Sunday, October 26, 2008

Simple Twists of Fate

. . . or why is it that the offices of J. Edgar Hoover, HUAC and the Roman Inquisition seem to follow such similar patterns. There is some power structure, and some relation to that power structure which gets understood as orthodoxy. And then there are some very clever practitioners at some distance who, largely because of their cleverness, excite the paranoid suspicion of the orthodox, who move ruthlessly to destroy the clever ones.

As usual, I know nothing or very little of the history of these things, but perhaps enough - as with physics, say - to offer a kind of explanation or ordering of my own. The pattern is familiar enough in my own life's experience, so that it seems to matter little whether I am projecting my own observations large, or the larger observations onto my own teapot domain. We all know - in my case it was the new high school principal, in yours it might be Cheney, say - the pattern of small-mindedness upsetting literacy.

What I really want to understand is how things meant by language change and evolve, and how those changes can represent such real and actual threats to power structures. And why it is that there always seem to be shameful sexual practices behind the paranoid prosecutions, and that these sexual practices always get projected outward onto the persecuted.

Maybe these are minor subtexts which have been and deserve to be discounted by history and historians, but the occasion for these musings on my part now is my reading of a minor history of the order of priests which founded the school I once headed. The priests involved with that school lived in orbit around the school's founder and his vaguely libertine, but certainly intellectual, apostasy, vis-a-vis the orders more central obedient membership. I seem to recall that spies were periodically sent.

I looked only askance at such things, not really wanting to know very much about the politics of the school's history, and only wanting to evaluate the stories, pro and con, about the school's still then living founder as I formed my own opinion: at the least he shared my canniness about candid self-exposure and we hit it off very well. I enjoyed drinking, which combined well with his apparent obsession with it, as evidenced by the empty bottles left for his/my secretary to remove each morning right next to his feminine high-heeled pumps. I think he was a rather short man.

More recently, I have become aware that many other things apparent only at the periphery of my vision were likely more toward the scandalous truth lately revealed by the Church more generally. It may even be that I should be proud of the affirmative act of closing the school, more than or at least as much as I feel responsibility for my failure to keep it open. If I was only directly aware of those things within my purview, that is because it was properly a survival technique in the face of extreme fiscal duress, all under my charge. And I operated without benefit of any understanding of the wider economic climate in which I was trying to preserve an already virtually defunct institution.

Youth does contain unmeasured boldness, and had I then the broader sense I now suffer, I surely would never have accepted the responsibilities offered me.

The school was premised on the idea that a certain very small subset of the student population was capable to learn at a rate and level of sophistication which made their attendance at common schools problematic, if not outright abusive. These children were denoted "gifted", which was not a politically impossible premise on which to found a school during the days leading up to Sputnik's launch. That denotation also provided cover for the otherwise unsavory thoughts and practices of the school's freethinking founder. Perhaps there was even a beatnik mood to indulge freethinking, and provide its very own precincts, safe from the susceptibilities of the more common children, nuns, priests and other mentors.

Over its brief history, the school never could decide its identity along the continuum from Great Books essentialism to Summerhill progressivism, but we did consider ourselves freethinkers all, and peculiarly licensed to lure, entice, cajole, discipline and even encourage our charges to enter the heady space of the open mind. I think at the end we held out the enlightenment promise of liberation both secular and divine from the cloddish weight of ignorance.

The particular instrument for entrance was the IQ test, administered without conflict of interest, or at least without inward conflict of conscience, by the school's founder himself, which it actually took me some time after taking over the school to understand or even really know about. I'm very slow that way!

Now for a while, the IQ test basked in the same kind of pristine sanctity as other sorts of measuring tools; the slide rule, the microscope and such. It was meant to provide a way to identify those children, presented to us perhaps by ego-boundary challenged parents, or best by parents who wondered if their child's reaction to schooling more typically administered might be an indication of the system's, rather than the child's, inadequacies. It was meant to cut through other proxies for intelligence including gender, teacher-toadiness, wealth and good looks, for some examples, to discover the secret unschooled quality of mind which would guarantee entrance to our fine and liberal institution.

Of course, in practice many dolts and pretty children were admitted too, and the school's collection of teachers included the dread indoctrinators alongside the most gifted openers of minds. There would always be a tension between the Aristotelean pronouncers of essential and quintessential truths and the proto-post-modernists who could and would believe most anything short of true religion and other superstitions. And because we were bound by our mission to admit any measurably qualified students regardless of their ability to pay, the school was systemically bankrupt. This in the lead-up financial meltdowns of the 80's when I, foolish dolt, thought I could make sense of things - such youthful folly dwarfs what I attempt here.

So anyhow, it warms somehow the more perverse parts of my shrunken heart to find that this order of Priests may congenitally, as it were from the beginning, be prone to sloppy practices and by them to excuse sordid undertakings in the guise of bringing enlightenment to the unwashed. The order may attempt to excuse itself as being embedded in a Church during its darkest days of Inquisition and power over Galilean Truth, somehow finding it's shortcomings inevitable within a culture it had to sneak around in as the only way toward flourish. Hell, I had the very same excuses ready to hand, although I'm pretty sure I drew my lines more clearly than had many of my institutional forbears.

Back in this sordid past of the Church, in ways now known to be congruent with its more recent past, it was always more imperative (!!) to protect the institution than its charges. So sins of priests were construed as peccadilloes. Reassignments were made. The innocents (the molested children) were not considered spiritually far enough along to suffer either guilt or harm, since in any case they were not considered morally capable of culpability. The grave risk of harm was to the soul of the priest, and by him to the body politic of the greater Church.

I think it accurate that tortures and eventual murders administered by the broader Inquisition were always justified as in defense of the soul which had been betrayed by its fleshy owner and his benighted mind. The screams and howls, in other words, emanated from that part which needed destroying, and never from the essential soul in dire need of salvation. So, just as the needs of the flesh are denied existence by the simple expedient of being ignored among priests, the failings of the flesh are also denied existence by that same expedient - act as well as innocent participants.

How telling that the inheritor of authority for this very self-same Inquisition (with whom I so recently confessed falling in love, alack!) is now our Pope. How interesting that abortion, which rescues so many and so much is now the main - at least in the arena of politics - preoccupation of a Church so bent on locating the soul and defending it.

This is what I want to reconcile. Well, perhaps you can already tell that there will be no reconcilliation, any more than there can be with any of life's paradoxes and antinomies. So, to be honest, I think this is what I want to expose and terminate. Paradoxes, ironies, and antinomies need to be embraced and celebrated, I declare, because it is the actual scintillating opposition between and among impossible otherness which is the very ground of this thing called life, which it is my (and your) mission to preserve.

But it is surely ironic that the same church which discarded, and likely still does, the souls of innocents as needing no protection when fouled by the very fathers pledged to nurture and protect them now wants to protect those radically unformed souls in utero, when so evidently their best protection would be to torture the flesh right off them before they even quicken. And how ironic that it is the very sin of their creation (because otherwise these fetuses would be wanted) which forces these souls' owners to face a life of likely torture.

Well, I guess now that I come to think about it, perhaps the Church is being entirely consistent!

I was surprised to learn (I said I'm slow) that among Galileo's sins was the notion of atomic (versus smooth and continuous) structure to matter, and that such secondary qualities as color might inhere more in the knower than the known. These are matters also of teasing out the soul from its substrate, and I guess the Church finds itself without choice given its prior commitment to incarnation, transubstantiation and the rest.

So, my particular blasphemy (will I be ordered to appear?) is to call this the moment in history where the Church's body needs to be tortured from its endangered soul, since it is clear to me at least that the Jesus we can know would not condone its (the Church's) self-defense against the interests of those children it has harmed.

Which means, I think, that recent exposures do more than harm the Church's balance sheet. Come to think of it, the same thing is happening with the J. Edgar Hoover legacies. These homophobic, sexophobic containers of inner filth are actually facing their final come-uppance, now that the soul is found not so much in us as about us.

This is the story of Galileo's atoms too. These turn out not to have any perceptible existence without at the same time releasing something of their secondary qualities. The soul in utero, in other words, is no more possible than earthly containment of immortality.

So, there can be no irony in torture. But positions black and white must always be ironic. The Church has become an ironic institution, at odds certainly with itself, if not with its very history and origins, which are sordid indeed. The cool thing is that we all do contain the seeds of our own undoings, typically at the very moment of our certainties.

Now, I shall have to bone up on the meaning of irony! Back to reading that very telling tale . . .

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Laying it on - Chapter 8 from 1983

They were staying in a delicious old boarding house, all rustic and wooden. It might have been a journey to the past, but for their modern activity. On the second night, there was a great party around a campfire. Howie liked everyone very much and seemed to have been accepted. He was a good diver, and always eager. In those cold waters balkiness and problems are bound to arise, and he hadn't caused any. He'd proven his maturity.

They were drinking wildly around the fire. Hardened divers all, and full of lust and jokes and free talk. Howie had carried with him the absolute taboo against drinking which had been found, rationally, in opposition to the friv­olity of his peers to whom he always wanted to remain other. They cajoled him, they taunted him; they threatened him with his youth. He had admitted that he'd never drunk anything before, but he hadn't revealed his age. It was apparent that he liked them, and they weren't about to oust him or make him feel bad, but Fred was incredulous.

"I can't believe I've got a diving buddy who doesn't drink or smoke. Man, that just isn't done."

Howie was all smiles as he watched the swilling in that tonic which so effectively dissolves all social barriers. He wanted to be a part, but he was stilted and distant. Vulgar­ity was choked before it could be uttered. His mind thought feverishly for jokes that might include him, but they all fell flat in his mind. If only he could relinquish control -- relax and enter. But booze was frivolous and disgusting --it killed and ruined people. He knew the statistics for drunk-driving and could fairly preach on this topic about which he had no intimate knowledge.

A tough Canadian came over all full of his drink and vulgar accent. He bore the scars of a brawler, and it was clear that his earnest friendliness must be courted. He allowed his hatred of Yanks to be softened by the machismo of diving. And some of the divers had been born in Canada. Ah, but who of you are real men. I'll show you what a real Canadian man can do. Give me an axe.

"Alright, try chopping that log there."

The burliest of the divers gave a mighty and practised swing which left hardly a mark on the massive oak.

"On, no, that ain't the way now."

The Canadian weaved over to the block and took a gentle swing which hardly slowed as the axe-head neatly parted the log with just a whisper of a crack. Laughter all around. Howie was awed. To find with no thickness (the blade) the space in that which is joined only on the surface. The belief in two pieces behind the appearance of wholeness. The impossible solidity of the log so easily rendered a fiction.

He performed the feat over and over again. He must have been buoyed by the success of his display. The combination of the diver's prowess at what was remote to him and his own proof of capability must have warmed him to the group. He became genuinely friendly. There was no more contest. He taught them all how to give the head of the axe a twisting momentum so that when the blade enters the wood, the sharp jerk of the axe's twist will pry the log apart. There were scattered successes, but all were impressed by the knowledge.

He couldn't have imparted all he knew, but he made the honest attempt. He was a woodchopper, and it would have been impossible to convey a technique that in the end was no technique. But he'd figured something out that could be told. If they were to forget him, it would be of no use.
They had to look deeper than the technique to find his sec­rets, but most forgot and would forget the technique too when it didn't seem to work. Or if it did work, they'd have forgotten him anyway. The words that don't convey, and yet manage to make the teller extraneous -- mortal in comparison to their immortality.

Howie, at least, had gotten a fuller message. Somehow in the course of the merriment it had become alright to drink. With wild abandon and determination mixed, he took a few sips from a wine bottle. It wasn't a message from the woodchopper or a response to the repeated coaxing that start­ed him. It was something simple falling away. Something --some words -- had been made too much of and they were being sloughed off. Who? the teacher of our hearts.

Throughout the evening, he consumed perhaps a bottle of beer and a glass of wine. He could barely walk. His smiles were goofier and he had less to say -- less chance of partak­ing in any way than he had had before. Everyone was drawing farther away. This was an initiation. It was not yet given to him to partake of the other world. He was reeling from its otherness. Stupefied by the unaccustomed lethargy of his sense. The world was spinning and it was with some difficulty that he climbed into the van beside Fred. He marveled that Fred could actually drive. He marveled aloud in his garbled drunken voice. And Fred marveled, "I can't believe I've got the only buddy in the world who's never taken a drink." He'd watched Fred drink many times more than he had consumed, and marveled.

Later, when he had gotten really nauseously drunk for the first time, on quantities prodigious even for the veter­an, he marveled at his exquisite control as he roared home through the night. A hammering clinching physical control. He had never taken curves so perfectly, never been so perceptive of the slightest wink of activity on the side of the road -- never been so sure of his control -- nor so driven by a physical urge to hammer the pedal. To roar, to scream --to reach out. If the car could have gone faster, he would have driven it. The wheel must have pinched somewhat beneath his iron grip.

On the morning after his initiation, the world was disjointed. He kept telling Fred, in a somewhat less drunken voice, that he still felt drunk. The world still spun. Oh, he could act his natural self, but it was an act. He doubted anyone could notice, but it disturbed him, and he mourned the lost clear world. An irrevocable affront had been made to the clarity of his brain. When for years after he would have this disjointed feeling -- this confusion, where the world seemed at a remove, and he a ghost of himself -- or an actor -- he would mourn the lost self of his youth which had beheld the world so clearly. Which had never felt lost.

Part of that old clear world, he owed to science; he was quick at picking up the principles of biology, physics and chemistry. He was good at math. The gremlins of his sparkling youth were being replaced gradually by the smooth connections of science. He had faith in the future --in his future -- and it largely rested on his faith in his rational skills. Perhaps that faith was broken when the world still reeled after the apparent physical cause for the reeling --the drink -- had long since worn off. Or perhaps his faith was broken by his own fear that he had damaged his brain with the liquor. It didn't seem to be the lack of faith which caused the reeling, in any case. But the reeling which caused his lack of faith. Either the world had gone awry or he had. In either case, the future would leave gaps. He had begun a growing desperation for something to replace his lost faith.

When they took the dive that day, he was anxious to prove to himself that he could still function -- that the connections he had forged so carefully were still there. As a child, he would complete the sum of two-plus-two in his head to prove to himself that he wasn't crazy -- or dreaming -- and now he wanted to prove the same thing. He felt in a fog as they readied the gear for what was to be a deep and dangerous dive. Nothing was any more difficult. No memory is deficient. He just felt detached -- it wasn't quite real.

Only a few of the best and boldest divers were going to go down to one-hundred and fifty feet where there was an old wooden wreck reported to have belonged to an early trader or explorer. The water was frigid. As they got deeper in the green fresh water, all light was blocked out. Their wet suits had been squeezed into a tiny fraction of their former thickness and the cold penetrated easily. He knew the dang­ers and the time-tables; how deep they could go and for how long. There was a great need for control. The world was being closed out with utter completeness, leaving only the cold, their metallic breathing, and the unreal moonlit out­lines of the other divers. If you forgot for an instant where you were and why -- if you lost control -- you would be lost.

Someone panicked and wanted to go up. She was the girlfriend of the leader and brought along for that reason rather than for her experience. She was calmed. Fred and Howie looked into each other's sober faces. They were at ease. They only felt the enclosing claustrophobia as a possi­bility. It was real, but it was beyond them. A torch was played on a plaque commemorating the old ship. Divers had been there before. Howie looked at his depth gage. They were there.

To test the limits. To find out where -- exactly -- the hint of possibility becomes actuality. The summer before, alone, in the deeper darker water of a small Canadian lake he had fled for the depths. Where there might have been mon­sters. Nessie. He was alone with his scoutmaster, who was also a diver. While the other readied the boat, Howie went under again. Just for a minute. To see. To test. Alone.

Fifty feet. He'd been that deep before. But he was alone. There were no other eyes. There was nothing. It was getting darker. Colder. Eighty feet. The hint becomes a pounding. This is crazy. How much air do I have? I haven't checked the timetables. But I know the limits by heart. Can't stay long or he'll be worried. I would have to decom­press slowly on the way up and he'd think I had drowned. But he would see my bubbles. One hundred feet. I don't have a pressure gauge. How do I know I will have enough time to decompress? We've been in the water for an hour. He got cold. But I don't get cold, and I breath slowly. I'm calm and I can stay under through three buddies who must surface shivering, and out of breath -- their air tanks exhausted. I control my breathing. Conscious -- totally conscious, but relaxed.

Then there sparked a sharp disjuncture. A demon appeared. From where? From his head. From his experience that knew the limits. From his aloneness. Common sense? But suddenly his comfort turned to panic. He shivered in terror and cried out through the bubbles of his mouthpiece. Something darker than the depths had appeared to him. It impelled him to the surface with just enough control left in Howie's head from the other side of panic, that he managed not to bolt too quickly. Still he spent the rest of the day worriedly waiting for the bends to come on. How would he explain? It would cause such a ruckus. It would ruin every­thing. They'd have to send a helicopter. Who would pay? How could he explain. He would be a fool, and condemned --guilty -- before the only valid tribunal.

No, he couldn't face that. They'd all want him to feel guilty -- selfish. He had done something stupid. He didn't want that. He'd rather be the martyr. He would go off alone if he felt the bends coming on. He couldn't face the humil­iation of being cured. And most of all he couldn't face explaining what he was really up to. That he couldn't tell. It would have been more painful than the bends to try with words to convince anyone that he wasn't a fool. And there was no lie he could think of that would explain his act. More painful still to lie, because he'd be inventing all the while a reason that he would believe himself eventually. He would be made a fool along the way toward trying to convince everyone he wasn't. No, far better to crawl off. It would be painful for people, but easier to understand. They would simply think he'd drowned.

The way back more painful than the way out. Howie often had dreams of falling down under cold crystalline water. Out of breath. He'd just keep falling. Sinking. Being sucked under. He couldn't breath, and would wake from the night­mares out of breath.

Howie had been wondering what it would be like to dive to one hundred fifty feet. It isn't just the closing out of the world. The air you breathe becomes narcotic at that depth. Nitrogen has the same effect on physical and mental reactions that some drugs do. You feel stoned. Too far beneath the surface -- beyond the boundary -- and the connections are frayed. A metaphor of the world -- not literary, but there in experience.

Howie didn't feel anything strange. When they got back to the surface, there was the swapping of experiences. How great it felt to be stoned, and he hadn't felt it at all. Perhaps it had been the attempt to keep off claustrophobia and the cold. Perhaps it had been the real need for control, and the training which forged a strong connection. Perhaps it had been something else -- a physical immunity or a simple misnaming of experience. Narcosis is fickle. It's never the same from day to day, nor does it effect two people the same way. He knew that Fred had plenty of cause to worry from his performance the night before. But Howie had kept his head.

Years later, he was to experience narcosis. In the Bahamas, where the boat is still visible from one hundred and eighty-five feet below the surface. Where the cold is mild and the colors softened to phosphorescent glows instead of pitch darkness. Where you soar down an underwater cliff with the freedom of a bird and only with cold sobriety keep your­self from the temptation to continue falling into the invit­ing blackness that lies deeper, deeper. He made this dive four days in a row. It eradicated the privilege of making any other dives for the day, since too much gas had been stored in his blood under pressure, and he would risk getting bent. But the beauty and the odd sensation of the narcotic depths kept calling him back. He would get stoned.

He wasn't out of control. Once he reminded the dive-master that the time limit had been exhausted when he had forgotten. You must take care of how much gas your blood absorbs and leave time to allow it to escape during the slow ascent. The margins are slim. The air-supply doesn't last long at depth, and once below, a plunge for the surface is deadly. Acclimation, once acquired, can be relieved only with the same care that it was gotten. Exits are as slow as entrances, though the impulse to bolt for the familiar can be great. Or to bolt away.

There was a girl who panicked at one hundred and eighty five feet; Howie's buddy. The air comes thick in the regu­lator and with difficulty. You have to kick hard to compen­sate for the lost buoyancy of the compressed wetsuit, and to keep from falling the deadly extra fathom. It's easy to panic, and he saw it in her eyes. He was stoned, but in control. He had to chase after her in a dangerous burst of energy in order to grab her fin and hold her down. Calm is everything. Excitement can lead to panic when the regulator limits your ability to catch your breath. He looked at her and calmed her before they started the slower more reasoned ascent. Communication is limited under-water. There can be no words. But the simple and direct communication was effec­tive. It was all that was possible.

When the long drive home was nearing its end, and Fred was desperately on the brink of sleep, he offered to take Howie straight to his house. Howie was glad that Fred would see the house of which he was moderately proud. It was a nice house, and gave him some legitimacy. It might draw respect for his position. He hoped that Fred would stay to lunch. He would demonstrate his friendship by welcoming Fred openly into the position -- the status; the world he knew was other to Fred -- of his house. He wanted Fred to know that he respected him more than those others he'd excluded. That they could share their differences. He hoped they could bridge the difference in age and status and experience.

But his pride must have blinded him. As soon as they arrived, he was ashamed. He was ashamed of the prosperity of his house, because it announced the gulf. He knew that he must forever appear young and spoiled to this man who had earned his abilities and his intelligence. He was sorely disappointed that no amount of persuasion could get Fred to stay for lunch. Fred must have felt uncomfortable. Howie knew he was famished -- and that he didn't have much money. But, if he was uncomfortable, he didn't show it. With the unerring canniness of the initiate, he tendered the coin that is sure to be most highly prized in the suburbs.

"I can sure tell you, Mrs. Hahn.' I've never dove with anyone better than Howie. He really knows his stuff. A lot of people can't tell the difference between a good and bad diver, but I've never felt more comfortable. A good buddy is important in diving."

And with that he paid his debt and established his seniority and was off, forever. He had drawn the bounds of their friendship very clearly, and Howie, though secretly, was deeply hurt.

"You know Howie, you do seem out of control. You do veer and make false starts. It's hard to follow."

Can't you be patient. This is new to me. New Territory. I haven't been here before. I haven't written.

"Perhaps you should practice -- get some training. Study. Read. Anything before you just spill your guts out."

This is my life. It isn't ordered or neat or straight­forward. I want it to have meaning, but I also want it to remain alive.

"Your idealism isn't quite cute. You don't kill something by training it. You nourish something that otherwise might never grow. You're just spattering your brains out. It may do more harm than good."

But I have studied, and I have read, and I have lived. And I've talked. That's all this is. There's no training for those things except the rudiments. You learn it by doing it.

"But you shoot so high!"

You mean I have to earn my birthright? You mean that I have no right to presume that I have anything to say until I've assimilated all that has already been said? No. I'm through with guilt. I'm through trying to find a reason that could justify my presumption about myself. I'm through trying to pay back the world for the accident of my birth and my position.

"Looks to me like you're trying desperately to pay it back."

Damn you! Why can't I be whole -- just one. Yes, in a way I am. But I'm not going to feel guilty that I am who I am through no right. It was an accident. I just happened to be born who and where I was, and to be led or to have lead myself where I've been. I can't sort all that out. But I'm going to make that accident -- my life -- mean something.
That's a responsibility.

"Your life seems to have meant something in the past without your intervention. Why now?"

Because I'm lonely.

"Whose fault is that?"

I won't feel guilty, damn it. I won't. I just haven't become acclimated.

"You're getting carried away again."

All Praise the Great Web - Bail Me Out Scotty

Not the creatures who spun it, but the very matrix itself, which backgrounds any systems of operation (does OS rhyme with OZ), and provides - such a relief - this medium which entails no anxiety of sales or positioning or even preserving of paper and its order. I even hear there is a certain indelibility, to counter the obvious fact that I or anyone who hacks my password, can simply remove from the ether any trace of this messy drivel.

(I would have to remain the prime suspect, since it is so excruciatingly embarrassing to put myself, thinly veiled, so OUT THERE)

But who knows what "out there" really is, or for that matter "in here"? I think I am a bundle of language and relationship snippets which strives for the abstract quality of authenticity, and towards which I can measure progress by ingathering of commodity gratifications to my every desire. These too are abstracted from any hands that might once have touched them. And still there is that other handy (!!!) if elusive affirmation of purest authenticity - fame.

Where my very name becomes a brand, single word at best, and there remains quite literally no space for personal relations. What a strange thing to hope for! I know I am not alone in my disappointment that when Katie Couric (do I write about her too much?) asked him "why do so many presidents cheat on their wives?", Obama could only think to comment that he truly can't understand it since he has a hard time even picking his nose, so public has his life become (he must secretly want a white woman, don't you think?). I don't know why he missed the script so evidently embedded in the question, whereby he was supposed to highlight the importance therefore of his private life and his great good fortune in having been endowed so liberally with such a wonderful family.

And they truly are! And he's not threatening that way, which is only commented on in code, methinks. How truly bizarre that McCain is and has been such a threat to women, and remains able to speak without apparent irony of honor!! This man is noways honorable, nor ever has been, and even his suffering pales, surely in comparison, to the routine black - let's call it just for fun - lifestyle. I think these old white guys still suffer slave fetishism, bitches.


And why they both failed to point out that presidential strayings actually seem rather fewer than those of, say, evangelical preachers. At least McCain knows he has no standing to pounce on Obama's omissions. But, as usual, I digress.

So, this medium - the web - pushes back just precisely the same as paper. It's not quite physical though, and perhaps therefore I don't have to risk the creative pit of silly assumptions about ideas leading to their artful expression. I should think it pushes back rather better than paper even, just simply because it is so immediately "out there", and there's even the nifty facility for near synchronous interaction with you, gentle reader (although to be sure, I'll probably drop dead of shock the first time I see a reader response, so be really really gentle, since you don't want that on your hands).

(So, is this like chainsaw sculpting at the fair?)

The only thing I haven't the patience (though I certainly have the skill) to figure out is how, efficiently, to intersperse American words with symbols like the one for infinity, underlines to indicate published titles, and alternate languages, really just for the purpose of showing off (it's an American guy thing).

So, I'm left with keyboard strokes, which is good since my "hand" is very difficult to read even by me, who is truly capable of losing my own sense. And simple straightforward words (laugh track) not adulterated by visual "style" or bookbinders art (betrayal there). These, then, are commodity words, available freely according to whatever physical bale you (I almost said "gentle reader" but that is becoming an old-age tik, almost as insufferable as McCain's "my friend" in place of the more natural "ummm") prefer to scoop them out in . ('out of,' more properly, or 'out into,' say. Not as in buckets or rescue, but more at misery, which is, apart from commodity naked women, the truly great thing about having internet on your phone while reading - the lookup function)


I gather (reap) that there was (propositionally) this society (only in the abstract), which did truly grieve its loss not, to be clear (as mud) of commodity-fetish aspirations, whose accomplishment was so frantically desired that such extravagant debt was entered into (backing is perverse) that a mere spike in the global oil market (picture pins in balloons now) could bring this house of cards tumbling down (to really muddy up - read mix - the metaphors). It was not the loss of the commodities themselves, or their easy reach, or even the hope of someday bringing them to within reach. It was the loss of that kind of aspiration, for abstract free agency, which has been so tragically dashed.

What I mean is that we apparently grieve our necessary return to such unmediated (I'm talking hands-off now) pleasures as swimming in quarries, climbing trees, hitchhiking rides with strangers, taking food to neighbors houses to share, on foot I hardly need add, riding bicycles, playing hide and seek, baking mud on our bodies in the sun before and to enhance the joy of diving in, peeling off clothes in bowers, say, and making love mutually not to gratify the senses so much as, dare we say it, the hearts - as though this return was somehow a loss!!!????

What gets lost is commodity space littered with "product" (shit) which is now the stuff with which we smear our bodies, and litter our homes, and fill our stomachs, and even marry, always hoping and apparently even praying to replace with better and improved models and brand names.

In my will will be instructions to liquidate for maximum lucre the goods and paper and then to distribute said load among loved ones so that I may live eternally on in their abstracted love??? Not! There do remain one or two silly items which contain as much of me at least as a lock of hair or fingernail shavings. Burn them, please, but don't liquidate them. Well, that's a joke, since they have no value these cast-off second-hand products (I think I'll have to admit some honor in hanging on to this old, now drying out and nearly dessicated body, shell, cocoon, boat of mine, when for achievement of the sheerest pleasure in sailing, it would have been so much cheaper and better sanctioned to go plastic!). The body bloats and paradoxically shrivels, without inviting sadness for pleasures past but truly had!

This is all no great loss, people! This is the disappearance of vacuity into vacuum, or like that stoned Yellow Submarine tuba player, who sucks himself up the horn (bell). There wasn't anything there in the first place, duh.

And how incredibly silly of me to think that between the spaces of product advertisement, pitched to hormone-crazed perpetual adolescents willing to subject themselves to all sorts of voluntary immolation (sun baking again), even to the point of branding their very bodies (not a great big fan of piercings and tatoos, can you tell?) for sale or barter, there could be some actually to read and to tell the difference among what has heart and what is merest simulacrum of that bodily pleasure which pervades authentic human life.

I need to get out more! (but so do you! and without all the gear).

Today, I shall get a tatoo, by the way, to enter that punky funky rockandrolly earsplitting grungy mind-numb sexual moshpit rebellion which remains tamed, thanks God, by drug war chastity because otherwise it would morph into something very much like terrorism, donchaknow you betcha!

Well, NOT! But I'd really like to. Haven't the nerve or the jingle. I like my authenticity straight!

So, this did NOT go where I thought it would, which might be, precisely, the very sharp point. I wanted to say something about authentic media, and sensual culture, and rhythmic life in abundance which is now, finally, so available once again. But I got distracted by meltdown.

I know you'll indulge me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chapter 7, from 1983

He arrived at school full of determination to be back on his course. He'd chosen science earlier because that had been the language which promised to eradicate all the demons. It had a favorable track record in his experience. And that summer had ended with a foray to a cottage in Canada to correct the deficiencies of his freshman year. He had chosen Yale over more prestigious technical schools, because some stirrings had begun that there was other than science. He wanted to be where it was available. But he'd ended his freshman year in a ruin of exposure to philosophy, music, psychology, art, and literature, and was determined now to make amends.

He'd loaded his tiny motorcycle with all the physics books he could lay his hands on and made off for Canada where there was a cottage, beloved of his youth. He was detained at the border where some officious girl, about his own age, seemed not to believe that he had no ulterior intent. Boundaries are always guarded by those jealous of free passage. He asked her affably -- out of curiosity -- why they had chosen to detain him. "It's not your right to enter Canada." He was not entitled to an answer. It seems that personal contact is denied border guards.

What made her suspicious? He was the most innocent of travelers, wanting only to return to what had belonged to him since before he could remember. His memories where shaped by Canada, and now they were to be cut off. This metaphor compels me. Isn't there always reason and good sense behind all buffers at crossings? He was a natural candidate for suspicion. No obvious means. A motorcycle loaded only with books on a ridiculously unlikely topic. He'd just bought a carton of Pall-Mall cigarettes at the duty-free shop. What better candidate for insanity?... Excuse me; "suspicion of ulterior motive?" She had to stop him. He was just curious.

He got to the cottage, and tried to make a home for two weeks. During those two weeks, he was indeed reinvigorated in his desire to study science. He'd finally unraveled the brick wall at the end of infinity. For the first time in his life, he'd encountered relativity theory, and the language of science was brimming with wild promise. Infinity returns to the origin. My God, it was exciting. He was dizzy and chosen. He made himself sick with unaccustomed heavy smoking. He swam wildly in the clear water of his youth. But he shuttered the excitement at nights within the cozy cabin.

Here was a real answer. It had been found in 1905 and nobody had told him -- so he'd better keep quiet, because probably his excitement was ridiculous. The "world" had known for some time, and no-one seemed excited. He was by now quite suspicious of his every excitement -- as though all it revealed was his ignorance. It was a pattern long since made obvious. Whatever truth he was chosen to receive, in the privacy of his thoughts, he would immediately find revealed in whatever book came to hand afterward. He hadn't been chosen at all. He was simply slow to learn.

Yet the books came to hand with astounding coincidence. He wanted to cry out, "Hey, that's exactly what I was just thinking. I know that already. I must think just like so-and-so" who had written the book. But he kept quiet because the experience had grown so familiar that he knew he must read every book written before declaring his originality. His premature excitement would only be ridiculous.

But these books were new. There was nothing familiar except the old question that they answered. It reinforced his muteness even more, because it showed him where he couldn't venture untutored, and brought a new conviction to return to the sciences. His excitement was bridled by the habitual fear, and he wanted to know where this would lead. So convinced was he of the need for originality, and of his own lack, that it wasn't for a long time that he would learn that all original statements are rehearsals of the most ancient --and thus the most original. To invent something is to discover something, and vice-versa, though language hadn't broken down for him in that way yet.

He was suspicious of his excitement for another reason. He had been excited many times before, and there seemed to be a causal relationship, about which he was more and more certain, between the excitement and a swift depression that would inexplicably ensue. It was getting more difficult each time to find new excitement. It seemed forever impossible to make any excitement, or even aliveness or contentment, last for more than an instant, while the depression would go on and on.

So he would cling -- to his love, to his discoveries, to this new physical world which was so unlike the world that common people inhabited that he was able to cling to his conviction that they all must be zombies. Common people --the everyday people of his world -- the ones he knew and cared about, and the ones he didn't know; they all inhabited a world which he now had proof was a false one. They were trying to drag him into that world with all the common-sense advice and example whose purpose was to convince him to settle down -- and not get so excited. But now he had proof. My God, you all act as though you know. But you couldn't know because you never even hinted at this. You live in a world which has been denied by your own high priests of science. Why doesn't their proof change you as I would have it change me?

But the common people were the only people he had ever really liked in that simple way that he was familiar with. The people who never gave advice and were unsure of their example. "They" whom he hated were the pretenders, the hypocrites, the people in charge and in control, or who would be. He wanted desperately to be liked in that simple fashion, and was, on occasion, though simplicity for him was usually a pretense.

Howie remembered that when he was twelve or so, he had been possessed by one of his self-transcendent passions. He was beginning to scan the newspaper want ads for scuba diving equipment. He had some money from a paper-route and yard jobs -- not enough to seriously believe that he could enter the monied world of sport, but he kept hoping that he would find a bargain. The passion leaked out in some mystical fashion, and his father surprised him one day after work. It was a very wise thing to do. His father also had been nipped by the impractical desire to swim under-water, but he knew that it wasn't something one should do on blind desire alone. Howie was oblivious. He knew he wanted to scuba-dive, and that if he could just get the equipment he'd be able to. His father had heard that there would be a course in the local high school, and proposed that they take it together. Howie was thrilled.

They passed the course in the friendly competition of the two best swimmers and best students of the physics and physiology of pressure that were necessary to complete the course. They swam effortlessly when others floundered, and were at home under the water more so than above. It was a dream come true for Howie. Finally, he was able to accept the gentle repose of the ever-peaceful womb-space of water without the urgent cry of his body for breath always to haunt his return. Even in the spittle-ridden water of the chlorinated swimming pool, it was a heavenly feeling.

They equaled one another's score on the written exam which was several percentage points above the rest. There was a brief panic when it came time to fill out the forms for certification. Yes, even this limited transcendence is regulated. It seems that Howie couldn't have taught himself to dive even if he had the equipment. But it was a sensible regulation. There are many dangers involved in diving, and those selling equipment wanted to be sure they were not selling barbiturates to a potential suicide. It wasn't a government regulation. The people involved needed to ensure the safety of the sport simply to ensure its continued free practice. There was no injustice.

But consider the injustice Howie felt when the instructor lowered his eyes and quietly cursed his condolences. You had to be fourteen to be certified. Gosh, they'd all thought he was eighteen or so. How could he be just thirteen? How. I don't believe it. Well, it was all a big joke, and it wouldn't matter in the end. They would send in his application later and in the meantime the instructor ran his own shop. Thank God for rules whose letter can be ignored.

Howie clearly fell within the bounds of the rule's spirit. He had been well trained for the water. No-one would know the difference.

And so he was free to dive, except that he didn't have a car or a boat or any money. The discomfort caused by this impossible prison -- knowledge without means -- must have been so palpable that his father had to swallow his own rule about self-reliance by erosive bits. Howie had enough money for some equipment and his father helped. Then there was to be a weekend trip to the underwater paradise of Tobermory, Ontario. It seemed a paradise to him after the murky polluted water of Lake Erie where the world became pitch black and claustrophobic below twenty-five feet or so.

He was sixteen by that time and had gotten his driver's license. O, the agony of waiting for that birthday. The backing in and out of the driveway. The indulgent driving down dirt roads. He was a natural driver with all the instincts that need not be taught but which await only permission to be enacted. He had built go-carts and flown miniature motorcycles over jumps. He had internalized all the various laws of motion and propulsion whose exploitation by the automobile -- that subject of all American boy's dreams -- was being cruelly kept from him by the irrelevance of his age. The great leveler of differences which ignored his special qualification by counting only the years that he walked on the earth, was again caging him with his desires.

It was necessary to have a "buddy" to go on the dive trip, so as to observe one of the basic safety principles of the sport. He was alone in his interests -- he had no companion of his own age -- so he called someone whose name had been given by the shop that had organized the trip. Howie never seemed to be close to people his own age. There were some friends he'd grown up with, but he had since moved to a different town. Now he was able to like only those younger than him -- he was great with kids -- or those older. He was suspicious of people his own age. They would demand the simple respect that he be like them and that was his greatest fear. There had to be reasons that they were all frivolous or dull or bad or too good and he found them all without trouble. Then, too, he didn't want anyone so close to him as to be able to know his own vacancy. In truth it was a simple thing. He was afraid he wouldn't be liked -- or that he couldn't like someone he'd allowed to get close to him. So he kept a distance.

His father dropped him off at his "buddy's" house on the way to work. It was in downtown Buffalo in a working class section, and Howie was mildly afraid that he'd gone in over his head. He wouldn't know how to communicate with this person. He would be the object of scorn and hatred and even the violence that a youth from the suburbs fears in the city. He knew he was to be far younger than anyone else along on the trip, and that had already made him defensive. He wanted to get along and was afraid he wouldn't know how to act.

But Howie and Fred liked each other simply and immediately. They both shared the same excitement about diving and instantly fell into the familiar banter of shoptalk. Fred was about twenty-five, and they were going to travel in his van. Howie was impressed with the work Fred had done to put this ancient relic in terrific running condition. When he learned that he'd rebuilt the engine himself, Howie began to be filled with admiration. It was fueled. Fred seemed to like talking with Howie -- perhaps he was drawn by something there that impressed him. The obvious intelligence of his speech and manner that bespoke privilege. They were each entrapped in their circumstance and needed to prove to the world that they didn't belong there. Howie was trapped in the banality of suburbia with all the petty school concerns from which he'd dissociated himself. Fred was trapped in a world of no money and no priviledge. He told Howie of how he remembered the start of his interest in diving. He was a child in the bathtub with his older brother. He knew from some innate ability to see how things worked that he could breath through the drain in the bathtub if he covered it with his mouth underwater and opened it. He and his brother would compete to see who could hold his breath the longest, and he had terrified his brother with this drain pipe snorkel.

Howie was entranced. Silly to say, but it was the beginning of another revelation for him. Here was this man who'd come out of a tiny and shabby frame house and who spoke with a heavy city impropriety and who exhibited more intelligence --and romance -- than all the best and brightest people from his own background. Here was true intelligence and ability --and, as usual, it was buried by circumstance.

"My brother got the best of me. He told me that I'd catch typhoid from the drain. I was terrified for weeks."

Beaten by peers afraid to be bested. Hammered back from the elation of discovery by those who have invented all the best reasons for remaining where they are. I am better because I know enough not to try something stupid. But why do we have to be better? Why do we have to invent reasons for satisfying ourselves that it's better not to be better? Brothers have to compete, though, because they share the sunlight which makes them grow. Parents are partial to the clever kid, and he'd get all the privileges which must be denied to the other. All attempts at fairness are seen through by children who always know what love is.

Howie was so enamored that when they drove through the black section and Fred pulled out a switchblade and laid it on the dash, he wasn't shocked.

"If one of those fucking jungle-bunnies tries to jump me, he's got something comin'."

In the moment of revelation, the world was upside down, and this seemed the proper response. Howie made it fit with his own disgust at racism -- the denial for ever of privilege to a people, because ultimately we are jealous of God's love. He felt that here at least was an honest response.

Fred wasn't cowering in his fear. He wasn't calling names from behind the walls of some suburban fortress. He called a spade a spade and dealt with the reality as he knew it. This wasn't racism -- it was the only alive response to a fear that for Fred was too real to sublimate with words. And Howie felt secure with the knife there on the dashboard. He wondered if he could ever use it, but he admired the forthrightness and courage of Fred who, he was certain, could.

You don't knife a black man who's mugging you -- you pity him. He has a right to knife you and beat you, for his anger is real. But what do you do with the fear that creeps into your guts? Howie was not competent to enter the city. Abstractions are fine when you aren't threatened by actuality. They work well on paper and in talk, but how do you put them into practice? How do you unwind the circumstances of your skin in a world that has determined to entrap you there?

Fred grew tired on the long drive, and Howie was anxious to prove that he, too, was a real person and not some intelligent wimp.

"Would you like me to drive?"

"Well, it's a pretty tricky van. I feel like I'm the only one who could drive it. It has a lot of little quirks."

Howie was dying to drive. He'd only just gotten his license, and had still not enough opportunity to test the exhilaration. He wanted to prove what a good driver he knew himself to be.

Fred got more tired. "Can you drive a standard?"

Howie flashed with the pride of his contempt for automatic transmission. It was an axiom borrowed from his father that anyone who couldn't drive a standard shouldn't be driving. If they didn't understand at least that much of the workings of a car, then they shouldn't be on the road. They wouldn't be in control.

"I've never driven anything else."

So Howie got behind the wheel. He carried a mixture of nervousness and confidence. Fred was indulgent when he started up in third.

"The shifter's a little tricky, I always do that myself."

It still felt funny. The accelerator seemed sticky and heavy. The clutch was erratic. When he got moving, the whole van seemed loose. He wanted to blame the old van, but Fred had driven remarkably well. There'd been that feeling of confidence and control that Howie recognized immediately in a good driver. The way curves were taken. The smoothness of gear changes and braking. The van had seemed really tight and at home on the road. Now it weaved and jerked. The wheel seemed loose. It automatically over-corrected. I'm not in control.

But Howie always claimed he was doing fine. It was a terrible struggle to keep the external appearance from betraying the internal actuality. God, I can hardly keep this thing on the road -- it veers all over. Howie was slightly panicked. An odd disjunction pervaded to even the way the landscape appeared. Things seemed less than real. He couldn't get back a feeling of being there. He couldn't capture his accustomed sense of awareness of the position of the cars around him. Who was going to pass; where was the road going. He didn't anticipate the curves properly. It was a dazed feeling, and Fred wasn't getting any rest.

Howie had driven all sorts of cars by then -- at every opportunity he could get. Once, while on a boy-scout trip, the scoutmaster needed someone to pull the trailer away from a boat as it was being launched. He was fourteen and had only driven his father's car in and out of the driveway. It required tricky clutchwork. He was confident that of the boys he was the one to do it, and he performed beautifully. With the thrill of triumph, he and a friend had taken off on a furtive spree along the back roads. The scoutmaster had hurried off in the boat -- it was getting late, and he had left instructions about parking the car. Howie couldn't have driven the car if he hadn't earned the implicit trust of the scoutmaster. But there was the friend and there was the road. The infraction would go unnoticed.

Yet some realms are forever forbidden because they belong too closely to another personality. Such must have been the case with Fred's van. By now, Howie could probably drive it well enough; but then, he was pretending -- and couldn't cross the boundary of personality which made this vehicle so different from any other.

Cars are mechanical things. They can be mastered whatever their quirks. Ah, but to pretend mastery can lead to disaster. And to attempt mastery when the thing must remain forever other only serves to shut tightly the doors of entrance. A humility is required. But Howie had to be bold, or he'd never learn. He had to fake it. He believed he could master the van and fought vainly to prove it. And where is the boundary between belief and actuality? Is it just there, in the test, or can the belief alone sometimes create the actuality which would never have appeared without it. And belief in mastery is not the same as belief in things behind appearances. Yet they both require demonstration. Is pride holding the latch? And what is the relationship between pride and boldness?

Finally, It's Snowing

Snow for me signals relief from so many onerous social obligations. It limits travel and bodily exercise, and forces containment, here by the fire still getting ready for work. It reminds me too, of cozy moments in my sailboat, which had been and represented embodied fulfilment of my life's every ambition. (It's all been downhill since).

So my living this novel is nothing if not a rehearsal of the fiction that we are ever the authors of our own lives. And it surely is a convoluted and paradoxical fiction, because it seems so very real - though perhaps less so as the memory dims. I find that I recall best and perhaps only the things I've written about, and these days am plainly embarrassed to discover that the story I recently told, thinking it new, was the selfsame one I'd already written about in my youth. Has so little happened since? (hint: "yes!")

I do remember vividly reading stories to my daughters, somewhat wishing for that moment when they would learn to read, but also vividly disturbed to observe what fell away when they did begin to pronounce the labels. The richness of their imagined and gradually memorized tales fell away to be replaced by a fixed and permanent story, whose very sameness had once been an ambition to be achieved, perhaps because it felt like the recovery of that very first awakening wonder. Now it would be entombed, though no less powerful for what feelings the return could awaken.

But I do remember that something did fall away, along with mastery of the written word. And I do know now that much of what feels like strangely fated occurrence is much more likely something which once made sense to me and whose sense I've since forgotten. It may very well, in other words be me myself who set up the terms for my surprise when I later discovered it consciously, or as the simple memory of something neatly forgotten - where here "memory" becomes newly defined as enactment. Which is perhaps what it always ever is.

So, I have nothing very much to write other than this thought about what writing is - an enactment, into memory, of something previously thought but not yet revealed into conscious awareness. I have so much more space to rattle around in now, in my house(boat). I have read so many more books - though never even nearly enough.

The books I read are chosen carefully at random. I try to remove the taint of system, but still carefully read the jacket for a hint that they will be engaging. The place I live misses only the rocking of the boat, but for that is at about the same remove from normal social commerce.

Winter descends.

I delude myself (and in that am distinguished from no-one). There is plenty of system in all of this. But little enough ambition. As with the symbolic language of mathematics in that History of Infinity I recently read, I do shy away from formal system or program. I remain relieved of discipline. I traverse the written record of humanity, I think, as though I were frantically trying to find my way back to the surface while drowning (and watch my life pass before me, rehearsed and unrehearsed, but so very real). Sometimes there are clues as to which way is up. Sometimes I forget to breath.

Well, I did have something I wanted to say, but I have clearly lost track of what it was meant to be. So here, gentle reader, is another chapter from my ill-spent youth, intact and undecayed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Now for some really dangerous opinionating

So, if you think my pretensions are a tad bit extreme, wait until you see the territory I'm wanting to enter now! I actually want to comment on the state of the economy. Now, given that commenting on the state of reality is plenty reachy, why, I wonder, does it seem still more bold to comment on the state of the economy?

Well, because I don't know anything about economics. But I don't know anything about physics either, and yet . . .

OK, so here's the thing. I work for this organization, the Church, which is actually still organized around an assumption that authority in the organization and nearness to Godly truth are actually aligned. To many Americans, this might seem an archaic atrocity, sort of like arranged marriage. It would be as if we allowed scientific discovery only to those first certified as discoverers. . .

Except, well, that's sort of what we do do. And arranged marriages are getting some good press, at least from NPR, as we try to come to terms with Muslims in our midst, as well as to come to terms with the shortcomings of Romantic Love, and delusional self-insight, which leads to atrocities viz my oft-abused abusing brother-in-law. So, I won't pretend to authority with this, but I will attempt a commentary, in the vein of social criticism, which I will attempt to inform by my peculiar particular insight, which I continue to try to flesh out.

But no, that's precisely what I'm trying to avoid, right? I'm the little kid pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. That kind of truth recognizes no hierarchy, and entails no pride in the knower.

Is that why we Americans allow juveniles to run the world? Remember David Stockman? What's that bald technocrat's name now who's going to be allowed to spend a trillion of our hard-earned dollars? I once travelled to China as a young private school headmaster, an honorific I had something of a hard time internalizing even in these United States, but you should have seen the reaction to the translation on my business cards! This was like calling myself a member of the Central Party. People got a chuckle out of it, but were universally shocked. I don't think I got any prestige from it either. Rather, the dim view they already had of American culture, so called, was dimmed a trifle more.

And I do remember the moment when my own high school principal was replaced, due to heart attack I think, with someone who insisted on being called "Doctor", which fairly announced the cardboard nature of this once also honorific standard. He, of course, proceeded to install all the professional upgrades to our curriculum and methodologies, in a way, inevitably I'd say, to destroy what had been a humane and humanistic learning environment. When I ran into this same fellow some time later at a professional teacher job fair, he wanted to remark on the young ladies', I think he called them, "gozongas". And I was perversely satisfied with my youthful certainties now confirmed over time as I smugly relaxed in the interviewers' lounge between bouts of flesh shopping.

I'll try to stay toward the youthful sort of truth-telling, in deference and respect for professional expertise which still might have some place beyond the merely technocratic. I just want to send up a clue toward understanding the amoral nature of our "progress" of late.

So, there is little mystery that the American economy, by the engine of the American consumer, has been fueling the world economy for some time now, perhaps beginning after the Second World War. Government capital, militaristic research grants, farm and frontier driven ingenuity, union wages, and the pure joy of consumption have flooded the world with greenbacks, well endowed. And the aw shucks smiles of GIs, however expertly spun, papered over other possible interpretations of our innocence.

More recently, the American consumer has been fueling his purchases out in the "real" economy with a mounting wave of credit card debt, in rough terms of an order of magnitude (accumulated) commensurate with the amount of money the government has been getting authorization to pour back into the "financial" economy.

There is also little mystery that much of this credit card debt has been rationalized on the value of real estate, which is remarkably widely distributed in this country, apparently in contrast to much of the world. And apparently, the grossly deregulated "financial" marketplace has been trading on this bubble to the tune of great riches accumulated and accrued in the accounts of a new breed of technocratic warrior, subtly to be distinguished from the sociopathic warrior so lately loosed and identified as such. I'm talking about a wide breed, perhaps covering Nazi storm troopers, de-drafted professional soldiers, special-ops stuff, as well as the religious sociopath-equivalent in the form of a terrorist.

For the past many Christmases those around me have heard me grumble about how there is no "value" anymore. Plainly curmudgeonly, in imitation if not in fact of old age, I'm not referring to the shoddy quality of stuff on sale. In most cases, I've had in mind or found something which I felt suitable for my then-still-young beloved daughters, but along the lightly adrenaline-laced quest for the best price, I would often be shocked that after finding something half the price of the first place, I'd find it again at half that price, and sometimes after purchase, I'd find it still less again.

I'm not talking about equivalency of function. I'm talking about same brand name and shelf-recency identity. And who among us jetsetters has not felt reticent to ask our neighbors on an airplane flight how much they paid and how acquired? Never mind the rule of polite civility involved, I know I'm plainly shy to learn how much I (foolishly?) overpaid.

Aren't we all internally convinced that we're the naive fool who doesn't know how to negotiate? Or are you, gentle reader, like those atrocious libertarian techie types who thrill in the chase and fairly pound their innocent chests about the conquest just achieved on Priceline or some such popplesquat idiot-magnet. Don't we all imagine gaming and cheating going on at every turn in the outsourced chain from hands-on to actual consummate purchase? I know when I buy plane tickets on Travelocity, they are tweaking the price not just against the market but also against my own searching and seeking. I even know how to work around it, but I simply don't have the energy, and have lost that hormonal lust to think that I can be the king of that hill.

Oh, how I long for the calm of regulation, and the placid comfort of knowing that, in principal, my elected officials, corrupt though they might be, would actually put into place regulations to prevent such theft simply because the theft and the need for the regulation would be so transparently obvious that not to do so would expose them, naked-emperor-like.

But my elected officials follow Rumsfeld's lead, I can only imagine, so entirely sold (to himself, by himself) on the principle of outsourced government -that the gov should carry only the mission, but bid out its work to the most efficient marketplace provider. I guess he never even blushed when the bills came in, nor did or does, I'm sure, Good Ol' Brownie, when he hears how much the laborers get paid and how much the efficient outsourced brokerers of that labor, raking in the unbid government funds to reconstruct, sans poor, N'Orleans.

This delusional fantasy of efficiency, my friends, (heh heh, or is it hinh hinh - I don't think there's any spelling of that Bush-McCain Dorian Gray laugh) is built upon the same foundational construct as Creation, whereby the idea is primate (sorry, can't resist these jejune plays), and its implementation merely manual. Primative, primal, prior, whatever. The point is that this rationalizes why these days everyone gets to go to Yale free and then feel justified that their ideational power fully rationalizes their reward, no matter how extravagantly issued.

Well, I've rehearsed the chain of deniability before, and how it prevents emotional (we're talking guilt here) accountability. Now I'm talking design versus manufacture, and the very apparent fact that apart from commodity inputs, which have themselves been proven to fluctuate wildly in value these last few days, there is no bottom beneath which price cannot be pushed, nor top beyond which it can soar, once the market mechanisms so in need of regulation have become precisely as arcane as the guts of those computers I waste my talent interacting with.

If you buy lottery tickets, and value that rush more than the reality of your everyday despair, then you like it this way. If you actually believe that you have some equal chance to make it, compared, say, with a member of families Bush or Clinton, or whatever second or third generation Hollywood idol you choose, then you must like it this way. If American Idol captures your folly . . . You get the idea.

It really wouldn't be terribly difficult to reinstate the incredibly important laws, agencies and enforcement so necessary for labor to organize effectively. Proper wages are a much better engine for consumption than credit binging built on myths of perpetual expansion. Neither would it be terribly difficult to trim the derivatives and return to money properly meant, in a financial market properly regulated.

Perfected draftboard ideas are great, but they tend to come acropper when implemented right off the drawing board without some reality-testing. Perhaps this is what really happened when the Trade Towers came down, or Gurdy Galloped, or jet planes disintegrated when first flown on brittle wings. Do we blame the passersby for their wind when the house of cards comes tumbling down? I, for one, have had enough of experimenting with the earth itself. I'd like some reality injected back into the marketplace. (Careful what you wish for, right?)

It's not that there's anything totally false about the totalizing assumptions built into the patent and intellectual property economy. (It's just that they've been totalized!) It's just that they entail the same dangerous fiction as that horrific head without a body so iconic of AI nonsense. Or the earth without muck and myriad species as some sort of God-engineered spaceship requiring only piloting skills and no emotional bonding for its continued life. (It's the emotional bond with our forebears which, I guess, the religionists find so threatening) Or workers without a stake or voice to tell the owners that something is going terribly wrong along the production chain.

These are not deep mysteries, and yes Virginia, the Emperor has no clothes (avert your eyes, it ain't that pretty).

Monday, October 13, 2008

As Promised, Chapter 6 from 1983 on metaphors of transcendance, perhaps?

A young man once arrived in New Haven on a motorcycle; a little late for the start of fall classes, and a little buzzed by the four-hundred mile ride on a tiny one-seventy-five cc machine. He'd had a painful summer, which claims hardly any recall, but he was now back on the track. He'd had the second of his abortive voyages out into the world of solitary freedom, and was called back by the same thing twice; his lonliness which found focus in the love of a girl. The first adventure had been on a bicycle; this one was on a motorcycle. It began to dawn on him that he was not his own image. He liked aloneness and travel; but these were metaphorical journeys, and only served to point out where he really wanted to be.

It was a paired urge with a great tradition. The masculine impulse to adventure hampered by the homebound strings of his love. The outward urge was begun very early with a need for transcendence. The inward urge started even earlier, but found development in his own serious sexuality in high school. The urges were bounded by the skin -- one, the urge to get beyond; one to get beneath.

Getting out of his skin began as early as dreams of flying, and found its development through skis, bicycles, and swimming. They were all gestures made toward a world without physical encumbrance. Not running -- he was very flatfooted and could find no freedom. He couldn't tolerate the limits of activities whose arduous training left you skin-bound. The mechanical appurtenances were extensions of his body which allowed feats that approached transcendence; and the water was a medium in which transcendence could be mimicked with the naked body.

It happened over and over again. He needed a bicycle with the passionate need of one who knows that by its acquisition all his dreams will be answered. And they were, in a way. But then the same need recurred through various motorized conveyances to the motorcycle. And again with a need to have enough scuba diving equipment to be free under the water. By the time he was buying his black leathers for the motorcycle he'd begun to be seriously suspicious. He knew that the desires were unanswerable, but he could not make them less real thereby. He knew that none of these would satisfy him, yet the craving never waned and never grew wise.

But when he got into his new leather skins, and onto his sleeker, faster motorcycle and back again after trying through blind speed to eradicate all desire and looked in the mirror; the blackness reminded him of his wetsuit and he thought of all the skins he'd required and acquired with equal passion. He had a water skin, and a road skin -- a bicycling skin, a mountain climbing skin. He'd been trying to get out of his skin and all the while kept crawling into new ones. As though they would answer the craving for transcendence.

One night, at midnight on a full moon, he went out in his skiing skin to exhaust his depression. It was a white and sparkling world under a bright full moon. He looked up at the moon and began to laugh insanely and loudly. "We've been there. Fools! Fools fools!" The clarity of the night had invaded his soul, and he saw why we had been there. He saw the very masculine nature of transcendence as he pictured the men in their space-skins walking about to no other purpose than to shoot golf balls. It was too ludicrous. And too perfect.

They'd been shot up in the very complicated ejaculation of a phallic rocket to leave the sterile sperm of the earth on a moon which mocks us still. We have possessed the moon, but do we know her? "Lunacy, lunacy!" "No, we're not mad. This projectile can get us somewhere beyond ourselves. Why, we'll shoot down the very moon herself and prove we're not lunatic." We'll get there, by God, with all our masculine contraptions which really are developments of things that thrust and kill and have maimed our mother earth.

And again he wondered, as he rode the very obvious phallic contraption between his legs. Bullets, more effective than swords and knives, then caught before their exit down the launch tube and returned to be fired again. The reciprocating engine. Like all technology, a development of war and of men. They had gunpowder and rockets in China long before we did, but they didn't have guns or engines until we brought them. The masculine West -- a cliche but with something behind it.

He wondered about the thrust turned into a spinning. About goals being wound into patterns. He wondered if there could be some hope in this world bound toward the goal of explosion and decay. Perhaps the turning of guns into engines was a sign. Perhaps the nuclear explosion that would hurl all meaning to nonsense, all order to entropy, could also be contained and made to spin. Not literally -- God, no. But it might have been a sign -- a clue.

It had been an accident that allowed him to get his first ten-speed bicycle. He'd been racing out of the driveway to see how far he could coast up the hill in front of the house. He was carried away in the game. It was fun. He would go faster and faster and have less and less time to check the oncoming traffic. He was careful. He'd always be sure that there were no cars before reaching the street. But he got carried away and was going too fast.

The bicycle was demolished. Howie was in shock. His grandmother was at the house babysitting and took good care of him with the absolute concern that could not be shocked and that only she could have. The poor woman driving the car that hit him must have been driving somewhat too fast, because she felt guilty and got her insurance company to pay Howie one hundred dollars. Howie knew it had been his fault. He wondered that she would have felt guilty. It had been a shock to her. It didn't matter, it was only insurance money. Howie wasn't terribly good at admitting his guilt. He thought maybe she was going too fast, and would have been able to stop in time. So he bought himself and his brother new ten-speed bikes. Bad fortune turned to good. The bruises healed and Howie was thrilled.

Most (all?) of our technology results directly or indirectly from the frenzy of united effort that occurs in war. The wounds eventually scar over, and we are pleased with the new world. But there isn't always a chance to turn bad fortune into good. Howie might have been killed. A war may leave no survivors -- or so few that there can be no sense in turning bad fortune into good. Howie may have been crippled.

Howie wasn't to be so careless again. He learned to fear cars and the road. His risks, though they would often toe the line between control and letting loose, would never leave open the possibility of a car coming around the corner a bit too fast.

The risks increased as his control improved. As his awareness expanded. But if he had continued riding about at high speeds on his motorcycle, he would now be dead. There is no absolute control. The only safety is a constant vigilance against what cannot be predicted. He was an extremely safe driver. Always expected cars to pull out in front of him. Practiced skids on dirt roads. Knew how curves can be taken. How gravel and wet leaves can be anticipated, and ridden through if not anticipated. But he was always tempted by the thrill that comes when approaching transcendence. He would be extremely careful, until sometimes he would get depressed, and then the lure of speed would beset him.

Fortunately, his body would never allow him to pass that increment of friction that still tied him to the road. His heart would beat, and his breath would quicken, but his body -- his uncontrollable fear which could not be overridden by a mind that may not have cared for the moment -- would not let him transgress that point which miles of training had taught could not be crossed.

It was by accident that Howie turned to China from physics. And these thoughts were not in his mind when he made the decision. All of this is a foreword. It was an accident that might have been a design had he known it. The connections are too myriad to be made. The reasons all fall back upon earlier ones until any act is fated. The design goes back beyond the moment to its origins in an original act, which might yet be a point on a circle. The fool is made so by being buffeted beyond his control, but Shakespeare knew who was really wise. Only a fool clots out with dried words and reason a choice which is made inevitable by the wind. Only a fool refuses to acknowledge that chance carries the only wisdom. Because chance is another word for a design whose origins have been forgotten and cannot be recovered.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Still Apparently Sane, after Finishing Said Book

None of the header statement is demonstrably or provably true. I certainly did finish Everything and More: a History of Infinity, but the truth is that I skimmed most of the symbolic systems recorded therein, just as I have done since about high school, which was the last time I ever aced math. But then I absolutely know that I did finish Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid way back when, and felt that I had read and understood every single word, but by now the state of my completeness is surely no better than that for this more recently, though perhaps less completely, finished book.

I suppose that at my advanced age, I'm going to have to stop apologizing for the laziness and non-programmatic way in which I approach all knowledge and understanding. But without that apology, my fully-to-be-expected claim that indeed even mathematics falls within the tractor beam of my Great Discovery, would at least seem several orders of magnitude more cheeky than it already is going to be (right about precisely now).

The thing is that I actually have been working on this, in one way or another, for my entire life, and indeed there have been great expenditures of mental labor and anxiety all along the way. I've bothered to master the pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese, if not quite its native speech, and I delved at least as far into its arcane (even to Chinese, much less Westerners) classical roots as I have more recently into the World Bill Gates Created. In either case, yes it's true, I have hung back from commitment, not incidentally as I have in my personal life.

This thing about the World Bill Gates Created is pretty fascinating in itself, since it represents an entire, as described to me by a retired Microsoft radical, "ecology" which could not have existed without the draconian rule over its own internal domain and that of its extended and connected community of developers, not to mention the docile unregulated markets (we know what that has come to) of almost the entire free world (sans China, where only a single legal copy of anything has ever been purchased, and where they patriotically labor toward Linux-opia, even though on purloined MS desktops).

But, as usual, I digress. Suffice it to say that I get actually paid, and I think do a pretty good job and real work with actual results, as part of an immense kind-of outsourced army of Microsoft's extended worker-bee network. I mean always to find the time to master the Open Source stuff - mostly so that I can recycle those cool old laptops I've been collecting for the Brave New Browser Only World I can't wait for especially now that I/we won't be able to keep buying new ones capable of holding the geometrically expanding MS OS - but there's too much always to master in the Microsoft cosmos even to begin.

If I were younger, of course, I'd have the enthusiasm, and therefore the time. But thanks God I'm not still subject to youthful fantasies of getting better laid which seem always connected to such enthusiasms (that last is a bald-faced lie, especially the "better" part, but it's true there's more down time) Likely, I'm just plain lazy.

Well, it - professional commitment - doesn't interest me nearly so much as reading books, and while reading them, sometimes, pondering how they validate or not my grand theory of Life the Universe and Everything, which I think, if we were all honest, is the way all of us read books, if we read seriously and at all.

I should really end this apology here.

The point is, at least as this reader abstracted the essential point of this now literally most recently read book, mathematics remains poised, as it were, on the horns of a paradox dilemma (laugh track) which has something to do with the impossibility post Gödel et al., of even imagining itself as an entirely self-contained formal system at the same time that it continues to demonstrate ever more power toward describing and therefore getting a handle on the real world, so called, of actual non-formal phenomena.

This apparently drives and has perhaps driven many actual mathematicians quite crazy, although as you might expect there is plenty of debate on that subject. Surely David Foster Wallace himself was not driven to hang himself by his own personal and truly masterful and prodigious feats of intellectual prowess. According to Wikipedia, according to his father, Wallace had long suffered dangerous and extreme depression, together with being an unfortunate outlier on the continuum of medication-related side effects such that he could no longer take (in every sense) the medications which had demonstrably helped him.

Packed in there might be some claim, make-able by someone not me, that he did in fact suffer from that thing I fear myself - spinning out of control with the battle he chose to wage with concepts so entirely abstracted from everyday normalcy that he must have found himself quite terribly alone. I look forward, with only a little trepidation, to reading his Infinite Jest which apparently tangles with The American Scene, and treats in particular of irony, that incredible indicator of whether these days one is Red or Blue.

I trust the man is (was, alas) uniquely suited to treat of irony. I am overawed by his mastery of mathematics, which for a literary type seems rare indeed (though this seeming is itself something of a formalized fiction since I'm pretty sure all the greats - admittedly biased selection - are amazingly deft with scientific realism, mathematical abstractions, and the symbolic ways these things penetrate to the soul of Man 2000 or so years Post Christus. That might even have a lot to do with Irony.

I do claim, however, that I have retained my sanity quite intact, and maybe even do so by not quite getting overheated by claims or counterclaims about what is really real, nor too distracted by apparently powerful arguments in one direction or another. This is, I believe, a little bit like the reserve a sane person must retain in the face of fevered claims, that, for instance GWB actually did plan and execute the demolition of the World Trade Center towers. Most of this is easy enough to do, since the argumentation plainly takes advantage of our degraded so-called education system and the fact that most people don't know - haven't been taught - how to distinguish a reasoned argument from an advertising claim. There's always someone just off camera saying "see, see, hunh? yeah?" when juxtapositions are made between, say Bill Clinton's whereabouts and someone's death as if that constitutes proof that he actually Did It. OK, so I shifted from Bush conspiracy theories to Clinton adversaries-murdered conspiracy theories, but you know what I'm talking about.

The thing is that at the end of the game, the mathematicians are in the very same position as are the apoplectic conspiracy nuts about the difference between circumstantial and hard evidence. And the very wanting to believe drives many many people to a frenzy, sometimes murderous, as witness recent McCain rallies, where even McCain grew alarmed at what he'd, by criminally actionable ads no different that screaming "fire" in a crowded auditorium, unleashed. His fans were shouting something which sounded very much like "Kill Obama" and in one case, McCain had to mount the unfamiliar high road and quiet a self-professed "scared" supporter (scared of the Obama he'd been systematically lied to about) with calming words of reassurance that Obama is a decent and well-meaning man.

What the hell do they expect? These are the same people who believed the videos they circulated about Bill Clinton's murders and about the US Government plans to bring down the Trade Centers. Why the hell wouldn't they believe the similarly poorly argued claims that Obama is a closet terrorist? Apparently, many many of the ironically challenged will believe most anything, especially if it pushes the God button.

So, here I am, as far as it's reasonably possible to be, from adopting the formal methods of proof, and I want you, gentle reader, to buy my claim that "emotion is out there" (quoting myself to sound eerily like the X-Files, which I never did watch, but got the gist of). Furthermore, I want you actually to accept that this is the very resolution of all mathematical and other paradoxes, simply because there is no certain separation between the phenomenal and formal (mental) worlds. And that the attempt to keep them separate, which is the attempt to keep Man (the superset) un-implicated in Creation (now I'm being metaphorical) is no longer a moral choice.

Well, that is to say that it is precisely now a moral choice, and the choice to hold onto the fiction that we are un-implicated is, very precisely, immoral.

I guess I'd better go back to posting more "chapters" of my youthful writings. I hear they are considerably more engaging than the cancerous explosion I'm indulging now. I did, not incidentally (is anything ever incidental?), confess the location of this blog to my psychotherapist, along with a quite accurate description of my quest to describe something between a scientific discovery and a delusional fantasy. I remain unperturbed that these might actually be the very same thing, even formally definable as such.

So there!

But I do actually worry (now that right there is pretty colossal hubris) about taking the wind out of the sails of so many earnest, talented and really really intelligent scientists who are so hard at work to solve the world's actual problems. So, I must say again, as I did say now over 25 years ago, that nothing in what I'm trying to say actually changes anything. It's a point of view shift. Nothing gets invalidated. I say this, in particular, because I really really really want those very smart economic technocrats to continue their very important work toward getting our financial markets back in order, even as we - so to - speak.

It reminds me of those nutcake Left Behind books. I want the pilot to keep flying, fer chrissakes, even if it is the endtimes. Too much depends on it. (and it's NOT the endtimes. It's the beginning times, and way way way more exciting than what technology has brought us - that kind of transcendance has always only been metaphorical. But damn, I think I'm quoting myself from 25 years ago . . . )

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Difference Between Blogging and Emailing: Reflecting on a Sad Sad Sad Obituary

I'm sure I've got this just wrong, but on the occasion of my sharing this URL with a few friends and family, I want to clear up a couple of things. The first is that I'm not trying to accomplish some feat of literary or journalistic accomplishment. If I thought I were actually any good at that stuff, I think I'd have tried my hand at it by now (although I'm not entirely certain of that, since I, as do all of us, suffer from plenty of self-destructive bad habits and blind spots).

I'm simply trying to figure out how to say something clearly, which I feel very strongly is extremely important to say. As far as I can tell, anything philosophical of quality which I read tends in the same direction toward this kind of summary statement. Right now, for example, I'm reading Everything and More: A Compact History of , written by David Foster Wallace who very distressingly recently hung himself.

I find that I can read only small chunks, in spare time say before work or just after dinner, because - and you'll find yourself rightly skeptical at this claim - it spins my head out of control, sort of like one of those little whirring sirens you blow into and they amazingly sing. Or maybe just like a top or Chinese diabolo which gets going to incredible orbital velocity with seemingly tiny inputs. Quite beyond being an excellent philosophical mind, Wallace was, I gather, an accomplished artist - I look forward to reading his novels, of which I had been unaware.

The trouble with this book is that it places my little quest in historic context, and reminds me, alarmingly, that I'm attempting something in the company of folks (don't you love that Bushism?) back to Plato and beyond. And then, bringing things up to date, that I'm just another dilettante, say, watching Star Wars, or even better, The Matrix, who wants to find in it some ultimate truth, which it would be absurd to think even its director would understand other than by means of his production.

Sure, it is pretty cool to come floating out of the Star Wars big screen to find your car transformed into a spaceship for a little moment, just as your mind has been expanded beyond its petty preoccupations by some artistic outlining which - and this quite simply is what makes it art - draws the mind beyond itself. Art is in touch with ultimate truths, and by its creation avoids the necessity to describe them more mundanely. Proper authors always refuse interviews or any privileged "insight" to their own work. Only hackers know exactly what they "meant" to say.

I might long to be an artist, at least because the project could be more literally in hand, but I think I'm something more like a craftsman, and very much less than a scientist. I am not attempting art. I think the blog - as a medium - is supposed to be free of aspirations toward journalistic excellence. And I include within the spaces of my thick verbiage "chapters" from my youthful writing, not because I think there was anything great there, nor certainly well written, but because it is the very thing itself. The documentary evidence of a discovery, actually embodied, so to speak, in the document itself. That is to say that the writing of the document was the occasion for the discovery of something which I found ever-so-slightly to be ahead of its or my time at the time, and which for whatever reason it is now my burden to reify virtually, as it were and is.

My god I hope there is another soul in the world who finds these words even remotely funny.

I wrote this thing in a single sitting - I'm not even sure that I took breaks to piss and eat and sleep, but I must have. And then I word-processed it out, at the dawn of such infernal machines, having developed that profane skill so far from piano playing, but ever so much more utilitarian - keyboarding. There was something magical in the word processor, just simply in that I didn't have to white out or literally cut and paste. Then there was the magic of double justified margins - whooey!

The occasion of my typing it out confirmed to me the "truth" of what I'd written, and then I proceeded to make a near complete ass of myself trying to explain the thing around town. I did, however, eventually make my way in the world, and almost completely shelved the document in my mind as well as in reality, as some youthful strange obsession, not unpleasant in recall, but certainly not worth near so much as I'd thought it to be at the time.

But things happen. Just as with this book I'm reading, I find that this fellow so recently self-hung, seems to grasp almost completely the nature of abstraction along with its history and the fact that attempts to understand such things before their time can and has lead to actual concrete insanity in this temporal world. I am incredibly saddened by his death, as I would imagine the accomplishment of great art to leave one other than alone. But apparently history belies this imagining.

So, at least I haven't completely lost my mind yet. I find it an actual marvel that I can manage to live all alone and by myself and still be shaved and almost completely dressed every day (the almost has to do with a certain cluelessness, as you might imagine, with regard to style). This very morning I did indeed install a new mailbox with my very own name lettered thereon, since the old one, along these New York salt encrusted roads, had finally almost entirely melted away and the much patched-again door was no longer responding to the mailman's flap. I imagined him angry with me - even in the outback, there are civil requirements!

Do I digress? Well, gentle reader, what follows is the actual letter I didn't have the nerve to send said friends and family because, I guess, I didn't want to be the cause of worry. So, now I put it here, even knowing that these self-same friends and family may - are even likely to - read the thing I didn't want to show them.

Everyone knows that great accomplishments are least recognized by those closest to the accomplished. My family in particular is made up of people doing pretty well for ourselves, thank-you-very-much, but almost literally surrounded by the in-your-face accomplishments of all those we grew up with. In many cases, we are demonstrably smarter and more capable than these avatars of success. So there must be something very intrafamilialy wrong. Hell, I've already described a very very extreme example, in conscious abuse of my very ex brother-in-law.

Among the family, I'm often supposed to be the one with the promise - no surprise there I imagine. I do alright, and keep myself manifestly sane, because I have a knack for the practical arts, now specifically computer networks and related technologies. Consistently, I don't pretend to any professionalism, so shortly I will have to move along as this field (also) proceeds to marginalize us talented amateurs. You might even observe that I patently eschew moves toward professionalism, nursing, such is my archetype, this truly silly notion that I sort-of "have" something of worth beyond whatever I might devote to and thus contribute via some developed profession.

My disease is nothing if not thoroughgoing and consistent.

In any case, you, gentle reader, will not worry very much about my sanity or safety, although a blog is a very live production, so that you might. A book is presumed to be finished, though almost the very opposite of dead. Its currency is a function of how well read it is. The blog is not exactly a live email , which ought to be to someone (explaining the apparent sin of even the best joke-spams which get sent around in such a way that the persons to approach almost the entire cosmos of readers, and in the case of really juicy stuff like an email about your neighbor Sarah Palin actually does get read by almost the entire cosmos.)

(I have a terrible fondness for parenthetical digressions)

So the blog pretends to something like a journal, but gets to be more immediate. And I pretend to something near eternal, but want to work it out in public, as it were, maybe partly because it seems that important (and I want it to be discoverable when I wander away from sensible reality), but also precisely because I don't think I have it in me actually professionally to write. You will have noticed that by now.

Here's the email to three closest friends and family, which I had provisionally titled:

fear and trepidation, but with a good natured laugh (here's letting the cat out of the bag)

Hello fine treo.

For some silly reason, reading this morning with the fire warmly glowing, a very disturbing book lent me by my friend Wayne over the weekend (Everything and More, A Compact History of , where infinity is the symbol I don't have time to figure out how to keyboard), I find myself compelled to "publish" the location of my little blog.

This is not some great big deal. There is nothing terribly embarrassing there (I hope, although I am not really certain). I'm just simply not sure where I will end up in the near future, especially as I feel myself descending, with the prologue to this book, into something which feels very much like coming unhinged.

Very disturbingly, this David Foster Wallace, who is undoubtedly one of the great intellects of our time, hung himself recently, and I assure you I do never want to find myself in such despair. ( I want you to know I'm sending this in the middle of the work day, and am doing so in good humor feeling very strong, especially as I mowed my lawn yesterday and watched the debate with only mild amusement rather than anxiety last night)

The opening of his book defines and describes "abstraction" in a way that is excruciating in its familiarity to me. In a very comical way, he explains why dealing with abstraction can and does, apparently often, lead to madness. That's this thing I feel.

I am, of course, re-entering the very abstract world of my Eureka epiphany moment on the boat-womb-cocoon, the anniversary of which, along with cat piss in the bed, time-zone crossings, and the oddly unfamiliar experience of sybaritic bliss did recently send me howling to the hospital. I assure you I will do everything possible in my power to avoid that fate a second time, including putting down this book for the moment, and possibly forever.

Meanwhile, I'm trusting you not to find in my blog rantings any cause or sign of insanity. I'm trusting you, in other words, with my secret. I'm also NOT trusting that you will understand what I write about, since I'm not nearly intelligent enough, nor a good enough writer (honestly, I'm not being modest, but what I'm attempting is really really difficult) - the burden is purely mine to make this intelligible and I haven't even gotten close. Wallace has such lucidity that I can only still marvel at my pretense.

Well, pretender or not, I remain convinced, especially as we watch this world tumbling down into something frankly terrifying (I'm not getting overheated here - I think I simply have my eyes open) that I am "on to" something.

I guess it, this thing I hit on when my mind was sharper, is the very essence of abstraction, properly so defined, and I am getting rather desperate to find someone to share these thoughts.

The blog thing seems to work better than private writing in journals, simply as a kind of discipline.

If I thought I were asking you to read what I've written, I would consider that to be an unforgivable abuse of friendship.

I'm just asking you to take note of the address, in case I hit on something there, and in the process wander off beyond the pale of sensible existence (you are meant to laugh here). A kind of mild paranoia, if you will. which I only sense as a kind of shadow in the darkness, off to the edge of my vision . . .

I do have hope that I'm not quite alone in this whole business, and so it is with some mild hope also that I share what I'm up to as the best way to stay sane.

Well, so with fear and trepidation, here you go . . . . .