Wednesday, October 31, 2012
I shook it.
Nothing inside? I asked.
He took a peek through a slit.
Dark inside, he said.
You gave me a box of darkness?
When we opened it, we found nothing of the sort.
On the contrary:
Glorious honey-toned daylight, festooned with ribbons still.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Monday, March 19, 2012
Because life is life and art is art and life is fleeting but art sure isn’t, I am not doing much labor in the Department of Fine Letters these days, concentrating instead on the muchly more pressing matters of Life. So I don’t take on new commissions, because what’s the point.
Pelckman Publishers yesterday did send an intriguing one my way, however: a five page contribution to a Dutch-language book to be called ‘Mijn Amerika’ – ‘My America’ – a volume to celebrate ‘the things American we appreciate the most’, as well as detailing ‘what we Belgians/Dutch should learn from the USA’.
(One more book to add to the library of foregone conclusions, it seems.)
It did set me thinking, though.
I’d say, it sure was hard to pick the most valuable lesson for Low-Land Europeans to learn from their transoceanic brethren. (For Lesson 1 – ask all of the GOP presidential candidates – is: Sisters don’t count, not even in strictly Sisterly affairs.)
In the end, it’ll have to be a toss-up between these two: (a) That waging war against nations that have, as nations, done nothing against you is a uniquely rewarding way to conduct foreign policy; and (b) that greed run amok to the point of wrecking the entire world’s economy is a perfectly acceptable way to conduct business, not in the least because it is the most ultimately thrilling ride you can be on while still keeping your Versace suit pants on.
Both, of course (d’oh!) are linked by their utter lack of negative consequences. Au contraire, you will get reelected and/or Nobel-prized and bailed-out and end-of-year-bonused beyond your wildest dreams if you engage in these behaviors. Along the way, you'll even be able to persuade the General Public that a few dudes held in cages on a tropic isle or a handful of hippies in tents are the Next Great Threat to the Nation, and you’ll remain in power forever, instead of being tarred and feathered for having finally and definitively proven that living the American Dream is just as feasible as building the Workman’s Paradise – a 1% affair.
Clearly, the thing to swing here is a Set of Big Brass Balls.
And so it goes, and Sisters still don’t count.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
What then, I wonder, does the butterfly do to make the turtle cry?
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Thursday, December 29, 2011
(LiveScience asked me for a few words on self-improvement for the species as a whole. Here, then, are too many words, each of those true, each of those a lie.)
One unflattering trait we share with many other animals is Fear of the Other, which is just the flipside of a rather clinging, excessive, and obsessive love of (Just Like) Me. Social psychologists call this ingroup bias; cognitive psychologist see its advantages in fluent, speeded-up processing of the familiar. We’re long used to who we are, and so no real thought is necessary to deal with ourselves. Thus, in order to preserve our precious laziness of thought, we heavily invest in surrounding our selves with other selves just like it. We segregate into neighborhoods and work and leisure environments where any Others closely approximate us in age, race, income, political allegiance, and even sexual orientation or the type of facial hair considered couth to sprout. The consequence is that we never get to meet anyone who isn’t like us. This in turn leads to failing to imagine the Other, any Other, and to a loss of desire to even consider the Other as someone who exists, out there, very real, a human being just like us, except not Just Like Us.
At its most innocent, all this fencing-in creates little upticks in closed-mindedness inside one person’s skull – missed opportunities for jolts of fun or learning.
At its worst, for instance when manipulated by clever demagogues who realize that nothing binds us together more than Fear of that Ultimate Other, the Imagined Enemy, it leads to the Holocaust, Vietnam, Rwanda, Darfur, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and so on.
What to do? Go visit. Uncozy yourself. Get a move on. Practice loving-kindness with someone truly Else. (If you’re in academia, maybe take your republican-voting pariah colleague out for lunch, and listen for a change.) Or, at the very least, next time you find yourself at lunch agreeing with everyone’s astute observations, do realize: ‘Well, duh.’
Thursday, December 8, 2011
What is this -- Awake?
One of my teachers, Terry Keenan, liked to retell the story of Huston Smith asking his Zen teacher, and the answer was (a teaching wrapped in a teaching wrapped in a teaching): Infinite gratitude for all that is past; infinite service toward all that is present, and infinite responsibility toward all that is in the future.
Susan Jion Postal changed the first line, skewing it perhaps towards the active, perhaps for the better:
Infinite kindness to the past,
Infinite service to the present,
Infinite responsibility to the future.
(In other words:)
What is the price of happiness? -- Pay attention!
The simplest and hardest thing in the world: To be in it, fully; to be turning the wheel aware and focused -- mind and heart (one thing) (purely) (plainly) (wholly) what they are.
To be a bronze bell ringing of and with the vast plenitude of nothing.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Kurt Vonnegut wrote this in 1965 (Good Morning Mr. Rosewater).
I repeat: 1965.
Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest and industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked for a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American Dream went belly up. turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited , filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.
Footsteps behind her back; expensively creaking bison-leather brogues. Men clad in aluminosilicate glass and stainless steel. Babbling in their tower.
How did she get here, all tied up in an Aeron chair with sickeningly blue Ethernet cables, and such breathtaking view? Deep below her: the corpse of the American Dream, bobbing on the currents of the East River.
This you must understand, they say.
(They flip through the pictures on her phone.)
Some of us work on the plantation.
Some of us own the plantation.
Face it, woman.
Facts are facts.
We own the plantation.
What better plan than telling the truth?
Let me read you from today?s headlines, she says. Zoo owner sets exotic animals free, kills himself.
(They are not moved. They do not understand.)
Here, she says, is what I want my son to know. (Not that I?m telling him; I want his life to teach him.)
One. You are your heart. You?re not your wallet. But open both to those in need.
Two. Money cannot be made. Making money does not generate wealth. But if you make conversation, if you make friends, if you make love, there is more laughter, more happiness, more goodness, more kindness, more caring in the world.
Three. For whoever?s sake, young man: Do give a damn.
Yeah, yeah, they say. Not how the world works, missy. We?ll get to him; we?ll teach him; we?ll tame him. (Face recognition software unleashed on photos of a three-year old.)
Outside the window, unabashed and soaring on the rising storm ? the sweetest tune, a thing with feathers, summoned and submitted to a candid land.
Four. Give a damn.
5. There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.
8. Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else—a stranger in the street, for example.
10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Here, dear friends, is how to pay tribute to the fallen of 9/11 and the decade of strife and bloody murder that followed -- How better to do this than through the art of make-up?
I do hope I am missing something here.
Amazingly, it appears to be a trend:
Given that words fail me, let me just quote MakeupbySandie:
Skyscrapers... their tall and gray. Well, I'm not tall, but I absolutely LOVE gray eyeshadow. And, this pallet by far is one of my very favorite ones of Mally Roncal. I dedicate this tutorial to the Citizens of New York City on the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001.
I hope you like this one as much as I do. You can use similiar eyeshadows that you already own. Make sure you check out Mally's cosmetics! Links are down below. Enjoy Dolls! Let me know what you think and if you want to see more!
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I come from a country very cold and very wet, and very dark. People would compliment each other on the felicitous tones of grey in their wardrobe if they had such a concept, that is, of the gracious compliment, but they do not -- the sky presses too much on their shoulders to make them look up at anybody's sorrows but their own. Joys can be had too, it is rumored, but these are narrow and fleeting and by definition not to be trusted.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I bet this here (look at it!) means the Hungarian translation of Omega Minor is finally out.
This, then, too marks the end of this novel in its multiple translated guises. Gondolat sent me a copy. There's something decidedly weird about holding an object that, one is told, holds all the words you once wrote, except you cannot read them at all.
And how much of these are still my words?
I did an interview over Skype with a Greek journalist last week, which reminded me of how much about the book I have forgotten. (For instance, the cover of the Greek translation features a Pollock painting -- how appropriate, said the journalist, for this is how you described the end result of a bullet penetrating a skull in close proximity of a wall. I have no memory of that, but find it a cute, endearing metaphor which I sure would have liked had I read it in someone else's work.)
Such forgetfulness is good.
It's like, I imagine, the forgetting of the pain of birth so that you (proverbial mother) can decide to have a second child after all.
My skull, all emptied out, Pollock-dripping from the wall -- now I should be able to write again, from the emptiness of mind. Plus a certain fullness of the heart.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
GL: Because G*d is good and because G*d is omnipotent and because G*d chose exactly this world out of all possible worlds. So this world must be good—in fact, it must be the best of all possible worlds.
ACP: Gottfried, dear, what if I can think of a better world?
GL: You cannot: You must be mistaken, by necessity mistaken, when you think you can think such a thing.
ACP: But what if I really can? Must then not, by similar necessity, one of your premises be wrong?
GL: But you cannot, my friend – this is the best of all possible worlds, I just showed it to you, with irrevocable logic.
ACP: What of a world with one more righteous person in it, one true worshiper? Maybe one former heathen, suddenly convinced of his errors by your flawless calculation?
GL: Aw shucks, you demon reasoner. I cannot grant you that.
ACP: Because a world with one more more righteous person in it, one more believing soul, would be different from ours, and quite arguably better, and thus negate the existence of the very G*d this righteous person would now claim to believe in?
GL: For sure, my dear friend ACP, you are not that righteous fellow.
[Both off stage left, to merry laughter.]
Saturday, May 28, 2011
But if direction of utility is the criterion, the man-eating lion surely is who the Creator had in mind to be the pinnacle, and among humans, the petty uncaught thief rules the roost.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
*My first version of this aphorism was: "Atheists win over faithers anytime, because they have nothing to lose." But then "Buddhists" was cuter; but then Buddhists don't "win", or don't care about winning, or aren't supposed to. (To win is to cling.) But then not including this footnote would have meant to give up on the word "faither", which I like and am too chicken right now to look up, for fear I didn't coin it. (Thus signifying my clinging.)