Friday, June 17, 2016

more thoughts about troughs of despair

originally posted on face book with pages from my journal : I've reposted here but with images from a painting I'm working on.

journal pages : the struggle continues. I connected the dots and made an amazing macrame owl. When my grandmother became indifferent to the snuff can and spoon in her room, I knew she had left us. A contemporary French philosopher, Catherine Malabou, has addressed this removal of the person from their history in an engaging essay called Ontology of the Accident. She writes, "One does not die as one is, one dies as one suddenly becomes[p 69]. " Various traumas affect changes in us, such that a different person emerges. What has happened is a puzzle. A person may say "farewell to themselves" and become "an ontological refugee." [pp 24 -31]. Trauma can be sudden, a hit or a shock, as well as long term, unemployment or abuse - conditions that may cover decades. The phrase 'ontological refugee' is evocative on an internal nomad - one day we discover that our ego was simply the tent of our existence, and that it has now been struck and traveled on over the horizon.

Friday, June 10, 2016


the figurehead of our momentum takes another victory lap. You probably saw it on the news - right after the scores : Bartok, Boulez, and Lester Young. Two hundred forty years ago, New England shipping interests launched a tax evasion scheme in order to monopolize trade along the east coast. Let's celebrate with another martini. Time to walk the dog and grab a smoke. Always the same rustling in the leaves behind the alcove lets me know when the baby needs molasses. You wore beautiful up there. Now take a breath and drive home.

grateful for my time

slow moving morning, easily distracted by cats, snacks, old essays in the new yorker - planning to write to do list - maybe later this evening; also writing a series of devotionals that take place on other planets - usually about crustaceans with day jobs and step children - my earliest memories seem to involve watching Wagon Train while my grandfather slept on the couch - there was no air conditioning then and I was left alone with fly swatters : kids these days - I can remember when coke was $1.20 a bottle

where I'm at

Zizek, discussing Lacan's distinction between Symbolic and Imaginary, uses the image of chess pieces - on the imaginary, each piece is a shape - a rook or castle, a bishop, a queen, et cetera : all appealing to our imagination; on the symbolic, each piece is actually the operation of its rules: moving diagonally, first two steps then only one and taking only en passant or obliquely. 
I have observed most contentions in life devolve on the imaginary level - we call it a bishop, how dare you call it something else; or that a proper knight must be rearing and not just a head - or any number of differences. So it is that institutions lock people into the imaginary - this is god, this is tradition, this is ultimate, this is the only way a market can function - those people call it something else and we must fear them, etc. 
This is all well and good for institutions and systems : to keep people occupied fighting bogeymen and lashing themselves with guilt. But not for people dealing with trauma : the trauma that is immediate and violent ; as well as the trauma that is prolonged and gradually crippling of soul. No amount of revivals, pledges and confessions will allay it - which is why involvement in the imaginary is so frustrating : people double down on institutionally approved solutions that don't work (pray more, consume more, vote more this way or that, submit more, confess more, go to this conference, hear this speaker) - they have to blame someone for the unrelenting trauma of their speech being taken from them (and it can't be the institution, the system that sponsors their salvation - whether spiritual or economic). 
Trauma stands a chance of being healed, integrated, salved, directed into something creative on the symbolic level. Where we begin looking at the rules, as it were, of how our affects are shaped or distorted, what distorts them and what brings about wholeness, balance. We discover what buttons we have and perceive the toxic nature of people and systems that push them. 
We become less obsessed with what some piece of our life, our spirituality should look like (what creed, what church, what business, what party) and how it functions. What do I need to think clearly, to be at peace - how do those functions work for me? 
There's a lot invested in keeping people in a state, in a permanent boil - a lot to keep people locked in their traumas, focused on labels and villains - a kind of life seen as a cartoon. 
Perhaps it can't be done all at once. I've been 35 years in this state, but each day step back, if only for a while from the pledge all institution, from the adamant belief that everyone must have; each day a little freer and then perhaps a final break. The real thing is to understand how spirituality works for you and for a community - what is involving trauma and what is healing trauma. You don't need a flag or an emblem - you simply need a practice, a curiosity about the world and yourself and others.
That's pretty much where I'm at.

Monday, April 18, 2016

inscribing a circle on the face of the deep

oh I wish

Thelma would sit on my books and my watercolors. If I was reading or painting, she would hop up and plant herself right on what I was working on.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

mostly my blog is facebook reposts now - a simple way to archive

more ruminations, notably ideas for official portraits that distill the personage down to a gray memory, a phantom in his (usually) robes - though a reminder that an institution's past included well fed individuals with sometimes odd facial hair. Detachable collars ; attachable glasses ; hair affixed ; buttons emblazoned ; nasal passaged ; root canaled - time pieces throbbing away in their pantaloons : their last hours, heaving in a hot dark room on a damp soft bed, while a parson intones bromides of salvation and the familial mass ululates multiform incantations of the numinous as they finger a mint in their pockets.

More photos from the Cayman Islands: Collier Beach. I could just live here. Maybe not forever but I would like to experiment for a month. There is a little hotel resort just up the road but an air bnb could work as well. I know my friends would put up with us for a while - but a month would be too much. I wish I could bring my oils and canvases down. Just to see how long it would take to get bored with this place - or if that were possible.

When I think about it. I would like to be out here painting under a canopy (can't get too burned and there are rains); taking an occasional snorkle - practice getting better, being in the water over my head. My neck, four months post surgery and after three months physical therapy, is much better. I'm stronger there than in some time. And PT along with yoga has my body moving in more correct ways.  Is it possible the rest of my life could be about unloosening all the things that the last 35 years have be tightening. Yes, I'm not counting years before age 20.

Friday, February 05, 2016

from sept 16, 2015

So I'm at the neurologist's yesterday and he's showing me this MRI of my neck - a wonderful amalgam of grays and darks, so detailed as to be grizzly - and he says, "see that bit of white tube there and that bit of white tube there - they're supposed to be connected." I have an arthritic neck pinching my spinal cord. That's why I have always have a dull ache in my neck and my shoulders and neck are always tense. (this is also why my fingers have begun tingling - the nerve test showing no damage in my arms or hands) I'm irritable because I'm physiologically in a constant state of irritation - it's not the guy driving to slowly in the left lane after all.

The photo is from the last full day on Grand Cayman Island - starfish beach

two memories from the timeline, posted oct 2015

part of the nature of memory is that we forget - and if we are without paper the remembering is doubly impinged. I don't know why I say doubly when triple might suffice as well. I have worked so diligently and intensely to do well in some classes that the particulars of plate tectonics, cell wall transposition, and German's subjunctive 1 and 2 remain clear in my mind thirty years on. I have never had to work so hard though on this: my grievances - slights and hurts that have withstood the test of time; they remain as fresh as when they occurred 40 and 50 years ago. And even more so, the slights and predations reported by my parents and relatives exist in my memory also. I suspect even, that some theologies exist simply to inject even more distant slights and injuries into people. I think there is something on our psyches that is like velcro that needs constant smoothing, an ardent peeling off of the foreign objects that hook onto our souls - that too easily flood memory without much work at all. There is no sense being remembered for your grievances - there is no love in them.

when I was in weight watchers, there was an exercise that worked like this: write you goal - list the steps you need to take toward that goal - and it was presented in the form of a story board where you had individual squares for depicting what those steps might look like. Well, my goal was and is always "Nirvana" - and the first stage in my journey toward that goal is always a chance occurrence, probably at a bar but also in a check out line; a lost map is discovered or something like that; at some point a discussion with people in suits occurs - which is pivotal [although variations include taking the wrong exit to such a meeting and encountering a hobo billionaire at a Denny's] - the last panel is almost always finding shoes that fit and look good, having a good cup of tea [ennui cuppa], or having someone be on time for an appointment

The photos are from Ten Sail on Grand Cayman - where Mark, Sherrie, Jami and I stopped (among other places) on our visit to the island, in February 2016.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

obstacles along life's way

When I was in first grade I got this message : don't use stick figures, don't copy, use your imagination to make things you know are there but can't see-- I was reminded of that this morning. I'm sure it's helped through the years - giving me a counterweight to the (what I had then when I was small) intense drive to mimic and fit in. Now of course I mimic to parody and fit in (if at all) with a sense of dis-ease - that is, I don't fit in, even when playing by the rules. At some point, I figure everything out - I just do, which usually irritates the people in charge of the rules.
There's a parable in the synoptics, which speaks of the pharisees (the people in charge of the rules) as standing in the way: they don't go in themselves and are obstacles to others who want to go in. I think of it as people who get in the passing lane but don't go any faster - with some sense that perhaps they're enforcing the speed limit for everyone else.
When possible, go where you're going, dispensing with the gatekeepers when possible. The law always is at the service of gatekeepers ; grace, not so much.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

halloween musing

and just like that we're almost to Halloween : this year I'm a skeleton covered with an arrangement of carbon-based compounds forming organs out of cells - circulating blood and evacuating waste, consuming oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. Though composed of carbon like a vein of coal or a decaying tree trunk, I am animated - almost like one of those speaking stones the Gospels refer to (or those dancing rocks on Galaxy Quest). Walking past me, you may be startled as if a granite obelisk or field of flowers spoke to you. What horror is humanity, you might gasp - we emerge from inside our females, and, after a while, burrow our way into the ground - as if all a magical prank.

image : lapsidasical