WWSP's Shadow of th Marigold

Monday, January 31, 2005

'Angel-Headed Hipsters' - Lucien Carr

Yesterday, I read an article about Alexander Shulgin (billed as Dr. Ecstasy) a 79 year old chemist who has (legally) created over a hundred hallucinogens during his career. This is the kind of guy who really fires my imagination. 'Intoxication,' has been one of the key themes of my theater work, but not so much as an escape but as journey of discovery and (my favorite word) transformation. I really enjoy it when a man of science talks like a mystic, for instance, here is Shulgin (a U.C. Berkeley Ph.D. working at Dow Chemical in 1960) describing his experience with mescaline: 'I realized everything I saw and thought had been brought about by a fraction of a gram of white solid, but that in no way whatsoever could it be argued that these memories had been contained within the white solid...I understood that our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit. We may choose not to find access to it, we may even deny it's existence, but it is indeed there inside us, and there are chemicals that can catalyze its availability.'

Yes, indeed: 'the entire universe is contained in the mind and spirit.' Beautiful. This is one of my personal credos. But I think there are many paths to this insight for instance: creative exploration, visualization and meditation. Chemicals are a short-cut, but not the only pathway. Creating a new chemical is like, 'the pleasure of composing a new painting or a piece of music.' Plus: 'You're meeting something you don't know and it's meeting something it doesn't know. And so you have this exchange of properties and ideas.' I'm thinking Shulgin will turn up in one of my future plays. He's just the kind of explorer I admire, journeying to the center of his mind. The world is mapped. The last frontier: human consciousness. What beasts and angels wander in that strange, uncharted realm?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

'What's So Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding?' - Nick Lowe

Not sure where I read this quote, but it kind of sums up my present state: 'If you are not confused, you are not thinking clearly.' Many competing thoughts and slogans have been swimming around in my head, for instance: Beware the tyranny of the majority. Bullets and bombs end all arguments. Voting in the face of bullets and bombs is heroism. Change is inevitable. Change is impossible. The 20th century's 'greatest' idealists: Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Ghandi, Churchill, Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, JFK, Martin Luther King, Henry Ford.

Plus: Make no small plans. Make only small plans. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. You are part of the solution, and part of the problem. There is 'the world,' and then what you see, think and feel about it (Tommy can you hear me?). The world and our perceptions of it are not necessarily the same (or are they?).

Do we need to have an opinion on absolutely everything, especially the things we know nothing about? Is it ok to say, 'I don't know. I'll get back to you on that?' OR - 'Let's test the hypothesis and see what happens?' Should every idea be judged on how it 'works?' Who gets to decide what works and what does not? You get my drift?! This morning I am not The Answer Man - more like The Question Man. Or as per J. Lennon - 'Nowhere Man.'

Saturday, January 29, 2005

'Hey, Hey We're the Monkees'

I've had monkeys on the brain for a couple of days. If Darwin's dangerous idea is correct - natural selection (the Blind Watchmaker) is responsible for all the diversity of the universe, and human beings are 'descended,' from apes - it would sure explain a lot. We would be these 'mutant monkeys' that have developed big heads, with big brains, that are running rampant on this little planet with our sophisticated toys, trying to impress each other to win friends and influence strangers.

And even if some of us have developed a sense of mystery, spirituality, and appreciation for the beauty of life, we (if we were honest) would not forget our humble origins. In fact, it would be incumbent upon us, to never forget that all of us (Jesus, Ghandi, Johnny Rotten, Donald Trump) are glorified monkeys with these complicated, turbo-charged chimp brains. The real dangerous ones among us, would be those who believe that they are closer to the divine, above and beyond the call of nature.

Our motto (floating around in our monkey-like craniums) would always be: Beware the Big Monkey Man!

Friday, January 28, 2005

A Necessary Blood-Letting? Maybe.

Maybe 'the world' just happens, and we, with our turbo-charged chimp brains see change, progress, and salvation. Maybe evolution has no purpose, no goal, maybe it is 'just so.' Maybe both of the following statements are 'true': the more things change, the more they stay the same, AND the more things stay the same, the more they change. Maybe the definition of the word change - 'to be, or to cause to be different, to alter,' is from the lexicon of the shadows.

Maybe my head is just full of 'maybes' this morning. I went to see a play last night, Naomi Wallace's 'In the Heart of America.' It is an abstract, poetic take on the Persian Gulf War, jumbled up with two dead souls from Vietnam and the My Lai massacre. Not exactly light entertainment - but somehow (maybe?) a necessary blood-letting. Events (tragic, horrible, brutal, beautiful, hopeful, etc.) will be repeated, over and over, from one generation to the next. Maybe we need to tune this information in, even if it's sort of deflating. Is it enough to be a 'witness,' to say, 'I saw this, I did that,' as the world turns on it's axis, rotates around the sun, and the universe expands into the void? Maybe.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Wall of Silence

Yesterday, I hit the wall of silence. My phone calls and e-mails went unanswered. I kind of spun out into a web of uncertainty. Was anybody out there? By mid-afternoon, I was hanging by a thread: was silence a judgement, a failure, or a reminder that I am a little pebble in the pond? So, this is my life; waiting for an answer, waiting for a sign, waiting for... (please insert appropriate word here: a man, a train, a reason to believe, Godot, etc.) Nothing, no one, arrived. I was left to my own devices.

It was jam night at Peter Jones, so I mustered up enough energy to lug my guitar to the El. Early evening: dark, cold, the snow fluttering down like stray feathers. Three of us gathered at the space, two guitars and a singer, and we bashed away on a couple of pop classics - 'Stepping Stone,' 'Like a Rolling Stone,' 'Paint it Black.' Nothing new or innovative, (although we did play these old tunes 'our way') but it all just felt so good. There's freedom working in the confines of simple chords and notes. It feels so good it can't be bad. We filled the silence with a joyful noise. Then it was over, we put our guitars back in their black cases, we unplugged the microphones, and ventured back into the cold night. 'I once heard a note, pure and easy.' P. Thownsend. Maybe one note is enough.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

And So...

So much of my time (in my job, in my creative pursuits) is spent, proposing, suggesting, putting ideas out into the world; to be judged or ignored, or maybe more accurately: to be judged and ignored. Often 'the world,' seems indifferent, or actively hostile to my humble aspirations. Of course, I can't take it personally, or instead, I must pursue my personal agenda despite the adversarial nature of my relationship with the world around me.

Samuel Fuller: 'one of the truths of human existence is the struggle to be free of boundaries, real or emotional.' This sounds true, and like a truth, it is as great or slight an insight as we choose to make it. It is easier not to struggle; to pull in our horns, to live with no expectations. On the other hand, we can make the struggle 'a game,' we can use the struggle as an instrument of change. Change can be painful, change can be revelatory.

Kurt Vonnegut's refrain in 'Slaughthouse Five': and so it goes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Man of the Shadows

I came across a great phrase (supposedly translated from the French) this morning: 'he is a man of the shadows.' Well, yes, aren't we all? If man is 'mere complexity,' and yes, I believe this is so, one of the key challenges of life is to 'understand,' that much of what we feel and see, is influenced by 'shadowy,' forces and motivations. We 'see' the world not so much as 'it is,' but as 'we are.'

The last few nights, I have been having dreams about my mother's father, George; (I hadn't thought of him in a long time), now long gone. He died in the winter, (a heart attack triggered by shoveling snow) and I wonder if that is why he has been 'visiting,' me. I did not really know the man, although, I do feel a deep connection to him. There is so much we did not communicate to each other, there was so much time and experience that seperated us, still, there seems to be some bond or link (one of those invisible strings postulated in String Theory?) that connects us.

I have a sense of loss, something irretrievable, something that I once glimpsed, and know is now long gone. I was a young boy when I knew George. I am still that boy, and of course, I am now nothing like him. I see us throwing a football in the air, the shadows are lengthening, the sun sits on the horizon threatening to fall off. It's that time between light and dark, we toss the ball, knowing that soon the sun will depart and darkness will come.

Monday, January 24, 2005

500 Million Flies Can't Be Wrong

Snowbound yesterday, I'm sure my testosterone level went up, and my IQ went down. I tuned into the NFC and the AFC football games and spent a good chunk of the late afternoon and early evening watching men pummeling each other on fields of green. I sort of 'disconnected,' myself by spinning some records (Santana, Derek and the Dominoes), and paging through the Sunday Times (the Book Review -- 'Atrocities in Plain Sight,' - Add America to the list of Nations that TORTURE prisoners - WHO IS OUTRAGED?!) to carry me through the slow patches and the commercials. Commercial TV is an amazing phenomenon: dazzling, fast-paced editing, dedicated to the premise that the typical American Male is a total nebbishy loser, who can only find transcendance through consuming massive quantitities of ice-cold beer. Well, if that is the consensus view, who am I to argue? It was a day of sound and fury (somebody won, somebody lost) signifying nothing.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

'Pop goes the Weasel.' - G. Marx

'All around the world, people talk about the weather.' And what can you really say about the weather? A major storm has come and gone, snow has piled up on the streets, the sidewalks, and the doorsteps. We're not going anywhere today. It is amazing and suprisingly reassuring that nature, and the mysterious ways of the planet, can still override the concerns of human beings. It is a reminder of our humble origins. Natural selection has given us: Donald Trump, Paris Hilton, Vincent Van Gogh, Dean Martin, Andy Warhol, Pablo Piccaso, etc. We have not, cannot, conquer nature. We are nature, and subject to it at the same time. We are so proud of our technology and toys (as per Wallace Shawn - 'I love my electric blanket.') but don't they really, primarily, give us a false sense of security?

The big flood (to wash it all away) can come any moment. Of course, this fear of Apocalypse has been with us from the first days. 'Look at all we have, it can all be taken away in a blink of any eye.' It's a precarious state of mind to live with, can we incorporate this acceptance of perpetual change into our being without fear? Can I choose to be the 'happy go lucky' individual ready to give it up any time, to disappear into the ether, to spontaneously combust at any moment? Well, sure, why not? As that great Zen Koan Master Groucho Marx used to sing, 'Hello, I must be going.'

Saturday, January 22, 2005

'Jesus Died for Somebody's Sins, but Not Mine ' - P. Smith

I do not own a pair of snowshoes. They would come in handy today. Chicagoland is a blizzard of white. More is on the way. I'm wavering between hunkering in, or strapping on my trail runners and taking on the elements for a little physical exertion. I believe in 'positive stress,' subjecting my body to a little hard living. It may be my Catholic upbringing, the idea that suffering is a necessary condition: I must pay for sins earned and unearned, kind of like paying taxes on my income. Sister Mary Aquanata (third grade) made it clear that I too helped kill Jesus. Damn, every impure thought I can come up with, (Paris Hilton?) is just another thorn in Jesus' crown! I know I'm gonna have to account for it all in the 'Great Whatever!'

I cracked Carla up a couple of days ago with this line: 'I live in my own private hell too.' It is funny, especially coming from me. Her response: 'Yeah, well, why do you always have that smirk on your face?' Good question. Maybe the idea of hell is funny? (Jean Paul Satre - hell is other people). Anyway, let it snow. Let all this whiteness come down and obliterate all the guilt, all the pain, all the fear. This moment, right now, this is hell, this is paradise, this is it all rolled into one.

So, anyway, I've decided, I'm hunkering in, I'll save the exertion for another day. I'm thinking another pot of coffee, a hot bath, a good book (Samuel Fulllers 'A Third Face'), rock and roll on the cd player (Neil Young, Drive by Truckers, Elvis - he died for our sins too) plus some editing, and writing. FDR: 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself.'

Friday, January 21, 2005

"I love Big Brother." - G. Orwell, '1984'

All this high-flown rhetoric, clangs like a broken bell (is that the liberty bell?). It is the day after Inaguration Day. Freedom (the state of being free) and Democracy (social and political equality, with respect for the individual - equal and different) are supposed to be good things, and yes, indeed, I believe they are, but it is amazing how these words (coming from Little Bush) can sound like ominous threats, or spiteful punishments, that we (the USA, this Military Behemoth) will mete out to smaller countries throughout the world. There is no country, in the history of the world, that has spent so much on weapons and armies, and you know that this skews our self-image and our image with friends and foes alike. A strong military power in perpetual war with a shadowy enemy (see Orwell's 1984) is a perfect threat to freedom and democracy. Power consolidated leads to a redefinition of terms: when is torture no longer torture? When it is applied to enemies who 'hate freedom.' What's really sobering: a frightened populace willing to give up freedom for security. To fight terror with terror = more terror. We live in the belly of the beast. Watch out for those wielding high-flown words.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Yes & No

My head is clear this morning. I was out late playing rock and roll music, (a joyous, liberating kick) and up early now, well before the sun. I've got some appointments to keep today, but that sense of being overwhelmed that has stuck to me like a bad haircut, has finally passed. I feel like I've finally 'caught up' to myself. I've got a good handle on my job, and all the tasks I have set before me. Let's see how long that lasts.

I've almost completed the 'Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath,' video. Carla is pushing for a couple of reshoots this weekend. She is much more the 'perfectionist,' than I am. My working method, (this includes writing, acting, editing, playing music) is to kind of 'wing it,' and see what happens. I like the happy mistakes, the strange combinations, the sloppiness. Carla is always pushing to refine things, to finish them, to make them beautiful. I think it makes us an excellent collaborative team. In our collaboration, my tendency is to say 'yes,' to just about anything (this frequently gets me into trouble), Carla's tendency is to say 'no,' which helps us refine and finish. It's the Black Forest way. As Carla has reminded me: 'Black Forest, is bigger than you, me or David' (the third leg of our creative team). And yes, I must admit, she's right.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Hear My Train a Comin - J. Hendrix

Up before the alarm this morning, laying in bed, wrapped in a blanket; a few precious moments of hesitation. Then it comes - is there anything as mournful as a train whistle blowing, the sound slowly spreading across the horizon like a pad of butter? Everytime I hear that sound, I think, 'time is passing, my life is hurtling by.' An early morning train, on the tracks, in the early light, filled with people I don't know, coming from some place, going to some place. Life moves on with us and without us. The train's mournful tune disappears into the morning light, I get up, thinking of the things I need to do today. Are any of them essential? I tell myself 'yes,' but I'm not sure it's true.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A Slice of Light

Darkness to darkness, bridged by a slice of light. This could describe a day, or a life. A Chicago winter means the darkness will be expansive; the chill will be felt deep in the bones. I switch on my little space heater for an extra source of heat, my coffee pot beeps to tell me that the 'witches brew,' is ready; I jump like Pavlov's dog to the sound, and fix myself a good cup of joe.

Last night, more dreams of sound and fury, but this morning, I can't recall them, my head still buzzing with events I'm unable to retrieve, leaving me alive in the silence of a 'jingle, jangle morning.' It's too cold to run this morning, the windchill is subzero, so I sink a little deeper into the 'center of my head,' and assume the valence of the 'contemplative man' (see Crowley's version of The Hermit) walking in darkness, carrying his own source of light, followed by the three-headed dog (seeing past, present and future) named Cerebus.

Most of the action today will be in my head (what's the name of that song?): 'Makes me glad, that I'm not dead.' There's a sadness, and a pleasure in wrapping up in layers of heavy fabric to take on the elements. Mother Nature can be a hard mother, but we must be reminded that winter is not a judgement or punishment, no, it is just another turn of the wheel.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Before We Shake off this Mortal Coil

Change is rattling around in my being. Does that make sense? The Invision 'psychic,' crowd, would express it like this -- 'Sunny Jimmy is in the midst of a major growth period.' I know this is true, because I'm (as per David Byrne) 'tense and nervous and I can't relax.' People (anyone I encounter) seem to be 'getting into my space,' even me. My dreams last night were cataclysmic and disturbing - I experienced a series of cinema verite-style scenes: a tsunami, a group of pissed off actors, a wild Chinese woman driving me around in a car (turns out she was taking me to a cemetary). Yikes! Stop the movie!

I'm glad to get to a new day. I made significant progress this weekend: we've added a new member to the Black Forest team to help us organize and submit for new grant money. Also, I made a few breakthroughs on the editing of 'Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath.' It turns out that most the videotape we have 'in the can' is quite good.

Also, started a new book, 'A Third Face,'(My Life of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking) by Samuel Fuller. I think it's a winner, first chapter: 'All human beings are in the same mortal boat, each of us with our own baggage of defeats and victories. Why not carry our load with a smile, stubbornly optimistic, getting the most out of what remains of our lives? Why allow defeats to defeat more than once?'

Sunday, January 16, 2005

'Doc, that's some catch...' - J. Heller

Philip Dick, Science Fiction writer, famous amphetimine addict, once remarked,'you are the authority.' This seems sort of banal, obvious, and oh so true, but it's amazing how many people give up their authority to: god, religion, nation, party, company, family, etc. We are amazingly heirarchical creatures, willing to 'give it up,' to any power or movement that will have us. We seem to be incredible 'joiners,' afraid to be alone in the world. We are alone, and anytime we begin to think of ourselves and others in a 'general,' way, I believe we lose our uniqueness, our essential humaness, our identity. We get lost in the generality. Our empowerment is only to be found in the specific: I am this entity, this being, with these feelings, thoughts, fears; in a world of other unique entities, similiar, but essentially different too. We must recognize our shared humaness, but we must see and celebrate the differences too. To give up our identity to any higher or lower authority, is an abdication of our responsibilty, the responsibility of seeing and being alive in the world.

The filmmaker, John Cassevetes got me thinking along these lines, his films, are always very specific: these particular people, in these particular times; no movie cliches, no shorthand for understanding human experience. His whole film technique is directed to opening our eyes to the human experience; showing the love, the anger, the joy, the pain of a human, a very human, heart. We spend so much of our time on irrelavencies, for instance, the biggest time-wasters, the biggest soul-killers: Religion and Politics. We are looking for answers, some kind of permanancy, this is a sideshow,(Buddha - remember him? KILL THE BUDDHA!), this is delusion.

So we are left with our own instrument: this body, these feelings, these thoughts, this energy, this life. It's all we have, (plus a million questions, and no definitive answers) it is... it must be... enough.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Wild Green Grasses

I'm on always on the hunt for intellectual, artistic and spiritual mentors. Not to follow in anyone's footsteps, but to challenge the way I see the world. It's refreshing to try to imagine seeing life through new eyes. My meditation work has confirmed for me that we are all islands of energy, spinning and self-validating; we do not live in a vacumn, we are alone, and at the same time we are connected to all that is alive with energy - everything is alive with energy.

I read a profile (in the New Yorker) of Hayao Miyazaki, the 'auteur of anime,' a kind of Walt Disney of Japan, and although anime is not really my thing, I was bowled over by the man and his approach to his work. He is an animator, who draws his inspiration from the natural world, 'Have you ever seen a snake fall out of a tree?' In his world there are really no villians, or even his villians have their reasons, they demand some sympathy.

The Miyazaki Way: when facing a problem, try to find a breakthrough by coming up with a much bigger problem.

Miyazaki is somewhat horrified by mass consumerism (America's export) which has ravaged Japan's environment, his happy vision for the future: 'I'm hoping I'll live another thirty years, I want to see the sea rise over Tokyo and the NTV tower become an island. I'd like to see Manhattan underwater. I'd like to see when the human population plummets and there are no more high-rises, because nobody's buying them. I'm excited about that. Money and desire -- all that is going to collapse, and wild green grasses are going to take over.'

Kind of reminds me of Richard Brautigan's 'Revenge of the Lawn.' Long live the wild green grasses! Anyway the article ends with one of my favorite words: dichotomy. Here's the dichotomy that seems to apply to Mizyazaki -- (as per Antonio Gramsci) 'pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.' Mizyazaki sees the world as it is, and evisions another, one of magic and beauty. Have you ever seen a snake fall out of a tree?

Friday, January 14, 2005

Cassevetes, Magus

Temperatures have plunged into the sub-zero range. What to do? Put some Brazilian Samba on the CD player and conjure visions of hot, nearly-naked, nubile bodies dancing in the streets of Rio!

I'm sipping some powerful coffee, waiting for that 'dreamy state before one makes art.'

Over the last three nights (running time: 200 minutes) I watched a documentary ('A Constant Forge') on John Cassevetes and his films (Husbands, Faces, Shadows, Woman Under the Influence). What a great, deeply-loved and loving man! Cassevetes is a filmmaker who really blazed a trail, a guy who knew what he wanted to create, who never compromised, and seemingly never doubted. You wonder where he found such complete confidence in his vision and art (art, as he defines it: the ability to express oneself with absolute freedom and joy).

Cassevetes films are known for being 'difficult,' and it's clear that he tried mightily to make them that way. But his love for people and his deep belief in the uniqueness of each individual seems to be his real driving force. Peter Falk, Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel all testify to his commitment to his family, to the overwhelming joy of collaboration and creation. He believed that our 'money culture,' is the refuge of those who fear life. He embraced life with all it's pain and contradiction, he embraced it with a mad joy. He shows us an essential way to see and to live.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

'I'm a Road Runner, Baby' - Jonathan Richman

A working model for conducting my life: 'as if.' For instance, I'm stepping forward into the new day, 'as if,' everything is (and will be) peachy keen. For a visual representation of this attitude, please refer to the Fool Archetype in the Rider/Waite Tarot deck (hint: it's a picture of happy-go-lucky guy stepping out over a cliff - as per Wiley Coyote).

Yesterday's business meeting was less clear-cut than I was hoping. Remember, (for a refresher course please refer to previous post) I was thinking either prosper and multiply, OR crash and burn. Turns out things are closer to the former and farther from the latter, but of course, nothing is certain; everything is partial, incomplete and subject to change. And that's the good news.

I saw a quote yesterday: 'man is mere complexity.' And, so, of course, is the world he lives in. The recipe of a life: add one complexity upon another, and what do you get? Comedy is born!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"Chirpy, Old Bean!"

Stumbled out of bed this morning into the gray. Walked like a dead-man to the kitchen, mumbling, 'coffee, coffee.' Yes, William Blake's 'energy is eternal delight,' is the key mantra imprinted into my cell structure, but sometimes energy is 'out there,' to be mysteriously, magically, released by brewing up the little black coffee bean. A cup or two of the exquisite mud, re-lights the pilot light, and I'm ready to take the controls and fly into the jaws of a new day.

Carla is in New York. On the phone last night she passed on many amazing facts about the tsunami: time has shortened by three minutes, the planet wobbled slightly, the circumference of the the planet has condensed?! N.Y. is all for 'healing the planet.' I could almost feel the energy of N.Y. (it is another world) coming at me through my cell phone! The midwest seems a little slower, a little grayer, but yes, I want to heal the planet too!

This morning, David Niven, famous actor, raconteur is a stand-in for the Buddha: 'well, old bean, life is really so bloody awful that I feel it's my absolute duty to be chirpy.'

OK, David, I agree, chirpy, indeed, old bean.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Better Living with Chemistry

A nameless chemist (I've forgotten his name) reminds us that given a little water (h2o) plus a source of energy: life abounds. This same chemist thus speculates, that extra-terrestrial life (probably not human) is certainly to be found within our galaxy. A neuroscientist (the Science of brains studying brains) speculates that natural selection has helped human beings evolve a 'sense of mystery.' This 'sense of mystery,' allows us to believe in things greater than simple, mundane acts of life and death (come on, there's got to be a punchline!). It seems we are basically enigmas wrapped in conundrums. I'm willing to hone, to cater to this sense of mystery; since it kind of kicks the door open to new and un-imagined possibilities. So, instead of being bummed out by the thought that we have evolved from apes, (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) we can take satisfaction in the knowledge that we have evolved a sense of mystery, which leads us to curiosity, awe and wonder. I guess it's this sense that drives our efforts in science and art. Just because we ask questions (questions are fun, absorbing) doesn't mean that there are satisfactory answers. What is the sound of one hand clapping? What is one's original face? Where have all the flowers gone? Why a duck?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Bright Shining Lies

I've definitely got running on my mind (Am I running towards something, running from something, running in one big circle? What if what I'm runnning towards/from, turns out to be the same thing?). My sleep was filled with images of flight, of chases and crashes, scenes of beauty and uncontrolled madness. This morning I can recall some of the pictures, they are like bright shining fragments from a broken vase, sitting in shattered pieces at my feet. I have no inclination to try to put the pieces together. I am happy to live with the incoherence of both my dreams and my life. Holding a few bright, shining, fragments in my mind's eye, just might be enough.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Good Night, Charles

I'm getting to the end of the Charles Laughton biography, and like all posthumous biographies, things get a little bleak towards the end. Something always fails, (a gall bladder, a liver, a heart) or some strange accident or mishap occurs (Thomas Merton out of the shower, grabs a live wire). There is a great chapter in Joseph Heller's 'Catch 22,' where a character lists all the diseases that can kill. The character, (I don't remember his name) decides to stay in bed in order to prolong his life, believing that boredom means success.

Death always seems like a failure, although, it isn't. Death is an odd end to the story, but, it comes to everyone. The only person I can think of who truly seemed to welcome death, was the poet and artist William Blake. Little fiery, red-haired William was on his death-bed singing songs, looking forward to dancing with the angels, (the same angels he saw in his life) as the black curtain of death came over him.

Laughton on his deathbed remarked to a visitor, 'I don't think the director knows what he's doing.' Laughton was the actor, the gifted 'ham,' still performing as he went 'gently into that good night.'

Friday, January 07, 2005

The New Wave

Do I really want to write about a sort of obscure French film (I saw it a few years back) from the 1950's? (Actually, I guess, not so obscure, since it was one of the key films of the French New Wave). Yes, well, sort of reluctantly, yes I do. The movie is Francois Truffant's 'The 400 Blows,' and the reason I want to write about it, is one scene, the last. One great scene can make a movie. In fact, one great image is all it takes. In the case, of 'The 400 Blows,' an autobiographical movie of Truffant's reform school years, we follow a young lad through a strait-laced, confining existence, his life smacks of existential 'alienation' (oh lordy, where is my beret and pack of Gitanes?). Most of the movie traces this path of alienation, until, finally at the end, the character (I've forgotten his name: Jules, Jacques - anyway, he is the Truffant stand-in) starts running; he runs through the streets, (we don't know where he's running to, maybe he doesn't either) he just keeps running until finally he arrives at the waterfront (I remember a beach). The camera pans back, (this is how I remember it) and reveals a vast, expansive horizon of water (it must be the ocean) and sky. It is the one moment in the movie of freedom and possibility. Plus, it holds a contradiction: the waterline suggests a larger more profound world, the boy is small and expectant, but he is bounded by the water. It is a breath-taking image, and then a blast of music, the closing credits, done. So anyway, this 'horizon image' re-emerged at the 'Ending and Beginnings' session we attended a few days back. It has become a key image in my own mythology. It's like I rediscovered it and re-integrated it into myself. I am now that 'boy,' running (Carla lately has been asking me, totally unaware my 'secret image,' 'where are you running?') to the waterline. The horizon is expansive, thrilling, 'where do I run to next?'

Thursday, January 06, 2005

No Common Sense?!

Buddha wanted to find an end to suffering; well this morning, I'd like to find an end to snow. I'm tempted to go off on a Herman Melville-inspired chapter on the beauty and horror of the color white, but it's the stickiness, the messiness, of the stuff that has my attention. I'm not going for a run this morning, I want to, I can feel the tug, but really what would I be proving? That I am addicted to endorphins, and I have no common sense? Yes, well, that's no news.

Ok, so, as Der Bingel so eloquently put it, 'let it snow, let it snow,' (since there's no choice in the matter, I must adopt an Alfred E. Neumann - Mad Magazine's gap-toothed buddha - 'what, me worry?' attitude) I'm hunkering in. I will be commuting from my kitchen to my 'study,' and back again. I am armed with an internet capable computer and a cell phone - the world is my oyster (pry it open - find coupons to be redeemed for valuable prizes later). Anyway, Buddha tells us, that all of this is impermanent, and when it comes to snow, he is right.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Ode to an Elevated State

It's all about the color. Color is a vibration, a vibration is an energy, energy has a name. So there's something almost musical/mystical about riding the El (elevated train). Evanston to Oak Park (during Rush Hour) is Purple (creativity) to Green (growth). Oak Park back to Evanston is Green (growth) to Brown (earth) to Red (abundance) to Purple (creativity). Riding the El is a great time to meditate - bring me the colors of the rainbow! There's the 'chunka, chunka' of the train on the rails, the feeling of movement, even as you sit in stillness. It's also, (like death), a great leveller. Everyone is anonymous on an El platform (What is that lovely aroma? Oh yes, stale urine!) and in the train car (All together/All alone). No one engages, all eyes lose focus, the roaring clackety clack of metal on metal becomes our sweet city lullaby. We are all travellers, along for the ride for a brief (or not so brief) time only, people enter and exit, the energy in the car changing, bodies, moving, shifting, until finally, the Main Street stop. The doors open, I step out, find myself in a new time, a new place, the train (now without me) rattles down the track into the black night.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Isn't it Great!?

I watched the news last night, and there was an interview with a Buddhist Monk (how often does that happen?) who talked about comforting people reeling from the effects of the Tsunami. How does he comfort them? He reminds them, as Buddha taught, that everything is impermanent. Seems like cold comfort, not exactly 'pie in the sky.'

But of course, this means that happiness and sadness, pleasure and pain, knowledge and ignorance, wealth and poverty, health and sickness, war and peace - everything changes, everything is insubstantial, ephemeral. Many of the things we stake our lives on, are shifting beneath us.

The Monk, bald, with big clunky glasses, orange robe, was vibrant, alive, he had an easy smile and a silly, comical peacefulness in his bearing. He looked into the camera and said, 'everything is impermanent.' He said it like it was a punchline to a long, complicated joke. Hah, hah, impermanent, yes, and (this left unsaid), oh boy, isn't it great!?

Monday, January 03, 2005

The World is Speeding Up

What has changed? Everything has changed. Change is the ocean in which we swim. Is it possible to live as if this time, right now, this moment on the planet, is the best of all possible times to be alive? Yes, this is a given. This marking of time, today is the third day of 2005, (I'm back in the saddle at work) is an arbitrary construct, but I think it is useful to say, yes, 2004 is gone, these are the things that I accomplished, these are the things I didn't, these are the things I want to create for the new year.

Yesterday's 'Endings and Beginnings,' session at Invision, was a soulful renewal - a reminder that we are on a spiritual journey that defines and gives meaning to the things we do on this earth. I am working under the assumption that 2005 will be a 'breakout,' year. It does seem that events in the world are 'speeding up,' change is everywhere; there are major energies on the move, and violent, breath-taking events are on the horizon. Life and Death are in a rollicking, passionate embrace. The 'Sea of Possibilities,' opens out before us. We can choose the life we want - Now.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

It's Fun to Struggle

Out late last night, at a New Years Day party. I basically stuck to pasta, sparkling water and chocolate, I kept a clear head. Our gracious hosts (they polished off a bottle of Jim Beam) cooked up a lovely meal and kept the conversation light and jaunty. Slept in late this morning (my alarm clock failed me) and feel relaxed, content.

I read John Lahr's profile of Tony Kushner in the latest New Yorker. Two gems to contemplate this morning: 1. To understand Shakespeare you only need to count to two. Everything in Shakespeare is paradoxical and contradictory, and this collision of opposites is the first principle of drama. 2. Kushner and Tennessee Williams share a belief that struggle is the natural order of things. Developmental psychologists talk of 'optimal frustration,' -- the way children learn is that the task they have in front of them is always a little too difficult which forces a degree of concentrated angry attention. It's fun to struggle. It should be a struggle, we're born to it.

It's off to 'Beginnings and Endings' today at Invision. This is an end of year/beginning of the year ritual Carla and I have participated in the last three years. It's powerful, profound. I think 2005 will be a 'breakout year' in all the manifestations of my life.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Anything is Possible

I know it's arbitrary (and really, who's counting?) but, it's the first day of the new year, 2005. Decades of my life just kind of seem like an extended blur. I've been walking around this planet for quite a spell now, and I'm not quite sure where it's all going (maybe a slow decrepitude or possibly some kind of fiery spontaneous combustion?).

We had a really perfect day yesterday: I did a little 'Goodbar,' editing in the morning, then, Carla 'the love of my life,' and I went for a massage and float at 'The Space/Time Tanks.' It's was a low voltage, Ken Russell extravaganza ala 'Alerted States.' In this case, we floated in the dark in warm, salt-saturated water, which miraculously lets your body hang in suspended animation. It's a very odd, disorienting experience, which I guess is the point. The only thing that might come close would be revisiting your mother's womb or traveling in a space capsule out beyond gravity. Every muscle in your body totally relaxes, in fact, for me, my body seemed to disintegrate, and I was just this little center of energy hanging out in the universe. It is enthralling, strange, and ultimately kind of profound - I seemed to locate a center of peace and tranquility deep inside (or really, was it outside?) me. We both emerged feeling kind of shaky and fragile.

Of course, we then went to Starbucks for a hot chocolate and a cider. We sat in these big brown chairs, listened to some music and just let the world wash over us. We then went to see 'Ray,' a biopic about Ray Charles (what a sad, beautiful, excellent, inspiring movie!) at a beat up old theater in Logan Square (what a cool theater). Then it was back home for a late meal (salmon cakes, brocolli, mushroooms!), then a long, refreshing sleep. No party, no countdown, just total satisfaction, peace, and a love-affair with our pillows.

This morning, it's 'sweet love blend,' in the coffee pot, cool jazz (actually a mix of Otis Redding, Sarah Vaughn and Gillian Welch) on the stereo, and a feeling of 'anything is possible.' Happy New Year!

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