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Friday, January 31, 2014

LAUGHING WITH FRIENDS

liberty baptist, whitehead nc
 
Early afternoon today I stopped by the welding shop seeing the pickups of some of my friends parked out front among a few dead pickups, tractor parts, scrap metal, Mountain Dew cans in various degrees of being crushed underfoot. It was five of us standing and sitting close around the wood stove. One pulled up and parked right behind me, one whose name I won't mention and whose picture I don't take, even though I had camera and wanted a picture of his face. I won't even ask permission; I don't want to compromise him, knowing he would never rest wondering what I was doing with the photograph of him. He's an incredibly suspicious man. I would be lying to say he doesn't intimidate me. He knows it and gets a kick out of it. I know I can trust him never to do a man any unprovoked harm. And he's not somebody I'm going to provoke, so I'm safe. The fact is that if I were to fall into some kind of tight spot, he'd be the first one at my side, armed, and would have gathered a gang on the telephone that would show up one at a time. He's four years older than me and the roughest human being I know. He's spent a lot of years in prison, hard core prison. He told me once that no matter how good you think you can fight, first thing you learn in prison is you don't know how to fight. All the bones in both hands have been broken such that the outer three knuckles are about a half inch farther back than original. His face is like a minor Picasso face, twisted and misshapen by hard fists of powerful men. He's in the big league of tough guys. He's also the best story teller I've ever known. He keeps me and everybody around bent over in laughter. One of them was talking about issues he was having with an ex girlfriend and said to him, I'll call him Floyd, "D'you ever know a woman you could please?" Floyd said in big man braggadocio and his beautiful southwestern Virginia accent, "I pleased ever woman I ever fucked!" I'll call him Bill, who asked the question. Bill bent over laughing, turned around and walked a few steps away shaking his head, saying, "I knew that's what you were gonna say! I knew you were gonna say that!" Everybody was laughing because it was such a Floyd thing to say. It's the humor of outrageous. It goes all the way back in mountain humor.  
 
front end loader
 
The whole crowd was a rough bunch. Except me. One who works there as welder and mechanic has a degree in Philosophy from Chapel Hill. I'll call him Rick. He's easy going, doesn't attract attention to himself, has his black and white dog with him, Rambo. I once said to him he's the only one I've ever known to have a dog named after a French poet. He got it. He shakes his head and laughs when Floyd talks because it's funny even when it isn't. Bill used to be a fighter, but he'd rather use a gun. Keeps one on him all the time, legally, because, in his words, at least twenty people are looking to kill him and four of them mean it. He's not talking the humor of exaggeration, either. He's constantly alert that somebody might pull up out front and start shooting. He's only a provoking personality when he's severely pissed off. They're all good people. Another who had dropped by was a welder whose daughter died a few years ago from some bad meth going around that killed twelve in the county that year. I'd stopped by his place for some welding when she was six. He had to go upstairs about something and the two kids, girl and boy, were outside playing. She brought me a pale red feather she'd found and told me where there were more. I went with the kids to the back yard fence where several pale red feathers were on the ground. A hawk had stood on the fence rail to devour its catch. I used to know what the bird is called, some kind of bunting, a sparrow-sized bird. Fifteen or so years later when Justin was in his first summer after high school, he came in the door one afternoon and she was with him. She said, "You probably don't remember me, but we met when I was little." I said, "You showed me a bird feather you'd found." She said, "You REMEMBERED!" and we hugged like friends who hadn't seen each other in a long time. Unfortunately, she didn't make it through her wild-thang time. She rode the edge and, by surprise, it gave.
 
sawing firewood
 
These are friends I trust one hundred percent. I've got awful bad where trust is concerned since living in these hills. Here, you don't give trust lightly. It takes years and experience, enough that behavior bears out dependable. I gained the friendship of especially Bill and Floyd in the time I took care of their friend Jr Maxwell, who was also my friend, in his last year of slow fade, mind going away, unto his dying at age 87. It was important to him that he die at home in his own bed, not in a nursing home, the lumberyard for the dying. He was terrified of a nursing home. Everybody around him was busy with their lives and couldn't commit to the full-time care it would take. I was getting enough Social Security to get by on, so I took the role of his caregiver. Social Services and two bitch-from-hell half-great-nieces kept me a nervous wreck with threats, lies, surprise inspections, refusing to believe I could handle it. Finally, somebody mentioned Hospice and I called. The woman I talked with told me he has to be diagnosed six-months terminal or less. I said, "I'm looking at six days." She got off the phone and was walking in the door five minutes after I put down the phone, the exact amount of time it takes to drive to the house from town. She told me what Hospice was going to provide, they'd get SS off my back. I had become determined in my fight against a nursing home aggressively after him, behind-closed-doors looking, on the phone with the company lawyer, to get me out of the way. They didn't know who they were up against. I figured they're corporate, there are limits to how far they can go. I'm on my own. I have no limits. Where they end, I begin. I had to do that, too. The end of it was they never wanted to hear my name or his the rest of their lives. When I have to appeal to my inner redneck, look out. I was under much suspicion by Jr's friends. They'd never heard of anybody helping somebody out for nothing. I didn't want money, refused the offer a few times. I'd say this is between me and Jr; if I take your money it's between me and you. I bought my own groceries and his. 
 
the road down the mountain
 
The day Jr's spirit left the body, one of Bill's cousins said to me, "You get into any kind of trouble, ALL of Whitehead will back you up." I was told it again, same words, by another of Jr's friends same day. When it was over, everybody saw I had not manipulated my way into his will, wasn't taking his guns, didn't want anything but to go home. That day everybody who had been watching me with suspicion embraced me. I felt very powerfully that day the love the community of Whitehead had for him shift its focus to me. It was like the beam of a bright light. I had no idea he was so loved by everybody in the community. I said to one of his friends, "I used to think it was between me and Jr. Now I see it was between me and Whitehead." He said, "That's right." Every one of Jr's friends is now my friend, except the half-great nieces from hell I alienated permanently. These friends of Jr's are people I appreciate deeply for who they are. I feel honored in the heart to have the friendship and trust. They see that I cared about Jr in appreciation just like they did. We respect that in each other. It is even a feeling of Jr's presence when we're together laughing like little boys talking dirty. He loved to listen to Floyd tell his stories. The three of us would sit at the table over a dram apiece, Floyd telling his outrageous stories from experiences in his exceptionally straight-ahead rugged life. Jr spent much of the time bent over in the chair laughing out of control. When Floyd talks, the GD word, the F word, the MF word, the N word and all the others in the alphabet of forbidden words are used multiple times per sentence, as many as he can get in there. He's one of the last of the remaining mountain people whose rhythm of talking has iambic emphases and makes music. I learned appreciation for Floyd from Jr, as well as from knowing him. Floyd even asked me today why I haven't been by to see him. I didn't see that coming. I'll make it a point to do that. When I'm around him I feel like an eleven year old boy with a fifteen year old friend/bodyguard who keeps the bullies away. I look up to him in the same way as the kid. He's a good man. Among the best. Every day I am grateful these people are in my world.  
 
shadow tracks
 
 
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

DEALING WITH JUDGMENT

ernest trova


Very strange experience today. The day's film was Rust And Bone, a French film by Jacques Audiard, the story of three people. The film amounted to character development of the three and a fairly intense story that uncovered the character of all three. One of the characters was a woman who worked at the French version of Sea World as a trainer with Orcas. She was the target of an Orca attack that took both her legs. She's left to herself to deal with it. At the same time we meet a guy who doesn't pay much attention, has a boy about ten with him, in a French city moving in with the guy's sister and her husband. Things go round and round, he and the Orca trainer start a casual affair with complications. He is an underground mixed martial arts fighter. These are not the ones that fight on tv that play by the rules. A crowd of twenty or thirty men bet on the fighters who go by no rules, no referee. It was brutal in a super-testosterone brain-dead way. She falls in love with he, but he is unable to commit. It goes round and round from there. I don't recall many films where three characters share the lead role. Beautifully made French film using dynamic photography like I've not seen before. All the way through it, the editing and the workings of the camera were new. All three were dealing with real world issues, all of them living without affection and needing it. After much physical, emotional, mental pain, they came together to lean on each other and begin their healing.
 
rene magritte
 
I'm at the end of the film and Justin drove up to the barn to throw some hay bales on the back of his truck to bring to the place I feed the donkeys. I saw him go by, put the movie on hold and threw on jacket, outdoor shoes, hat and gloves, picked up a couple of carrots. I gave carrots to the donkeys and calf over the fence. We stacked the hay bales and covered them with the tarp. Justin came in for a few minutes to smoke a cigarette. I'd mentioned the film I was seeing about the underground fighter. He told me a little bit about the world of underground fighting like that. It's every place. He told me about a fight he had in his wild-thang time with a Mexican over money. The Mexican owed him money and wouldn't give it to him until Justin stuck the barrel of a 9 in his mouth. He told about a guy that had him down with a choke hold and Justin was stuck. He couldn't move and he was losing oxygen starting to fade. The guy put his hand over Justin's mouth and Justin bit a chunk out of the palm of the guy's hand. He let go. He told episode after episode, and I'm sitting here thinking: what's going on? I'm seeing this movie about guys fighting to near death, then Justin comes in telling me of his fights to near death, it's a new moon, and I'm wondering what the hell is happening. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed by stories of the very hardest kind of fighting. It made me ask myself what is going on inside me that needed to hear these stories today. I used to be really put off by such "masculine" behavior. For one thing, it misrepresents the masculine in the same way junkie whores in big cities misrepresent the feminine.  
 
marino marini
 
It caused me to look within. I saw that over my years living in mountain culture, I had to change a great deal of my thinking. Right away I had to get used to men who kill casually, talk about it with excitement the way teenagers talk about rock stars. I have spent my time among my mountain friends controlling my face when they tell me about some of their killing adventures, shooting squirrels and crows for target practice. My friend Jr Maxwell was good with a gun. I think he got a kick out of telling me stories about shooting an owl out of a tree or shooting flocks of crows with a shotgun, just to watch me control my face. Inside, I squirm up into a knot feeling for my friends living happy lives ending up as target practice. All these years later, it still tears me up to hear their kill stories. I've told myself many times it is the culture and if I want to accept the culture as it is, this is the chance to really practice acceptance. It's been a good practice. It has been responsible for much thought, not to justify, but to accept. If I object to these stories, then I inhibit my friends from talking freely around me and I don't want that. I learn to accept. By now I can watch mixed martial arts fighting on tv at Justin's house and enjoy it. First, I know the guys doing it love it. They like getting hurt and they like hurting somebody. It's just how they're wired. I figure they're on their own when they step into the ring, doing what they love doing. I'm not here to deprive them of what they love doing just because I'm squeamish. I can get some appreciation for the sport of what they're doing by acceptance that it's ok for them to do what they want to do, a whole lot better than I can by disapproval. Again, the only thing my disapproval could achieve would be to inhibit my friends from talking freely when I'm around.
 
robert ryman
 
I don't think like them and they know it. They know it better than I do. I accept and appreciate their way of thinking and they allow me mine. Even though they know I'm not a racist and don't kill anything, they feel free in my company. I don't judge them and don't attempt to make them think like I think. I don't want to give any kind of impression that I want them to think like I think. They all know in their hearts that in my heart is no feeling that I am better than any of them in any way. We have totally different experience. I come from another culture and continue to carry much of it with me. I don't object. I like much of both cultures and live with what I take for the best of both. I believe my mountain friends have a certain affection for me because I do not judge them. They don't know anybody that doesn't judge them. I'm remembering how refreshed I felt in the company of the first person I'd ever met I didn't feel was judging me. It was unforgettable. All we did was sit on a screen porch with cups of tea and talk for an hour. It was an unforgettable experience because I felt I could tell or say anything and it would be ok. I can still feel it. Kitty Davy was her name. She was 88 at the time. I knew her for a little over a year, maybe two. She became for me a model of how I wanted to be as a human being, to be a refreshing spirit who simply does not judge. I can't lay claim to that as who I am, but am able somewhat. I want the people in my company uninhibited by perceived judgment. It frees me as much as it frees the other. I'm thinking that today's learning has to do with seeing that I have not "steeled" myself against behavior in others I don't want for myself, but have accepted, allowed, adjusted to their culture such that I am doing all right where understanding is concerned. 
 
robert rauschenberg
 
I'm glad, grateful too, to see I have come into living by non-judgment. I'm thinking the film and Justin today at the same time were measures of how far I have come on my spiritual path. I never dreamed I'd come to a time when I wasn't judging others and self. It just crept up on me. I didn't know that's what was going on. I have become curious to have a glimpse of who it is I'm interacting with conversationally, coffee shop, mancave with friends, hardware store, drugstore, any place, anybody. I've learned to find other people really interesting. There came a time when I tuned in to my own inner spirit and now want to find the inner spirit in the other. I've found that non-judgment soon becomes apparent. Then the other drops judgment and we flow freely without apprehension of being taken for a nerd or thought stupid for having a valid feeling. I'm remembering in Women's Liberation times thinking liberation for women is equally liberation for men. I never understood why other men didn't get it. I was thinking women freeing themselves of stereotypes would free men of stereotypes too. Men of the newer generations are getting it. Please don't misunderstand and suspect I mean I am free of judgment. I am not. I can tell you a lot I'm judgmental about, but the judgment is weaker now. It has no conviction. I don't believe my own judgments. I suppose they drift away because I don't believe them. Friend Jr Maxwell said one evening at the table over drinks, "Don't believe what you think." This from a man I came to assess wise without hesitation. I have a lot of opinions, but don't believe them. I can talk about them, but can't argue about them because I don't believe them. I have zero conviction for any of my opinions. I tend to think of opinions as dots to draw lines between to make sense of the world I live in the best I know how. It's not even a sketchy understanding, but makes a kind of map to give self at least a little bit of an idea of context.

 
robert indiana
 
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

JAMMING WITH THE KIDS THESE DAYS


Woke this morning, sat on the side of the bed and gazed at the fresh layer of snow out the window, saw the rhododendron leaves were curled up tight as pencils. I knew the temperature was around zero. In another room, I looked out another window at the thermometer. It looked like it was reading 2 degrees. I wanted to go back to bed. But the temperature and snow rendered urgency to feed the donkeys. Put on sweater, jacket, hat and gloves, a couple carrots out of the refrigerator. No camera today. This morning I used some handy things I don't know how to name that slip onto shoe soles and make walking on ice and snow easy. First time this year to try them. It was better than walking on dry ground. Each footstep had good grip. Later, I set out to go to town for prescription refill, some carrots and some cat litter. Inch and a half of crystalline, cold snow all over the car, easy to brush off. The road had not yet been scraped, but an inch and a half of snow is no challenge for a 93 Buick with front wheel drive and a near-perfect v-6 motor. It walks through ice and snow easily. Going up the little bit of a grade in front of the house we started slipping and sliding. I said, Turn around and go home. It told me this particular snow is made of ice crystals, dry and slick. There were other hills both up and down and shaded places in curves I knew would be ice if this little bit in front of the house was frozen.


Urgency to drive to town subsided. I didn't believe I'd make it the first half mile. Eventually the road scraper will pass by. It only means I won't have carrots for the donkeys in the morning. I'll take them bowls of grain. They'll like that as well. The only food in the house is catfood, two tangerines and one envelope of instant oatmeal. I have enough liquor for a few sips. Doctor told me to drink wine every day. I asked permission to drink liquor instead. I can't afford that much wine, but can the liquor and like good liquor ten times better. To give you a clue, Wild Turkey Rye 101 is the closest in bonded liquor I've found to the kind that is really good, the kind that tastes like candy and goes up as quick as it goes down. We call it mountain spring water. Every time I taste it I feel privileged, like privileged to be listening to music at a mountain music venue in an audience of twenty. Much as I'd like the opportunity to be in an audience of 20,000 listening to 5-Finger Death Punch, I'd feel privileged in an audience of twenty hearing Willard Gayheart and Scott Freeman pick and sing, not with thousands. A chance to hear 5-Finger Death Punch in concert is coming up in May. It's looking like a really good chance I'm going. It is an all day and way into the night HARD metal gig with a dozen bands at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Every redneck in the South will be there, including me, a seventy-second birthday present from friends. I can predict with accuracy that I will love every band there from first to last. I've only heard of a few of them, because I don't listen to pop music much anymore. It doesn't mean I don't like it, only that my interests are more subtle in this time of my life.


I still love a chance to get in with hundreds or thousands of twenty-somethings hopping up and down in a frenzy with the music so loud you can't hear the people all around you screaming their joy. It's such a wildly joyous atmosphere that at my age I feel privileged I am not so snooty with age that I won't allow myself to get in among a bunch of "kids" and return home charged, revived, carrying indelible memories. When the time comes, I'll be sure to tell you about it. My entire physical frame will buzz for a week. At rock concerts you see happy people everywhere. Of course there are crazies in every crowd, but at a rock concert, everybody is present for the music, and the music is so overwhelming you have  no place left inside for depression or anger. Whenever I go to a concert, somebody nearby is wearing a Myrtle Beach tshirt or sweatshirt. It happens so consistently I count on it. When I see one it says I am where I need to be at this moment. For a clue on 5-Finger Death Punch, they're rock as hard as it gets, sledgehammer striking pavement hard, post-Korn, post-Rage Against The Machine, post-rap, metal like they love it in north-eastern Europe. Melvin, one of the ones I'll be going with, told me at concerts in Moscow the entire audience is a mosh pit. I've an idea the show at the Speedway will have major mosh pits. It's mosh pit music. I'll be out on the periphery observing. I'll take camera. It will be a day for hundreds of stills and some videos too.


A couple of times in my fifties I heard myself start a sentence, "The kids these days...." The second time, I spoke with myself and said this is not happening a third time. I went to Ziggy's in Winston-Salem for sixtieth birthday to jam with Papa Roach, a California punk band of the time, be packed in with a tight crowd of the kids these days and have a good time with them in their territory. It was fabulous. They were jumping up and down all around me, everybody ecstatic. Sometimes I'd look around at them, participate in moving somebody along body-surfing over the crowd, tshirts, colored hair, piercings and tattoos, the kids these days. And I assessed them cool. I looked within at myself at their age, the people of my "days" coming out of high school and in college. Button-down collars, the frat-man look, Ricky Nelson, the Kingston Trio. They had it all over the kids of my days. I could see by looking they were more intelligent than my generation of kids, actually by so much it was kind of unsettling. The music of my days, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, was nothing like the music of the kids these days. It was the beginning of what is happening now in rock sixty years after. Seventieth birthday I went to Charlotte to see Thrice, another punk band out of California. They happened to be playing on the very day. If it works out that I do go to this concert, I'm thinking of making it a point to make every birthday I have left a rock concert celebration. I know of no greater celebration than a good rock concert. By good, I mean to my own personal taste. Dionysian ecstasy is what a concert amounts to. When it's over and everybody is filing out to the parking lots, every face is lit up in joy. Even people who looked depressed before have joy all over their faces when it's over. I feel that joy so much that I told myself much younger, never outgrow a rock concert. I've come to see rock concerts as contemporary popular theater where, by Mick Jagger's observation, it's the singer not the song. 

 
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

DONKEYS IN THE SNOW

donkey breakfast for jack on a snowy morn
 
Upon arising from the crypt of sleep this morning, I had birds to feed, donkeys and a calf to feed, cat to feed, coffee to brew, netflix envelope to put in the mailbox, the chores. My head did not want to go out into the ten degree morning. Soon after my feet meet the floor, the four-leggeds gather at the fence staring at the window they evidently understand is an opening to see what's going on inside the ice cream man's barn. They must be able to hear me walking in the house. Thought I'd set the coffee in motion first, let it make while I feed my window decorations, the birds in two windows, the donkeys in the other. Half way to the kitchen, just a few steps, Jack started braying. The three were gathered at the gate looking at the window, Jack in full bray. I said, OK. I left off the coffee as less important than taking breakfast to my friends out in the ten degree snow. I put on jacket, packed a couple of carrots in one pocket, camera in the other, and made a bee line to Jenny with a third of a carrot. She's first because she's Alpha and I want to respect their sense of hierarchy. As long as Jenny gets hay first, carrot first, attention first, grain first, she's happy. She's biggest, she's first. That's the law from insects to Wall Street. Give Jack a piece of carrot first and Jenny is all over him kicking and pushing him. It goes against form for Jack as well as for Jenny when I treat him first. Jack brayed to me while I approached the fence and I was drawn to him first, just to thank him for the song. Right away I gave Jenny a chunk of carrot first, then Jack. She saw that I only spoke to him, didn't give him the carrot yet. Jenny has been looking at me with a gentler eye since I've caught on to her role. This morning I felt a warm breeze of affection in her gaze.
 
I love how the landscape rolls over jenny's back
 
Jenny and I have grown into trust for each other. We only have our behavior to go by. I show her I can be trusted in every move of my hands especially. I've learned to keep my hands off her until she invites me to touch her. In the last week I've noticed in her eye an invitation to touch her neck or around her ears and rub her forehead. A woman kept her before, so Jenny only knows the human male to muscle her into cages she didn't want to go into and take her life completely away from her, a captive slave. Jenny is wild at heart and so is Jack. I really like that in a donkey. Cats have it too. Jenny is a good bit more spirited than Jack. I don't mean Jack is less wild at heart, but Jenny has the role of protector of the herd, because she's the biggest. She's not vain about being head donkey, it's just her role. If Jack were the bigger of the two, it would be his role. Jack is a laid back under the shade tree kind of guy that listens to Burning Spear and Baaba Maal. Jenny is a woman no man pushes around unless he wants his throat cut. I like that in Jenny. I'm not so sure Jack likes it much. I don't mean she's a cut-throat, but she is an independent woman who stands firmly on the ground as herself. Jenny is a babe that throws her bra on the stage at a Kid Rock concert. This is what I see in Jenny when I call her spirited. She's not to be disrespected. I only respect her. She respects me because I respect her. She's taught me the same as she's taught Jack and the calf to leave her her space. She taught me by simply moving away from my hand when I touched her. I let Jenny determine how close she wants my proximity. I don't want to push her beyond where she's comfortable. I don't want to control her.
 
jenny's organic breakfast


The warm look in her eye this morning suggested that what I've been sensing might be the case has turned out to be the case, the trust between us has reached a new level, wariness relaxed. I'm finding as I relax toward them and they relax toward me, I am able to flow somewhat with their own customs, like hierarchy and body language, enough that I'm feeling like it might be a doorway into getting to know them, person to person. I look to the morning I greet them at the fence and see in their eyes them saying, "Zup dude?" I'm thinking it would be fun to rig them a speaker in the shed and play some fiddle and banjo music to them. I believe they'd like Uncle Dave Macon, The Camp Creek Boys, Tommy Jarrell, Hazel Dickens, The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. I've an idea Vladimir Horowitz's solo piano would be to their satisfaction too, and maybe Murray Perahia playing Goldberg Variations. It might be too much of a kundalini rush for their consciousness. I don't want to mess them up projecting my forebrain consciousness onto them. It's not even accessible to them. It's barely and infrequently accessible to us. Since I have in myself their level of consciousness and they do not have in themselves mine, I feel better about learning to communicate with them according to their understanding. How do I learn it? Let them teach me. I'd rather they teach me to do donkey tricks than me teach them human tricks. Id rather watch Jack and Jenny run around the meadow playing chase than see them roll over and play dead on command. I want them to be donkey and teach me what donkey is. Needing to take a break. It's time to take afternoon hay to four-leggeds. They're ready.
 
jenny and jack tuck their tails to the breeze
 
This morning I took them a little less hay than usual due to it snowing. I thought they might be better off not to have their afternoon hay snowed on in the morning. I like to watch them eat. I feel like an old hillbilly grandma finding her enjoyment seeing family eat at her table. I took the camera in one pocket and made pictures of the donkeys in the snow and different compositions in the snow. The temperature remains at fifteen degrees. I know that's nothing in Trondheim, Norway, but I'm in the American South, a long ways from the north pole. About an inch of ground-cover is all the snow that fell. Donkeys have had snow on their backs all day. The calf too. A cardinal flits on the white snow looking for sunflower seeds the other birds missed. The rhododendron leaves are curled tight like cigarillos and hanging down. Another beautiful day in Helsinki.
 
 
the human barn and horseless buggy
 
 
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Monday, January 27, 2014

PERSONAL IDENTITY LOST AND FOUND

 
jessica stockholder

I tend to think an awful lot about the people I know, people directly involved in the weave and flow of my life such that I'm in the weave and flow of their lives. I really do think this is where my head mostly dwells, on the others in my life. I see over years my habit-thinking of the various individuals was actually a projection of how I felt about myself. In the time I was in despair about myself, teens and twenties, I objectified others somehow, left out their hearts, addressed their minds. I wanted to know people that impressed me, and even they weren't really it. Eventually, my attitude toward self changed and along with it my attitude toward others changed. When I finally came to respect my own heart, even my inner child came to life. This happened in my early thirties. Up til then, I wanted to live solely by mind. My heart was so incredibly wounded in childhood, I did my best to shut it down, to quit feeling, because all I felt was rage and the continual depression of holding the rage inside and pretending on the outside I'm happy. It took until late twenties before I even noticed the inner rage that projected my attitude toward life. I wanted to live, but didn't know why, except to get away from parents as far as land allowed and have a go at living without their absolute control and suffocating religion. I didn't do my wild-thang time very well, between ages 18 and 23, when children of dysfunctional families run wild and fall into every kind of pit. I think of my time with them as a dog chained to a doghouse with a ten foot chain, living on a circle of bare dirt a couple inches below the level of the topsoil around it, something like a miniature baseball diamond. One day somebody let the dog loose and it ran and ran in any and all directions, heedless from inexperience, falling, getting up running, ran across a road without looking, out of control. If left off the leash, it would soon be hit by a car. I grew up on a short leash and did just what a dog does, ran til I was out of breath and couldn't move. But stumbling, uncertain, devoid of self-esteem, hesitant, not believing my own feelings and thoughts, taught not to.
 
jessica stockholder
 
I fell on my face, fell on my face, fell on my face, through my wild-thang five years. The first half of it I made stupid decision upon stupid decision. Sometimes fell on my face drunk. Drunk was the easiest kind of falling on my face. I married daddy in a woman's body. When I realized I had bought myself more of same to live with the rest of my life, I bounced off the trampoline. He was done and in the past. I wasn't living the rest of my life as the life theretofore had been. I was not going to live in the same mental climate all my life. A window opened and I jumped. The US Navy seen through the lens of Oppositional Defiance Disorder was my enemy. It took me away from my life against my will, set me back two years. It took care of me in those two years when I could not have taken care of myself very well, not well at all. Working in a shoe store with head in knots. The Navy took me away from it. Navy put me on the sea with head in knots. It allowed time to untie some of the knots and learn to live with the ones I couldn't untie. During the time on the ship I mostly read novels in translation of the French Resistance in Paris during the German occupation. I read the French existentialists almost exclusively. They spoke my truth. I wanted education desperately. By the time the Navy was over, the marriage was over. Out of the Navy on Friday, started school Monday, weekend at the beach, the first days of my life. I look back at my life starting at age 23. I'd taken care of the checklist of obligation to society, church and parents. Leaving the Navy base the last time, I stepped into my new life of decisions made for my life by my self. The Navy got me safely through the time of running like a dog unchained. In retrospect, I look at how the Navy served my development as a human being by putting up guardrails when needed, and now is giving me a monthly assist. I have to say I'm as grateful to the Navy for shelter through my storm as I am the College of Charleston for opening the door to the rest of my life.  
 
jessica stockholder
 
Ego having been buried for so long, it was time for ego development, discovering personal identity. A friend at the college said something that stayed with me as a kind of a minor Zen koan. He said college is the time when we create our own identities. I was thinking it meant as a kind of style, like a writer's style that is one's own, or an artist's style. Imagine it, then become it, was how I took it. I think he thought of it that way too. I wasn't able to compose for myself an identity I wanted to live by, so I left it open to see what happens. Seeing that time in the context of a lifetime, I can see that I did indeed discover my personal identity in that time. For the first time in my life, I interacted with others without the inhibition of bleachers full of judges who believed I was their hand puppet. In the beginning, I kind of became other people's puppet temporarily, because that was all I knew. Did not yet know how to make decisions for myself. It was fun to exit the chute of living by other people's decisions for my life. I can't say I did it gracefully, but got through it standing up. I learned the importance of being a friend. I loved that the College of Charleston was then a small Southern college a couple hundred years old, Old South neo-classical architecture. It felt like a grandmother's arms. It was a nurturing place that helped develop my ego, my self-identity, gave it sound principles, again like a grandmother. The honor code was absolute, no two ways about it. Caught cheating, you're out that day. See somebody cheating and don't report it, you're out same day. I remember a guy caught cheating on his last final exam of his senior year. Out. It got me over any, every propensity I might have had for cheating. It has stuck for life that cheating amounts to cheating oneself, caught or not caught. Learning not to cheat was a primal step in the progression of discovering who I am that became a significant part of decision making.
 
jessica stockholder
 
In a student body of under 500, I had a handful of friends and others I only knew from classes. I had an attic one-room apartment and worked in a bookstore. All through the Navy, when the ship went into any port, I found the bookstores. With just a few hours in Nice, France, in uniform, I found a French bookstore and bought a book of poems by Jean Genet in French, an inspiration to learn French in school well enough to read it. After classes of a wide variety, my interest zoomed in on Twentieth Century American writing, prose and poetry, and American art. By the time I finished at the college, I knew these were the interests of my life. These were the longings from deep within I was unable to satisfy without education. I had a longing to go to graduate school in something like existentialist drama, something I know, and knew then, I would love. I aimed to be a teacher, maybe high school where I felt I understood the kids somewhat. By the time I'd done undergrad, I didn't want any more school from either side of the desk. But I did uncover my self-identity by letting it evolve of its own. Now looking back it's clear that the interests of my life are good writing and good art. It was in the college years I learned that. Without the years of school, I'd have been more lost at sea than I am now. I think Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti were the first poets I had experienced on my own after high school. Starting college, the first book of poetry I picked up on my own was Selected Poems by Robinson Jeffers. I lay awake in bed all night reading it over and over in awe of what I was seeing. He spoke to me like no writer had ever done before. And to this day, I can sit in awe with Louise Gluck's new collected poems, or Elizabeth Bishop's collected poems, Robert Lowell's Notebook 1967-68. I don't make my living from it, but these writers and a host of others inform my interior life. This is how I created my self-identity: I found it by being open to it, an affection for Twentieth Century poetry. It serves nothing but my own aesthetic satisfaction. It's untarnished by money and ambition. It's uniquely my own.   
 
jessica stockholder
 
 
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Sunday, January 26, 2014

SUBJECTIVE REALITY IN EVERYDAY LIFE



The last couple of mornings have been so bitter cold at 0 degrees with wind, I feel for the donkeys unable to get out of the cold. I recall my own need for a long hot bath after enough days and nights of being cold. I realize the need for the sauna in Scandinavia. Cold all the time, it is refreshing to bathe in heat, soak the heat into the bones, warm them, relax the whole body from bracing against the cold. I like the sanity of the Scandinavian countries. I've seen that Sweden has closed down their last prison. Nobody wants in. In Norway, the prison amounts to an apartment complex without walls, without guards carrying guns. Going out in zero weather not just a few days, but for months could get real old real fast. I want to do something for the donkeys, the squirrels, the birds, but there is nothing I can do but feed them, keep them warm on the inside, help the chickadees and the snowbirds make it through the long nights. The temperature is predicted not to rise above 29 for the day. I'll spend as much of the day in bed as possible and tell myself to pretend I'm in Finland, accustomed to it, no problem, it's like this all the time. It actually does help a little bit. It relaxes the body from bracing so much against it. I feel warmer relaxing and receiving the cold than bracing against it. I tell myself it's another lovely day in Helsinki. Sometimes when I go outside to the mailbox and don't want to put on a coat, I relax into the cold on the way out there and back, return to the house feeling fine and my clothes are freezing cold everyplace they touch flesh.



I've noticed in a few Scandinavian films how casual the people are with the cold. In an Icelandic film, I saw a woman putting gas in her car wearing a tshirt and it snowing. I've seen them go into a house and leave the door open, it snowing outside, below freezing, my idea of cold, and nobody has an issue with it. In one of the three Swedish films of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I saw a man go into a small shed kind of building, it snowing outside, the door open, and build a fire in a little stove. He used no more wood for the fire than I would use for kindling. I thought that little bit of fire isn't going to heat anything but the draft in the stovepipe, and it very little. Outside the window, I see the calf standing still beside the gate, one side in full sunlight, chewing its cud. Ground must be too cold to lie down on. Donkeys, too, are standing still, soaking up the sun on one full side. It's the still time of day after morning grazing to soak up the sun and lie down for a rest. I saw Jenny yesterday lying down. The ground is frozen solid. If I were out there all the time, I'd acclimatize, too, to some extent. Back in the summer, I would sometimes sit on the ground talking to Jack while he grazed. Not long ago, one day when it was cold, I sat on the ground beside Jenny grazing and talked with her. The cold ground was not so bad to sit on. Didn't do it very long. I'd like to spoil the donkeys, keep them comfortable all the time. However, this is what it does in the world they live in. Same as I need a motorized vehicle to get around in because the world I live in is built around motorized transportation. I'd be arrested for going about in a buggy pulled by a donkey.



I'm remembering a sentence I saw that my friend Susan McCachren posted on facebook, the image a Tibetan lama, the words, "We are prisoners of our own egocentrism." It is about the most obvious thing to see. I know it, see it in a wide variety of ways, but don't think to house it in so obvious a straight-forward sentence, nor think of it so succinctly. In a way, it's what I'm addressing in these daily writings, approaching them subjectively, owning up to my own egocentrism, seeing it in relation to the world around me that I interact with. We all do everything in first person. Objective depends on controlled laboratory conditions. Out here in the world, it seems to me the closest we can get to reality is the subjective. Reality is a difficult word to give a realistic definition to, so I'll jump in and see how close I can get. When I start with only God is real, this means only love is real. If that is so, then reality is found in the love feeling in every living being. It has little to do with mind. In human society, we value mind above all else. We've come to believe that a head full of information is knowledge, which it is, though it is not the end in itself. After working the farm with old man Tom Pruitt for several years, he introduced me to an old boy of his generation, Lef Wagoner, saying to Lef, "I taught him everything he knows." It told me he was proud that I'm a learner. But the first thing that popped into my mind was he did not teach me about the poetry of WB Yeats or the films of Bernardo Bertolucci. I knew, however, that he meant in their way of knowledge, how to do things, how to fix what's broken, how to work with cows, how to cut down a tree so it falls exactly where you want it to, even when it's not leaning in the direction you want it to fall. It's a very clever trick that is easy as a thought and it works every time. He taught me how to make a rail fence out of locust trunks. He taught me how to put a fence post in the ground so it will never wiggle, and to stretch barbed wire so it will stay taut for many a year. He was thinking one kind of education and I was thinking another.



Tom's way of teaching was by doing. Fresh out of a culture that thinks teaching amounts to telling information, in class lectures, assigning reading, explaining and testing, there came a time I was frustrated with Tom because he wasn't "teaching" me. We'd spend the fall months cutting firewood for four houses, two of which burned it like it was trash. He would now and then tell me something like cut the tree level with the ground instead of leaving a stump. I don't use wood anymore, but I see my friends cut wood and everybody leaves a stump. It runs all over me and I want to say something, but it's not my place. I see a stump as eight more sticks of firewood left to rot. Tom, with no more than a seventh grade education, had more wisdom than about anybody else I knew. The most important word in the language for Tom was "experience." He taught by experience. I helped him do the work at first, watching him, following his lead, and paying attention whenever he told me something. Eventually, I learned wisdom comes from experience, first hand knowing, whereas knowledge comes from second, third and fourth hand information, which may or may not be true per detail. Experiential knowledge, learning by doing, affirms the old saying that experience is the best teacher. There I was, Mr college educated intelligent, in a world where my knowledge from another world, another belief system, had no meaning whatsoever. I came into Tom's world an over-educated ignoramus. I didn't know anything, the same as I say now of the college educated middle class moving to the mountains, who know how to work the remote for the television, and that not very well. By now, I have education by gathering information and by experience. I feel like it is a balance I live well with. I like having both book learning knowledge and common sense, which I think of as experiential knowledge. I see the knowledge of accumulated information is something on the order of objective, while the knowledge of experience is subjective. Experience teaches the heart. Information teaches the mind. I need both for a balanced life.

  
 
 
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Friday, January 24, 2014

BLACKFISH THE MOVIE



Last night's movie was an eye-opener, in a way an awakener. It held my interest every minute, at the same time had such great sorrow as to wound my heart. I was pulled through the hour and a half by interest in what I was learning and grieved seeing, again, the human indifference to consciousness. I'd seen an ad while watching football for the film Blackfish, a documentary concerning Orcas, killer whales, in captivity performing at Sea World. I checked netflix and they had it. It largely involved interviews with trainers, the people you see fly up out of the water standing on the Orca's nose; a couple of them had been killed over a period of years by one of the killer whales, and it was "the best" of the trainers in those and other cases. The Sea World corporation blamed the trainers, said they made mistakes. The makers of the documentary found video and eye witnesses of the Orca attacks. Analysis of what triggered the attack was not trainer error, but came to a twist in the brain from living in a bathtub in solitary confinement for so many years. The behavior was attributed to frustration. In captivity they have half the life expectancy as in the ocean with their pod of extended family. Decades of research reveal that Orcas are family-oriented, like crows, live in their families and are never weaned from the mother; they don't continue dependence, though the bond is for a lifetime. They learned, too, that the dorsal fin in captivity tends to droop over to one side. In the ocean, the dorsal fin stands straight up all the time. All the signs of the whales' despair in captivity were showing, but who noticed? The Sea World corporation made billions off of them. The corporation doesn't care how the Orcas feel, redundant as it may be to say it.
 
 
It took me back to a moment in childhood standing in front of a black leopard's cage in the Kansas City Zoo, watching the beautiful black cat pace back and forth, about three of its body lengths each way. It was kidnapped from life with its family, probably taken as a kitten after its mother was killed. The kitten was boxed, sold, bought, and ended up with a life sentence in solitary confinement being stared at and taunted by shrieking humans. I couldn't stand it for the cat. I felt the same about the tigers and lions. My trained mind said this is good, they're kept in cages so we're safe from them, and it's a zoo where this is what they do. Who ever thought about how the animals got there, esp in the late Forties and early Fifties? I read adventure comic books about a well-known African safari hunter of the time, who captured animals for zoos. He was a hero. I had been trained up in the mind that animals don't feel, don't think, don't love, only exist. Mr Big Game Hunter was brave. He went up against water buffalo and lions. Killed them with one shot. If he'd missed, they'd have killed him. Big man. I also watched Marlin Perkins' Zoo Parade, which later became Wild Kingdom. I saw that show every time it was on. A few weeks ago, I saw on YouTube a Wild Kingdom show about the Kalahari bush people in southern Africa. It took me into realizing I had forgotten Marlin Perkins as an influence in my early life, a daddy figure who knew something, who appreciated the world around him, who appeared to care, who wasn't bragging and berating when he spoke. Watching the show, I was thinking he was one of the great unacknowledged influences on who I am. While I went to a church where the preacher said animals have no souls, I listened to Marlin Perkins tell me and show me that animals are at least sentient beings. I refused to believe animals had no souls. It didn't make a lick of sense. The deal is, they can't get saved because they don't know right from wrong. I laugh at that now.    
 

 
The blurb advertising the film said the Orcas were a danger to the trainers. All I could see through the course of the film was the danger the whales were in. The Orcas are gregarious, fun-loving people who live their lives closely knit with their families. They need the affection in the family circle. Like donkeys, they are herd animals. Circled by their families, the Orcas flourish. Separated from their families, they decline and fade into despair. They do the tricks for a snack at a time, the trainers get to know them personally, become attached to them like we do with a dog when we get to know one. I was seeing the intelligence in these water people and thinking about the intelligence in donkeys. Every morning taking hay to them, I look into their eyes and talk to them. The intelligence in their eyes is on the order of what the trainers see in Orca eyes. Like donkeys, the Orcas are conscious, have intelligent minds and complex behavior. They feel, are animated by love, and respond to respect with respect. I am confident that the donkeys will never attack me. By now, I have the trust of both of them. I give them only gentle, loving behavior and they return the same. If I were to keep each of them in solitary confinement for several years, I could anticipate waxing frustration to the point that one day I might be attacked by surprise, out of the blue, me saying, "What got into you? I didn't do nothin." Some of the Orca researchers in the film said that in the open sea they have never been known to kill a human. Another researcher who knew they'd never hurt anybody, said he is not jumping into the water with them. He said the old belief about them is they are sacred, not to be meddled with.



The film caused me to reflect on a lifetime of living in a world, the entire world, that regarded the sentient beings that live around and among us as no more than a rock or a fencepost that could walk. In early childhood I believe it because the grownups taught it to me. It never seemed right, but all the adults knew different. Even though it did not make sense, I questioned myself instead of everyone around me. Then I came to the mountains, completely changed from the cosmology I grew up in. My first dog, Sadie, was my teacher. She came to me when she was 3 and already named. I did not want to make her have to learn to go by a new name. She taught me that I was the dense one. She understood me in everything I said and did. I understood very little of her attempts to communicate. By the time I lost her, I felt I was just getting to know her. Next dog was Aster, came to me about six months old, starved unto unable to walk. I took her in and she never needed training. She was the second one to teach me that the soul is the life force in us, what Dylan Thomas calls "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower." I can't say, When is the world going to wake up and understand the animal people are driven by the same fire within that we are, love? Maybe "the world" is unable to understand love animates us. We are dominated by belief that love, spirit, God is out there, not in here, despite the Bible saying in red letters it is within, our very life force that drives the flower through the fuse. As long as we believe God and heaven are the other side of the clouds or beyond the universe, or wherever in the beyond, we'll never get it that the squirrels and snowbirds are people too. Killing animals and destroying their lives without conscience will go on. I always come back to my responsibility is my own behavior. I see them sentient beings like myself, respect them as I respect another human. Makes it difficult to see Orca suffering in corporate hands and just as much the world of humans out of sight in desperate poverty in slums around the dumps in third world cities, that get their fuel from leaks in pipelines. I was heartened in the film to see so many people care.

 
 
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

RAPE CULTURE IN AMERICA

isamu noguchi
 

One of the biggest surprises of my life, which really isn't a surprise at all, is seeing the extent of male contempt for women. It seems like it is even more pervasive than racism, in every race. The right wing launch of all-out racism in reaction to an elected President, who happens to be black, is equally obsessed with devaluing women. I'm actually glad to see this fountain of racism that reacted itself to the surface over Obama by way of hate radio and television. The civil rights era never really addressed racism. It was about legal rights for black people like for white people. Racism  was the R-word at the time. It was the word everybody was so tired of hearing and it always popped up, "That's racism!" How did we know you'd say that? A man I once knew, who is long on the other side, watched tv news every day of his adult life with a drink before dinner. Several years ago a new book was published on the civil rights era that was getting attention for being a good read. I gave it to him. When he finished it, he said, "I didn't know any of this happened." Knocked me off my track. I didn't feel like I wanted to read it because I remembered so much of the news from the time and much writing around the issue. All the photographs were familiar. And I know he watched the news more than I did. I didn't even question why he didn't know about any of it. Uninterested. Black people come up on the evening news and mind shifts to someplace else like when a commercial comes on. He also couldn't listen to female talking heads on the news. The female voice was devoid of authority for him, like there couldn't be any knowledge behind it.
 

isamu noguchi
 
The republican right wing white man party has been obsessively making so many laws against a woman's right to be a human being, it's overwhelming to me that the white men of our government hate women so much. Do they really represent the rest of us men? We need studies to prove that rape is epidemic in our time, when it's so obvious, who could question it? Heard on an NPR interview show today, it might have been Diane Rehm, a woman saying seven percent of college boys admit to having raped, and of them two-thirds were serial rapists. Seven percent is seven per hundred. A school with 20,000 students has 700 rapists. Considering the very large number of colleges and universities in the country, rape is a serious problem. Law enforcement says she asked for it, she shouldn'a wore that dress that showed her figure. In a world of people dictated by television an unshapely woman is a pig. Again, male dominated networks and belief system based in advertising where a female figure is a predictable attraction. We have an entire nation where seven percent of the boys are rapists. No telling how many men over 20 are rapists. It's a bigger number than the college boys. The women know, but they can't talk, because in  America when it's a white boy, he was seduced into it. Blame the victim. She got him drunk. If he's black, string him up. Keep white girls safe for white rapists. I was driving back from town today hearing a woman whose name I don't remember talking about this problem and my jaw dropped to the metaphorical floor when she mentioned the seven percent statistic. Seven doesn't sound like much of a percentage, but multiply it by all the schools in the land and rape is a national epidemic not being addressed. This is an expression of collective male fear of women that is masked as contempt. Of course, it's not all men. I'm dwelling on the seven percent, not the other 93. Why don't the 93 say to the 7, cut it out, asshole? Indifference.
 

isamu noguchi
 
I heard another statistic later in the day that increasing numbers every year of women are not getting married. I saw a cartoon on the subject: Why buy the pig when all you need is a little sausage? Since I've become aware of the serious social problem of the male fear of women, it makes me question my colleagues in gender all the more. I came from the world of that mind, white man mind, grew up in it, learned it, unconsciously lived by it in the early years. Not rape mind, but fear of women mind. Rape is an expression of fear of women, same as sex play with children. An awful lot of us grow up in families where daddy talks down to mommy, where grandpa talks down to grandma, and the women have no recourse. I've thought about the question of next lifetime, how would I like to have a female experience next time? No way! I thought of what women go through subject to men, especially the intelligent woman married to an ignorant man who rules her with his ignorance and she has to learn with her intelligence how to live with it and not dry up into ashes. I'm not proud of being male. White man has made a fool of himself for an awful number of centuries. I grew up among boys as one of them, learned the culture as one of them. I was not one of the boys that believed dying for my country was honorable. I thought it was just dead. I wanted to live my life, not be killing other guys my age deluded into believing for rich white men who cared nothing about me or them.  Why should I care enough about them to die for them? They wouldn't die for me. Didn't have a choice. The draft made the decision for me. Authoritarians just have to look at me to know I am the enemy. I tend not to give authoritarians my power. They hate it. I go about my way.

isamu noguchi

In my lifetime in a world that is half men and half women, I have found the more intelligent people I know are women. The men are way down the scale in relation to the women. Another epidemic in our time is young women with one, two or three kids, divorced from a guy who needed anger management training and never got it, living in HUD housing, working a full time job for minimum wage, taking night classes at the community college, kids in daycare, and at home has to turn them over to the television. How many men can do that? Working class women all over the country are living in this situation, a large number of them. They get taken advantage of by landlords, mechanics, employers. The ex husband works, lives in a trailer unable to take care of himself in any way, drinks himself to sleep in front of the tv at night, and pays a great chunk of his pay in child support. It's hard enough for them to give up so much of their pay they have nothing left over, but the guy couldn't take care of kids, nurture them, give them affection, and live in poverty working all the time too. It's difficult both ways. The girls in this situation with kids our Christian society wants to throw out with the trash. Believe it or not, the American way is and always has been to hate the poor. It hasn't been until the last several years that I've seen the white reactionary male politician, cloaked in Bible, so dead set on denying women basic human rights. I did not see that coming. I've come to believe collective misogyny was under the carpet of denial with racism, needed bringing out in the open, and now is that time. I see a consciousness waking up in women all over the country now. It's been going on for awhile, since the Seventies. I've been reeling from these rape statistics I heard this morning, seeing the sorry state of the American male consciousness. It makes me ashamed.

isamu noguchi
 
 
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A NEW COSMOLOGY

door to the donkey den

 

Today's movie was made from the Graham Greene novel, Our Man In Havana. Alec Guiness, Burl Ives, Ralph Richardson, Noel Coward, Maureen O'Hara and Ernie Kovacs. 1959. Graham Greene novels tend to make good films. According to my own taste, I find film screenplays made from novels have quite a lot more interesting stories than films made from screenplay as original source. Graham Greene stories make films that have surprise twists and turns, actually written for a very different audience than a straight screenplay. Greene wrote for readers. An original screenplay is for movie goers. This film was made in the time stage actors were making movies like multi-scene plays. I felt like I was watching an acting feast with these London stage actors who were the top dogs of their day. The film was new when I was in high school. It is not something I would have seen. It would have been way over my teenage head. If I did see it when it was new, I probably sat through it thinking: When is something going to happen? I don't believe I could have followed it. I can't even fathom how ignorant I was in the eleventh grade. I'm not exaggerating. I was so ignorant, even I knew it. Asked why I went to college, it wasn't for an office job, but I was so ignorant I needed education. Didn't matter if it was a small southern college instead of Chapel Hill or Athens, Georgia. I needed to learn basics. Grew up in a house where television presided, Kansas fundamentalist church, and public school with no motivation from home other than threats. I had to get away from the mind that led to nowhere, circling in blame and self-pity.
 
ice in a square bucket
 
 
At the bottom of my own pit, the US Navy abducted me for two year active duty, which I hated at the time for taking me out of my life. Those years were spent reading in every spare moment. I had wanted to take Senior English in high school, the most interesting teacher in the school, but it required so much reading, my absence of self-esteem told me I couldn't keep up. And I probably couldn't have. Home amounted to a hornets nest of rage in my head. I kept on that track after I left and found my first apartment. Navy snatched me out of my life and gave me two years to look it over, where I came from and where I'm going. Where I'm going started with education. The very first thing I needed to reenter the world was education. The church had filled my head with such nonsense it took fifteen years to wipe it all away. I had to throw the baby out with the bathwater, unable to separate them. They'd become the same. I came to see religion as another power of the few over the many. I couldn't see beyond the fraudulence of religion. Then, by what was perceived from my side as chance, I came in spirit face to face with Meher Baba. In three days I committed. I came to see God Is. There was no way I could go on living as if God were not. Religion has little to do with God. It is the power of the few over the many. Every religion has become decadent with time, why God returns over and over, as Zoroaster, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and if you'll allow me my own point of view, Meher Baba. His role as a God-man was not to start a new religion, but to reform all the religions until they're like beads on a string. He called himself the Awakener, "I came not to teach, but to awaken." He woke me up out of a torpor I had fallen into without regard for the spirit of life.
 
ice circle
 
 
I needed to get out of the city where my habit patterns were created. I wanted to live rurally and work manually. I wanted to live alone at the edge of the world as a monk in a monastery of one, follow my own light, study this new zone I'd entered where God is love, not anything else. All that goes with love, like compassion, altruism, justice, God Is. If God is the ocean of love and we are drops of the ocean flying through the air, the drops are still the ocean. I visualize the time in the body like seeing the breakers at the beach, white waves splashing drops of water through the air ahead of them and they fall back into one with the ocean. The flight through the air was illusion of separation while the drop continued to be ocean itself having an experience air surfing. In our flight through the air in the form of a drop, we say, I am I, and then return to I Am. This is as brief as I can make the period of adjustment to a new cosmology: God is love, nothing short of unconditional love. No exceptions. I came to the mountains with this my mental playing field to find my own way to live in this world knowing what I know. I needed to be off to myself to digest it. For about the first twenty years, nobody much knew I was here but the people I knew to work with, neighbors and an old-time religion Regular Baptist church I went to for fourteen years. The preacher of the church, Laurel Glenn, was Millard Pruitt. In the pulpit his only subject was love. Outside the pulpit, love was a four-letter word.
 
composition in rock and wood
 
 
My church now is everyday life and has been for several years. I like to go to a Primitive Baptist meeting from time to time to hear the singing and participate in it, and to hear a Bible scholar's take on the scriptures. There always comes a time I'm expected to be there more often, and then I never go again. I'm not going to join, so I stay away. I can hear the Primitive Baptist hymns on cd at home. I can hear Tibetan hymns on cd at home too. I can hear Islamic sitar music from India on cd at home. First time I heard that old style mountain singing from inside a church where it was going on blew my mind to smithereens and made the tears flow. Two old boys sang a song, Elder Millard Pruitt and Ray Caudill. I don't remember what it was, but an educated guess would make it My Home In Heaven, one they sang with such soul as Ralph Stanley sings Gloryland. They sounded ancient. It was old men singing a hymn they have sung all their lives and knew how to sing like Tommy Jarrell knew how to play Sally Ann on his fiddle. It was ancient like all the way within to tribal times when praises to God were sung by old men around drums, It was primal. It even had an ancient temple feel about it. It was antiquity in its last gasp before fading out. The spirit just faded from the place after Elder Pruitt was unable to preach anymore from the feebleness of old age. Donald Duck cartoons would have been better than his replacement. There came a day I could not push the screen door open to leave the house to go listen to nothing. I realized then, my time there was over.
 
three rocks
 
 
I've stayed away from religion ever since. I call my path my pilgrim way. I don't mean pilgrim like Cotton Mather and burning psychic women to death. I mean it entirely differently. I mean it one soul in one body walking my own path by Divine guidance keeping me from falling into wells looking at my own reflection. It's kind of like God says, "If that's what you gotta do, its what you gotta do. I'll hold onto your belt so you don't fall in." I tend not to read spiritual sorts of books anymore, and I don't think about God a whole lot as something "out there." I'm finding God in the flow of everyday life, in the people around me, everywhere, the birds, the four-leggeds, all of us animated by love. The butterflies, the toads, the chickens, cats, dogs, donkeys, all animated by love. In this time of the life I'm living by letting go, acting out Don't Worry ~ Be Happy in everyday life. I'm more social in this time than I've ever been. I see more and more that the spirit of God is in other people. I seem to have reached a place where I enjoy just about any sort of person I meet along the way. I feel like I have come to a place where I see the light of life in every living thing, and that light of life is God. It's not like woo-woo, but like everyday life with all the emotions and hormones and defenses that go with it. We're every one of us God in a body having a hard time trying to figure out how to live with it. Of course, God understands; God experiences through our bodies, our senses. God is our consciousness, the self that sees our dreams, sees through our eyes, thinks with our minds, experiences through our senses. This is where I connect with my four-legged friends and everyone I know, the Hindu greeting, Namaste, the God in me greets the God in you. Lord have mercy, who called me to preach?
 
donkey jen
 
 
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