Sunday, August 27, 2006

I Heart Huckabees, Loving the world whole?

I tend to appreciate finding a framework that roughly fits my experience; generally speaking, I think in concepts, and like to have at least a nebulous way to consider a specific experience. I Heart Huckabees was quite entertaining and presented not one but two frameworks that each fit my experience.

"Everything is connected and everything matters." "Nothing is connected and nothing matters." and "Back and forth from pure being to human suffering" Yes, hello, that would be my experience, right there. "I think that I am gonna stay with her and the cracks and the pain and the nothingness because that's more real to me. That's what I feel." Sound familiar? "When you get the blanket thing you can relax because everything you could ever want or be you already have and are." Been there. Once you realize the universe sucks, you got nothin' to lose; that's what gives you the force. Been there. "You stop thinking; I'm here, but I'm not here; it's like I'm a rock or a dish of mold; I'm whatever else is around so I'm just free to exist." Oh so very been there.

Granted, reality will go on whether it is observed or experienced or whatever or not. (Okay, maybe not, and there's no way of knowing.) Having presented all these seemingly contradictory experiences, the logical thing is to unravel it, somehow; to declare some true and some false, but no, it's all true enough when it seems that way, and irrelevant the rest of the time.

Jon linked to a an unusual article over in his blog's latest entry.

Well, it's better than nihilism...

(Joke, people. It was a joke.)

For some time I've wanted (and tried, less than successfully) to write a little more beyond the "why be good" question. Because it does very much seem to me, and has come up in several exchanges with friends, that there are two extremes, two directions in which one can move; one choice, again and again and again. But then trying to describe the choice is a task indeed. Toward That or from it.

(On another front, today I was considering the concept of humility. It seems to me to be the absolute worst sort of pride is to deliberately fail to be what one really is. Perhaps the most humble to be oneself, without apology, and to think nothing of it.)

Now it seems contrary to the supposition that things are cyclical by nature, to say that the world can dramatically change; then, where's the downside? It also seems contrary to "everything is fine as it is" to work to change anything; the very effort seems to imply that one reality is, if not better, than preferable, to another reality. Even intention is an action of sorts, though latent. How are we supposed to know? That brings me pretty neatly back to my own response to "why be good" - how can we know? So, then, why anything? Back to nihilism. (Creation, destruction, creation, destruction...)

To throw a wrench in the logical cycle, it might be worthwhile to ask where, truly, the intention comes from. From whence comes anything? Or everything. If it comes from there then is action and intention just the same as going with the flow?

All I'll conclude is that, at the end of the day, this one is better pleased by harmony. (Is the whole of the universe in the same stride?) It would seem that various experiences reflect various perspectives of the same reality; see, this one is from the crest of the wave, seeing only other waves; see, this one is from below, knowing the waves to be part of the whole.

What about wars and terrorism and unhappy-making stuff like that? Waves that insist upon crashing around being all wave-ish and not getting that they are still part of the big picture? Well, it's a nice explanation, if nothing else.

As I continued browsing blogs, it turns out that Kevin recently wrote along the same lines with his recent entries entitled Live Consequentially and Purposeless. It would seem that observation might answer the question of an overarching purpose (as to how this individual, at that level, plays into the greater picture) and I enjoyed the questions he's asking. Don wrote a poem about making space for love which is a theme of the above-mentioned article. Andrew also wrote about intentionality on his blog (and I think I railed against it somewhat... on the other hand, if one is going to create one's own reality, might as well make it good, right?)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Half Mile Walk

A friend cooked dinner on Tuesday night; food was excellent and we shared a nice bottle of wine. (Note to self; that's a lovely quantity when driving isn't involved!) I rode the El home while reading Franny and Zooey and was a little disappointed when it was my turn disembark. As I was walking to my apartment, I prayed, Let it be beautiful.

To what or to whom I don't know. I don't pray anymore. So I walked, wondering why I had said that, and so fervently. Perhaps because I prefer the world to be lovely, even if pointless. Chipped paint on front doors belongs exactly like that. And I wondered why I rail so against poorly designed new construction. Perhaps the lack of care involved; even from inside the profession, the things people want are a bit sickening. The construction will be a bad memory with a few years' dirty patina.

As I approached the tracks, walking in the street to have a bit of illumination and keep reading my book, the viaduct shouted, I LOVE YOU. Somebody had spray painted, in slightly sloppy uppercase letters, on the trestle, and was doubtless hanging upside down to do it. Black lettering on a white ground, seemingly for my sole appreciation.

The truce continues.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Paradise Now

He has nothing to gain, because he's afraid of death. If you're not afraid of death, you're in control of life.

The universe and I are declaring a truce.

If you hadn't noticed (and maybe it's not evident), I've been having a bout of nihilism lately. If you thought too much heaven was a bad thing, try too much nothing. It's not so healthy, either.

On Friday, I made a comment, the essence of which was - everybody thinks they are the good guys, but I just don't understand how anybody can think the good thing is to be a suicide bomber.

Message to universe: I'd like to formally put a hold (and possibly a retraction) on that question.

Have you ever reluctantly decided to do something, but become frustrated when it wasn't so easy, and thus, increasingly determined?

Have you ever done something you didn't want to, because no other avenue seemed even remotely possible?

Ever been in a situation so unacceptable that even a bad move is better than staying?

Somehow, Netflix sent me "Paradise Now," and it arrived on Friday. Can't even remember hearing of it, much less wanting to watch it. It's easier to disbelieve in mere coincidence. Sobering, to say the least. Would you hurt somebody to help them? Would you kill, for the greater good? (Do you know the greater good? Can anybody?) My question from Friday is all too easily answered. Hence the truce.

On the other hand... killing only gives the others an excuse to keep killing. Refuse to fight and they can keep slaughtering, but it quickly becomes clear who the victim is. Thus is the nature of peaceful resistance. In Israel/Palestine, who is winning? Who is losing? And, of course, why can't people just leave each other the hell alone? What if everybody quit fighting?

When you are fighting, no matter who wins, you lose. How is the confrontational mindset healthy to a human? Is it ever, nonetheless, necessary? They - wait, no, I - say that people will find what they are looking for. Love to fight? You'll find a fight. All things beautiful? It'll be inescapable. Pain and suffering? Just look around. Pick something - anything - look around, you'll find it. Try it for a week, with expectation that the seeker will find.

That said, logic goes back to the game that Andrew mentioned with manifesting things. Well of course it works that way but I really question whether anything changes other than perspective? And is a change in perspective good enough? At least, then, I can live in peace, even if children are starving in India, dying of AIDS in Africa, becoming trained suicide bombers in the Middle East, and on and on - if I can't see it, it doesn't exist.

Or does it go beyond logic? Can a skeptic really be successful at this experiment? But, like I said, I'm having a truce with the universe, at least for now. There seems to be something out there. (Is it good enough to be true to the moment, even if the apparent reality of the moment is only apparent?)

I have to wonder if this movie is meant only as propaganda, showing a sympathetic character to win over western minds. It certainly gives this one pause for thought. But what about the older people planning these things and sending kids to their deaths, kids who weren't even born when the conflict started? Pretty soon it will be the tale of two houses with guns pointed at each other... you know the story, nobody will be alive who remembers what started all this, but look at all the terrible things that have been done to continue it?

What if everybody just stopped fighting? Or would the few insist upon ruining it for the many? Is it truly possible to weed a garden? At the end of the day, we are still dealing with human beings who totally believe that they are the good guys. How can we really expect to argue with that? Once again, we find ourselves telling people, no, you're wrong, you're broken!

Meanwhile, the U.S. is still in Iraq, trying to let the people rule themselves. people are still fighting, still bent on killing. Why? Perhaps many of their sentiments are understandable and altogether human! Everybody, everybody is well-intentioned. What about the big picture? The American Civil War materially changed how humans were treated, but didn't enforce a different mindset - that is still a problem today, still changing today. Is fighting necessary to bring about such changes? I don't want to become a pacifist, but also fail to understand how fighting changes anything.

One quote:
Death is better than inferiority.

Is it?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

also insightful enough to get its own post.

"The central question for our time is not how you worship God, or even whether you worship God," he told me.

"It's whether you believe in this life you can be in possession of the absolute truth and you have the right to impose it on others - and therefore whether your differences are more important than our common humanity. That's the values crisis."
William Jefferson Clinton

Isaiah posted a disturbing bit of news, ending with this: The only problem is how do we separate us from ourselves?. It reminded me of a quote from "I Heart Huckabees": How am I not myself?

Andrew alluded to it, too, saying much the same thing in a nice paragraph at the end of his post.

Jon is someplace in orbit, too.

Yesterday I told a dear friend, "I wish I had the answer for you, but I don't; even if I did, I wouldn't tell you, because you need to know for yourself."

found on a greeting card...

...on a client's refrigerator. One of the interesting things about my job is that we sometimes visit our clients' homes, measuring what's there. We walk right into life-as-it-is, house as it's lived in, no straightening up as for company. Just... life. It was arresting enough to record.

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware." Henry Miller

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How I Became Stupid (Martin Page)

A recommendation by Peishan, who lent me her copy. I have been good to it and will return it intact.

Antoine had always felt he was living in dog years. When he was seven he felt about as playful as a man of forty-nine; by eleven he was as disillusioned as an old man of seventy-seven.

Antoine's plight rings true with me. Age twenty-five. Too intelligent for his own good. Too many thoughts. Arcane interests. Socially , for lack of interest A very few good friends. Segregated from those around him by his intelligence. The problem always comes back to being very, very intelligent, and simply not seeing things as others do.

Sigh. All too familiar. And, like Antoine, I, too, have longed to merge with the teeming masses, to become stupid.

So he tries to turn off, destroy, ignore the things that make him stand out. Because I immediately identified with the main character (I'm reluctant to call him the protagonist) it is the story of an alternate Julie, and other ways to approach the percieved problem of difference.

I liked it. The ending might be trite, or it might be sufficient. The book could have gone on another hundred pages, in attempts at coping... could have detailed it out more painfully. In some ways it's more sketch than nightmarish reality. It's well written, but there's not enough length to get truly immersed in the story. Of course, the real Julie has her own ending.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

not quite it

i've been going through life feeling, more or less constantly - this isn't quite right.

not from a right and wrong standpoint. just that it's all slightly off. i'd forgotten until a couple weeks ago when i was frustrated with a design problem; i wasn't quite satisfied with the solution. i'm horribly critical of my own (and others') design work; if something doesn't feel quite right, i know it. sometimes the solution isn't clear, but the discord is.

such is my life, i've realized. this is close, but it's not quite it. what'll solve it? change of the apparent? change of perspective?

i've been uneasy for months now; stuck on saturday. is the solution just to get used to it and be okay with it, or is there more? what is the subtle shift? and where? and yet i can look out the window and see the city's north side in its masonry splendor; green of canopies just as prevalent, lake over there beyond the park, and have no quarrel with it: instead i'm content just to observe, to take in the vast complexity, and it's perfect just as it is.

see, there it is again.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

And yet, and yet, and yet.

This is my response to Isaiah's recent post, a news flash to me. (Sorry, Andrew, I just didn't want to ask about the title of yours.) That was the first I've heard of this. Then I read the comments there, then the article. I want to throw up, I want to cry, I want to give up. This is insane, too.

I do not want to rationalize; I do not need to think. That path is a dead end; it resolves nothing. I'm afraid, I'm not. I care, I don't care. I feel helpless; if there's nothing I can do, then giivng it another moments concern is wasted. Yet I wonder if I could wake up tomorrow in a world that's entirely different... not in an overnight-world-events kind of way, but like putting down one book and picking up another. That easily swept into something else.

It works out, it doesn't work out, it works out another way. We live, we die. The world changes, the world continues. Every possible outcome happens; the probability wave collapses and we only experience one of them - so what happens to the others?

And I daydream about 300 acres in Wyoming, chickens, sheep, a couple cows, and a big garden. Incredibly simple homes that work in their own climate. True architectural innovation. Yes, friends, I do want to run away from all this insanity, and be free to just enjoy life. I have my fantasies. And many days I enjoy life just the way it is. Hell, this, here, now - is enough. Anything outside my field of direct experience might well be a dream, anyway. So is that, at the end of the day, just a way to cope? Or does it somehow reflect how things really are?

I love the smell of tomato plants on my hands.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Imagine something different.

Jon has been writing about "Imagine." Andrew put up a great post today... blogger is misbehaving... and I'm tired of status quo once again.


First, God, Andrew, that passage from the Tao te Ching is beautiful. It's so settled. Geez. Wonderful. I'll get a copy of that translation.

Let there be small countries with few people.
Let the people have no use for complicated machinery.
Let them be mindful of death,
so that they don't move too far from their birthplaces.
If there are boats and carriages,
let there be nowhere to take them to.
If there are weapons,
let there be no occasion to display them.
Let the people's responsibilities be few enough
that they may remember them by knotting a string.
Let them enjoy their food,
be content with their clothes,
be satisfied with their homes,
and take pleasure in their customs.
Though the next country may be close enough
to hear the barking of its dogs
and the crowing of its roosters,
let the people grow old and die
without feeling compelled to visit it.

Second, I don't know why people just can't leave each other alone. I mean, I know as well as Andrew does, but getting the "why" doesn't let it make sense, nor does it make the reality any less painful.

Maybe I sound like a heretic, maybe like a pacifist, maybe like a liberal, maybe like I just don't care, or worse yet, a moral relativist. For crying out loud, can't we just leave each other alone? Why must people be so hell-bent on convincing people they're broken and need to be fixed?

Why not just allow wholeness and love brokenness back together? Is that so hard? Can we let it be that simple?

Is anything worth dying for?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

What God do you believe in?

"The important thing is to know that God loves you."

What P. Curt said rang true, even if his words didn't. The exchange underneath was probably more an acknowledgement - truth, truth - even as our minds struggled with words that would connect. We were exchanging words, ostensibly to catch up, as it'd been a couple of weeks, but I just wanted to assault him (friendly-like!) to say hi. To be; same space, voice to voice, eye to eye. Loving our neighbor is the big thing, too; and we love because God first loved us. What's all that supposed to mean?

There's no way to summarize where I'm at right now. It's clear off the charts, birds stole the breadcrumbs, it's dark outside. And I'm wearing sunglasses. Hit it.

Words are endless trouble; it's still simplest to say that I don't believe in God. Not that God, certainly.

An atheist with faith, he suggested. No; who needs faith, when you know? Know what? Know. He let me go without explaining, when I said that I'm maybe not really an atheist but that the old God is long gone, what exactly kind of God I believe in. He suggested that it's a good thing; I agreed. It is a good thing. And I do know, and all the while keep it hidden from myself.

The exchange itself - is what matters. What happened beside, around, over, under, aside, inside, the words themselves. I don't know how to explain it. The whole thing was perfect as it was, and anything outside of that immediate - doesn't matter.

But I still wonder: what God do I believe in?

Beyond everything that's been questioned and laid aside, something is. It is tiny, and expansive; quiet, and deafening; eminent, and untouchable. At this moment, present; at others, nonexistent.

What am I? What is outside of me? Everything, and nothing; everything, and nothing. All these questions have the same answers; are the questions all about the same thing? (Probably.) Look, but not too closely...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Okay, okay...

...I've been tagged; by Isaiah first, then by Jon.

Changing the toilet paper roll is apparently an overly great effort. I will leave the new roll sitting on top of the empty one for days. So will my roommate... there's about 1/4 roll sitting on top of the empty one right now. Sooner or later I will cave, or she will. It's not like this is incredibly difficult... but it's become habitual.

One of my hobbies is chinchilla breeding. I can't say what insights into life this has yielded, but it pleases me to have pretty furry critters around. (Thirteen, if you must know; five were born here.) I tell people that I think of them as livestock, but wonder if that's what I really think. In many ways I do. Sometime last week I found a dead kit (and a live one) in one of the cages; losing animals is an accepted risk, but it was still icky to clean up; the mess was more bothersome than the death. (Oddly, it was triplets - I found the last running around on the floor the following morning.) Nor is it fun to try to find and clean wounds on a beaten-up adult, but these things happen... I still sobbed at the vet when I had to put him down; he was too sweet to deserve this. I don't know. Many days it's just another chore, and a very long-term game. But they are cute, endearing, and gorgeous. And there is something about holding the kits, these tiny furry quivering bits of life, and playing with the adults.

I'm afraid of strangers. If I must approach a stranger, email is the way to go. I don't like calling strangers, and I like walking up and introducing myself even less. Suffering builds character; the anticipation is worse than actually doing it. So I suck it up and go. The funny thing here is that my job forces me to call people I don't know, on occasion. Worse yet, my part-time job (leading paddling trips on the Chicago River) requires me to talk with and instruct large groups of people I don't know, and to do so with confidence. And I do.

My brain appears to have too much processing power. If something is semi-troubling to me, it'll eat away at the back of my mind while I am *trying* to do something productive. This has been particularly problematic for the last couple of weeks (except it ended Monday and I don't remember what the problem was, but started writing this entry before then), so I have to throw it a bone, metaphorically speaking - so that I'm mulling over something worthwhile, like construction methods for low-income housing, because it's truly unneccessary to let a couple of other things (which shall go unnamed) bother me.

I am apparently a cultural/racial chameleon. An absurd number of Jews have asked me if I am Jewish, or been surprised to learn that I am not (as when I might mention celebrating Easter, for example). Other guesses have been assorted Mediterranean (greek, hispanic, turkish), and once, asian... by an asian.

I reserve the right to tag others, later - if I feel like it.

Dead Man Walking

Kevin's post and article reminded me of something I didn't talk about much at the time.

At the beginning of May I was bitten by a squirrel.

I went through the logic.

Rabies shot isn't a shot; it's a dozen in fatty tissue, makes you so sick it's a week in the hospital. I had just started a new job. I hate needles, and I hate being alone, and I especially do not care for being alone and ill.

And besides. Squirrels can carry rabies, but there hasn't been a case in Illinois for more than 50 years. And the squirrel was young, healthy, and just in shock from being clipped by a car. (I was holding it. Only moderately foolish; I am used to handling rodents. But I was wearing a sweater, and claws and sweaters are like velcro; shaking my arm only made it clamp down - with everything - until I flailed it to the ground. I had control of the situation for five minutes before a moment's inattention lost it. That's how the best of them go down. No shame there.)

So there was nothing to worry about.

Symptoms within 3 days, if any. And once you become symptomatic, you're gonna die.

But there was nothing to worry about.


It was a long three days; four, just to be sure. Only three people knew, none of them family; they would worry more and that would worry me more. Managed to keep my mind calm after the first day and a half, but wasn't totally at ease until it had been a week; what if I missed the symptoms?

I knew what I'd do. Post asking everybody to tell my family about me. Arrange for somebody to take my animals. Tell them who to give some of my ceramic work to. Tell a few people that I love them, even though the relationship wasn't there yet. See a couple of beloved friends. Go be with my immediate and extended family. Die.

Dying, I found, is not a big worry. Dying painfully and alone - that would bother me. People talk about regrets. No regrets here. I was as good as dead; it occured to me, getting out of my car, that it would be fitting to die now; I'd experienced so much; hadn't gotten "there" but was so close, and so far ahead of the curve; it was a full life; incomplete, but full.

But I'm not dead. And I have the scars to prove it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

75 degrees, 69 percent humidity...

...and I feel f***ing awesome. All week. From about an hour after my last post, onward.

It's wonderful to be alive: to top it off, this weather drives me wild. (Not the searing triple-digits of the last three days, but today's; rain, coolish, humid.) I am this -

Nothing to hold onto, and nothing to hold back.