Yes, "the banality of evil" - The idea that it isn't gods or demons we should fear, or hold to account, but human beings. I guess, it's especially important to point out that "evil people" doing "evil things" can be just as normal as can be, people like you and I just "making a living," standard operating procedure. You love your spouse, your kids, your dog, you have a job, you get a paycheck every other week. You do your work and you are loyal to your company. You are just doing your job. What could be evil about that? Paul Krugman pointed me to this article in Scientific American - Exxon Knew about Climate Change Almost 40 Years Ago. Of course, armed with that knowledge, they muddied the waters over the years, putting out a coordinated disinformation campaign, to deny and confuse the issue. You wonder how people could live with themselves, knowing that they were lying. Knowing that their company was actively harming the ecosystem, harming the ability of our species to continue life on the planet. Actively wreaking havoc on our environment. And lying about it. Exxon over the years has spent $30 million dollars to promote climate change denial! Talk about "blood money." Talk about evil. What kind of punishment do those folks deserve? How do they account? Shouldn't every one of those employees, scientists, executives, secretaries, etc. get on their knees and beg us all for forgiveness? Shouldn't our species hold them accountable? Do we make them give back the money they earned? Are there jail sentences long enough for those folks? Do we still "tar and feather" people? Climate denial - is it a "hanging offense?" How do we hang a company? I suppose this is all so evil, so banal, that nothing, but nothing, will be done. There will be no accounting for this crime. And all of us should be judged as fools. Total fools in the face of such a common, every day evil!
Death. It's a killer. The ending. So final. Lots of death around here lately. Really sends you into a reevaluation of your life. What you are doing. How you spend your time. You begin to really see/experience the cycle of life. There is a beginning and an end to every moment. Hard not to feel sad. Down. The only remedy I have found is to "get out of my head." Into other things. People, tasks, stories. Play music, read a book. Talk. Walk. Live. Try to experience, as much as we can experience, as we experience it.
I have had my share of existential doom. And Gloom. Probably a cheap American-made imitation of the original from John Paul Satre. My existentialism is just a poorly made copy of that great French nausea delineated by that great French original. Yesterday, the doom, gloom, and unique uneasiness came in waves. Powerful, all-consuming, overwhelming. So yes, my existentialist doom may be a "hand-me-down," but it is mine. I could not put my finger on the reason. I mean, yes, the universe is expanding, the world is a roiling ball of confusion - we are a planet of wars, fires, drought, pestilence, floods, varieties of every kind of human violence, stupidity, intolerance and injustice. But hell, that's NORMAL! Standard operating procedure. So, yes, I was roiling and boiling inside with emotion. I could not figure it out. Could not pinpoint a reason, a cause. So I convinced myself that something really, really bad was about to happen. To me, or to some one dear to me. Waiting for the end of the world, waiting for the shoe to drop, waiting for the bad thing to come down. Waiting for the fickle finger of fate to poke me in the eye. It didn't happen. The moment never came. It was just another day of deep unease. And then that uneasiness just slowly ebbed away. It dribbled out. Disappeared. I made it. In one piece. Empty this morning. The storm has passed. And I wonder, what the hell?!
Yes, Brain Pickings is a daily, must-read. Love this one: 9 Learnings from 9 Years. Wisdom. I especially like "expect anything worthwhile to take a long time." That's a hard-earned one. But so true. Oh yeah, and "be generous" and willing to "change your mind." And how about don't do anything just for the money, and be an idealist. A way to think. A way to live. These seem like essential, important lessons.
Bumped into an old friend and fellow traveler yesterday. He is 1 year and 2 weeks sober. A member in good standing at AA. He has been on a roller-coaster for many years. Just like many of us. He and I talked about spirit, and clarity. And dropping, or channeling, the rage. I've never been to AA, but I do buy their whole schtick. I found spirit and clarity years back when I discovered meditation, and although the meditation teachers I worked with didn't stress sobriety, when I really sunk into a state of clear consciousness & clarity, a life of sobriety, seemed like the only state worth pursuing. Check out the 12 steps of AA. I have come to believe that all of us, could benefit from this program. We are all addicted to something. Some of us are addicted to drugs, alcohol, pain, rage, fear, pop culture, the never-ending sideshow. We all need something to believe in. Even just believing in the possibility of something to believe in is a good first step. And just a glimmer is all we need to imagine and create a new way of living. So yes, I guess in that way we can then redirect ourselves to find and hone our addiction to clarity, to clear consciousness, to some kind of simple spirituality. Yesterday our conversation was filled with laughter, and humility, and wonder. People just feeling their way through. We've learned some lessons, but take nothing for granted. There are no certainties, but there is a renewed commitment to living. Both of us exuded a lightness of being. That is where it is at!
If you love music like I love music, I mean, if music is essential to your life, important, enriching, then you probably already listen to Sound Opinions just like I do. A show that takes our musical obsessions very seriously. Jim Derogatis and Greg Kot. Two very knowledgable, obsessive listeners. I don't always agree with these guys, but I do totally respect their opinions. Each has their own preferences and biases, and once you get your head around who these guys are, and what kind of music they tend to like, you can kind of fly with them. They listen to lots and lots of music. And have totally opened my head and ears over the years. Loved their recent classic album discussion/dissection of The Clash's "London Calling." Reminded me of how much I truly loved that record, and used to play it at ear-splitting, maximum volume in our little apartment, long ago. How we didn't have the Cops raiding our place every weekend, I will never understand. Turns out the Clash's original working title for this double-album was "The Last Testament." Makes sense. A band at the height of their powers, a little desperate to say everything they could possibly say across an amazing set of music. Just a towering piece of work. Important, dazzling, a major cultural artifact. So good. So essential. Reminded me that I needed to brush off my vinyl copy and cue it up! Life-affirming! Exhilarating!
I have always suspected this... Some kind of "life after death." As a physicist says: "The body dies but the spiritual quantum field continues. In this way I am immortal." For some reason I give this more credence since it is floated by a physicist, and not some kind of "religious" figure. No "pie in the sky when you die," but maybe some kind of force-field that carries on after we "drop" our bodies. As Einstein once told us, everything is energy. Energy is everything. Death is just a transformation of energy.
The Republicans formed the "Benghazi" investigative committee to use as a tool to bring down Hillary Clinton. Funny. Didn't work. Instead, I agree with this Vox article - watch a little bit of the hearing and you will come to the conclusion that Hillary will make a really great President. After millions of dollars and hours, and blather, and hot air, we find out that Hillary did receive and send emails while she was Secretary of State! Wow! I have no crystal ball. I know long-term political prognostication is a mug's game, but I am a "political junkie," and I do believe Hillary Clinton will be our first Woman President. And I do think it will be a good, no, it will be an essential thing. If I have any hope in the political system it comes from the actions of a few key individuals. Obama. Hillary. Sometimes the outcome of history rides on the shoulders of one person. Funny.
"Don't worry, he's a big boy. He knows disappointment. He has been disappointed many, many times in his life-time. And he has disappointed many, many others. He swims in a vast sea of disappointment. He experiences a thousand little disappointing cuts every day. There are the big, thudding disappointments, and the tiny, silent disappointments. He has often been disappointed by events, by people where he never imagined disappointment was even possible. Yes, that's what makes him a big boy. Let's just say, that 'Disappointment' is his middle name."
Well, some days, it comes down to simple questions. Questions like: "Do I want to be a passive victim, or do I want to be an active victim?" And then there are things you realize you will do, and things you won't do. And if asked for an answer of why you will do what you do, you say, "I want to." And if asked for an answer of why you won't do what you don't do, you say, "I don't want to. I don't have to." It's these kind of situations, questions, and answers that define us. You don't know exactly what to do or say, but you make a choice. You choose not knowing if what you choose is the good and right thing. You hope it's the good and right thing, but you really won't know until later, after the dust has settled, after the score-keepers have totaled up the results. So yes, back to my simple, cross-roads question yesterday, I went with active victim. Whether that works out the way I hope it works out is kind of a crap-shoot, a roll of the dice. Who knows?
Can I wax philosophically? Yes, I can. Check out the definition for wax, and you will find it is quite the pliable, useful and multi-meaning word. Life. Been thinking about it. Living it too. I am now older than I ever thought I would be. I mean I come from the generation, or maybe a bit behind the generation, that declared, "hope I die, before I get old." I actually never really "hoped to die," but there were a few decades where I lived a bit recklessly. Mindlessly. And I am pretty amazed, and pleased, that I emerged relatively unscathed. "Where does the time go?" That's a good one. I have spent lots of my life trying to figure out life, and I'm pretty sure that was a fool's errand. There is no figuring. There is just life. And you just live it. That's it. And time goes by. It flies by. It's hard to account for all the days, all the hours, all the minutes in the hours that I have lived. And that's not really my thing. I try my best to live now. In the moment. As they tell us, all we really have is now. So not a lot of original wisdom to be found here. And maybe that's my best insight. All the old wisdom is also all the new wisdom. Love. Live lightly, and humbly. I have grown to love "consciousness." Clarity. It is such an amazing gift. I wonder about death. Don't really know what it is. I don't exactly fear it. But I do worry that it's gonna be boring. Hope not. And hope it takes it time getting to me. I still have some living to do.
It turns out Trump actually may do something very good for the country. Surprisingly! Trump is a truth-teller when it comes to Jeb's brother George.Yes, it is true. George was President on 9/11. I think he was in a kid's classroom reading "My Pet Goat." And George did start a war on a phony premise, "weapons of mass destruction." So yes, those two simple facts, which for some reason no one else seems to want to remember, is remembered by Trump. And when confronted with these simple facts, Jeb bobs and weaves and spins like a clue-less, trussed-up, shish-ke-bob. So, yes, no Jeb! Trump scores!
Corporations. Corporations vs. People. Corporation - "an association of individuals.""A group of persons united in one body." Why is it, how is it, that people united in one body will work to destroy life for other people? They will pollute and destroy, they will produce junk, total garbage, to get a pay-check, to increase the value of a stock. People do extraordinarily terrible things united under the banner of corporation. This morning I hear a correspondent from France, talking about a "free trade agreement." He tells me that the French are horrified by the American Food Industry. Americans "wash their chicken with chlorine, they pump antibiotics into their beef, they consume massive quantities of genetically-modified vegetables." Americans. We sound like freaking food Barbarians.Why? To glorify the Corporation. To increase the bottom line. Do we short-circuit our own brains, our own souls, when we work for the corporation? Corporate Man. An abomination. Who do we think we are?
Yeah, you feel the energy shift, and you wonder if it will all just blow apart. The world as you know it. How fragile and tentative it all is, can it all just collapse in a heap? What holds it together? What invisible forces conspire? And then, the blowing apart, was it always there, waiting for it's moment? What made that reality, the reality? And is that the reality? Falling together, falling apart.
Millionaires and Billionaires. You figure they got it made. Probably thank their lucky stars every morning that they live in a wonderful country like the good old USA. Every morning they ask themselves how can they make this country a better place. How can they give back, how can they contribute to make life better for all of us? Just like all of us, every morning they must wake up and ask "not what my country can do for me, but what can we do for our country?" You'd think the rich, the privileged, those who have it knocked, those who have benefitted from living in the most prosperous nation on the planet, would be eager and glad to give back. Nope. Turns out, of course, the Millionaires and Billionaires are a bunch of privileged cry-babies. Spoiled, arrogant, paranoid. For instance all those hedge-fund Billionaires were all hurt and upset that Obama wanted to rein them in after their "casino capitalism"(thank you Bernie Sanders) nearly brought the whole financial world to it's knees. Now they are shoveling all their excess cash to the GOP. Bernie is right. Catering to the whims of the Millionaires and Billionaires is no way to run a country. It is time for a "political revolution."Democratic Socialism sounds just about right.
It's probably easier to see the madness in others. Not so easy to see it in ourselves. Although if we were honest with ourselves, we could document our own endless string of little madnesses in detail. I was recently sitting at a table with a confirmed looney, and two other folks. Four of us. And really we represented a spectrum of madness. How closely do you want to look? How deeply do you want to probe? Logic, and reason, and common sense? These things seem skin-deep. Get past the surface calm and you will find a boiling cauldron of wildness. The "confirmed looney," lives in the local nuthouse. He knows he is considered to be a madman. But sitting at that table over a cup of java, he seemed reasonable, funny, interesting. My other two companions? They seemed like the crazy ones. And as for me? I know I've got some irrationalities that totally consume me. Who spins out? Who gets violent? Who stops being able to maintain? Is it all luck and circumstance? How many slings and arrows push one into the crazy column? I sat at that table thinking about craziness and the things that make us crazy. No clear lines. A spectrum, a rainbow!
I didn't watch the "debate" last night. I read a little bit about it this morning. I am for any of the folks on the stage last night. Any one of them, no doubt, would be better for our country than anyone in the Republican Party. That's easy! But pretty sure, it wasn't really a debate in the real sense, a "formal discussion," in public. No instead it was most assuredly another "faux" event. You know "artificial, fake, an imitation." We live in faux times. So much of our lives are filled with the fake, the artificial, the imitation. We gin up events. Companies. Business models. Entertainments. If we fill ourselves up with enough fake stuff, will the fake fool us into thinking it is the real stuff of the world? Yes. I think so. We embrace the fake, we love the artificial, we fall for, and hold dear, the imitation. When we bump into something real, something genuine, something heartfelt it's kind of scary. Sort of homely and odd. Seems less colorful, less lively and less attractive than the faux.
Yes, contrary to lots of the political hot-air, hub-bub and hurly-burly "open borders" seems like a good, noble and very humane idea. People should not be condemned by the circumstance of their place of birth. Let my people roam free. No borders! Open borders!
Nothing makes me happier than to find a blog post referencing Jean Paul Sartre on a Monday morning. How existential! How many JPS sentences have I struggled over? I must say, that a beret just never sat upon my head very comfortably, but JPS is definitely one of those thinkers, and cultural figures, that captivated me, opened my head. Helped me find a way out of my "Catholic guilt" and regret phase. How to live? Do you tell stories, or listen to other's stories? Do you lose yourself in the moment? Or do you observe and recount every moment that you live? Do you lose yourself, or watch yourself? We now live in the "Age of the Selfie!" But if you are always watching and documenting are you missing out on the living part?
I tracked with "Assassination Theater" by Hillel Levin. The title of a Playboy article Levin wrote in 2010 is more direct: "How the Outfit Killed JFK." My partner dozed a few times during the presentation. I hesitate to call it a play. I didn't doze. I followed every last rabbit down every last hole. It helped that I drank a cappuccino before entering the theater. Plus I was bringing a lifetime of dogged interest to the subject. How many Thanksgiving dinners did our family discuss the "single-bullet theory?" The "lone assassin" theory?" The importance of the "Grassy knoll?" Levin makes a pretty good case for a mob hit. I always thought it was the most likely scenario. Watch the Zapruder film - no doubt there is a shot coming from the front of the motorcade. And I just can't believe that subsequently Jack Ruby gunned down Oswald because he wanted to spare Jackie Kennedy from a trial. Just not believable. So Levin names names. Actually names the guy - James Files who admitted to shooting Kennedy from the grassy knoll. It's kind of the "holy grail" moment. But there's no "aha!" to it. Most of this all sounds plausible. But we are now in the realm of "myth." This is such a "cold-case." And there are so many contradictory theories and facts. Murk and muck. At the end of the night, just as we're about to wrap up, Levin also tells us RFK was gunned down by the mob too. This seemed sort of tacked on. A few sentences, a picture of Sirhan Sirhan and call it a night. So yes, the Mob. Sure. Probably. Too bad. So sad. And well, guess that's it. But there is no ending to the story really. Just the loss. The counter-factual fantasy of "what if." It's kind of a hall of mirrors that you just can't escape.
Folks are spinning. Out. When is it time for the strait-jacket? The rubber room? What point is made, what line is crossed, that compels others to finally decide that they have heard, and seen, enough, that it's time to send in the goons to spirit you from your apartment? How many goons does it take to take one Crazy One from their humble abode? How many squad cars? How many paramedics? How much strong-arming and man-handling? How much fury and fear, terror and rage? How much screaming in the night? Who is next?
I have met some extraordinary beings in my life. Human and otherwise. I recently met a Greyhound. A former racing dog. For three years this dog spent her time in two places, two places only - a kennel and a racetrack. She was born to race, born to train to race. I was told she had a pretty good win/loss record. Lucrative. But then, well, her racing days ended, and she was on the list to be terminated. A young couple adopted her. Rescued her. Brought her home, and gave her a new name, "Biscuit." I have been spending some time with Biscuit. Imagine a wad of gum, stretched out into the form of a dog, impossibly long, impossibly thin. When she stands in the sunlight, her legs are translucent. So thin, where there isn't bone, sunshine bleeds through her skin and soft tissue. Her tail is like a whip. She is all bone and muscle. She is a moving structure of bone. She is gentle. So gentle. Quiet. She seems "not of this world." I have stood beside her as she has discovered a new world - flowers, grass. Is it possible she has never before sniffed a flower? We ramble around with no agenda. Just experience the day. She has helped me to see the world with new eyes. When I come to see her, she looms up in front of me, expectant. What an exotic creature. Those deep, dark eyes - bottomless. I talk to her. Show her I am so happy to see her. So happy to spend some time together. We can walk. Just walk the day.
Yes, this makes more than sense... we are never alone, even when we are alone. And all the relationships in our lives, affect our lives, our health, our well-being, our immune systems, and how we deal with stress. And life, well, brothers and sisters, "life is stress!" And when you lose someone close, it is like losing a limb, an integral part of your being. That's how it feels, that's how it is. I think of all the people I carry with me - mother, father, siblings, cousins, etc. (we all come from a long line of dead people), and also all those folks, those voices, who have had an impact on me from afar, voices, beings that I carry with me always - Dylan, Melville, Neil Young, David Foster Wallace, John Lennon, Kurt Vonnegut, Patti Smith, Sam Shepard, Kerouac, Poe, Allen Ginsberg, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Paul Bowles, Charles Bukowski, Vince Lombardi, Joseph Heller... oh yeah, lots of others I can't bring into my viewfinder this morning. No wonder I am a jumble. And full of words. Always. Alone and never, ever, alone. Are they all good for my immune system? Don't know, but it's an interesting mix for sure...
Words. Hurled like daggers. It is amazing how deep they can cut. A key word, slipped in at the right time, can be deadly. Funny. Surprising. And you think you can hold onto your "dignity," some sense of respect, or nobility, or worthiness, but no, every last shred of dignity will be ripped from you. And it's surprising how easily it can be done. So yes, that dignity you'd like to cling to is a flimsy thing. So. What's left? A sense of the "absurd." But maybe this sense of the "laughably foolish" can be a positive state? Accept the irrational. Swim in the sea of meaninglessness. Embrace it. Thrive in it. Face up to it. And don't cling to anything but the absurdity of your being. Accept that you are a silly entity. Irrational. A poorly constructed thing. Go with that...
You wonder if you are talking to a crazy person. How would you really know? He's telling you about being captive on an island. Working for a large, multi-media entertainment corporation. He can't leave the island. He is being paid prodigious sums of money to be on that island and to do what he has to do. His time is not his own. Once in awhile he can make a call. His phone only works if he walks from the compound to the beach. He is captive in a house, an $80 million mansion. $80 million. The doors are made of marble. Marble. Yes, the doors are made of marble. It takes three people to open or close a door. Three people. Don't ever slam a door. Don't do it. People will come running out and give you dirty looks if you slam a door. 14 people run this mansion. 14 people. This is the same guy you were supposed to meet, to sit down with, but instead, he has been whisked away to another place. He's a talker. And he calls at all hours of the day. People, lots of high level people all over the world are waiting for him to complete the work he is working on. He's making more money than he can imagine. It is a wild ride. He has to go. People are waiting on him. He will call back when he can.
Improvise. Make it up. In the moment. As they say, "on the spur of the moment." Hit your head against the wall? Don't do it again. You'll just knock your brains out. Move the wall. Or will it gone. Or bring out the hammer and saw and get to work. We need less walls and many more doors and windows.
Words. They have gotten me into trouble. Sometimes really deep trouble. I have learned you must be careful what you say, what you write down. Everything can and will be used against you. Words. They have also totally empowered me. I love to talk, and to write. I do think words have been a sort of personal salvation. I have been lucky to easily tap into the flow. Not everything I say or write is important, intelligent, or necessary, but having the ability to reach for a word has been a life's work, and a life's pleasure too. Sometimes I wonder if aging is just the inevitable running down of energy of "imagining the universe?" We are in dialogue, in a dance with this large, unwieldy beast. We bring our minds, our bodies to the task, but there is only so much energy and imagination we can draw upon. Finally words fail? And when they fail, the game is over? Don't know...
Up late playing music at a bar and grill in Nashville. Up early anyway. Sleeping in someone else's bed. I hear a train whistle blowing, always makes me sad, reminds me time is passing, people are coming and going. Being in a new town is always sort of refreshing, new things to see and do, but at the same time I fall back on all my usual routines - good meal, good coffee, up early writing, playing my guitar, reading a rock and roll book. You can't really get away from yourself. Maybe that isn't the point. Maybe getting to know ourselves is the point. And putting ourselves in many different situations to find out what is the essence, the core of ourselves. And maybe find out what it is you want to do, and do that with all your might, energy and enthusiasm.
On the road. In Nahville. A music town. Thriving. It's younger, hipper, funkier, friendlier than I imagined. Lots of out of towners live here, which makes it seem like a city just like other cities. It's small and circular. Easy to get lost here. The ghosts of country music stars past haunt this place. But they really seem from another country, another planet, another time and place. I mean, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Patsy Cline, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ernest Tubbs, etc. Seem like a different kind. Not really part of the new Nashville. Their images are invoked. Their icons are everywhere, but they are like those old Greek Gods. Nice mythology, but no longer believed in, or worshipped. So a lost-ness kind of hangs over this place. It wants to be something, but it isn't what it pretends it wants to be.