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Monday, June 29, 2015

TALK ABOUT THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

milton avery

Media interest in pointing the finger of blame at the South over racism has become uber-tiresome. The southwestern quadrant of USA is at least as racist as the southeastern; so is the northwestern and the northeastern. To solve a deep-running issue, NY and LA media want to rid-a-flag they've defined racist. Suppress one, another pops up. In the Soviet time, religion was suppressed. As soon as the Soviet system went away, religion came back. American media is engaged in another frenzy of make-a-law-against. We're so overrun with laws against, we're about painted into a corner. Already, any one of us can be arrested at any moment for something we're doing or have done or conspiracy. Example: the word nigger has been suppressed for the last half century. The working class uses it freely, as does the ruling class. It is only the white middle class that says, "the enword," or uses asterisks between obvious letters. F*t is the same as spelling fat. Saying enword and using asterisks is an act of denial that denies nothing. It's being nice, denying it while saying it. Like it was ok to say shit in front of mommy if I quoted somebody else saying it.

milton avery

I don't mean to be going on like I'm serious about the matter. The flag is too complicated an issue to limit to right or wrong, true or false. Like everything in this phenomenal world we call living, too much is interwoven, experience, thought, beliefs, to call anything or anybody one thing or another. I don't like the way somebody who got drunk and did something stupid that lasted maybe three seconds is called a criminal. I also don't like the way people who have served their time are treated and watched as criminals after their time is served. This is getting into things I have a problem with that I can't do anything about, but I don't have to be that way in my own behavior. Ex-cons I've met along the way, I regard with the same respect as anyone else, with a bit more respect for what they have been through in what I consider an unjust legal system, especially if you're black or any version of non-white, colored, or poor white. Again, nothing I can do about it. I fall back on my boycott of one. Today, I set out to buy a watermelon, wanting to paint one again. I chose to buy it at a roadside stand instead of Food Lion. I can't see giving my five dollars to a corporation that underpays its employees and treats them like shit when I can give somebody an assist who goes into the field early in the morning and selects the produce herself. 

milton avery

I stopped by the welding shop on the way home to visit with Ross and Harry. Milly, Ross's sister, stopped by for a bit and we had a good time sitting and standing in a circle, smoking cigarettes, laughing like the bunch of rednecks we are. These are people I feel at-home free with. We're so close in the heart, I'm about the same as a Richardson. I'm natured a lot like one. Milly and I have been at each other's throats almost with knives, Ross and I have too, and they're my friends I can count on for backup if needed unto the grave. It runs both ways. The subject of the flag came up and we had different thoughts and passions on the matter. Harry most of all. Harry is a retired Army lifer. He said the Confederate flag is treasonous, they fought against the American Army. He called it "you-guys' flag." I said the Civil War was a Yankee invasion. The South defended homeland. Ross said he knows what the flag means. It don't make no differ'nce to him. Milly, the Civil War buff, went off on Yankees and we laughed quite a lot. Except Harry, who identifies Southern, but not with any glorification of the Civil War. It was the Richardson in the rest of us that got us wound up about the South the homeland. 

milton avery

Yesterday, watching the race, Justin told me he was out of sorts with Dale Earnhardt Jr, his favorite driver, for coming out and making a statement that Nascar shouldn't have anything to do with the Confederate flag. I hated to see him so disappointed by a guy he looks up to so personally, like an older brother. He likes Jr's character. I told him Jr is not his own man. I said every time you see him in a commercial, he gets at least hundreds of dollars per showing. He was told by Nascar and corporate sponsors this is what he will do. To say no would cost him hundreds of thousands, millions, maybe his career. I pointed out that television is about money not ethics. Jr is in that world of high-paid celebrities. Once you cross the line into celebrity, your life is no longer your own, you're a product, your name a logo. I wanted to remind him this is a show, this is not real. I knew he knew, just forgot it in a moment of passion. This just a pie-slice of my friends. Very few of them would repeat any other. One can give a hundred reasons for, and another a hundred reasons against, every one of the two hundred reasons valid from some point of view. 

milton avery

The only thing I can see coming of this banning of the flag is a new item in the inventory of underground collectables, flea markets loaded with inflated Confederate flag items, if you know who to ask. Suppression never works and the ones doing the suppressing never get it. We'll have roadside stands selling velvet wall hangings of the flag, tshirts, belt buckles, an infinity of possibilities, just like now. My solution: deal with racism up front and let interest in the flag fade away as it will when nobody cares anymore. I feel like it is healthy for collective American culture to face up to racism as our way of life. Everyone knows it, everyone lives it. We act like we never heard of it. Our racism is rooted deep in our American denial. Which came first, denial or racism? Something like this needs to be brought into awareness collectively, as it does individually, before any real work can be done toward untying the knots of habit patterns that go all the way back to the beginning. It's looking like the Charleston church slayings have brought awareness of pervasive racism in white rule to the surface. If we don't get past blaming the flag, it will have been for naught. I can't imagine television allowing awareness of racism in the white American heart to go beyond blame and punishment, especially not unto self-awareness. 

milton avery


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Sunday, June 28, 2015

REMEMBERING UNCLE MILTON

edward hopper

I saw the date just now, shocked to see it the end of June. Last I recall was coming to terms with it being the middle of June, and before that, the first of June. It's like looking at the moon one night seeing a crescent. A couple weeks later, what seems like next night, I look at the moon and it's full. And sometimes it feels like every other day is Friday. I've gone into the zone where I have to ask the date every time I write a check at the grocery store or hardware store. One day bleeds into the next. Took a nap at six this evening, woke at 8 thinking it morning. The light was the same as 8 in the morning. I was thinking this is Sunday, will go see the race later. Got up, thinking about taking carrots to the donkeys, and realized, stepping into shoes, it's night, not morning. Groggy, boiling water for some tea, the phone rang. It was mother. I sounded like something out of a Rob Zombie nightmare. Sipped a cup of tea while we talked and gradually was able to talk without sounding like a giant clam blowing bubbles from the bottom of the ocean.

edward hopper

She was shocked by a picture she saw of me on facebook, white hair and white face hair. She said I looked like her grandfather Forster. I had a feeling she would say somebody on the Forster side. She said I even look like her uncle Milton, her mother's brother. I knew Milton in early childhood. It was uncle Milton who told me when I was 4 that if he ever heard of me sucking my thumb again, he'd take a butcher knife and chop it off. He added my mother would tell him. I knew she would. I was boxed. Nothing to do but stop. I was afraid of uncle Milton and crazy about him too. He was good to kids and cut up to make kids laugh. He had a belly, smoked a big cigar, talked gruff, and I knew he meant business. When uncle Milton spoke, the ground shook. This is from a child's point of view. From an adult point of view, he was a good natured man madly in love with his wife, Pearl, and she was in love with her man. They were regulars at Tony's bar nearby. To the kid, hanging out at Tony's gave them the golden glow of really neat people. 

edward hopper

Grandpa, Milton's brother-in-law, took me into Tony's a few times, gave me a coke. We sat at the bar. The bartender's name was Tony. It was one of the last neighborhood bars, at 39th and State Line, Kansas City, if I remember correctly, which I don't. It was just over the state line so people from the Kansas side of the line could have beer there easily. It was like an Edward Hopper painting with a golden light in my visual memory. I was Jim Brink's grandson. Everybody was friendly to the kid. Tony's is one of my favorite moments in early childhood memories. The mystery place grandpa and grandma went. They would have been in early forties. I don't have much recollection of Milton's facial features. I remember dark hair, cigar, a WC Fields nose. I'd recognize a photograph of him from that time, but can't call up an image without an assist. I can see him in my mind's eye, but features blurry. I don't recall ever seeing a photo of great grandpa Milton Forster. Uncle Milton was a junior. I had a feeling I'd favor someone from the Forster side. My feeling is my soul connection was with mother. 

edward hopper

Great grandpa Forster, a man I know next to nothing about, has my respect for one thing I know of. My mother's mother was born in a covered wagon, birth certificate at American Falls, Idaho. He had a wagon with kids, a pregnant wife, traveling those long prairie trails and Rocky Mountain passes. Somehow or other they made it back to Garden City, Missouri, just south of Kansas City, where grandmother grew up. Grandmother worked as a waitress and grandpa worked on a golf course making good money as a caddy and later groundskeeper. Grandpa's mother and dad were German immigrants. My feeling is they met on the boat from a German port on the Baltic to New Orleans, a long ride. They took a boat up the Mississippi to the Missouri to the Kansas City area, a stockyard. Jesse James territory and time. Grandpa told me once he grew up in a gang. I thought he meant hanging out with the boys. No, he meant a gang. He and his older brothers were German. They were rough. Probably a gang of German immigrant kids bonding together for protection from the Irish gangs, Mexican gangs, the children of the people who worked the stockyards. They scared the hell outta me the kid. Their grandkids my age scared me too. I might see what I can uncover about great grandpa Forster. 

edward hopper himself


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Saturday, June 27, 2015

GAY DAY FOR EQUAL JUSTICE



It strikes me strange in the Xtreme for the Supremes to go with Obamacare and gay marriage. It's strange from a court that predictably sides with corporate interest against the good of the citizen. I can see that Obamacare benefits insurance corporations, which helps me understand the court ruling with it. I don't see any corporate benefit for gay marriage, but PR, so I'm a bit slow coming to terms with how the decision happened as it did. I learned it was Kennedy who swung away from the Reaganistas. I read his paragraph about marriage, held up by a talking head as poetry, found it rational mixed with sentiment. It only took one of them to make the difference. The court was divided between the republicans and democrats, and Kennedy abandoned the republican ranks. The Supremes have lost so much credibility with me, it will take more than two decisions to convince me they deserve credit for anything but one man's mistake. The women have my full appreciation. The men are all intellectual feather-weights compared to the women. In fact, it doesn't feel right attaching the word intellectual to Thomas, Alito, Scalia and Roberts. It makes an oxymoron to connect one of the four names with the word intellectual. They render the word meaningless. They bring up in me the question, how did they make it through law school?



It is a new day, any way you look at it. The gay marriage decision was one step closer to the American ideal, unity in diversity, equal justice for all. It's been on hold since the time of the Reagan Trojan horse that brought us Cheney, Rummy, Wolfowitz, the Bushes, and a crowded pen of others. We now have legions of white middle class women celebrating with gay couples over getting married. The other side of the coin,we have the working class, and so-called Christians hating everything about it. Representatives from different states are saying they won't allow gay marriages in their states, and won't have Obamacare either. It is the right's turn to gulp down a decision by the Supremes not to their liking. The Supremes gave us Bush-Cheney-Rummy-Rice, over-riding democracy for the billionaires that positioned them. Bobby Jindal called the Supremes yesterday, "completely out of control." That the congress has a few republicans breaking ranks, and now the Supremes have one, it's telling me the Reagan Revolution has wound itself down. It had no substance in the beginning and wound down from there. My favorite Reagan quotation, "Facts are stupid things." 



The republicans have declared Sarah Palin irrelevant. Took them awhile to get it. Rush Limbaugh's syndication is going away from him. Roger Ailes of the Fake News channel is on his way out.  A fun image popped up in my head, Ailes as Jabba the Hutt, Ann Coulter Princess Leia on a chain leash, and nobody comes to rescue her. America's forty-year pendulum swing to the right is slowing to a halt, and it's not due to resistance. A fundamentalist preacher somewhere in America promised he'd set himself on fire if the Supremes passed gay marriage. He's had several offers in facebook to give him matches and lighters, gasoline, anything he needs. My next door neighbors, Allan and Gary, were married at the coffee shop in Sparta a few months ago. There, too, the white middle-class women were ecstatic. These are the women in our midst. For all the American disdain for education, it still means something. I can't help but think that when the women in our society take to something with the enthusiasm given gay marriage, there must be something to it. 



In my own way of seeing, gay marriage makes sense, and tells me the society is taming somewhat, tuning itself to the obvious. I saw a cartoon that said, more weddings, more cakes. I am not a proponent of marriage of any sort. This is my own personal thang. It was around age 8 the kid already had a good case made for a solitary life, which became the kid's intent. Example of parents was not one to model self after. A silent battle raging between them all the time, tension in the house so dense it hit like a hammer stepping in the door, like Florida heat stepping out of an air-conditioned car. I did marriage for s'posed-to, and jumped out like the frog dropped in hot water. I realized I cannot live the rest of my life playing unacknowledged emotional mind games. I was the cause of the separation. I was the cause of everything. I saw the psychology I'd wedded myself to, understood my own better, and ran for my life. It was totally selfish. I could not live with a control harridan. I saw a lifetime of misery and said to self, this is not what I'm here for. Let her find somebody who wants her misery. I've been happily unmarried ever since. Understanding the popular zeal for marriage is out of my reach. 




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Thursday, June 25, 2015

CONFEDERATE FLAG THE NEW COLLECTABLE


The  public argument around the Confederate battle flag tells me more about the public than the flag. We have people defining what it means, both literally and symbolically. I've learned more about the Confederate flag this week than I ever wanted to know. Jon Stewart continues to make me want to tell him to shut his Yankee mouth. He fails to notice the North invaded the South, not the other way around. Of course, it can be said the South fired the first shot at Ft Sumter. Another Tonkin Gulf story. "He had a gun." My argument with Stewart has to do with him characterizing the South the invader. He doesn't say it, but talks as-if. I tire of his sweep of the hand dismissal of the South and Southerners like his dismissal of the white woman who wanted to be black. He lost credibility for me over his cheap shots at her from his perspective of self-righteous conformity to the social code of the moment calling himself liberal. He's most self-righteous on the subject of racism, quick to point and judge, just like the rest of us. The South is the same to him as a cartoon figure. 



I've lived in the South throughout my adult life. The South I know from the inside is very different from the South Stewart thinks he knows from outside---New York, of all places to point the finger from. I'd like to see him go on about police brutality on black and poor people by NYPD to the same extent he's made fake issues of the South. Of course, he's put himself forward as the model non-racist. He's not the model non-misogynist, but he keeps that under the desk. My argument is not so much with Stewart as with taking such an absolute stance on a matter that goes deeper than good and bad. And I'm not going to be a racism apologist. I grew up in a racist family, near and extended, went to racist church and racist school, outside the South. I started shedding my racism young, knowing some black people, seeing they were not as characterized by white people. I was attracted to black people because they did not do denial. Every black person I knew talked straight, recognized a thing for what it was. I felt black people were refreshing, like clear mountain spring water. I remember the cartoon Indians in cowboy and Indian television of the Fifties saying, "White man speak with forked tongue." As a kid, all white people lied to me. I liked the black people I knew for not lying like white people. 



Evidently, Yankees see the South a two-dimensional caricature, Bugs Bunny in a gray Civil War uniform. The decade I lived in Charleston, SC, deep South, I knew only liberals. The right wing was everywhere, even the majority of the population, but a large percentage of the people are not right wing. In the Blue Ridge, the majority of the population is right wing, though I only mix with people who are liberal or don't care about politics. That's just a social dynamic. People of the right don't like me for not being of the right. It's ok by me. I've come to stay away from white men my age, my peers. One look at the scowl on a white man's face with white hair and I know what tv channel he watches. Yet, exceptions abound. Myself, I hope. People in the South, like people everywhere, are not just one thing, not caricatures. Yankees display a conviction they're better than white Southerners, and certainly better than black Southerners, the way white middle class looks down on white working class, the part in the denial drawer. Racism is more taken for granted in the South than the rest of the country where the white people are racist too, but practice denial. Black people are racist. It's what we humans do. The only solution I can see is to acknowledge racism in self and be conscious of it, aware of it. Awareness is the beginning of addressing change in self. 



I gave up on racism by the time I was out of high school. Black kids went to school and some were my neighbors. They were good people. The people living here from Mexico are good people. As far as I can tell, the only difference between us is culture. Black people have their culture, white people have theirs, and Mexicans have theirs. It is the cultures that make us different. Intolerance of other cultures is a problem. Racism boils down to ego. It amounts to saying, Not me. It is saying, I don't like a given point of view because it's not mine. I used to have a friend I had to stop knowing because he believed his the only true and valid point of view, all others nonsense, especially mine. This is how white people are toward black people, making it clear their whiteness is the only pigmentation and civilization valid. It can be said a general belief among white people that black people have no value. Otherwise, there would be something besides justification coming from white people about cops killing so many unarmed, young black men and women, even children and old people. The greatest justification of all, they kill white people and dogs, too. Racism is too complicated to be dealt with superficially. It can only be dealt with superficially in America. In the land of television, we only deal with social issues superficially, by distraction. This Confederate flag issue is a distraction from something else that matters we're not to know about. As soon as whatever the flag is covering up passes, concerns about the flag will go away with it. 



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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

DONKEYS IN THE SUMMER MEADOW


I don't see much of the donkeys in their summer meadow. Can't see them out a window and can't see them when I step outside for all the trees and rhododendron around the house. They have a walkway along the fence behind a long wall of rhododendron and trees. In a corner of the fence, the Christmas tree growers on the other side of the fence have piled dead trees for several years. The donkeys have found it for a shelter. I've noticed they are not wet after a rain, so it's working for them. They can see the whole meadow and the road from the corner. If a pack of coyotes were to attack them, they could only go at them from one side. Coyotes would know better than to make an attempt. They learned about the donkeys a year or more ago. One night last year they found the donkeys lying down at the far end of the meadow. They yipped and hollered and I heard one let out a cry of pain. The others went quiet and walked away. I heard the one hurt squealing as it walked away. I suspect Jenny connected with one. They've not been back. 



The gate at the summer meadow is big and awkward to give them carrots through or the grain. Jenny in her pregnancy with four months to go does not like Jack too close. Jack is ready to go all the time and Jenny is not having it. I don't go into the meadow with them much. Jenny is so raucous with Jack, I don't like to be between them, where I inevitably find myself. They are quick as cats. Jenny doesn't want Jack too close to me, goes at him with her teeth or her back knees and hooves. Jack raises his chin out of range and takes both Jenny's hooves in the chest like a tree. She kicks him over and over. He stands still taking it, chin up high. I stand inches from their twisting around, kicking. Jenny goes into automatic and I don't think her automatic setting cares if she kicks me. I know I only have to touch her to settle her down, but she moves so much, so fast, I get flustered, don't know which way to move to dodge her. Jenny can spin completely around faster than I can take one step. 



I give carrot to Jack and Jenny attacks him. I give carrot to Jenny and she spins her back end to Jack and he backs up. I carried the grain bucket out into the meadow yesterday. They were at the other end of the meadow. Jack came running, ran up to me slowing down, ran by and came back. I poured the grain on the ground for him. Jenny was walking until she saw me pour the grain for Jack. She came running. I moved to the spot I'd pour the grain for Jenny. She ran up to me with a big smile on her face, ran past and came back. I poured the grain without much interference. They were far enough apart they ate in peace. As soon as they start eating the grain, I vanish from their attention. I tell them I'm going to my barn and leave. They don't care. In the morning at carrot time, after the last carrot I hold up my open hands to show them no more carrots. They back away and return to the meadow. They seem happy in this meadow. Jack made a dust circle right way for them to roll on and dust their backs. They are shedding their winter fur. They are at the stage of shedding they look like they have mange, patches of very short new hair mid the longer hair in bigger patches. 



Melvin dropped by this afternoon soon after I'd finished painting. I took some grain to the donkeys as he was leaving. He watched them come to the gate when I called for them. I called out my braying sound and Jack joined me. We brayed until Jenny gave Jack a sound kicking. It's like it annoys her when he brays. Or she thinks he wants on her back. She danced around and kicked Jack, backing up to him kicking with her back knees. Jack, ears up, eyes wide, backed away and she stayed with him. Melvin said, "Jenny's bein a bitch." Jack bears with it. He accepts it as what his babydoll does.  Her nature. He's never known another woman. I don't know that he's seen another donkey besides Jenny, except mama. The same applies to Jenny. They are each other's only acquaintance with donkey. I poured the grain over the gate for Jenny first. Went to the other end, out of Jenny's kicking range to pour it for Jack. Jenny came over and chased Jack away from his grain. He walked over and ate her grain while she was eating his. She attacked him again. Didn't want him eating her grain. He walked back around to his original pile and they ate in peace. Day and night they are side-by-side in peace. It's that quantum physics thing that the observer changes things. They get excited and jealous when the ice cream man has treats. The rest of the day they graze together, seldom more than a few feet apart. 




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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A DUNNO-WHAT KINDA DAY




It has been a dunno-what kinda day. Woke up feeling ready to go. Had the day scheduled to go to town for pills, gas and groceries. I know in advance a trip to town means I'll be so exhausted by the time it's all over, I can only take a nap. Today, the nap didn't happen right away. Had the radio going on an afternoon talk show, like Fresh Air, hearing it without paying attention. Up after an hour, then back down for another hour. Woke from that nap feeling at home again. Put on a movie, watched for half an hour and turned it off. Good film, but mind not willing to pay attention. Found a watermelon at the grocery store. I passed by the display thinking I have not painted a watermelon in a long time. I miss painting watermelons. I walked through the whole store thinking I'd like to make a one-day watermelon painting tomorrow. I've been so distracted for so long, I've not made anything to call art. I want to get back into the groove. Found a canvas already stretched, ready to go, one I stretched some years ago. I stopped painting before getting to it. The melon is in the refrigerator and the canvas is ready.



I've put on some Philip Glass music, four pieces, him playing electric organ. The one playing now, Contrary Motion, is solo. The others have accompaniment of piano and soprano sax. They were composed and recorded in the period of time I'm in his memoirs now, early 1970s. He practiced yoga and meditated regularly. He and wife went overland to India, rode trains across India to the Himalayan city, Darjeeling, and into northern India. He was overtaken by a serious interest in Tibetan Buddhism. It could be my suggestible imagination, I feel like I hear Tibetan music in his compositions, a lengthy repetition with variations moving around inside the patterns set up by the repetitions. It is meditative. I follow the sound in mind's eye, recalling the bouncing ball. His repetitions are relaxing as a good massage, like Tibetan chants. I'm vowing to self to play more Glass in the future. I have probably a dozen CDs of his music, all of which I love. It's a bit odd first time hearing it, but it took hold of me right away. I have his Dracula album. It is made as a soundtrack to the original Dracula movie with Bella Lugosi. I might order Dracula from netflix and play the Glass music with it. Good plan. I don't really want to watch the movie, but have a feeling Glass's soundtrack will make it new. 



I saw a clip today of news comic Jon Stewart losing a degree of my regard. Not that it matters to him. Or me. He made some unnecessary repeat swipes at Rebecca Dolezal, the wannabe. I recalled his sentimental show of embracing Kaitlyn Bruce Jenner in his proud of self way for being so piously PC, the champion of tolerance. Then a white woman wanted to be a black woman. He played the white racist role. What white woman in her right mind would want to be a nigger bitch? He can't get over his own dismay that a white chick would want to be black. He can handle a guy wanting to be a chick, sooo liberal, but not a chick wanting to be black. Methinks he might protesteth too much. It makes me never want to identify self liberal again. It strikes me hypocritical from a man quick to point the finger at hypocrisy. Reminds me of the saying that three fingers point back at self when pointing the finger at someone else. He's a bit off on the civil war too. He fails to notice it was a Northern invasion. In the South, it's called the War of Yankee Aggression. The North invaded the South. You don't see historical accounts of any Yankee cities burned to the ground by Southern troops. He's rewriting history too. He's still funny. Stewart has become a disappointment to me in his smug liberalism. He's a show liberal, a very well paid celebrity television comedian. Again, I remind self, the medium, itself, is the message.  




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Monday, June 22, 2015

A LOOK AT POPE FRANCIS


pope francis


The new pope, Pope Francis, came from out of the blue as a meteorite that happened to fall by chance in Rome, Italy. Kinda like Superman. Pope Francis has shown himself to be a kind of Superman in that he has stood up to multiple centuries of tradition moving away from the gospel in a steady progression to the point of the Church standing on the verge of losing its credibility by clinging to medieval traditions too long. The world changed around the church, the scientific method for one thing, and our modern tendency for fact checking. Until Francis, it appeared to me, on the outside with no experience on the inside, the Church was bracing itself against the people rather than paying attention to them. Francis comes along, applies the teachings in the gospels, and sends a shock wave through the church, welcome to some, and a horror to many. Overnight, the Church went from sheltering child-molester priests and public denial to open recognition of a problem and doing something about it. To some points of view, they don't punish enough, but that's the fundamentalist belief in a God of fear and punishment. It tells me the God Pope Francis appeals to is the God of love and compassion. 



I've paid attention to the popes in my lifetime, not close attention, but to see who they really represent. Money, like every position of power on earth. I was disposed toward John 23rd for his apparent humility, but he turned out to be another apologist for the forces that beat people down. Frances enters the scene and right away is saying the American fundamentalists, who call themselves Christians, are "ugly pagans." Just last week he noted that people who make their money in the arms industry are hypocrites and can't call themselves Christian. He had something to say about the rich taking resources to themselves. A rich American Catholic publicly threatened him with putting his tithe money elsewhere. The pope the same as said, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. He stopped the use of the Vatican Bank by the Sicilian mafia for money laundering. He was warned it could be a fatal decision. He responded, what's he got to lose? Shortcut to the City of God. He doesn't like to wear silks or gold or red shoes. He doesn't want a gold throne. He doesn't want a papal suite of dazzlingly expensive furnishings. He wanted a small room with a bed, a desk and a lamp. He came on so true to the spirit, I've watched him out of curiosity to see if it's an act or from the heart. I've become convinced it's from the heart. 



Now I like to watch a man with big power of influence among the Roman Catholic people of the world talking something besides bureaucratic smokescreen. He is a relief to the eighteen year olds of the world who grow up being taught about honesty and good behavior, aghast at the hypocrisy in the adult world they're stepping into. Some cut their wrists, shoot themselves, OD, over inability to commit to a fake life in a world that rewards hypocrisy. I don't mistake the pope for having too much influence. American fundamentalists think the pope is the devil himself. The pope says global warming is a serious issue and they dig their heads deeper into the sand. He is a negative influence. The pope says God is in the heart, it confirms for the fundamentalists that God is on the other side of the clouds. The pope says God is love, it confirms for them God is fear. I imagine some Catholics are freaking out, the ones who have given their lives to greed and want justification. He points at the needs of billions of really poor people around the globe, drawing attention to them in a time of turning backs to the poor. American police brutality is reserved for the poor and black, the people without recourse, too poor to hire a lawyer. If one can get a lawyer, the cop will lie in court, the judge knowing it, and that's the end of it. 



Perhaps the most interesting part of his influence I see is that he is inspiring the people who take the church traditions for granted to think about what they believe, think about it in relation to how they live their lives. Do you live what you believe? Like somebody living on stock dividends of munitions corporations, he'd recommend they sell the stocks and put the money in business not so destructive, like solar. I've an idea it will mostly amount to something else to feel guilty about, like birth control. Pope is, after all, a bureaucratic role. I'm sure he's had his fill of it by now and has learned how to flow with it. Francis has turned out to be a pope I admire unreservedly as I admire the Dalai Lama. I like seeing that Christendom has such a figure. The fundamentalists who usurped the word Christian to themselves have given all other Christians a bad name. I've wondered how long Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, would put up with the gross misuse of their own identity as Christian. So far, I suspect it's been a matter of ignore them and maybe they'll go away. One thing about it, the fundamentalists are so far off the beam of what it means to be a Christian that I feel like they are inspiring the other people who figure as Christian to question their own commitment to love, compassion, understanding. Pope Francis has stepped forward to remind the whole world of Christendom, both Catholic and Protestant, that helping the poor is what Christians do. My feeling is il papa has caused serious thought to echo through Christendom for some time yet to come. Ultimately, he could be the cause of a welcome reformation inside the Catholic Church. He inspires people outside the church as well as inside. I can't help but find it curious why such a pope came forward in this time.

il papa



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Sunday, June 21, 2015

SENSE AND SENSELESSNESS

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matisse 

Saturday, I had so many places to be, so many things to do, I decided to stay home, write and have a long nap. I'm thinking this is today's agenda as well. I'm seeing a pattern in  behavior. When I have too much expected from outside self, I tend to balk like a donkey and stand still, unmoveable. I wanted to go everyplace expected. First, a bluegrass jam at friend's house with some good musicians, also my neighbors and friends. An old-time band I like and haven't seen in a few years was playing at the bandstand in the Sparta park. At the next house down the road, Josh was visiting for the weekend with a handful of musician friends, interesting people. I looked forward to it until the day it all happened. On the day it happened, I didn't want to do any of it. It was exhausting to think about. I could have made videos and written about the experiences, but when it came time to go out the door, I didn't care enough to go. Went to bed, took a good nap. Woke up ready to write and wrote up into the evening. Went next door to see Josh and friends, stayed until really late, sitting about, talking, relaxed. Three of them, at different times, picked up a guitar and sang a couple of their own songs that were good-worded and well performed, just sitting quietly, all of them good musicians. 

matisse

I'd been going every day for three weeks, and last week refused to go anywhere, had the whole week at home. By Saturday, I was so content not going anywhere, I couldn't stand the thought of going out into the world, reminding self, this is the Age of Television, I'm expected to smile a lot, talk and watch everything I say. Reading in Philip Glass's memoir, he quoted Nadia Boulanger, "Il faut faire un effort." In English, it is necessary to make an effort. She was talking about the artist with one's form, in this case music composition. I bring this up, because it came to mind when I was thinking it's too much effort to go from one place to another all day. Busy-mind self said to relaxed-mind self, It's necessary to make an effort. Relaxed mind self responded, But necessary only in one's art form, not for when the effort involves driving and drains on energy. I pre-forgave self for side-stepping a logjam. 


matisse

The day's rain has begun, a gentle summer shower sounding like wind in the leaves. And then it stopped. Everywhere I look online today and yesterday, I see pictures of the white guy that shot up the black church in Charleston. Every picture I see of him reminds me I don't even want to think about this latest effort for a guaranteed spot on national news by another psychotic child-adult. Something happens we call senseless is no longer unusual. Senselessness, mindlessness, is the new normal. I think it's interesting. It can rightfully be said of this time, "That doesn't make any sense," It reminds me there is no sense anyway. Our traditional, collectively believed ideas of order are breaking down now, changing. That which worked before doesn't work anymore. This is something I must accept or go nuts with frustration. Everything traditional doesn't work anymore. The rules have changed mid-game without notice. I don't see much of the rational anywhere in everyday life. We live by habits, schedules and distractions. I see so little of the rational that I tend to choke when somebody remarks, What happened to reason? I don't see reason anywhere. Reason is good for problem solving, and that's about it. 


matisse

I see the world I live in, near and extended, without sense. Somebody comments on irrational behavior in alarm, and I don't know what to say. It makes perfect sense to me. Of course I don't expect rational behavior in this time. We depend on certain social rules that keep us from killing each other. Somebody side-steps the collectively agreed upon rules and it's called senseless. Just about everything we do is senseless, this church shooting just another senseless act. It had plenty of thought behind it, but no sense. I notice the cops didn't beat him to near death when they arrested him. They were good to him. He'll be the star of the white gangs in prison. Of course, the people of color in the prison will see him through cross-hairs. The white gangs will be his backup. I can't even get near processing the grief that erupted in the church. I can't think about it, because it's too big, way too big to get my mind around. That the same people might have died in the wreck of a church van on the interstate is quite a different thing to mourn than shot down in church by a mean little bastard. I can't dismiss the event or the mind behind it, can't accept it either. The enormity of the grief around this event is too big for my mind to behold, and has the capacity to break my heart if I go with it. The craziest aspect of all, it was no surprise to anybody. When the book is written, it will take a thousand pages.  


matisse by matisse



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Saturday, June 20, 2015

WHAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE TO SAY

matisse

Another writer I hold almost the equal of Tolstoy in depth, breadth and beautiful writing, Patrick White, of Australia. He caught my attention when he received the Nobel in 1973. I first read The Eye of the Storm, the novel written after the prize, fifteen years later. From first page to last, it was the most amazing story I'd ever read, and writing as beautiful as Tolstoy's, though mid-Twentieth Century Australian English, instead of 19th Century Russian in translation. A quarter century has gone by since reading it and I can still see the characters, the images as I saw them in the mind's eye, remember the story as if I'd just finished it. I've thought of reading it again, but know it so well, I don't feel need for a refresher. It is the story of a woman in her 80s, the richest and once the most beautiful woman in Australian society, confined in bed with a form of dementia, unable to talk or move on her own. Parts of the story are written from inside her mind, her thoughts, memories, from a clear mind. The characters are the four round-the-clock nurses with their own stories, the woman's accountant, and later, her son and daughter, son from London, daughter from France. Son was the Olivier on stage of his time. Daughter was married to a French prince. Brother and sister hate each other. They don't like mom either, and she has no use for them. No one in the story is likeable. And all the characters dislike the others. They're every one flawed, vain, realistically illustrated characters. It caused me to realize the people I can't like have good and valid stories, like the people I like, maybe better. 

matisse

Another one I loved by White, the Vivisector, a fictional biography of an Australian painter of abstractions, so beautifully written each page is a wonderful place to be-here-now. Another one, Riders of the Chariot, brings memories of the characters, a curious variety of people that come together for a symbolic crucifixion. White's writing is concise, clear, devoid of flourishes, trim and spare. A verse I believe attributed to Kabir, "Dive deep, O mind, dive deep, in the ocean of God's beauty. If you dive to the uttermost depths, there you will find the gem of love." White dives deep into his characters and writes a living story of people you can't help but care about for knowing them so well. I'm not pointing these writers out as the best ever, etc. These are the ones who have made a major difference in my reading and my view of the world. I've come to see that reading has been one of my life's major purposes. Reading and the pursuit of inner growth, it turns out, have been my life's purposes. Reading feeds the growth, fertilizer. Before 1970, there weren't many books available of spiritual writings from the East. Since 1970, we have a major market of books concerning spirituality that get into something beyond you-better-not. I read the discourses of masters from India, Meher Baba, Upasni Maharaj and some others. Zen writings, Sufi writings, Tibetan writings, can be found in abundance now.  


matisse

Without books, my interior growth would have been restricted to having to learn everything by direct experience. I can read Tibetan writings, journals by Zen masters, Buddhist sutras and other writings. At least to be familiar. All my life I never understood people who did not want to read. I take them for not very curious people. I'm ok with people who lack curiosity, considering they're the majority. It's the nature of the world I live in anywhere. However, I cannot limit myself to the incurious state of the people around me. That they're not curious about much is theirs, not mine. Mine is to take care of my own interior needs, concern myself with what's mine, not somebody else's. Everybody has their own shit to go through, reading or not reading, and how they take care of their own lives is the only part that matters. Same as with myself. Before coming to the mountains, I felt separate from everybody else for reading. I can't talk with people I know about books I'm reading. I learned a long time ago never to mention a book, reading a book or the existence of books. I've learned it so well, it has inhibited writing about books and reading here. I do, but not much. Once I started writing a few days ago about reading, I realized y'all who read this are readers. I can talk about reading with you. 


matisse

This is part of why I like writing to y'all. You have become the ones I can open up to, reach way down inside when necessary to look for something obscured deep in the interior Marianas Trench of experiential memory. I can't talk with anybody about any of what I talk to y'all about. I live in a world of interests totally different from mine. My friends have families, shoot deer, drive power pickups, watch tv football, fish, have all kinds of interests that are not mine. And I have interest that is not theirs. We balance well. I like to listen to friends tell hunting stories and archery tournament stories, and I like to hear about working on cars, though it's not an interest of mine to do. I tend to appreciate in my friends their abilities that are not my own. Like Philippe Petit, who walked the wire between the WTC towers. I totally admire what he did. It is something I could never learn the rest of my life if I were to practice every day. I hear a fiddler, or violinist, and listen in awe. It is something entirely out of my possibilities, no matter how much training and practice. I like to read about Crazy Horse, who shot arrows accurately from the back of a running horse in a herd of stampeding buffalo. And he got that rascal Custer. Got himself bayoneted in the back inside an American general's office immediately after a truce. I've learned from reading that Van Gogh did not kill himself, but was shot by somebody he knocked to the ground after an insult. I like knowing such sorts of things. I like access to what other people have to say. Many tell a good story. 


matisse by matisse


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Friday, June 19, 2015

THE FUN OF READING




Continuing to review books that have become foundational to my way of seeing, view of the world, weltanschauung, attitude toward life. How could I experience so directly from the source what Leo Tolstoy had to say if I didn't read? Tolstoy is a good place to start. He opened doors in my mind. A man of integrity such that reading his writing, he appears quite sane. Reading his life story, I found him a wise fool. He was not the best at making decisions for himself, though his wisdom was indisputable. Tolstoy was a wise man in the true sense of what wisdom means. Wisdom is not necessarily rational. Mind is rational. Wisdom is beyond mind, includes heart. Poetry is a mix of mind and heart, like prose writing, fiction. The mix of mind and heart, reason and emotion, weaves art forms, clarifies the difference between craft and art. Tolstoy inspires me to want to be fluent in the Russian language so I can read his beautiful stories as he wrote them. They are beautiful in translation, so beautiful it doesn't matter it's translation. Without translation, I could not read Tolstoy. Had I never found Tolstoy, my life would have been diminished. It's not anything I can put a finger on. It has to do with understanding. Like Ralph Stanley sings from the soul of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Leovochka Tolstoy wrote from the soul of Russia. 



I'm having a Russian film festival these months, seeing some of the finest films of my life, like Tarkovsky's the Sacrifice, and I've only begun. Years of reading Tolstoy, Russian names are familiar. I learned how to pronounce them in my head long ago. The names are familiar, not a problem. People I know who read most often won't read Russian writers, they can't pronounce the names. Same with Chinese and Japanese. I trained myself to get over the obscurity of foreign names. Sometimes after a movie, I'll read the names in the credits, like Japanese, and pronounce them in my mind, familiarizing with the names from another language. The same applies to Russian films, French, Italian, Turkish, Bosnian, Romanian. When somebody tells me they can't read a book full of Russian names, I think, Why not? They're phonetic. Learn them at the beginning of the book and they're easy by the end of the book. Some of the names are a bit awkward to the English reading eye, names that make some Polish names easy by comparison. 



I watch films suspending disbelief, reminding self this is only a peephole into how the people live, interact. It's a scripted drama telling a story in a given culture. It's the culture I'm curious about. I see landscape and architecture. I feel like I get a sense of Russian life acted by Russians portraying Russians, attitudes and beliefs. Saw two films on the battle of Stalingrad. First one was a 3 hour documentary told from the German side, using German film footage, filmed among the German soldiers. The Russians were the ones shooting back. Next, a Russian dramatic version of the battle from the Russian side, the Germans the ones shooting back. Saw them a couple days apart. I understand why Stalingrad has the name, the worst battle ever. I'm recalling in the German documentary, an older Russian man interviewed, who had survived the battle, said, "Russia is a great, vast country. Russia has never been defeated and never will." I thought this a commendable national legacy. He knew the "never will" as well as he knew the "never has." I include watching films with reading, as I watch mostly films from all over the earth, reading subtitles. I know less people who can read subtitles than I know who read books. 



Reading books has made it possible to read subtitles, giving access to some wildly extraordinary films, like Akira Kurosawa's Ran, and Dersu Uzala, Zhang Yimou's House of the Flying Daggers and the Hero, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue, White and Red, three films, each titled a color in the French flag. I could not have enjoyed these films and hundreds more restricted by inability to read subtitles. I even have a few friends among the people I know who read books who refuse to read translations. They're not authentic, as the author wrote it. Though I don't know Chinese, I can read Mo Yan and Gao Xingjian, both mainland Chinese Nobel Prize winners. I can read Apollinaire's poem, Zone, Rilke's Duino Elegies, the Tao Te Ching, by allowing self to accept translation the only access I have. I can't learn the Turkish language to read Orhan Pamuk, especially when he's available in the language I'm able to read. I can't learn French to read Rimbaud, though have access to several translations into English. In translation, I even have access to Tolstoy's letters. I read to unrestrict myself, to spread my inner horizon, like in Han Yu's words from the Southern Mountains, "A new sun lights the summits / Stretching heights and breadths millions of feet."  Reading has been an educational entertainment throughout my adult life. It is incalculable how much I'd rather read Chris Hedges' book, The Empire of Illusion, than watch anything that's on television, even the races. 




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