Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book of Revelations

I had a few revelations today.

Revelation Number One:  I’ve had a belly full of amateur thinkers.  In the old days, amateur thinkers knew their place.  Their self-indulgent hours were confined to personal journals or invested in the occasional sequestered poem.  Perhaps they enrolled in an adult education class or joined a neighborhood book group. Their quest for recognition, if not covert, was confined to within a few blocks from home or at a stretch, the distance to the nearest public library.  

But those days are gone.  What the interstate did for the Sunday driver, the Internet has done for the amateur thinker.  Long straight access ramps, well marked merges, gradually banking curves, meridians the width of football fields, shoulders as brood as country club fairways.  Now anyone can navigate the world of ideas, from that eighty-five year Dowager's humped grandma to the pimple-faced rouge in detention.   They’ve got blogs, chat-rooms, web sites, and all sorts of moron friendly networks designed for effortlessly extolling their amateur thoughts on professional appearing tarmac.  I friggin’ hate it. 

Revelation Number Two:  John Lennon got what was coming to him.   I mean, that doesn’t excuse Mark David Chapman’s atrocious behavior, but John Lennon and the "fab-four" got rich selling the Lie of Love.  Like any two–bit grifter, Lennon took his chances running an amazing scam; dressing in elaborate costumes, smiling at the camera and playing a denomination-less Jesus, hair and beard to match his crucifixion message that “All you need is love.”  Professional thinkers know that mantra is Liverpool rubbish just like they know that the Good-cop TV show hero doesn't really exist, but mess with reality and fantasy long enough and you can get yourself in deep shit.  Look at what happened at Jonestown or down in Waco, Texas where they were loving it up and waiting for the Second Coming. 

No, love is a dangerous thing.  It’s like dynamite.  Toy-like  fireworks can take off your finger or blind an eye; notch it up and love gone bad can tear your world apart.

Revelation Number Three:  Amateur thinkers should never try to tackle the subject of love.  Why? Because an amateur thinker is to love what an amateur drinker is to booze; they just don’t understand it.  They are all about the buzz without regard to pleasure’s searing flame.   The professional drinker learns to see through that illusion or dies trying.   And amateur thinkers?  Well, eventually they discard their CD’s, delete their blogs and give up thinking altogether or else (miracle of miracles) they begin to form real ideas; thoughts that go beyond pop culture’s propagandized marketing and arise from true introspection and study.

Revelation Number Four:  Thinking, whether done professionally or by the amateur, is highly overrated.  It is the art of observation we should embrace, as in my favorite childhood poem, "The Wise Old Owl."  

The wise old owl sat on the oak
The more he saw, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard
Why aren't we like that wise old bird 

NOTE TO THE READER:  For the record, John Lennon happens to be one of my favorite composers and I fantasize that generations to come may elevate his memory to the status of a 20th century messiah.  After all is not the word of God love? 

I also believe that in the arts the idea of "amateur vs professional" is the biggest bunch of BS to ever come down the pike. Art in specific and thought in general ARE LIFE. That a painting that once sold for $35.00 can rise in value to 35 million seems so incredible to me, particularly when one considers that half the world population lives on less then two dollars a day. 

We are not unique in our humanness; our suffering and pleasures are universal and vary only by degree. Words can be made to say anything. It is amazing that these symbols can evoke images in the imagination so beautiful or so deeply threatening that their craftsmen have in turn been rewarded with millions as well as punished by death. 

I think it is hard for man to separate the artist from the art or the thought from the thinker, but it
 is an essential element of the act of appreciation. The universe of ideas exists as an infinite pool in which our consciousness floats. We surround and segment ideas with our corporeal form. Art gives ideas body, but we no more create ideas then we create life itself. Perhaps that is why art critics seem so heartless; it is not the artist they have spiked to the cross, but the idea and its execution.


Bless the illiterate and their immunity to the witch craft of letters. There is no word of God.  He speaks through objects of dimension in an immediate and ever original way. Nothing is repeated.  His communication is constantly evolving and confined to an infinite moment.

Love is the window through which we can enter that moment and speak the language of God.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

"The novel is not the author's confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become. "    Milan Kundera 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Skoptsy

In Robert Services' "A History of Twentieth Century Russia" I came across a reference to a Christian cult who were "strange in the extreme" called the Khlysty who " practiced castration of their adherents."

Some additional research revealed Mr. Service had his cults co-mingled, as it was actually the Skoptsy he was referring to who "were first discovered by the Russian civil authorities in 1771 in the Oryol region. A peasant, Andrei Ivanov, was convicted of having persuaded thirteen other peasants to castrate themselves. His assistant was another peasant, known as Kondratii Selivanov. A legal investigation followed. Ivanov was sent to Siberia."

Apparently the Skoptsy felt that the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the garden had been transformed into testicles and breasts and that these sexual manifestations distracted one from a direct communication with God. Followers (whose numbers reached an all time high of about 5200) often opted to perform self administered surgery without anesthesia to rid themselves of these encumbrances. Men sometimes removed the penis as well and urinated through a bull horn while a devote female Skoptsy might perform a double mastectomy and trim away her labia.

Poignant dissertations have undoubtably been penned on the many human motivations for mutilating the sexual organs.   With just a dab of compartmentalization, one can imagine how the less enlightened among us might see these parts of the body as a source of suffering as they so often seem to get us into trouble.  Which brings to mind a loosely connected question:   "Do hand-guns kill people or do people kill people?  Some might contend that if the world were rid of hand-guns and genitals, crimes of passion would be nearly non-existent.  

Although the Skoptsy flourished during the late 18th century, non-anesthesized male circumcision continues throughout the world today.  Inspired by the Hebrew shepard Moses, the clipped foreskin symbolizes a heightened sensitivity to God.  Shortly after birth, many Gentile babies are similarly altered as Western medicine tends to view the foreskin as unhygienic.  Considered from that perspective, would not a few sealing stitches to the lint catching navel be in order?           

Myth's End

Wood smoke rises from the stone chimney and the churning fan on the furnace lends reassurance that all is well in the world.  

I just finished watching a documentary by Ken Burns entitled "The West" which was rather depressing as it seemed to have more to do with loss than discovery.  It is not easy to admire the carriers of The Cross as they always seemed to be carrying guns, disease and a thirst for unrestrained exploitation as well.  The story of "European Spies a T-Pee" is an accepted bummer and leaves anyone of said descent feeling either deeply guilty or darn disappointed they weren't around to share in the virgin bounty.  

Is there any myth left to The West?  Perhaps I should take to the American highway in the coming months and see.  I crossed the USA by land only once and that was way back in 1974.  As things have changed so much since then, I imagine it might be well worth revisiting dusty old Omaha, Cheyenne, Denver and Flagstaff.  

I suppose I could make the trip in a Chevy van, sleeping in the back on a twin mattress, anxious for the day when I will meet a pretty girl in some teardrop of a town; a girl with a smile she has saved all her life just for me.  We will fall in love as the sun turns the horizon orange and sparks swirl skyward from our road-side camp-fire.  The next morning she will have given birth to three or four rug-rats and I will have awaken to a life of changing oil filters and brakes in the local Meineke franchise.  I will wear a greasy form fitting tee-shirt and a disillusioned sneer as I air wrench off rusted bolts from car chassises. She will hum Taylor Swift melodies outside our cotton-wood shaded bungalow as she clothespins diapers and faded summer dresses to the line, her figure still clock-stopping but now unappreciated by my dog-tired eyes as each evening I bang through the screen door and beeline to the fridge for the first of my nightly twelve pack of Coors.  She eventually will leave me for the owner of the KIA dealership and I will end up in Santa Barbara, CA working for the phone company.

Hmmmm... maybe discovering The West is not such a great idea.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Which Side Are You On?

In the Student Union bathroom at my college there was a smear of graffiti created from the inversion of one of the day's popular anti-drug slogans: "Reality exists for those who can't handle drugs."  It was a joke that reflected some pretty serious team spirit and spoke to the divide between kids who did drugs and those who didn't.

If the tree trunk of experimental drug use sprouted upward into two main branches, one might have been called heroin and the other LSD. Heavy use created the junkie and the acid burn-out, two very different brothers born of the same family.  In time, the limbs of these two branches created a canopy of cross addiction typified by the tragic demise of many of the team's highest functioning players like Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendrix and more recently Jerry Garcia (the J squad).

Those who recovered from heavy drug use (if one really ever fully recovers) often describe the journey as one fraught with ill logic and flawed thinking. For example, Eric Clapton (acid-user, junkie, alcoholic, prescription drug abuser and of course nicotine addict) described his initial attraction to drugs as a way to hot-wire or short circuit the spiritual journey that he hoped would result in the truly timeless works of artists he strove to emulate.  In retrospect, it had just the opposite effect on his talents as an artist and nearly destroyed his family life, career and health.

Experience tends to teach that drugs at their best do not reward the user with anything sustainable but extract a huge cost for the glimpses of self knowledge and awareness they may offer. A great artist becomes great through work not drugs. The same is true for the spiritually enlightened or mature. Though there are shaman who incorporate hallucinogens in their rituals, they are integrated as a part of a much larger method and not as a replacement for the hard work associated with religious self knowledge and spiritual growth.

Drugs, like medicine, are toxins. Misused or mis-proportioned they are often lethal. One makes a poor argument to say they were desirous of spiritual enlightenment when they bought an unknown substance from an unknown supplier and trusted that it is was of the formula, quality and quantity that would help them achieve a nearly impossible to defined end result. There are very few if any short cuts to the secrets of "soul" but there are many, many dead ends.

Time reveals truth. The importance of the mentor, teacher, guardian, parent in the process of mental and physical development is indispensable.  Learn from the shared experience of your elders and use that to navigate to new horizons.  Sailors use charts to by-pass the submerged obstacles that stole the lives of their predecessors. Before one sets off on the path of drug use, it might be wise to read the biographies of the explores that went before. Much can be learned from their trials and tribulations and much pain and suffering avoided.