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Thursday, December 12, 2013

AN ANGEL UNAWARES

ai weiwei
 
Earlier this evening, my friend Lizz Jones asked me on facebook to list ten of the more significant books of my reading life. Wow, I thought. How do you do that? I looked at her list to get an idea of what she meant. Books that inspire a new way of seeing, such as that. One that radically changed my life was Albert Camus' The Stranger (l'etranger). It took hold of me from page one. It was a story told for me to read. He didn't know who or where I was, so he had to publish it in book form and leave it to chance for me to find it. It woke me up to something within. It told me I was not alone in my thinking. Somebody else in the world sees what I see. He showed me that thinking the way I thought then, half a century ago, was a philosophy with a name, existentialism. He turned me on to other existentialist writers and other French writers. Camus wrote some plays and turned me on to some other contemporary French plays. Less than ten years later I had the opportunity to see Genet's play, The Balcony, in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company, opening night. Not that it was a big deal, just an accident of timing. It was see it that night or not at all. But I still thought it was cool. Camus kicked off my interest in 20th century theater, taught me an interest in reading plays, starting with his, Sartre's and Genet's, and ones Camus wrote about in his essays I found in paperback.
 
 
ai weiwei
 
 
It was a time of my life when the whirlwind of fate was blowing a hurricane all around me and I existed in the still space in the middle. The storm was my mind. I was sucked into the storm and carried away to sea in the US Navy, involuntary servitude for two years. The day before I was to leave on the plane for Norfolk, Virginia, to begin my life behind bars, a high school senior I'd only met once before, and then for a short time, handed me a paperback copy of The Stranger. He suggested I read it on the plane. I don't even remember his name. That was the last I ever saw or heard of him. I've often wondered if he might have come to me, an angel unawares, to hand me something that would wake me up at a time I needed help. I'd made a weak attempt at college and wasn't ready for that level of serious homework. I thought I was going to Kingston Trio Disney World, or something. I couldn't take the big anonymous school. Factory school. I was not prepared in any way for that. Church had less than twenty. Classes at school had less than twenty. All the way along, it was like that, then jump into auditorium classes and classes with professors talking way over my head and the text indecipherable for this average high school student. I never learned the art of homework. It was always a drag for me. I couldn't read with much comprehension and read very slowly, still do. By the time the Navy pulled me out of my life for two years, I understood my key issue was inability to read with comprehension. I spent those two years reading as much as possible. Reading some incredible contemporary French writers, much of it the French Resistance in WW2 against the German occupation. I was in my own interior resistance.
 
ai weiwei
 
 
Camus was a guide for me in that time, turning me on to writing tuned to my view of the world. This was my own college-prep course, two years of reading inspired by Albert Camus. Also listening to early Bob Dylan in that time. Kennedy, Johnson, Viet Nam, early 60s, civil rights, protests, Communist listening devices in every bush, the importance of dying for your country. H Bombs. A head full of Hi-Ho-America on one side and resistance on the other. My Oppositional Defiance Disorder was young and raw then, unconscious, not self-aware. An American working class dumbass with an ego the size of two football stadiums. Unskilled. Unlettered. Unanything. An ego in a body looking for a job, fantasizing unaffordable car, unaffordable babe, unaffordable pool, Playboy magazines by the stool. It makes my head swim to go back to that time. It's so far away it's like somebody else, something from a movie with a title I forgot. My confusion in that time was enormous, incomprehensible to me now. Incomprehensible to me how I got through it. The Navy snatched me up at the moment I needed rescue. I resisted it like a fish on a hook, but I had to wait out my time. I just now spoke of myself out loud, "What a fool.' That was spontaneous outburst from observation. Some years ago I got up by internet with a friend from that time. It didn't work for me. He was a constant reminder of that time, He liked to talk about that time and the people. It wore on my nerves until I couldn't stand it anymore. I may, at the end of this lifetime, look back over it and exclaim simultaneous with thinking it, What a fool. It's actually about the highest praise I can give this lifetime.
 
ai weiwei
 
 
Better to be a tarot card than a slave to a false god. I'm recalling Jr Maxwell telling of his life, summing himself up a fool. He made a very convincing case for himself a fool. I was seeing him a man of real wisdom and could make a good case for it. He mad a better case for himself a fool. I thought of him as the wise fool. What else could a wise man be in this world but a fool? Though he was calling himself a fool for having more than one of those whirlwinds of confusion in his life, looking at times of making self-defeating decisions. I couldn't stand any more of those times that bring out my own fool. Yet there is something comforting about seeing my own self a fool knowing Jr Maxwell thought himself a fool, too. Starts getting kind of Taoist. There were times, sitting on Jr's cement slab porch in plastic patio chairs, the kind you see stacked in front of the Dollar store, watching the cars and trucks go by on the highway, talking and not taking, being, I wondered if we might have had lifetimes together in the past. Surely we did. We knew each other right away when we met my first year in the mountains.  I wondered if the lifetimes might have been in shamanic cultures and he my teacher. It felt like a spiritual connection. I felt like I was sent to him to learn from him and in return assist him in his vulnerable time to make it possible for him to die in his own bed. It was important to him and important to me for him. In one way, I was doing it "for the least of these," the hopeless and helpless who wanted to die in his bed, not in a nursing home or hospital.
 
ai weiwei
 
 
In another way, I was serving the Master, exactly as the Master himself, the same. The opportunity was that precious to me. That leads me to suspect the shamanic lifetimes, one the other's teacher possibly several times. It may have something to do with why both of us were fools in entirely different ways this lifetime. Id like for Jr to be my older brother next time around, but won't ask for it. I've known so many friends in this lifetime I want to know again. I hope the old belief bears out that we'll meet our loved ones over yonder on the far away shore in the beautiful home of the soul. I want to see my grandmother I listened to Grand Ole Opry with when I was a kid and preferred Elvis and Shake, Rattle and Roll. I want to tell her first thing I finally got it. I came to love the music we listened to, but I didn't yet have an ear for it. I want to see all my dogs and cats there. I want to hold them all. I've been thinking a lot recently about what carries over from lifetime to lifetime. I'm thinking it's more than I'd let myself imagine before. I'm inclined to see it that only the body is different. What does it matter to us to change bodies? We don't see ourselves as others see us. I need a mirror to see my face. I who am seeing out from my eyes is the same I from lifetime to lifetime. It's just that all the parts around the eyes change, the body, experience, place, time, horoscope. I, who see through my eyes, think my thoughts, the same me, the same I, from one life to the next. There is only one thing I can say for certain about what's on the other side, anything I have ever imagined about it is not the case. I was about to say the best thing to do is stop thinking, but that's an unrealistic anti-solution. Just flow with it is all I know to do.       
 
ai weiwei himself
 
 
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