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Sunday, June 29, 2014

GRUMPY OLD BASTARD REBEL WITH ATTITUDE

antoni tapies

This morning talking on the phone with my friend Carole, I was talking about how paranoid I've become about driving. An alarming number of people I know have been given tickets over the last year. I've not seen it in the past anything like it is now. The state has it set so you don't get out of a ticket for less than $200. The ticket may be less, but court costs and fees run it up. Obviously, the highway patrol has increased the quotas for patrolmen, keeping state revenues up in a time when the working people of the state are bringing in less income, hence paying less taxes. What do you do? Screw the working poor. They're easy to rape. They have no recourse. You never see a Cadillac by the side of the road with a highway patrol car behind it, blue lights flashing. The attitude of cops toward we the people has become more hostile, year by year, to the point we "citizens" (a dead word) are taken for criminals, treated like criminals, spoken to as criminals. They think they're being smart in the manner of arrogant people. They're making enemies and stand all the taller for it. This is why we did not want police state. Now it's a law that police departments are right to exclude the more intelligent applicants from a job as a cop. I thought that was already a natural law. It's like making a law requiring us to observe gravity. Throw something up in the air and if it keeps on going you're arrested. I said a whole lot more than this, talking with Carole, that I'm too paranoid to repeat in print. Paying the fine is bad enough, then the hell you're put through from the moment you see the blue light until it's finally over, regarded a criminal every step along the way. Franz Kafka and George Orwell were prophets. We are now living in the adult world they foresaw. I lived it throughout childhood and youth, as have many. It is particularly reprehensible to see Kafka become the way of American enforcement. It must be inevitable, a process, a pattern. We laugh now at the old slogan, to serve and protect, like we laugh at wind, rain, sleet or snow, except in a Jerry Lee Lewis song.
 
 
antoni tapies
 
I was telling Carole that all my adult life cops and people in authority positions dislike me on sight. I don't have to make a face, say something smartass, nothing. They look at me and they see the enemy. It's so close to a hundred percent that I'm used to it. I've learned to go slack in the face of authority the way black people have learned that when a cop stops you, you go slack, be passive, no resistance. Otherwise, they beat the shit out of you, and might anyway. When you're white, it's not so overt. They don't give you respect, but they also don't treat you like a coon. People that go about with a superior attitude regard me exactly the same. On sight, like reading an aura, an authoritarian of any sort, official or self-styled, sees the enemy when they see me. I think my eyes have something to do with it. My eyes do not show respect for uniform or position. Nor do they show fear. They show absence of interest. That's what I feel. I know people I would call friends who have been involved in law enforcement in one way or another, people whose egos don't require they be deferred to as authority. The ones that need to be looked up to the most are the ones that hate me. I have this objectionable way of regarding people as who they are themselves, seeing through the transparent mask of appearance. I have this odd way of knowing people for who they are. Like when I saw Maureen Stapleton play Stella in Streetcar Named Desire, I saw Maureen Stapleton playing Stella, an actress, an artist performing a role. I don't know that I've ever lost sight of a performance enough to see just the role. Maybe in childhood I could have, but don't recall. Pre-teens I was in love with actress Claudette Colbert. Susan Hayward, too. Colbert as mother, Hayward as whore. My grandfather kept a picture on the wall of reclining Susan Hayward in his garage. It was the only thing I wanted after grandpa died, but couldn't ask anybody to attempt to mail glass. I imagine it's in a landfill by now.
 
 
antoni tapies
 
I'm recalling the time of the music store. The parking lot was across the street. PhDs were a riot. I could see it in them getting out of the car. It's a certain trim of a beard, a stance, presentably dressed in something English, and professorial patterns in behavior. I like talking and visiting with intelligent, educated people. I like it very much. One comes in the door, I speak, we engage  in brief conversation. Right away I see he is sizing me up, asking test questions, assessing my knowledge in relation to his. That's when I say them for those. It's all it takes. Don't even have to go so far as to say aint. I see the conclusion register in his eyes that it's just another yokel, exactly as per expectation in his wife's home town. I realize in that moment this is not an intelligent, educated individual, and I lose interest too, at the same time. Its in my horoscope. Not many years ago I found a friend from the years just after high school by way of internet. We emailed quite awhile. Turned out he had a PhD in Psychology; mental institutions, teaching at a university, in charge, authority, retired. I got really tired of his emails full of instructions that I am to read Henry Kissinger's memoirs, lists of assignments and essay test questions. I didn't do any of the assignments and sure as hell did not read Henry Kissinger's self-praise. I started writing the blog and he'd quiz me on what I'm talking about, told me to explain this and that, explain, explain, you're wrong, something else is the case. The worst, according to an old Sufi saying, the straw that broke the camel's back, was when he told me to explain something I'd put up in the column on the right, of quotations, the one from the Tao te Ching, Not knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease. Another essay question to be graded. All I answered was, "You had to be there." Explain the Tao te Ching to a PhD in psychology? He's Doctor Science: he knows more than I do. Of course he'd heard of Carl Jung. No matter how I would have explained it, he'd have known better than I did. He really didn't get it and I couldn't help him with it. It was too wide a strait for a bridge. It wasn't long after that I told him to quit writing me and unfriended him on facebook. Next thing, I got another list of essay questions to answer. I blocked him from my email. He had become an authority. He let me have it for not addressing him Dr, saying, I have a lot invested in my PhD. I said, I don't give a shit.
 
antoni tapies
 
It's the same with people who believe having more money than I have makes them my superior. I tend not to see it that way, nor do I honor the expectation. They call me strange because my eyes don't light up and grovel in the mud of greed when they speak down to me. I am able to give authority to someone I assess deserves it, like a martial arts sensei, or a meditation master, a teacher of something I want to learn. Just because somebody puts on a certain kind of clothes doesn't mean shit to me. I see an individual human being; their clothes usually show what they want me to think about them. Carole suggested my resistance to authority personnel goes back to daddy. Bingo. He was not right in the head. He did not adhere to the rational. Didn't pay much attention in school. He never saw but one look in my eyes after a certain point, indifference, nothing. Sometimes he'd explode, I want some respect outta you! The kid would think and dare not say: Show me something to respect. My eyes came to show absence of interest. This is what authoritarians trigger in the look they see. I could not talk back or defend self or explain. You cannot control my mind, I am the enemy. I used my eyes to say it. This, I suspect, is the root of why authoritarians and people who need to be seen high up hate me on sight. They see no light of respect in my eyes, the look of the enemy. It kept me in trouble all the time in the Navy; authorities everywhere requiring obeisance in the form of a salute and being called sir. Out of the Navy, I never said sir again but in irony. It runs awfully deep, so deep I choose to leave it be and not bother with changing it. I feel like it serves me well. It keeps me away from people I don't want to be around without any effort on my part. The same as my attitude that anybody too good for a Pruitt is too good for me keeps the pretentious away, indifference to self-importance keeps authoritarians away, too. Win-win.    
 
antoni tapies himself
 
 
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Saturday, June 28, 2014

OLD MAN RIVER


Talking with my neighbor Gary this afternoon, we were connecting a battery charger to the battery in my car, trying to figure out how to read the needle. He suggested something and said, "Wouldn't you think?" All I could say was, "I don't know what to think, ever, about anything." Everything in this world is a confusion to me anymore. I've spent my life trying to understand it and have failed. I know less now than when I started wondering. I've come to the Socrates place of saying the only thing I know is that I know nothing. Jesus affirmed Socrates by quoting him when he said, "Know thyself." In one way of looking at it, what else can we know, but ourselves? Our experience is our own, even shared experience. Self is about the most enigmatic subject there is to study. Self-awareness is the beginning of the spiritual path, the path of know thyself. Shedding false selves periodically, moving forward, moving in on the reality of the soul is how I have to characterize the path. No matter how far along the path one is, the goal continues infinitely far ahead, like Ralph Stanley's Great High Mountain. Therein lies the allure for me, even mystique. It's the road that goes ever on. I'm drawn to moving with my own flow. When I get there, when I ride the rhythm of my flow, contact with the world "out there," like bank, grocery store, gas station, can rattle my flow such that I fall down on the bed returning home and don't move for an hour. I lost touch with my flow, going with traffic, driving in parking lots looking all the way around for somebody backing up or no telling what, anything, paranoia about highway patrol--quotas have gone up appreciably in the last couple years. I see scatter-brained behavior everywhere, people with more to do than they can handle trying to keep up, multi-tasking, tweeting, stopping whatever they're doing to answer the cell phone. Conversation in America amounts to interrupting anecdotes with anecdotes. Interruption is the nature of conversation now. Cell phones interrupt with urgency. I've become so weary of interruption as expected conversational etiquette, I'd rather not talk. Now, when interrupted, I let go of everything that went before, intentionally forget it, knowing we're not coming back to it, let it go from mind because it is over. Superficially is the only way I can talk comfortably with anybody in this time. It's an unspoken code in America that when you see two people talking, you are duty bound to interrupt them. It's inescapable.  
 
 
I can't defeat a social trend so pervasive it has become the nature of the American character. And I cannot say this shortening of collective attention span down to nothing is necessarily a bad thing, because I don't know. I don't want to live in another country, so I adjust to the social context of the moment. Americans have become collectively addicted to distraction. The attention span that thirty years ago was about that of a cat is now nonexistent. There is little to no attention span left. Television has been sacred from the beginning. By now it is the holy of holies. I have not paid attention to television since 1961, but for brief spells for a car race and at other people's houses. I call it MBC, Mammon's Broadcasting Corporations. Mammon is a false god, and not a benevolent one, the ultimate trickster. The continuous broadside of sound demanding attention and flashing visuals equally demanding attention makes me crazy after a few hours. Beyond a few hours my head goes numb and I fall into a grumpy mood. I want to be home and hear the birds. A nation of people obsessed with money, where money is the only value, has its foundation in the shifting, whispering sand. Andy Warhol suggested attaching the amount of money somebody paid for one of his paintings to the wall instead of buying the painting. Anyone who sees the painting sees how much it cost. Ah, you have a Warhol!, more impressed by its dollar value than the image. The only thing the painting means on the wall is I-can-afford-it. This has a great deal to do with why I feel it refreshing when I see art on somebody's wall that is an image put there in appreciation, whatever it is. I have friends with a stunning waterfall painting on the wall, a print that came with the frame for maybe ten dollars. It has a waterfall in it that is painted in such a way it pulls the eye closer and closer. The closer you look, the more the waterfall looks like water. It's a gorgeous waterfall painting that looks almost like it's in motion. The image is loved in the home for its subjective aesthetic value instead of its dollar value. They appreciate that they got so much for so little.


Earlier, when I realized the car's battery was dead from trying to start it, I opened the door, turned in the seat with feet on the ground, looking at the bank of wildflowers across the road, thinking: dying really is a solution. One more reason to rejoice when I see it coming. I recall my fear of death falling away some years ago. I've had to watch it ever since, it's so easy to relax into accidents by any of two hundred thousand ways. Before, I had an automatic pilot that took care of self-preservation. Now I have to pay attention to self-preservation and remind self not to be frivolous with this life. It is important to be in the body until this journey is completed and the time is right to move on to what's next. I do it consciously by understanding this lifetime needs to come to its own balance before going on. I don't know when that time is. It's important not to know. It has to be important; nobody knows their time but on death row. I catch myself drifting into thinking not much matters because I don't have a lot of time left. Another mind tells me it matters right up to the last second. I even look for ways to perk myself up, give self incentive, legitimate reason, not fake reason. I think I can distinguish the fake reason as ego, thoughts about legacy. Twice I have been asked by peers what I will leave for my legacy. I answer, Nothing, not even a tombstone. But you have to leave some kind of legacy. Why? The only thing important to me in this lifetime has been my own spiritual path. I take the path for a human path, not a tightrope with hellfire for a net, but a path through a loving universe where the only problem is the human mind, the driver's seat of illusion.


I've characterized the spiritual path in my own vision something like water from a mountain spring flowing on its way to the ocean. I'd call the spring the time of self-awareness, committing to the path. It makes a fast-moving stream that rushes down waterfalls, splashes over rocks, races through rapids, churning, dramatic. The self predominant before, changing fast. Changes happen first on the inside and manifest on the outside in sometimes chaotic, seemingly out of control ways occurring so fast, simultaneously and in succession, it makes the head spin and question one's own authenticity. As a result of understandings and insights, we change first on the inside. Some of the ways of thinking that went before are not practical any longer. They don't work, don't satisfy. People we know and are close to drift away, one at a time, and we wonder what is going wrong. I thought I was becoming a better person and my friends are abandoning me. It's a lonesome period of time until waking one morning and realizing you're in a world of new friends, friends more compatible with the new self than the ones that fell away. The waterfall changes to fast moving creek into fast moving river, and slows its pace at lower elevations, widens with smooth surface, flows into the delta, twists back and forth like a serpent sunning on a rock, turning in on itself, taking its time in slow motion. Closer to the sea it stops and backs up at high tide and flows again with the lowering tide. I feel like I've been through the waterfalls, rapids period and the fast-moving river period that lasted at least 20 years. My path has characterized the second half of this lifetime. I feel like I've gone through the slow-moving river and now am flowing in the delta, slowly, slowly, twisting this way and that, direction changing continually. Meandering is the word. I feel like I've been meandering within over the last few years. I feel honored in this lifetime to have the chance to complete this cycle in the Way from a mountain spring to the sea. I don't believe this is the path of my enlightenment in one lifetime. I see it a  cycle through this lifetime in self-awareness, saying in signs I've done well not to get side-tracked, passing through opportunities for distraction, indulging some and letting them go, returning to the flow, allowing the flow, trusting the flow that just keeps rolling along.       

caterpillar
photos by tj worthington
 
 
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Thursday, June 26, 2014

RUNNIN THE ROADS WITH THE PRUITT BOYS


The party I told you about yesterday went on all night. Bill came back from town and his brother Don heard the banjo and saw Leo's car and Bill's car, he came in. As all-night parties go, this one drifted down to nothing when everybody ran out of energy and attention. All went back to where they came from and we planned to meet later at Mahogany Rock Overlook on the parkway. We had a cooler of beer and took up on a park table with benches, sitting looking out over the landscape, talking and laughing. A park ranger dropped by and told us we can't drink beer on the parkway. He was not unfriendly. We went to our cars and left. Bill and Don's brother Van was driving them and I followed in Pat's yellow Volkswagen bug. Van tried to outrun me on a winding gravel road, but I stayed with him. Eventually, we ended up at Margie's trailer decorated in "Spanish modern," with orange shag. We hung about there trying to get the party spirit back, but it was over. Pat and I returned to the house and carried on. Monday, working with Don, Bill was gone. Bill and Margie and Leo had left in Margie's car Monday morning. Leo had a trial coming up Tuesday for beating up his girlfriend, whose house he took Margie to after girlfriend left with her kids to stay with her parents until after his trial. Tuesday I heard from Don that Leo smacked Margie in a McDonald's parking lot in Bluefield, West Virginia. Margie threw all his clothes out of the car and she left, taking Bill with her. Leo found his way back and went to see girlfriend at her parents' house. She took him in and hid him from the deputies that were looking for him over skipping the trial. She dropped charges and they returned to her house together.
 
 
The story from there went that Margie and Bill drove to South Dakota where a man from here had a fairly large ranch. He gave them work and they stayed there awhile making some money and returned after a few months. Bill told me that the guys out there asked him how he drove drunk on winding mountain roads, because he drove drunk all the time. He said if the mountain roads weren't so crooked he couldn't stay on em. He didn't stay on mountain roads all that well. Riding around the county with him, he'd point at an outcropping of rock by the side of the road and say that's where he broke his collarbone and a leg. Another place he'd point and say that's where he broke his ribs and both arms. Just a year or two before I knew him he'd bought a brand new Ford and totaled it before he made it home. Drunk, Bill did a classic stagger, crossing his legs to keep balance, wobbling this way and that like a top slowing down. One night he left here late and walked back to old man Tom's house about a third of a mile up the road. I saw him take off walking, didn't believe he'd make it. I offered to drive him. No, he'd be all right. He made it. I don't know how long it took. I worked with Bill and Don all that summer and fall up to winter. They were my teachers. My first year I ran the roads with them on weekends and worked with them all week, putting up hay twice in the summer, cutting firewood for four houses, two of which burned it like it was for pretty in fireplaces where the heat went up the chimney, twice as much as the two that used wood-burning stoves where you have some control over the fire with dampers to control the blaze. It was in this time that a churchist man turned his back to me for knowing the Pruitt boys. In that moment I said to myself, Anybody too good for a Pruitt is too good for me. I adopted this maxim as a rule of thumb to live by in my new life. It has served me very well. It keeps me away from the pretentious.
 
 
I knew they were the bottom of the social spectrum. I thanked God for landing my parachute among people entirely devoid of pretensions. I had been something of a social climber in my own way theretofore, which really amounted to ego with no training. I took the "Pruitt boys" for a gift from God to bring me down out of that mind. I wanted to start "where all ladders start, in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart." (WB Yeats, Among School Children)  I had a way of overdoing it with the liquor in the city, not so much getting stupid, but steadily and about all the time, more than my denial realized. My parachute landed me among guys I drank with all weekend, drank more than I did in the city. I thought, What's the deal? I believed I was following God's guidance, and he put me down among a bunch of guys that could drink me under the table like I'd never seen before. From where I came from, I thought I could hold it well. On the Friday after the first week of working with Bill, he showed up in my driveway after he'd been to town to cash his check. He had a bottle of Four Roses, some 7up and his brother Van in the passenger seat. He offered me a drink out of the bottle. I had to show him I could drink it straight, how I preferred it anyway, wishing he'd bought something that at least tastes good. Taste had nothing to do with it. Alcohol was the only consideration. It tickled him when he saw I could take it from the bottle. They got out of the car and we sat on the ground under a dogwood tree, taking turns with the bottle and laughing. By the time we finished the bottle, I was on my back, had to lean my head to the side and puke. They thought I was hilarious. I was in place. Bill wanted to go back to town for more liquor. His brother Van went with him. I was in the same place on my back when they returned. They sat on the ground and finished the second bottle while I lay on my back awed by how Bill and Van could take it. They'd offer me a drink from time to time and laugh when I declined.
 
 
After that weekend it became customary for me to ride with them Friday night and Saturday night, floating around in Van's Dodge with posi-trac rear end he called The Goat. Not many years later he drove the goat through a light-pole twelve feet above the ground, split it in two. He woke up on the hood unhurt. His young nephew who was 12 or 13 was with him. He, too, landed on the hood unhurt. The law came down on Van hard. Not long before that a highway patrolman set off after him and Van tried to outrun him, thought he'd take a dirt road and lose him. He turned onto a dirt road that dead-ended at a barn, flashing light on his tail. The wreck with the kid in the car cost Van his driver's license for life. They always had guns in the car riding the roads. We'd come up on a good secluded spot, like the Nile on the New River, a redneck party place on the river in those years where there is always the remains of a campfire people sat around drinking beer, throwing the bottles and cans in the river. The party place is grown up now in ironweed. The younger generations since that time have drifted away from drinking beer at the river to reefer and other places like the bowling alley. That generation is gone now, too. It's cell phones and crystal meth culture now. We'd take out a .22 rifle, throw beer cans or bottles into the river and shoot at them bobbing along the current. My inner ecologist cringed, but I kept it to myself. This was their world, not mine. They thought it was funny that I kept my empty beer cans in a bag on the floorboard at my feet. They threw them out the windows. I could not make myself do it for any degree of acceptance. It didn't matter. Poor people were walking the roadsides in that time with bags picking up aluminum cans to sell for some groceries. Anti-littering laws have put these people out of business. I'd get with God and ask what's going on. I was drinking more than I ever had before, when part of my motivation coming to the mountains was to lay off, at least appreciably. The feeling I'd get back was, no-problem, don't worry about it. Time passed and within a year interest in alcohol as something to indulge in fell away. Just drifted off. The Pruitt boys were my teachers. Drinking with them was part of my learning. After a year, Bill went to Florida and Don moved to town and our party weekends were over. Bill, Don, Van, Leo and Margie are all dead now. Every one of them has an honored place in my heart.   
 
caterpillar
photos by tj worthington
 
 
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

CHRIS COX AND OTHER HILLBILLY FRIENDS

 

I've been reading in a collection of my friend Chris Cox's columns he writes for the Asheville paper. Chris is from Alleghany County and many of the people he writes about are people here. Some of them I have known. I'm enjoying reading his accounts of people I know and know of. His first collection of his columns he published in a book, WAKING UP IN A CORNFIELD. Amazon has it with 5 stars from customer reviews. I don't see a consensus of five stars on amazon reviews very often. Chris's writing is clear, concise and poetic in the best sense of the adjective, not floral but insightful. His columns are lovingly conceived, coming from somebody whose mind is in touch with his heart. He may not think of it in these terms; it's so much a part of his character he wouldn't notice. In a sense, he is what I mean when I call somebody "real." It's what I call the mountain people, real. When somebody is bad, they're real about it. When somebody is good, they're real about it. By real I mean true, true to self, true to others, honest, straight-forward, says what he means with no compulsion to say what he doesn't mean. And by honesty I mean something more expansive than true and false. I don't mean always telling the truth or even seldom telling the truth. Not that Chris makes things up, he doesn't need to. I'm defining my use of the word, not Chris in particular. Chris is mountain people; it comes naturally to him to connect with the humanity of individuals he writes about. One in particular sticks with me, a friend of his dad's, Leo, who played poker seriously, a great guy, who, the first thing you need to know about Leo is never trust him. Know that and you never have a problem with him.
 
 
Leo was a really good acoustic guitar picker who could not play with a band for being unable to get along with anybody long enough to finish rehearsing their first gig. Understanding where Leo came from helps one to see Leo in an empathetic light; his dad was in prison through most of his childhood for killing a cousin over a still they were working together, whose last words were, Y'kilt me. When I say rough people, I don't mean sandpaper rough, but sawmill rough. Leo was one of the very first people I met here, maybe the second, after his uncle Tom. I was inside my house, which was completely empty, making bookshelves for a wall. It was Christmas day, 1976. I'm not a Christmas celebrant, so I spent the day preparing the house to start bringing my items in. It started snowing. I was driving a 4 wheel drive Jeep pickup with good tires and let it snow. The snow was up to four inches and I was shutting down to go back to the house I was staying in waiting for this house to be emptied by the previous owner. I saw a 61 Ford go up the road. I thought, You won't get far, and went out the door thinking it a good thing to have tracks in the road to drive on. On the road I saw parallel tracks that looked like two huge snakes went up the road side by side. I knew for sure he was not going far. A short ways after the road starts uphill I saw him, driver's side tires in the ditch, back wheel spinning. It was a gravel road then. I stopped, went to his passenger side door with window open and saw him face-down on the steering wheel, passed out drunk, foot on the gas pedal holding the motor wide open. I spoke to him, he jerked upright and I asked if he needed help. Duh. He told me to push it back onto the road. I went back to the left rear fender and pushed the car sideways while he spun the tire. Easily pushed it out of the ditch, hardly any effort on ice, and he was gone, snaking up the road out of sight. He turned left where I turned right. All I know of what happened next was he and the car survived the drive to wherever they went.
 
 
I saw his car go up and down the road several times during my first months. His uncle Tom had told me he was living up the road with his girlfriend. In the spring I was working with Leo's cousin, Bill, clearing a meadow that had grown up in saplings with bush-axe and chainsaw. We saw Leo's car go up the road and Bill said, There goes the most worthless man in Alleghany County. I had to double-take on Bill saying that of somebody. Bill, himself, was a contender for the title. It made what he said all the funnier. Bill said it to mean that guy is even more worthless than himself. Bill had his issues, too. His daddy died of a heart attack driving a tractor when Bill was 12. He and his half dozen brothers and sisters came up in the worst kind of Appalachian poverty, a house you'd call a shack, looked down on by everybody and called 'inbred" because mama and daddy were cousins. He and his brothers became a small gang. They were not aggressive tough guys, but you take one on, you've got them all to deal with. They stuck together to hold their ground. I learned quite a lot about Leo from Bill and Tom. He was a living character for me by the time I met him. And he'd heard about me from his cousins. I don't know how they characterized me, though it would been something like a college-boy that don't know nothin, though he can drink himself stupid and likes to ride around in the car with them on weekends drinking beer and laughing, is respectful and doesn't look down on them. It was easy to be respectful, I was half afraid of them until I found they were my bodyguards when they took me to places I'd never dare go alone. Looking back, I could have easily gone alone with no problem, but then I was looking at the unknown with fear. The pool room on a Saturday night late when everybody was red-faced and red-eyed is something I could never have experienced without my bodyguards. They knew everybody. Everybody already knew I was the new college-boy that worked with them, and were no more interested in me than if I were a bottle cap in the parking lot. I liked it like that. I didn't want their attention. I'd never been in such proximity with so many really rough looking guys. I felt like Pee Wee Herman in the biker bar. And that is not an exaggeration.
 
 
On the sixteenth of April my friend Pat was visiting from the city for the weekend. It was her birthday. She was at a wok in the kitchen when Leo's car stopped out front and we heard a knock on the door. I opened the door. It was a woman in jeans and jacket wearing an old-timey bonnet, blond with blue eyes and black teeth. She put out her right hand and said, Hi, I'm Margie. By this time I'd heard so much about Margie she was a legend already, from Bill and his brothers. I about fell over backwards. This was the first time I'd seen her. They didn't say she had black teeth, but I heard about all the rest of her. She said Leo was waiting in the car. They had some vodka and some chaser and beer. Did we want to party? I said, Yeah. Margie went back to the car and they both returned toting the condiments, a guitar case and a banjo case. Pat turned off the stove and joined the party. We started off with some drinks, getting acquainted, where you from?, talked, laughed, Leo took out his guitar and started picking. Margie took out her banjo and sang, It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels. She had a harmonica, called here a harp. It was the only song she knew. She sang it over and over as the night went on and we got more shit-faced. It was her song. She loved it so much she didn't need any other songs. The song was her life. I never tired of hearing her sing it. I put a cassette on to record her singing it and let the tape go as she and Leo made music and we laughed and partied. Bill stopped by, seeing Leo's car, and went to town for more liquor. Pat was loving this spontaneous moment at least as much as I was. We were both in awe of what was happening before our eyes. It could not have happened if either she or I looked down on these people. Margie told us she'd learned to play the banjo in prison, harp too. Leo was an impressive guitar picker. I thought Margie's banjo pickin was beautiful. I loved her singing, the first my ears had beheld of hillbilly singing. She sang it from her soul. It was right. It was right like Big Mama Thornton singing Summertime and Nina Simone singing Porgy. I gave the hour and a half tape to Pat for her birthday present. She still has it.  
 
caterpillar
all photos by tj worthington
 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

REDIRECTING MY INNER GPS


tj worthington
 
The last couple days it has been in the front of my mind, a question posed to me by my friend Lee, who was wondering if the wave of high tech phones, twitter, etc, is behind the faster pace of our way of life now. My first inclination is to see these tech items an expression of the quickening pace in the economy, the world of work. The introduction of the computer increased the pace in the business world, which everybody is subject to by having jobs and debts that are a part of the economic pace. I can see these tech hi-speed items as side-effects, symptoms. Big business I suspect is the lead. I'm recalling that in a herd of cattle there is one cow all the others will follow and no other cow. This cow is used to lead the herd from one pasture to another. I feel like business (busy-ness) is the lead cow, the lead we follow. I recall in January of 07 all news sources told every day for two weeks that the cd was over, downloads are it from here on. I had a small business at the time selling cds of regional music. After two weeks of announcements on the news the cd was over, it was over. Those two weeks were the end of my business. I know the news now is the corporate news, what "they" want us to believe. The news, like everything on television and radio, is about money. Television advertising is so expensive only big corporations have a budget big enough to include it. It obviously works or they wouldn't be investing so much in advertising. It's because advertising works that I stay away from the television. The pace in tv programs and advertising is directly influential in the pace of the viewer. It tells the viewer over and over that money is the only. It's an American state of mind from a long time before television, in partnership with the adoration of ignorance, reinforcing what we already believe in our tradition. We already believe it, so we follow.
 
tj worthington
 
The benefit I see from television is it taking us into such a fake world that we become fake. It seems like there comes a time in living a fake life that the fake doesn't work anymore. I'm wondering if this is part of what we're going through in a collective transition from unconsciousness into at least some degree of consciousness. In my own life, late twenties to early thirties, I had been seeing myself too much in relation to the world around me. I saw that everything around me was fake, especially people being fake, pretending to be what they're not. I fell for it. If I want to get along in this world I have to adopt my own fake self. The fake self I took to myself was pathetic. To be acceptable. There came a time I saw I was not being successful and never would be successful. So I get a middle class job and position as reward for taking on a fake life and making it work for me. The time came I realized I had taken the fake path and didn't even do it right. For reasons I can't comprehend, a large number of people are able to live a fake life if it means more money. I could not give myself to a lifetime of keeping my soul in my back pocket like the way tv golfers wear a glove in the back pocket with the fingers hanging down outside the pocket for show. I was attempting to write poetry at the time, but going at it for the wrong reasons, knew it, but denial took care of that problem easily. After I came to the mountains intent on writing here, I became acquainted with a young American poet (YAP) of about my level. I was glad to meet another yap. He was so obnoxious, so fake, so full of shit his bucket overflowed, arrogant, regarded self the apex of existence. I saw myself in a mirror every time I saw him. This was what I was aiming for. This was my goal for myself. I saw myself so clearly it became like they say people on lsd see in a mirror.
 
tj worthington
 
I had fallen in with Meher Baba just a year before and my thinking was shifting away from the fake in myself. I came to the mountains to shed my fake self like a snake skin and start fresh. Second winter I became acquainted with this guy who was like a hologram of my own fake self. I made a resolution to myself that I would not attempt to write again until whatever it might be wrote itself. I shut off writing poetry because I saw I was not true. I was doing it for a certain kind of attention. Denial took care of seeing it in myself until I saw this hologram of self and freaked out. The mirror seen without denial. We don't deny as readily for others as for ourselves. I cut two paragraphs out of a National Geographic article, page randomly picked. I cut out each word from the paragraphs and put the words in two separate saucers, picked up words licking the tip of my finger, touching the pile and a word stuck. I put the word on a piece of paper making a poem-shaped string of words randomly picked up. Did it twice, made two poems. I typed them onto paper, put them in the yap's mail slot at work with a note saying, "These are my new poems, I wanted you to see them." Had a woman friend in California who was a poet. We wrote back and forth regularly for years. I wrote her about what I'd done and my decision. She wouldn't have any more to do with me. It made her mad. I thought, there wasn't much there if it was that easy to break. It's like after leaving a church when the people don't speak to you anymore. She was part of my fake life too. Not that she was fake, but my attraction to her was fake. I can't articulate it, because I can't put a finger on it, perhaps something like her role was enabling the fake me. That's awfully simplistic, but as close as I can get without resorting to the psychiatric couch. Nonetheless, I had committed with such resolve there was no turning around.
 
tj worthington
 
I've never regretted shifting direction. It was not the poetry I was abandoning, but my own fake self the poetry was attached to. Worked on the farm for seven years, liking manual labor work for the meditation in it. I believed the farm work would work off my anger, thinking it had to do with physical assertion. All the time I worked, my mind seethed with anger and I was at a loss for what was up. The physical exertion didn't make me less angry, it made me more angry. When I left the farm and took up house painting, the anger fell away from me, again, like a snake skin. It was gone. Evidently the labor put my anger up front and center to deal with it. Seven years I dealt with it, then poof, it was gone, not even gradually, but a snap of the fingers, now. Overnight. Woke up one day and the anger was gone. My own mental health was more important to me than being a yap. I'd made the turn, like shooting an arrow straight up. It goes as far as the momentum of its push, slows to a stop, turns and returns to the source, faster and faster. The move to the mountains was the turning point. I wanted to find my true self, needing distance from influences of habit in the city, playing the role. Wanted no social roles to play. I read Thoreau's Walden soon after arrival during the first winter. I romanticized it in the beginning that much. I felt like my real purpose in the mountains, my reason for needing the mountains was to develop my own inner resources. I was so tired of living among signs, noisy cars, ugly low-bid buildings everywhere, too many people too close together, too many styles and trends, too much that was devoid of value. Required to be superficial, I could not see living the rest of my life wearing a mask or maybe have hundreds of them like Dolly Parton has wigs. I fell in with the mountain people like jumping into a heated swimming pool. Trust and respect are important in the mountains and mountain people have learned city people can't be trusted, as a rule, and don't know anything about respect. I love being in a place where you're not trusted until somebody knows you thirty years. I'm comfortable with that.  
 
 
tj worthington hiself
photo by cheyanne
 
 
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Monday, June 23, 2014

DONKEY JENNY MEETS A NEW FRIEND

donkey jack and donkey jenny

I took my friend Judy to meet the donkeys today. We had some carrots. The donkeys were at the other end of the meadow. Jenny was closest when they both started walking. Jenny came walking ahead, Jack about twenty feet behind her. Jenny walked especially slow, even stopped, waiting for Jack to catch up. I noticed her slow walking right away, wondered if she might be waiting to let Jack overtake her and lead the way. Jack is Alpha now. It's his role to lead the way. Jenny waited for him. He passed her starting to run and she followed close behind. I called "Donkey Jack," and Jack came in a hurry. As usual, he slowed to a stop at about fifty feet away. That's the distance where he can see clearly facial features. He looked at me, then he took off running until about ten feet from me, and slowed to a rhythmic walk with a big smile on his face. I came out of a strange car Jack had never seen and had someone with me he'd never seen. I put my hand out for him to smell, to confirm for him I am I. My other hand gave him a carrot. Jenny came up and Judy gave her some carrot. Jenny's calm today was like I'd never seen before. She was quiet, didn't even get anxious when Jack was standing beside her. I was petting Jack and talking to him while Judy was feeding carrots to Jenny. I gave carrots to Jack. He turned his rear end to Jenny and I paid close attention. He's not an aggressor from jealousy. I felt like he was telling Jenny to stay back, the ice cream man is Jack's friend. Jack stepped over to Judy and Jenny came to me. I ran my fingers inside her long ears rubbing out what I suspect are ear mites of some sort, little granules like sand. I rub them out of her ears a few times a week. She likes having her ears rubbed.
 
jenny chews a carrot
 
Jenny has never been one to want my hands on her. She'd endure me scratching her forehead and the underside of her neck, but not for long. Since she fell in love with Jack about a month ago, she sometimes likes me to touch her. Today she was wanting me to touch her like never before. In fact, she asked me to put my arms around her neck. I draped my arms over her neck, not taking hold of her, not to take charge of her, just to let her feel my arms around her neck. She loved it. I was wondering if she'd buck me with her head to cut it out. She received my hands like she never had before. Her head is heavy. When she swings it at you, the best thing to do is get out of the way. She doesn't do that to me anymore. At one point she turned her head to face me and I put a hand on either cheek, rubbing her furry cheeks. She pressed her long face to my chest and belly, I rubbed her cheeks and told her I'm happy she's my donkey friend, I love her being my friend. I tell her she's a beautiful donkey. She let me know when it was enough. Caterpillar sometimes likes to press her face into the palm of my hand and for me to hold her head like a baseball for a three to five second meditation. She goes into a deep stillness. She loves it. She lets me know when she's done by just a gesture and I let go. If I hang on any longer, it makes her nervous. It's the same with Jenny. If I'd held her to me past her will, she'd have turned anxious in a hurry. Jenny fell into my hand rubbing the underside of her neck and between the jaw bones, her ears, her cheeks. She likes me to talk into her nostrils, just long enough for her to savor the scent of my breath. We humans do all we can to wash away and mask our scents with deodorant and mouthwash. Scent is not important to us humans except when it's objectionable. We are slow to get it that scent is still important to the four-leggeds.
 
caterpillar
 
 
I'm remembering the day Jenny was coming around to trust me and I was beginning to trust her. We were about equally apprehensive of each other until our trust was established. This day I was carrying hay into the meadow for them. I'd put down the last hay, Jenny came to me like she wanted to smell me. Before this day I'd have been apprehensive she wanted to bite me, and she might have. I could see she wanted to smell me. I stopped, let my arms hang straight down, relaxed and let her have her way. She sniffed me from top of head to feet all over the front. She moved around behind me and smelled me from feet to head, taking her time. I wasn't sure about her being behind me unguarded. I was somewhat apprehensive she'd bite. She was still in her rampageous time. I decided to trust her completely, relax into it, show no lack of trust with her behind me. She meant no harm. She appreciated that I stood still and let her smell. I trusted her after this experience like never before and her trust in me rose considerably. It was a break-through moment for us. By now, I trust her behind me and she trusts me behind her. I feel as free to be relaxed behind Jenny now as Jack. I took Judy in among them with no concern for her safety. By now I know Jenny's affection for women. Sisterhood. Jenny was gentle with Judy, even with Jack standing so close they touched. Even when Jack turned his rear end to her telling her to stay back from me, Jenny acted like she didn't notice. Her attention was focused on Judy. The donkeys started moving about when they'd had enough hands-on. We took the clue and walked to the gate with donkeys all around us. I unfastened the chain  to open the gate and Jenny bumped Judy with her nose right between the legs in front. Judy jumped and Jenny laughed. I felt like Jenny was saying, Glad to meet you, sister.  
 
donkey shrooms
 
I see Jenny out the window standing next to the gate, her chin over the fence, resting on the top wire. It's a "woven-wire" fence, not barbed wire. It had some barbed wire too, but I took it off for the donkeys. They don't need barbed wire. All the other fence around the meadow is barbed wire, but this stretch of about thirty feet is barbed wire free. Jenny stands like she's having quiet time. Jack is inside their shed. He likes it in there. It's cool in the heat and he can see the entire meadow. If I were to go out there to speak to Jenny, Jack would come walking out of the shed. Jenny is enjoying the peace of Jack no being obsessed with her. It feels good to her to have a moment to herself, standing in the shade of a big maple tree. She's at home. Jenny's gentle nature is still new to me. Since she fell in love with Jack and turned Alpha over to him, she can relax into her life with her man who no longer needs to be jumping on her back so much. He chases her down only a couple times a day now. It used to be all day every day. Jack came walking up to her, she stepped aside and he rubbed the side of his face on the fencepost. Jenny walked out to the meadow to graze. Jack followed. I will take Judy into the meadow tomorrow, too. I know already Jenny will be happy to see her again. I wonder how much having Judy with me caused Jenny to give herself so fully to being touched. I'm still not quite accustomed to Jenny wanting to be touched. I have to note, too, that Jenny fell in love with me when she fell in love with Jack. It was the six months that it takes for grief to subside and at the same time get used to her new life. She has relaxed with me considerably. She has fully accepted her life with Jack to the place it's Jack she wants to be with. Jenny is apprehensive of men, which tells me I have come a very long way gaining her trust. I didn't think to take the camera, glad I didn't. It would have only been in the way. I believe a camera would have acted as a stiff-arm in so intimate a moment.  
jack and jenny
 
 
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

CONTROL ISSUES

william blake

Today is race day. I'd like to see it, but this weekend my friends from Georgia are here and I feel like I'd rather spend time with them than the television this weekend. This will be the best race there ever was. Whenever I miss something, it was the best ever.  In my church going time of my own volition, every time I'd miss a meeting, I'd be told later I should a-been there, it was the best meeting there ever was. It was so consistent, it wasn't but the second time that I realized the statement was more about me not being there than the thrill of the preaching. The preaching was the same as usual. It's just an opportunity to make me feel guilt, a control device. Preacher told me it was my duty to go to church every meeting. I told him it was not my duty, clarifying, "I don't do duty." I'm s'posed to. No I'm not. It was the same as with my mother and with a three-year old: Is-is not-is-is not-is-is not, until somebody hollers, Stop it! I was a little too old and a little to independent-minded to be treated like I was ten. I finally had to leave the church over control. The preacher had a belief that the church house, itself, was God, and he, himself, was God's law enforcement officer. Another preacher had come in to replace Preacher Pruitt, and this old boy couldn't even "try to talk." The preaching was graded such that a preacher who really preached in the old-time way gasping for breath; preaching from the spirit was said to be "preaching." The ones who don't connect with the spirit and act like they do, it's said they're "trying to preach." When it's just talking and there's no spirit or "preaching" in it, it's called "talking." It was said of the ones like this old boy who replaced Millard Pruitt, he "tried to talk." I couldn't listen to it. I'd heard he said of his wife years before from the pulpit that she needed about ten inches cut off the end of her tongue. It meant she was a "long-tongued" woman, a gossiper, a woman who talked too much in his estimation. She divorced him. I looked at him as somebody who mistook big ego for the call to preach.
 
william blake
 
I felt I needed to be straight-forward and not hide my reasonings. I had to tell Preacher Pruitt I couldn't go to the church anymore for being unable to go out the door, drive for 25 minutes, listen to nonsense, turn around and drive for 25 minutes, walk in the door exhausted, day shot. I was told I could not stop going. I was bound by my duty to go every time because I'm a member. I was not given a choice or a consideration. Left to myself, I chose to withdraw my membership. I was told point blank that it is his responsibility to control me because I'm a member of his church. Easily solved. It tore everybody up, all half dozen of them, that I left. They asked if I was mad. No, I wasn't mad. Nobody takes control of my life without my permission. He knew that. I'd told him. But, my point of view meant nothing. Only his word had conviction, because God was behind him, not me. Whatever. God commanded you.... No he didn't. It's your duty. No it's not. He'd never known anybody who would stand up to a preacher like I did. I didn't want to, but he left me no options. I'd made it clear over several years of knowing him that nobody controls me without my permission. He had never asked permission and I'd never volunteered it. As I saw it, he was out of order. He saw me out of order; I said no to God's authority. I did not take him for authority. That's where our differences lay. His ego had him sitting on the right hand of God. His pronouncements were God's. I'm not exaggerating. It wasn't just him. It was the tradition. He liked his role for the authority in it. I have a fair idea of the difference between ego and the spirit. It's a big difference, not at all subtle. He'd never been around anybody who took him for just a man, instead of an authority, as he saw himself. He made it clear I could not leave the church and continue to know him. Ok.
 
william blake
 
He didn't want me around so I didn't go around. A couple years later he called me one day and asked me to come see him. I went, we had a good visit like usual, but he used it to drive home to me his authority is not something I can say no to. It's the same as a commandment from God. Its God's will. Ok. Whatever. Never went back. Nobody from the church would have anything to do with me. I'd see some in the grocery store and they'd look the other way. I'd think: Great, judgmental Christian, if that's how you are, I don't want to talk to you either; thanks for saving me the bother. I heard he was in the hospital and went to see him a few times. His wife and daughter in the hospital room made it clear without saying it I was not welcome, so I didn't go back. I saw daughter in post office and her nose went straight up. Saw wife in grocery store and her nose went straight up. He died and nobody let me know. The obituary always shows up in the paper after the funeral, and I didn't even see the obituary. I've never been to his grave. I've been to his brother Tom's in the same cemetery, but never took the few steps to stand at Millard's grave for a short spell. It wasn't a matter of purpose. I just didn't realize it until several years later when I noticed I'd never been to Millard's grave. And still have not. I don't feel compelled in any way to go. I go to Jr Maxwell's grave once a year, not because I believe the corpse has any meaning. It's more to be with the headstone, all that's left, a record of a memory. Fifty years from now, no one will remember who that was. It will be like when I walk through the cemetery seeing names of people on tombstones I never heard of. Junior periodically had a need to visit his mother and dad's graves. In his last years when he was unable to drive, he asked me to drive him around to the two cemeteries that would be in sight of each other but for trees. First we went to his dad's grave in Liberty Church's graveyard. I went with him to see the grave. The old man's tombstone was a rectangular block of polished black marble with no words, no numbers, nothing but the beauty in the stone. It stood on a small foundation, and in the foundation was Maxwell spelled in raised letters covered by the grass. I thought: there is the tombstone of a man of constant sorrow. His oldest boy had killed himself in middle fifties and made a terrible mess of things in the process, un crime passionnel. He wrecked the family name in the county.

william blake

Junior's mother's grave is in her family cemetery, the Whitehead Joineses. At both graves, Junior walked up to the grave, looked at the headstone, turned and walked back to the car. He saw no need to linger. Seeing the tombstone was his reason for going, paying his respects. Once he saw it, that was it. His brevity caught my attention. Twice I took him around to the graves; saw him do the same both times. I thought: this fits Junior's character like a latex glove. I see no importance in visiting a grave but for self, a memory. I find I'd rather remember my friends some other way besides a tombstone. I tend to see a mummified corpse just a couple feet below the grass. I don't like to walk on graves for its creepiness factor. My mind's eye sees rows and rows of mummified corpses, and their relatives believing something is important about it, leaving plastic flowers. I don't want to end up a mummy in a vault beneath a lawn people walk on and nobody puts plastic flowers on. I want to do better than that for my mortal frame. Not that it matters to me, one way or the other, except it's just plain gross to have my bag of shit mummified in a vault for however many centuries until even the steel casket and vault have returned to dust. I want cremation and the ashes (ground bone) strewn on the forest floor. Talking with Junior one day about such matters, I said, "I want to be fertilizer." He said, "Y'already are." I don't want a tombstone. The death record in the Register of Deeds tells everything a tombstone can. I don't have anything cool to put on a tombstone. Yeats did it the best. On his, it's carved in stone, Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman pass by. I've seen a few clever quips on tombstones, clever the first time you see them. What Yeats had to say has some power in it with meaning every time I see it or think it. I feel like it's of relative importance to leave a record for genealogists of the future, which is taken care of by the county. I want soul completely free from body, nothing left for soul to cling to if it turns sentimental and wants to stay with a corpse and be a ghost suspended between above and below. I don't want to do that. I want to see what's next too much to risk lingering over wanting to see my baby friend Vada grow up. If I want to badly enough, I might return as her baby brother for the opportunity to sit with her in the back seat of the car, be picked on and adored by older sisters.

william blake
 
 
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Saturday, June 21, 2014

A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE

 
abe rattner
 
Summer is upon us. White daisies speckle the meadows in full flower. The hay fields are ready for the first cutting of the season. The hay I fed the donkeys through the winter came from last year's third cutting, and it was still good hay. It's a happy time for the donkeys, pleasantly warm days, flies not too bad a nuisance, switching tails and flopping ears. Their winter hair is falling away a little more every day. Their summer hair is so much shorter than winter hair I wondered if they might be getting some skin disease that was making their hair fall out. The patches of short hair are growing bigger and the long hair gradually falls away. I brushed Jack once when he was new here. I was thinking brushing them was a s'posed-to grooming aid. Jack let me brush him. He didn't like it. He walked away when I finished brushing him, lay down on his dust circle and wallowed on his back, wallered as it's said in the mountains. I realized the dust was important to him. It keeps parasites down. I've not brushed him since, and never have brushed Jenny. I want them to live their donkeyness as fully as possible outside a herd in the North African arid regions. Nobody brushes them in the wild. The western US and down through Central and South America herds of wild donkeys live outside human control. I want my donkeys to be as free as a wild donkey, though safely contained inside a fence and gentle with people. I'm learning they like the fence. The acre they're in is theirs. It is all theirs. It is their territory. Nothing goes in there but humans I invite. The dogs and coyotes have learned to stay out. The donkeys patrol the fence. They see a dog walking down the road, they walk along inside the fence beside the dog, reminding its every step to stay out of their meadow.

abe rattner

Donkey Jen has come back from a couple of pensive days after seeing her friend from seven months ago. Next day she was somewhat pensive, somewhat distant, though so subtly only I could see it. It was in her eyes and her stillness. Day after that she was back to her usual self. I questioned the good sense of the meeting for seeing how it hurt Jenny's heart. I thought we want the ones we love to have a freely flowing life without pain, but that's not the nature of this world. Pain is part of it. I heard today of somebody I knew in his school years who is grown with kids, was in a bad car wreck and has a foot messed up for life, crippled by it. His mother told me about it. I think about how it bothered me that Jenny might be feeling pain in the heart, and saw my friend Rose telling about her boy, knowing she really does not like it. It wasn't just somebody telling about a car wreck and what she heard. She was talking about her boy, the love of her life, crippled now. I didn't know what to say. I was deeply moved. I thought of my friend Justin one day when we were talking about how we see this life spiritually. He said, All I can see is shit happens. That's it. Shit happens. You pick yourself up and go on. He has good experience picking himself up and going on. I told him when he was seventeen that he had about five years of mayhem ahead of him. I didn't know what he was going to do or anything, but I asked one thing of him, that he survive it. It's what happens to boys and girls whose home life amounted to hitting and berating every day relentlessly, held on a short leash so short it was more a hand gripping a collar. When kids like that bust loose, they can't do anything but run wide open for about five years. I did my time. Justin went so far off the deep end I was apprehensive of him coming to the house, knowing the law was watching him. He came through. He came out of his wild-thang time whole and well educated by it. He regrets he didn't go to college, though I feel like he had a better education outside college. I believe real education is self-knowledge. Justin learned himself in those five years. He learned that he can pick himself up and carry on.
 
abe rattner
 
His reduction of a few thousand years of philosophy to shit happens struck me at first simplistic, but it took only half a second's examination to say, I can't refute that. It seemed to me a good summary. I'm not about directing his spiritual life, but if I were, I'd have to say, Well done. This was a few years ago, and unto today I've not been able to see anything I'd add to or take away from it. Sure, there is more to it, but that's for later. We start somewhere or we don't start at all. I felt like Justin had paid closer attention to his inner self than I knew. It gave me a good measure of Justin's intelligence. He means that he does not believe God is about directing his life, that he, himself, is about directing his life. It's his responsibility to manage his own affairs. The nature of his life is his own making; therefore, it's his to direct as he will and is able. Something doesn't go the way you like it, he's not going to ask if God disapproves of him, or if it's bad karma. I see an image of a cartoon from years and years ago of a big hand sticking out of a cloud with finger pointing at a little man on the ground. It said: You piss me off. Justin doesn't buy that God. Something happens he'd prefer didn't happen: shit happens. He's not one to go about saying, the Lord blessed me, or anything like that. It's an interior concern, not a device to draw attention to yourself. I deeply appreciate this in Justin. I don't know where he got it. He might say it came from me. I am pretty much an open anti-religionist, and Justin probably knows it better than anybody. I don't see God in religion any more than I see God in Exxon. Only in that God is everywhere, is everything and nothing, the yin and the yang, the light and the dark. One day last summer in Justin's mancave after several games of darts, we were sitting, smoking cigarettes, and he asked what God wanted of us. That one rocked me. Tall order. First thing in mind was I cannot give this anything less than what I really see and went inward for a spell. I saw 7 billion lives on the earth, each with his/her own place and role. God loves them all and forgives  them all, intimately, individually. Unconditionally. Not just the deserving, whatever that means. God doesn't care what kind of work we do, how we live our lives. God only cares about the heart. The answer I came back with: To live our lives. I actually had never entertained that question. It was my first time to look at it. I may not have had the definitive answer, but I could only speak from my own experience. I was the one asked, so I had to answer from my own vision, not quote scripture or browbeat him about salvation.
 
abe rattner
 
I am a rogue in the department of religionism. The spiritual path is for people who want it for themselves of their own volition. It's not something you recruit somebody to or convince them about. It's my own. Justin sees it. I never talk about it unless he wants to. I never talk about it to anybody but my friend Carole I talk with daily, who knows me inside out, better than anybody, and I know her about the same. The spiritual path is a one lane path, a narrow way we walk alone. It is in the heart, the very core of being, the soul. He wants in this lifetime to have a family and an opportunity to be what he vowed he would be all through his childhood, a good daddy. He doesn't want to be a rock star or prove himself in a public way. He wants to be a good daddy. It's his highest goal. Who can say God would recommend something else? God doesn't care that he has a short temper and never reads books. That's his. I rate Justin among the best hearted people I know. Again, it's not something he shows. He's not somebody to value being a good person. He knows if you get in his face and start cussing him, you're going to see by first-hand experience he's not a good person. He's a major asshole from hell when his fist connects with your face and you're laying on the ground looking up at him. He knows his heart is with the light. He doesn't need to prove it to anybody. Nobody sees it, he doesn't care. It's none of their business. It's nobody's business how much he loves his babies, but theirs. I find that remarkable in Justin's character as a man. I didn't know it then, but see it now that he was like this all the way along from baby onward. One day he said to me, You've known me in every age of my life and I've only known you with white hair living where you live. That one sent me rolling like a hula-hoop across the lawn. A little over a year ago, a man I know felt a need to tell me everything that was wrong with Justin. He didn't exaggerate and he didn't make anything up. He was getting wound up and I had to say, Before you go too far, I need to tell you Justin is the same as my own. He took back every word he said and I never saw him again. I don't care what he thinks of Justin. Everything he said was so, but I don't care. I understand how Justin got short-tempered and so forth, and I know he is spending his life untying his interior knots. I'm here to help him, not to advise him to walk some arbitrary imaginary line because somebody doesn't like him.
 
abe rattner himself
 
 
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

GRUMPY OLD BASTARD WAKES UP

romare bearden

This morning waking around 7, I turned over to go back to sleep. Lying there waiting for unconsciousness to take me away, my mind went to grumbling. I'd switch channels, think about something else, the grumbling continued. The gripe that ran from one concern to the next was seeing so much hate boiling throughout the country. Remembering in childhood what we used to call American individualism, gone now, given over to you're right or you're wrong. We've gone from individualism to a rage for sameness, from attempting to understand to zero-tolerance. It used to be important to "let your conscience be your guide." In today's world going by one's conscience is a direct line to prison. Cops used to just kill poor black people and say, he had a gun. Now they're killing poor white people too. "You're wrong," is something spoken freely now like it's good grammar. It wasn't long ago that saying, "you're wrong," was rudeness its very self, though it's how we talk now, meaning my opinion is valid, yours is not. I can't give over to it. I'm still locked down in individualism, rights of the individual to be cool or a geek, following conscience and allowing others their individual rights. It's like everyday life has become a true-and-false test. You're either right or wrong. Too, sameness has been every bit as much an American passion as individualism, two sides of the same coin. The time of individualism was in what I call the Acoustic Age, before electricity. In this time when all traditions are breaking down, evidently American individualism and reverence for conscience had to go as well. Historians will have a ball deciphering this time when, as usual, the politicians can only be counted on to lie to us, and the press is corporate-controlled propaganda telling us even bigger lies than the politicians.
 
 
I'd turn again, switching channels, telling self I pay too much attention to a world I have absolutely no say in; what I think and feel is of zero consequence. Vote? The Supreme Court put an end to belief in the validity of voting. The general falseness in human society, civilization, pulled me into resentment, wanting to do something about it. What? Cry? Growing up being taught in school and believing the individual is an important entity, it's hard to see the individual reduced to a marketing target and a product in one. I tell myself over and over, let it go. Some months ago I turned my back to news about politicians and started paying attention to the news among people. Killings. I see fascist-minded teabaggers strutting about, AKs slung over their shoulders, making noise about Constitutional rights, confronting cops and intimidating people around them. If they'd been black, the news would have been about the cops killing them, not just one or two cops, but an army of cops. When it's white boys: Zup bro? Seeing the hate in racism that has been hunkering down out of sight come to the surface, it's like seeing a volcano spewing steam just before it blows. This is the part that concerns me most. As for the people involved, I say let them do what they gotta do. They're the guys I avoided in school, bullies and the jerks that hung around with bullies. Morons is what I thought of them then, and I was not an A student. Didn't take much to see it. I don't like to use the word anymore, like idiot or stupid. When it comes to invalid sweeping generalizations, it's the apex of egoism to say such of another. Other people use the words, I don't care. The restriction is only for myself by way of my own reasonings that are not necessarily somebody else's.
 
 
I lay in the bed thinking, What are you doing to yourself? Paying attention to the swirling shit in a wastewater treatment plant. I was seeing my mind occupied with what's wrong, injustices, hate, killing, racism, and in one word, the false. From channel to channel I found resentments, judgments, dislikes aplenty. I started to see it was my own resentments and judgments that drew me to these pie slices of the news. I was drawing these details into my mind the way iron filings fly to a magnet. The theme went on relentlessly until I started getting it that I am bringing myself down. That somebody killed somebody in a Waffle House is over and done. Me thinking about it isn't going to do anything but mess up my mind with details so not relevant to my life they're only distraction. I hate it for a suburban American college student pepper-sprayed in the face by a cop for wanting a better world where this doesn't happen. But it's something every day. I find that caring for all the mournful causes around the globe and people being mean to each other takes me into my own dark side and holds me there in resentments, aggravation, disgust, suppressed rage: drama for drama's sake, something to do when there's nothing to do. I see movies and read to entertain my light side, and pay attention to news to entertain my dark side. I can call that balance, but it's out of balance. It appears the static of the distractions rules in my mind. I think of listening to the Charlotte FM station, 90.7, driving on the Parkway. When I pass a wall of mountain on the south side of the road, the Charlotte station is gone and a station from Blacksburg, Virginia, comes in with static. When the south side of the road opens again, the Charlotte station comes back, sometimes with the Blacksburg station in the static background. Both stations carry the whole range of static along the stretch north of here for several miles. I saw my mind this morning divided between two stations, neither one coming in well.
 
 
I turned over again wanting to stop that thinking and it wouldn't end. I thought, meditate or something, focus on empty mind, see one thing  and stay with it. I saw Jenny and Jack and the meadow glowing in sunlight. I felt love well up from heart into mind and flush it clean. Tears of joy welled up in my eyes. I let the donkeys stay in my mind for awhile and felt my heart glowing with a feeling similar to how it felt seeing Mongolian landscape and the people. It was love. I caught on that my innermost self has a love for Mongolia I was not consciously aware of, except for a deep longing when I see or hear of Mongolia. Eighties band Devo comes to mind: Mongoloid, he was a Mongoloid. Seeing Jenny's face draped over the fence chewing carrot got me going. I said, It's time to get up. I'm not going to lay here and cry over donkeys. Get up and go see them, rub their ears, enjoy them. I stepped into my shoes, went to the kitchen, filled a couple of cups with bird seed, took four carrots from the refrigerator and went out the door. The donkeys were standing at the gate looking at me. I said, "Hey, Donkey Jen. Hey, Donkey Jack." They watched me go to the two birdfeeders. When I started toward them, both went to squealing like they do going into a bray, Jenny with her head over the fence and Jack pacing back and forth with his head down. My heart welled up and I felt a wave of tremendous happiness handing each one a chunk of carrot. I talked to them like usual. Jack likes for me to call him friend. Jenny likes it when I call her beautiful donkey. They understand. I told myself if I can turn down the electro-magnetic attraction to the false, to that which has no bearing on my life in any way except to wreck my mind, it would really be to my benefit. Don't have to do it all at once. Just turn it down and keep on turning it down. Withdraw further from that mind. What's left when it goes? Love, a meadow in sunlight.
 
jack and jenny
 
 
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