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Monday, May 13, 2013


cleve gray, zen gardens 20

I'm thinking this morning of my friend Jr Maxwell, one of the people I have known who kept his mind out of the past. He said the past is over and gone, nothing can be done to change it. The past is nothing. He did not learn this from reading philosophy. I believe he came to it because his past held several deep sorrows, each one the kind that would put a rhino on its knees. For five years he told me the story of his life, actually dwelling in the past remembering the experiences, the people he knew, relationships. In his mind he was a fool. He could make an impenetrable case for himself a fool. He said he looked up to everybody. He had a fast, retentive mind, and worked mostly alone during the days, driving a tractor or a bulldozer, working cattle, working a sawmill, working on tractor motors, welding. Often there was somebody with him, like sawmilling where he had an "off-bearer" working with him. Sawmill work requires concentration and makes noise, a straight-8 Buick motor without a muffler plus the scream of the big steel blade eating its course through the wood. Working with that much focus, you're working alone. Same in welding. Other people may be around, but welding is a solitary act. He was also gregarious; he needed people around him when he was not working in solitude. He genuinely liked other people, and had solitude in a good balance.

japanese screen

He had so much sorrow in his past, none of it self-made, I wondered if he had trained himself not to dwell on the past to keep a smile on his face. Patience, he said, was number one. Patience takes care of everything. It went against his belief about the past to tell me his life over his last years with mind intact, but I was so eager to hear his life that my undivided attention encouraged him. He never told me the same experience twice. My feeling about Jr is that he came into this lifetime an advanced soul already knowing these things, finding them again as experience activated them. I felt like he chose the fast track of spiritual development in this lifetime, the path of suffering. How he suffered! And kept his nose above water through it all. He was baptized at age 11 and eventually stopped going to church. For one thing, he came to a place where he knew not to take preachers seriously. He knew them too well as individual men and did not take to false piety. Calling piety false is actually redundant. Piety itself is a word for false, except for the people who believe nose-in-the-air a correct display for whatever the need to affect a superior pose. One of the best I've heard is, "I write for myself." I bend over laughing when I hear that one. Jr kept his mind out of the past while he was not remembering experiences to tell a drinking buddy over white liquor so good that no bonded liquor could match it. I think of him the wise fool. What else could a man of wisdom be in this world but a fool?


I've come to a place with my own mind that the past has become like a gigantic vat of red jell-0 (zero nutritional value) with chunks of fruit cocktail floating in it like primitive wasps in amber, but thicker. I can find a kind of psychological order running through the past, how one experience leads to the next. I find when I think about the past or tell something from the past, it has to be apparently random, like a leaf falling from a tree, one at a time, no given order to predict which one will fall next, though it predictable that one will indeed fall next. This is how I write these daily musings. I follow a method learned from an old Regular Baptist preacher who told me how a preacher approached the pulpit in the old time way. He had no subject in mind, no purpose in mind. He starts talking and when the spirit hits, he lets go and allows the spirit to flow through, using his voice. The preachers in the old way called themselves "vessels" for the spirit to speak through. A vessel I think of something like a boat. An iced-tea pitcher is a vessel. Both are empty without cargo in one case, iced-tea in the other. A shipping vessel carries cargo from one shore to another. A pitcher vessel pours out what was poured into it. Either way, the preachers were vessels of the Holy Spirit, themselves empty in the mind to allow the flow. I don't claim access to the Holy Spirit and I'm not about sermons or missionarizing. Sometimes, in fact, I anti-sermonize to stop myself from going there. And maybe sometimes I do go there. So what. Though I see myself an anti-alarmist, I am quite susceptible to alarm, like when a bolt of lightning hits a tree next to the house it gives me shivers for a long time.

magritte, the return, 1940

I cannot claim legitimately that I am channeling, because I am not. I'm channeling my own thoughts and memories from my mind somehow, but I can't claim any galactic entity from outside myself. I can legitimately claim I'm inspired by the spirit of life. That spirit, to me, is God. I can claim channeling God only in that way, not like taking dictation. Writing anything amounts to activating the spirit of life. Maybe that's what I've come to like so much about it. Swimming slowly through the red jell-0 assessing all the chunks of fruit cocktail, deciding which one to pick to nibble on next. Only this fruit cocktail isn't all sugary. It has jalapeños in it too, pickled okra, Hershey's kisses, and surprises. A beautiful dove walking just outside the window in its spring plumage smooth as skin, the same color as the ground, head bobbing with each footstep. I feel like I can say rationally that I channel no more than my own mind. Maybe every once in awhile something drops in from my own higher self. Some people call that the Holy Spirit or God, but I don't. Maybe "God" speaks through some people, but I'm not one of them. My understanding of God is more as the spirit of life than any other way I could put it, consciousness. Consciousness without thought as we know thought. The act of fingers dancing on the keyboard is expression of the spirit of life, too, through physical form. Thought is a form too. God has no form.

japanese screen

At the same time, on the other hand, all forms are expressions of God, like the bluejay hopping from one rhododendron branch to another, flying to the birdfeeder and back to the rhododendron branch to hold the seed with a foot and peck the shell. For me, that image is essence of spirit of life. It's in the same manner I call my inspiration the spirit of life. The soul, a drop of the ocean that is God, is the spirit of life that animates the physical form I call me and mine. A leaf may fall from my higher self into my writing mind, but I can't say I recognize it if it does happen. I can't say that I have any original ideas. I've picked up a lot from reading and from knowing a wide variety of people. My time on earth is characterized by learning. I couldn't footnote most of what I've dumped into my experience facility, so I let it flow. It's like a blender where I take in bits of information by reading, by talking with people, first and second hand sources, experiences. It is a matter of  blending almost three quarters of a century of experience mixed with false memory I'm no more aware of than of input from higher self. I like to think of all of it as the spirit of life and not worry about guilt, oughta, duty, fear of hell, piety, learning Bible verses, none of it. If anything does come through from the higher self, it's in one of the yellow chunks of fruit cocktail floating in red jell-0, a portion of the whole.   

andy goldsworthy

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