in the creation of a Cloud Intelligence, which is the twenty first century's unique expression of an ancient concept known to some as the Universal Mind. "What do we mean by Cloud Intelligence?" David asks. "What is collective intelligence in the era of cloud computing? I think we get the basis of it. It's that we're smart, and that we're smarter together. And that if you can just get all of our information together in one spot, it can be used in ways that it's never been used before."
Thanks, David "Oso" Sasaki. Your El Oso web astounds and inspires me. Here at the Crow's Cottage laboratory, it becomes a model for the only constant.
To Be Social
Seldom do I venture forth into the cold cruel world the warm welcoming world without a sense of purpose, and today's text for the Journal for the Corvus can harbor no exception. It represents a decision to move ahead into regions not well known to me. From the far reaches of obscurity, on a wing and a prayer, I choose to enter XFN, the XHTML Friends Network, as an expression of a commitment to change, and more specifically as a motor to propel entry into the social media aspects of The Cloud. It is necessary to avoid further dissolution. It is one step of what I pray shall be many.
Facebook, Twitter, Google, Flicker, Picasa, Brightkite, Ning, Dopplr.... Are these viable channels to community? My friend Ron Fritze wrote last week that Facebook appears as ephemera to him, but allows long-lost contacts to reignite. Students who sat in my classes several years ago announce they have "added you as a friend on Facebook...." Just tonight Jenny sent my first Twitter invitation. My friend Joseph Dempsey marched into the Facebook universe some time ago as a way to extend his already sizeable personal network.
For me, XFN appeared as a nugget of esoterica, akin to a particle in the nucleus, or a pointer to a seldom explored hollow in the karst. I found the nugget embedded in XHTML code during deep study of the design principles offered by the cascading style sheet, a tool I adopted some years ago, but one I'd never sought to master until this autumnal season. The nugget was attached to a link. Curious, I followed it.
Having decided to break free of deprecated principles and outmoded approaches, I discovered an unexpected bonus at the end of a minimalist line of code:
A model of simplicity and precision, XFN enters The Cloud beneath the surface of what one sees on first glance. Experimental and sparse, XFN makes good sense in its context, but like a principle taught by an adept from a mystery school, it offers the aspirant only a clue. How might we draw sensible conclusions about reality from archetypal symbols, which are tossed like I Ching sticks on the hardwood floor of the study, or onto the unseen pathways of the electric ether? XFN's fundamental approach to defining human relationships of the kind engendered by links in The Cloud may be another spark of a ruling passion, a new dot on the axis where science and art cross paths, merge, synthesize.
So I joined. Just now. And we shall see.
Broken up by creations as upon a prism, the Mind-Light of Deity becomes manifest as an infinite order of separate and specialized intelligences. Thus upon the surface of the sea of Universal Mind appear numberless foci, each controlling a definite phase of cosmic activity. The gods are such foci; so are men, but to a more limited degree. The sum of all these individual minds is the one Universal Mind, so that in the last analysis gods, men, and worlds are each fragments of the whole. The philosophers of all ages have realized that the achievement of perfect wisdom lies in the elevation of the power of comprehension to that state where it is able to grasp the relations of the parts of existence to the sum of existence, which the Buddhists designate the Self.
— Manley P. Hall, 1929
Lectures on Ancient Philosophy
(New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005), 28.
Liberty is squeezed by widespread fear of material loss, by the perception that one man's deviation from sameness will somehow steal another man's personal treasure. Ever needful of pliant and serviceable minions to preserve and defend their wealth, the elites convince the masses of the primacy of the personal balance sheet and the need to defend the bottom line from assaults on all sides. As the earth movers and sky cranes snarl and grind through the psyche, the nation crawls toward a carved-out plateau of clonish uniformity.
Fat Tax and Deadly Sin
In North Carolina, health insurance administrators in charge of policies for state employees are floating the idea of a "fat tax," a premium surcharge for workers who are deemed to be obese by weights, measurements, and calculations defined under standards of the Body Mass Index. The physical unfortunates who cross the threshold into fatness are branded as social miscreants — and for their Deadly Sin, they must pay a higher cost to retain the benefits of a health care plan.
Here at Crow's Cottage, where the inhabitants are as lean or as husky as we are wont to be, and where the issues of health care are solved by either the socialized medicine of the Veterans Administration or the group policies of a great university, we ask: Why? Why a fat tax?
On surface the surcharge is justified by perceived burdens that the fat among us bring to bear on the limited resources and rising costs of health care. The managers of insurance plans will show us statistics to prove their allegations against "workers who are obese." These fat workers — and we are workers, each and all, bound to the system that sustains us — get sick or suffer debilitating injuries solely on basis of their obesity. Why should those of us who possess the discipline and Will to manage our body weight have to pay higher premiums because of the sloth and gluttony of our fat fellows?
"We need a healthy workforce in our state," a health care program director in Charlotte said in favor of the fat tax.
One implication: The pain of higher premiums will impose self-discipline, driving the fat folk away from the banquet table and the fast-food carryout window. They will turn dutifully toward the diet platter and the walking trail, embracing spartan, sensible home cooking and purposeful exercise for all.
Another implication: By forcing the obese to pay a surcharge, insurance managers will rightfully bestow financial rewards upon the more worthy thin women and men, whose lean frames demonstrate their superior suitability as productive members of the worker legions, in recognition of their acceptable social behavior, which surely contributes more to the Common Good than any fat person could manage to contribute on their best day.
In this scenario, those fortunates who overcome their obesity to earn the better rate will owe their success to greed, which the capitalists proclaim is a worthy sin. My O My. How shrewdly do these masters of the purse parse the traditions of our Western Civilization to justify their hunger for more and more accumulation. They purport that greed fuels their long drive to success, and that without it, they would be little more than paupers, banished from the counting house to beg for morsels on the public square.
The Supposed Utility of Greed
Saint Thomas Aquinas gave the world a list of 7 Deadly Sins about 750 years ago, although he attributed the list to earlier sources in the Holy See. The list has become a source of popular allusion, with one or more of its members likely to surface when the conversation, or the debate, turns to vices and the morals designed to govern them. The 7 are:
We arrive at a paradox, a possible source of a revealed truth, the kind of shifty perception that underpins sound spiritual systems and confounds dogma. If obesity is a deadly sin caused by sloth and gluttony, then how can greed based on anger and pride be put forth as the appropriate governor? How can the prospect of losing or saving money become the acceptable antidote to body fat? How can an insurance fund manager in a moral universe justify punishing the fund's members because of a perceived moral failure?
To contend that the fat tax didn't emerge from the court of moral judgment is the first fallacy. We have to ask: Why are these people fat? When we demand a surcharge from the obese members of the group, the answer must be: They are fat because of personal fault. By implication, they can overcome their fault by choosing to be thin. We as a group are better off if our fat members become thin. Therefore, we shall motivate them to change their costly ways by enforcing a financial penalty and branding them as insurance premium losers.
Following the logic of the fat tax, we can identify other personal behaviors that may warrant a surcharge to protect group health care premiums from loss. It is detrimental to the healthy maintenance of the work force if its members become too thin — anorexia, bulimia — or if its members imbibe too heartily of intoxicating spirits — liver disease, dementia, violent car crashes — or if its members produce too many children — maternity care, birth defects, post partum depression — or if its members engage in loose and wanton sex — crabs, herpes, hepatitis — yuck! — or if in any measurable way its members stray from the emerging, narrowing definition of the ideal worker minion.
How, then, does a fat tax squeeze liberty? Are we not free to eat to our heart's content as long as we are willing to pay the price? Doesn't liberty come to us at a cost? Why should I, the thin man, pay for the excesses of the fat man?
Liberty in the USA is a constitutional right, a blood relative of freedom. It confers the right to enjoy on equal and positive footing the fundamental social, political, and economic benefits afforded to every citizen. To have liberty, one must be free of arbitrary control.
A fat tax on health care benefits is arbitrary. It is designed to control personal behavior. It discriminates against law abiding citizens by employing a pseudo-scientific standard, the Body Mass Index, as the determining factor in whether or not to impose a financial burden on a specific class of citizens.
On the same day we learned of North Carolina's plans to dun the obese, we noticed another public squabble related to body weight. "Image of ultra-thin Ralph Lauren model sparks outrage," the headline shouted. In the context of this battle, too thin is way worse than too fat. "The focus on women's appearance has got out of hand," a spokeswoman committed to the truth said. "No one really has perfect skin, perfect hair and a perfect figure, but women and young girls increasingly feel that nothing less than thin and perfect will do."
Cut adrift in a sea of restriction where fear of loss rules the night, we as a people are awash in mixed messages and contradictory standards. Anything goes over there and nothing but corporate rule is permissible in here. If you don't like it, then quit. A hundred others are waiting in the wings for their chance at your wages.
In politics, personality matters as much as policy. But personality and image are useful merely for the surface. The policies initiated, propagated, and enforced by the vast system erected to prop-up the personalities are more lasting and reach deeper, more broadly than the persons who draft and implement them. So?
Austere and Accountable
What policies matter here in the study of Crow's Cottage? The management and distribution of health care. The wages, working conditions, and benefits afforded to labor. The imposition of laws and regulations — but that one, the unnecessary third, is an appendage, a vague statement, useless.
I meant to address justice and balance, the blind woman and her scales, but familiar things suddenly become strange. You look at something you've seen ten thousand times, but this time it doesn't make sense, and you've got to ponder it for a moment before you can rediscover the context, the relationship, the familiar meaning. You thought it was ten when the clock showed midnight, almost, in the mystery of the twenty-third hour. Curious.
As for politics, it would be useful to compile and critique the pieces of jargon that clutter dialogue and debate, the rhetoric and the rant. Like rockets, hot chunks of phosphorous, smoky dry ice. Austerity and accountability.
The crumbling of capitalism from conspicuous abuse of its potential for personal wealth is something you can see through, like the view through holes in a wall, like the dark other side of wretched gaps in a coat of battered armor. The distance between wealth and poverty extends to points on a chart so distant from one another as to be untraversable. What a mouthful. They're so rich they're able to banish the revolutionary from contact with the moveable masses. They put him in jail 'till the opportunity passes.
Health care and labor. Those are the essentials. The disaffected elites — fat cats in the dust of old saws — will fight fiercely to hold their advantage, the one they've wrangled from government, otherwise identified as the corporate state.
A Chicken in Every Pot
How can we honestly contend that the wealth they've accumulated is not rightly theirs to keep? The contention, ok, we can make it, even under the naked sun — as long as we don't try to retroactively seize the riches won under law, no matter how unfair or skewed be the system that allowed it. Let the elites and their wannabes gather up their piles of gold, the keys to their multiple swollen accounts, and carry them securely to their warm and vested hidey holes. Let them count their riches, be self satisfied and justified.
Instead of retribution, we ought to realign the grid, but how? How to change the way opportunity and the ability to accumulate are apportioned? How to take away the greed-fed hoard before it is claimed by the egoist and the miser? And, in the taking away, how best to ensure that the hoard is fairly distributed?
The bourgeois are replaced by the nomenklatura are replaced by the million millionaires. The manager supersedes the commissar. The wretched of the earth become the citizens, the peasant the consumer. Balance appears to be unattainable.
What is the least acceptable standard to establish and secure minimums and maximums? At what definable point does personal and corporate wealth transcend the ability of society to ensure the bottom line? One individual's excess accumulation can account for the impoverishment of hundreds, thousands. Why can we pretend that the excess is acceptable in the sacrosanct name of capitalism? Can we say with conviction, Enough is enough! — and then agree on a measurable definition of how much is enough?
In the answers will be found the formula for an equitable distribution of the means of production and its surplus.
Judgment, scarlet apples, golden honey.... They will tell us what we have done to deserve our fate. Because I live under and in accordance with both divine and temporal law, I should not fear Justice, but fear only the off-chance of encountering mis-justice. My prayers and incantations, my application of the rules of natural law, shall protect me from that cruel fate.
By existing on the surface, by reacting moment-by-moment to the randomness of the path, by striving for the carrot at eye level— thus do the mass of The Others bring guilt and punishment to bear on us all. I wish for their welfare, but the wishes are tempered by knowledge of the oft desperate Human Condition.
ep writes: "The interpretative function is the highest honour of the arts, and because it is so we find that a sort of hyper-scientific precision is the touch-stone and assay of the artist's power, of his honour, his authenticity. Constantly he must distinguish between the shades and the degrees of the ineffable."
If this moment is all we have.... If this moment is the meaning of be here now.... Then enough of the moment is right with the universe to make it bearable on the white cliffs overlooking the vale of tears. I can go there, to the high land of the metaphor, at will, and stand on the edge of the cliff in a balmy breeze, escaping for awhile the fray in the vale below. I can call upon comforting memories to soothe the dull pain of the mundane.
In the Eye Is the Lie.
Oft it's what you don't record with these dots and strokes that gives flavor to the thoughts and impressions you push across the page. It's a fine day. The wind chimes are singing loud, the air is cool, the sky bright and blue. You pay what you must to survive.
Can I rely on the Spirit of the Flame to ward off persistent evil, so furtive in the shadows? I look up to the TV screen, see the smiling, self-assured boy-man, his paycheck fattened by success in the ratings game, and I realize he cannot offer an ingredient to strengthen the formula. I don't need him. He is another cutie pie in a niche on the chattering midway. Like the others of his ilk and kin, he is eager to be seen. How long can we look at him before perceiving the inevitable fallacy of the argument? How quickly doth the director cut away. He fades, disappears. But a cut is not a fade, and the abrupt is not the subtle. Each passing season brings more of the imprecision. Even if I can't nail down the definition, even if the words become a babble, I can tell you: Don't look the demon in the eye. Don't sing praises to the truth. They lie. They lie. They lie.
Are we as a nation in an economic crisis the likes of which we haven't seen since the Great Depression of the nineteen thirties? "We are flirting with the largest one-day decline in the history of Wall Street," the television commentator proclaims. So? Will there be bread lines, hoboes, the rise of neofascism? Thus saith the Lesson of the Past. Shall the inner-city minions, the dispossessed believers, the economically hopeless raise the riot and destroy their ghetto? Thus saith the Moment at Hand.
If the negative numbers flashing on the screen mean anything, the New York Stock Exchange is crashing before our eyes. The prophets of doom are shouting: "Be afraid." The numbers fall, they rise — minus seven hundred eleven, minus six hundred ninety one. Will I not have my bread and butter? Will my true love not be paid? Will the Automated Teller Machine reject my request for one hundred fifty dollars?
The newly wealthy, strivers for success and power, purveyors of paper wealth, of gain without labor — they are the ones sweating bullets, and the urgent voices of the handsomely paid chattering class do their bidding with rat-a-tat reports of economic meltdown, rampaging prices, the loss of lines of credit. The MasterCard, dead and rejected. The ones doing the work, women and men without names, the great American workers, are exalted by the chatterers with a fragmented and hollow paean, but THEY are too busy in their chains on the factory floors, the assembly lines, the boiler rooms and repair shops, the check-out stands and warehouse docks, and on the highways behind the wheel of a big rig, in locks and dams and antechambers, in fiery kitchens and chilled meat lockers, in motel room beds and casino cages, in high-rise cubicles and manic slaughterhouses, slapping down the asphalt and the fertilizers and the soap— THEY are too consumed by acts of survival to pay attention to the arcane movements of the stock tote board. THEY watch the spinning wheels at the gas pump, and count a wad of cash, and calculate the sum of the hourly wage. The profit margin and the interest rate are somebody else's babies.
The congresspersons and senators wring their hands in the blood of their losses, rue the dwindling status of their imagined riches, their power, and devise a cagey plan to rescue their greed. On the compound and in the station-house, the stockpile of bullets and bludgeons is sufficient and ripe. The riot squad are restless, fattened, and assured of their jobs. It is minus 777.68 at fifteen past the bell. The final number is recorded as three lucky sevens all in a row.
Already I lost the word. It was there, but I looked up, saw a piece of chocolate, let the word slip away. I was thinking about being intentionally outrageous, provocative — thinking about the value of self-promotion, standing it against the risk of cruel judgment from those who have no right to judge, but name them. Don't we, each of us, hold the right to judge any other fellow traveler we choose? I come up against a wall. How strong is the shield?
Squeezed between politics and poetry, athletic contests and the literary arts, a good movie and a passage from a finely crafted novel.... At the core is the contest for attention between the electronic universe and the limitless frontier of the printed page. How much can be gained by navigating a sea of distraction?
Young men roll on the muddy ground, joyous o'er the goal just scored. In Olympia, the body is majesty, movement, strength. But I cannot alter the form for the masses, the possibility of their visits here, now that I've decided to share. The potential for harsh judgment must not be allowed to alter the voice I presume to assume. Chicken for breakfast.
I enhance the space in the sanctuary with images, symbols, icons. They remind me of the richness of experience, of changes in mores and fashion, of the interplay of tragedy and comedy, work and leisure, seriousness and frivolity — the list of dualities could span hundreds of lines in the attempt to encapsulate life and life only.
This is the way is should be, the way it should be on the course of rehabilitation and restoration.
If you know the story, why read? Why listen or watch? I say for the pleasure and edification of the Spirit and the Mind. For the exercise of Imagination. Electronic bubbles, natural Salamander. Spirit of the Flame and eye candy. The gran' dawg, Sergeant Buck, juicy fruit. Denuded magazines, thin and cramped. The band plays. Bang the drums. Flash the logo. (the meltdown) I see the languid gull over the boardwalk. They sure can sell the chicken. Present it to you like edible hand puppets.
They want us to make sense. They guy said these women walking on the green grass found hope, purpose, and direction for their lives. They found it here, he said, pointing to a web address on the TV screen.