Wolfku Musing - 38

A Gordian knot
With no Alex to cut it
That is what life is
 

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What at times strikes me with the force of a physical blow is that a lot, and I mean an awful lot of people have been at these questions of Truth and Death and what on earth is going on here on this little third rock from the sun.

 And what strikes me even harder is that no one, absolutely no one, has come back with an objective, true answer. (And, parenthetically, I suspect that if someone truly discovered the ultimate truth, whether he or she shared the secret or not, we’d no longer be here).

I am not saying that some have not found and mapped out a path toward discovering, for ourselves (perhaps) the answer—think Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus, et al. Still, no one has come back with an objective, verifiable answer to the question: what on earth is going on here?

Perhaps there is no objective, verifiable answer. So many mystics point out (it’s like a chorus) that the ultimate truth is beyond reason, beyond normal human understanding (the objective kind); perhaps there is no understandable answer.

Ayya Khema, the Buddhist nun, once said that insight is understood experience and many of her peers (in various religions) say that the truth, the ultimate one, cannot be known with reason, it has to be experienced.

At times, as I sit on my meditation cushion, I realize and agree: I’ll just have to sit until I see, but other times I almost despair: enough with the nebulousness already, enough with the vague, with just the pointing finger, just tell me. But no one answer that.

Alexander the Great simply cut the Gordian knot with one smart slash of his sword, but there is no Alex around to cut this one: what on earth is going on here?

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Wolfku Musing - 37

Each night, the tide dreams
a new sandy masterpiece
for dawn to cherish

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 When I first moved up from Los Angeles to Crescent City, California, I would walk the sandy Pacific Ocean beach every morning the tide would allow—yes, there were certainly days where the tide would be so high that I would have to swim, or at the least wade, rather than walk to move along the beach—and most such mornings I would marvel at the new sand patterns left behind, as it retreated—called by the moon—by the previous night’s tide.

Considering what a wonderful stroll the beach offered, very few people took advantage and so missed not only some heavenly exercise but also the amazing artwork left by the tide.

The tide, at ebb now, did not seem to care one bit who enjoyed or appreciated these sand paintings and I drew the conclusion that they were made simply for the dawn’s benefit. It rang true, though the dawn herself remained mum on the subject.

These days, I still walk along the Pacific coastline, but now I follow the road—way more predicable than the sandy beach just a stone’s throw in Japan’s direction.

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Wolfku Musing - 36

Last I saw the Word
was drowning
midst cold and
illiterate spindrift

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[This brief musing was written in the late 1990s—still true though, and truer and truer by the day, in fact—bracketed inserts are from 2019]

 

As our country loses more and more of the cognitive foundation that made her great, and as the computer and advertising industries plumb ever deeper for the lowest common denominator of whatever remains, the Word steadily loses out to the Picture. Beauty loses out to the Car Chase.

Silence to Noise.

Television marches on with her eighty or one hundred sixty or five hundred plus channels of imaginative [and not particularly entertaining] garbage; and radio, once the great mystique, finds itself reduced to a thousand like stations of ceaseless banal rhythms and grating commercials.

If a computer program does not have a Graphical User Interface (GUI) it is, for all intents and purposes, outmoded if not antique [this is true, today, of course]; and if it does not provide entertainment as part of the package—it must be interesting, provide diversion, be cool; not simply be effective and functional—it won't sell. A sad case in point is the demise of WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS (a brilliantly functional word processor, and quite possibly the best piece of software ever written [remember, this program was written for and ran amazingly well in 512K RAM, compared to today’s programs which as a rule require one thousand times that amount of memory, with 16GB of RAM today the rule rather than the exception] now virtually vanished under the onslaught of Mr. GUI.

As an aside, the WordPerfect Corporation tried to defend it at the time and developed WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS, a GUI version which slowed the program down by orders of magnitude, made it less functional and required expensive new hardware. Brilliant. All to meet the increasing demand of the read-nots.

Webwards, if the Page is not imaginatively designed, eye catching and aesthetic, it is a failure no matter how valuable the content [this emphasis added today].

Presentation, appearance, color, design is everything. Meaning is fading. What is actually said, not really that important. How does it LOOK? is what matters.

And all for show. All Facade to make up for the missing Word, to replace the waning ability of our population to read and comprehend.

I can hardly think of a more rewarding pleasure than to read a great novel or short story. As you read, you comprehend and you create. You are a co-creator; you do something when you read (or when you listen—radio theater still holds that mystique for me). You come out refreshed, in a way accomplished.

Where TV and (often) movies spoon-feed you with violence, etc., reading asks you to participate: as you read you create the bridge, the forest, the kiss, the sky for your mind’s eye to see and ear to hear. And so, it’s your bridge, your forest, your kiss, your sky.

In my view, the fortunes that are being spent to reach and cater to the lowest common denominator (amoebas of the Dollar Ocean) would be much better spent on raising the ability of our children and populace to read and comprehend.

To me, the [1990s’] Internet is still looking for somewhere to go (other than pornography, which is already in full swing). All we currently can say for sure is that wherever it is heading, it has to get there in style, with flash and with as many moving icons and exploding little images as possible to grab and perhaps even hold our attention for more than 3 seconds.

Few things are less rewarding than violence and laugh tracks rammed down your perceptive channels by incessant TV images. Someone said that it takes more effort and awareness to eat than what it takes to watch TV. Yes, I believe that. Yet, it is a national epidemic. Well-documented and well-known at that, and as condoned, if not promoted, by the powers that be as are personal debt and obesity.

And my question is this: At what point will this lead to the burning of books? At what point will reading become an ability frowned upon as off-putting, as strange, then snobbish, then cultish, then outlawed? When will the persecution of those that read begin? When the burning?

[Recently, in 2019, I read that “reading” (as in reading online content) is now for all practical purpose redefined to actually mean scanning while reading a book is now known as “deep reading.” I can hear George Orwell spinning in his grave from here.]

Or has it already begun? There are fewer and fewer libraries as local funding disappears. Library hours are curtailed, fewer new books, fewer new patrons.

Of course, the computer is a wonderful thing; the telecommunication marvel is a blessing; the Internet spans the globe and removes virtually all distances and can be the greatest vehicle yet for the Word. Yes, it can be the most wonderful communication tool the planet has yet to see, as long as the Word is not lost and replaced by the meaningless image, by inane form, by empty facade.

As long as it does not lead to the burning of books.

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Wolfku Musing - 35

Pelicans fishing
Rising, diving, splash, rising
Glorious killers

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They don’t live around here, these pelicans. My northern shore is but a way station in their travels farther north and back south of here. But when they stop by for a breather they usually stay for a day or two to feed, and to give everyone else some advanced lessons in flying.

Ever since I first saw them—it would have been down by Los Angeles or thereabouts, I’ve been fascinated by these aerial wizards, skimming, skating the water on their wingtips, effortlessly, as if true children of the wind.

Nature is often like this, disguising the ardent killer in grace. The lion, the cheetah, the hawk, even the larger snakes silently gliding through the understory toward some unsuspecting creature’s death.

 The pelican, of course, is no exception, he’s an excellent fisherman. And what fishermen do is spot fish and then skillfully remove them from their element (water) where they’ll soon asphyxiate whether in the beak, gullet, or stomach of this beautiful killer.

Watching them skim, rise, dive, kill, all so beautifully, I can almost forgive this flier his deadly motive. Almost.

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Wolfku Musing - 34

Pigeons strain and flap
their mostly inefficient
airborne miracles

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In my neighborhood there are two houses that feed pigeons on a daily basis. The one house scatters whatever pigeons love to eat on the ground, the other family has constructed an elaborate feeder for them.

The pigeons, of course, know about these two houses and come morning feeding time they fly en masse (and it’s a huge en masse) between the houses to break their communal fast.

Pigeons, too, are chicken. At least these are. If you come within ten feet of them, they take off, and it’s the taking off that’s spectacular; not smoothly spectacular or nicely spectacular, but scramble-flap-scramble spectacular.

Pigeons are not good fliers. I see good fliers during my walks: sea gulls, pelicans, ospreys, even crows are elegant air creatures compared to pigeons. I am actually amazed that these fat birds with under-sized wings manage the airborne trick at all.

You cannot hear an osprey fly (or glide, which is what they mostly do); neither can you hear the sea gulls. But when the pigeons take off, it’s like a enfilade of not particularly light-gauge rifles going off, all in a second or two. You’re inclined to duck—unless, like me, you’re used to this by now.

You would think that after five years they would recognize me by now, but no such luck. I’m a threatening stranger every time I approach, and off they go—a confusing cloud of altitude scramble.

I shake my head and smile

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Wolfku Musing - 33

God was done
  creating—
We asked:
  What do we eat?
He said:
  Each other

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 The term “zero-sum game” arises in all its ugliness.

For one being to die that another might live is not lovely, it is demented. It’s not wonderful nature oh, so bucolic in its loveliness—stripping the surface paint off the thing we’re looking at fangs and blood and kill or be killed all the way down to the algae. I, for one, would like to take whoever dreamed this one up out back and have a few words.

Oh, but the poor animals know not what they do, it is not cruelty, it is not ugly, they just want to feed themselves and their young. It’s nature.

Well, that’s my bloody point (pun very much intended): It is nature. It is designed this way, and whoever designed it knew, from the very beginning, that this is precisely how it would and should work. That is cruelty.

Please get me off this rock.

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Wolfku Musing - 32

First silence
Then sight
Then discernment
Then thought
Then voice
Then sound
Then word

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 (October 1992)

 As I see it, the object or concept expressed by a sound is always discovered or formed before the sound; the mind’s comprehension always internalized before externalized.

Imagining myself a prehistoric being, before language, looking up at a mountain, seeing the much-ness of it, the awesome size of it; and living this impression I imagine giving birth, in my own comprehension, in my own conscience, to the concept—the overwhelming presence of—big. Now, to me at this time big might have many other connotations than just size. I might feel threatened, or frightened, I might feel miniscule, but the overriding and all-encompassing concept is big.

I may then utter to myself, overcome by the moment, bhaas, and in the next moment make a conscious connection between my feeling of the size and the noise I’ve just made. I say it again, bhaas, bhaas, bhaas, this sound that now, for me, means the size, the fear, the trepidation I feel.

Bhaas.

Now, moving down the eons of human contact and communication bhaas may sound totally different today, which is beside the point and rather the subject of linguists and studies of derivation of our current language. The point is that the feeling, the discernment, the comprehension, the concept gave birth to the utterance, it pre-existed the sound.

Looking at the reverse sheds perhaps even more light on this concept. Say I woke up one morning in my cave or under the stars in some desert and heard a cry of a bird or an animal sound like bhaas. I do not believe that my next thought would have been: “Bhaas, hm, interesting sound. Let’s see if I can find a thing or a concept somewhere to attach it to.”

If words are external and concepts internal it follows that the internal always precedes the external. Externalizing my feeling before the bulk of the mountain bhaas escaped by lips. Maybe someone else was there, too, with me, who heard me and looked me in the eyes, then looked back at the bulk and nodded, yeah, sure, bhaas, knowing with me what we both felt at the size of the thing.

Later, back with the tribe, we gesticulate with our arms, depicting huge, large, enormous, saying bhaas, bhaas, and eventually the entire tribe will know the word.

Just a thought.

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Wolfku Musing - 31

Cocooned by dry
  warm
  inside air
Beyond the panes
  wet snow
  is falling

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The room I now find myself in has a large bay window hanging three stories above the street. The room and its window are in a yellow-bricked three-story apartment building on Main Street with shops on the first floor with their large, lit display windows, and apartments on the second and third floors. I’ve sat down at the clean and empty desk and I look out and down at the snow falling. Snow in the air. Large flakes. They turn to sleet on the ground. Darkness has already arrived. It is winter after all and this is Sweden. Store fronts and car headlights reflect in the watery sidewalk and street. This room, this window, this snow, this city, this desk constitute the last in my long line of beginnings, the current one. The one I’m in. I am tasting this new, fresh now. This starting over. This rewind, press play. The new life ahead.

This freshly minted beginning.

For I have just arrived. As I entered the room, I placed my duffle bag and my briefcase on the made bed. It is very well-made this bed, hospital-well. It speaks well-made volumes about the land lady. After a few moments of looking around for I don’t know what, I moved my briefcase—the one I just bought with my next to last money, from the bed to the clean and empty desk by the bay window. I opened the case and took out my expensive fountain pen—the one I bought with my very last money, the truer to write (or so I told myself at the time). I pulled out and sat down on the heavy wooden chair with its hard seat and harder still back (uncomfortable is the word) and I placed my elbows on the clean (shiningly clean) desk surface, closed my eyes and looked for the momentous part of the moment, looked hard and long to capture the essence of this moment, to fill myself and overflow with this moment, to fully possess and be possessed by this moment, this brand new very important new-beginning moment.

My life has just undergone another sea change, the last in a string of them, but sea nonetheless. I have left Stockholm behind. Yes, I’m running away, but that’s not the point I’m making here.

Besides, as always, I run away with the noblest of intentions.

And as a result, here I am, sea changed. I sit in this moment on this hard, yes truly uncomfortable chair. The air in this dark, sterile room is very dry with the central heating set to what must be far too high and I realize I will have trouble sleeping in this room. I like cold rooms for sleep. Here, I will suffocate dryly. I really should have noticed this before I decided to rent this room, but be that as it may.

For here I am, in this sea of change, filled with this momentous new beginning, and what feeling I cannot find in the moment itself I (and I’m so very good at this), what cannot be found I will manufacture with my feeling pump, now set to momentous new moment. I pump hard and I urge myself to feel this moment, to really feel it, so big, so powerful, so irrevocable, so utterly sea-change.

And here it comes: I think I can feel the moment rising to fill me. Here, where I sit on the hard chair by the desk, pen in hand, yes, I feel it come on. I open the briefcase, find and retrieve paper. I place a shallow stack (four, perhaps five sheets at most) of paper on the hard, shining desk top, just paper and a hand holding a pen, both poised to capture and eternalize this very moment.

I bring my pen to touch the paper. It is very smooth, this paper, hardly any resistance at all to this also smooth golden tip of a pen. Still, the pen leaves a blue trace on the paper as the first word forms and I as I feel others form behind it. My words, eager to escape. I smell the paper, I smell the ink, I smell my words. In this very moment. We, my pen and I, write something poetic.

I hear the cars outside and below, muffled by the falling snow.

I hear other city sounds. This city is new to me. These sounds are new to me. The air in this room is new to me and seems drier by the minute. I feel the air make its way in trough my nostrils. Rather, I feel my nostrils, dry and contracted, barely letting it through. I make an effort to forget them, air and nostrils both.

Listen.

I cast about for meaning again, in these new sounds, in this new air, in this new smell, and now I find that I hold myself to mean everything, that all meaning is me—yes, very poetic: pen and paper agree.

And so I trace ever-new words on this paper in front of me. I spend this ink to prove my poethood. I draw and draw these urging words and know that I am poet. I am poet, therefore I am. I write words on paper, I see them leave my pen, it is I doing this, therefore I am, I am poet.

There is a whole family living somewhere in this apartment, but I don’t hear anyone else. Just the dry air squeezing itself in through my nostrils and the muffled sounds of new and foreign city outside. It must be a pretty big apartment for me not to hear anyone else stir or move about or flush a toilet or something. The room is clinically clean. Sterile. It is impersonal. It is mine, though, and I have just left Stockholm for this—acting on one of my many, many un-reflected-upon, un-thought-through impulses.

I impulse, therefore I am.

I write some more words. These are important words, poet words. Ink words carved out of dry air, wrestled down onto dry paper.

Then I leave for a movie.

I slept twice (unrestfully) in that room and visited it perhaps five times. Seems it’s always snowing when I’m in that room, as if I’m only there one prolonged once, looking out through this bay window one prolonged once and wondering what will happen next.

A day later I meet Marie and everything takes a new turn. A sea-er sea-change. I spend all my time with her now, then move in with her and tell my landlady I no longer need the room. This is the second and last time I meet this woman. Nice enough, she is, if a little surprised. I settle with her, take my bag and head out the door. My briefcase is already at Marie’s.

Which is where I met Baudelaire. Literally yes, literally no. They were his eyes, red globes in darkness, suspended first above me, descending then upon my eyes in a perfect fit. They glowed as they slowly fell through the still, dark air like pools, like lenses, like portals upon his world, and when they touched, his eyes and mine, and became the same eyes, yes, I knew that I knew.

He has stayed with me, has Baudelaire. As a symbol, if nothing else. As an excuse, if nothing else. For what are these little strings of words I jot down on scraps and sheets and in little books so black and conspicuous in my hand as I let inspiration have its way with me.

They’re not poems, they’re not. They’re not prose, they’re not. They’re, what did he call them? prose poems. And if he got away with that, so, I am sure, will I. And that is why I decided to go to France, become a poet. May have to learn French, though.

Tried to do that. Did not succeed.

But he’s still with me, Baudelaire and his eyes. It happened, this mystical experience, this union of eyes, and no one can take that away from me, although they could and did for Hemingway. Stole his memories.

Sitting there though, in that dry, warm, sterile room looking out that bay window at the snowy winter’s night, did I reflect at all on why I would want to know Pi to the 200th decimal?

No, I did not. Then it was all about the moment. I was that moment, only that moment.

I’ve seen truth since, of course. I wanted to impress, that’s all. Pi to the 200th decimal to impress my father or some girl. To impress my mother or some girl. To harvest approval. And in those days, approval was my only currency. I needed to hear back from others how alive I was. How deep I was. How Baudelaire I was. How poet I was.

There was no me there without this approval, for I was only such me as others would grant. Very empty. Very in need. Very needing that pump I carried around. My feeling-pump.

And sitting there, looking out into the falling snow, lit from below by head lights and store fronts, arriving out of a black above first into a faint glow (more like a mood than a presence), then into a lit amorphous thing, then into flakes, thousands of them, large ones, into snow, falling, falling, did I reflect upon stealing?

My father called me tjuv. That word is Swedish for thief. Tjuv. Not a pretty word, not a pretty thing. Though well-deserved. Very. For all my life I had been a thief. A petty thief.

Life as a petty child thief is a long string of related, familiar emotions.

First, there’s the thrill of opportunity.

Then, there’s the rush of theft.

Then, there’s the pleasure of candy bought with the loot. Almost pre-sex sex-like.

Followed soon by the fear of discovery, a fear as palpable as certainty.

Followed by the emotionless denial of knowing anything about the missing money. Nothing, no sir. And had my eyes turned any bluer, any larger or any more innocent they would have had to nail me to a cross.

Followed by the apathy of the inevitable confession. The humiliation of capture.

Followed (sometimes) by the pain of the hard hand on buttocks.

Followed by the propitiatory apology: I will never, ever do it again. No, no, no, never.

Followed by the relief that this was now all over. Clean again. Nothing to hide. Nothing to feel guilty about. Breathing, in the company of free beings.

Until, of course, the new thrill of opportunity.

All arranged in tidy sequences of a more or less constant ache which knew for a fact that it was me they discussed downstairs. Which knew I caused them pain.

Then one day, I was fourteen years old, I up and changed. Just stopped stealing. Tjuv no more. Go figure.

No. Nothing like that. Looking out the bay window and then down upon ink and paper and expensive fountain pen in hand there was only the moment. Everywhere in deepening snow, in cars starting and stopping, and the hour getting on, there was me and my moment.

Then I went to the pictures.

And sitting there, striving for the far reaches of every corner of the moment, did I think at all in this direction, of today, the then future? Was this now, this moment, even conceivable then? I think not.

Rimbaud was dead at thirty-seven. Baudelaire at forty-six. Age is not a thing to ponder for this boy by the bay window. There is only that very moment, those words onto that paper, that dry air which I knew I would have trouble sleeping in.

Now, more than half a life lived later, I’m still sitting at a desk of sorts. Not a pen in hand but a little keyboard. I touch type and do it well—my words hit the screen as I think them. So far from dark, snowy, Swedish February night.

Nonetheless me.

I live in a cabin. I have lived on a boat. I have lived marriage—make that marriages. I have lived business. I have lived corporate America. I have lived music. I have lived books. I have lived New York. I have lived Los Angeles. It is now for me to extract myself from all this lived and share it.

I shall grow gaunt and gray, mysterious and sinewy, distant and present, looking out bay windows at falling snow. I shall share, shall become the sharing that is its own reward. And I shall escape, finally, this prison, this string of bay windows.

And looking out I see I can live no other way. I will work my body into song, laugh in the face of God, and deliver the earth.

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