The Other is a mirror to the Soul

I feel enormous sadness, fear, and anger.

Black people have been choked and shot on camera for a decade. Children have been shot. Children have gone to play in a park and never come back. I wish that pain on no person.

For this decade I have silently lived in fear. I have not wanted to speak and be criticized. I do not understand what my fear given me to keep me trapped, but it is no longer enough. If I were Black, anyone could shoot me, or my friends, or my family, or place me in a chokehold for eight minutes and forty six seconds. Since I am White, I do not pay for this injustice in bodily insecurity.

I pay for it in spiritual insecurity. I expect to receive my generous portion of respect, civil rights, and legal recourse precisely because the scraps are given to the Black half of society. My family’s intergenerational wealth is grown from the bitter seeds of the GI bill and redlining. My comfort is built on exclusion, death, and the silence of generations of White people.

I will not be silent. I will stand up and be counted. I will read, listen, learn, and speak.

 

I give a damn.

 

Black lives matter.

 

Love to all.

Clutch

This is a story. The creator knows it is a tiny world, sacred. It does not use the creator’s name but tells the whole story of the creator like one thread tells the whole sweater. Today the creator looks at it, sees it precious, plucks lightly. It is not disturbed, has not noticeably changed since the last check. The creator, comforted, tucks it into its proper place, and it nestles and naps. The creator steps onto the street, strolls toward the bagel shop, and the story rides along in a pocket. It is not seen; its nooks are not known; the story is not rudely handled, jostled, criticized. It is perfectly comfortable. The creator knows that it will become restless – soon it will uncurl, stretch its legs, announce its readiness, and the whole world will make a space for it, sing to it, cheer it forward, and the creator will be the right person in the right place and the right time for it, and it will pop from the womb fully formed, joyful and perfect. A great many people will love it for its truth and hope and the creator and story will each be loved for their part in the other. Soon. Not quite today. The creator feels in his stomach that the story, between its meticulous untuckings and retuckings, has been growing and gaining power. It has its own volition. It will be a force. But not today, because as the creator savors the taste of anticipated prodigy and crosses the street to the bagel shop, a Prius comes through. It’s too fast for much feeling. Head and back and heels against the road, the creator untucks and retucks the story again. Makes sure it is comfortable. It is safe.

Dagon (2001)

The star of Dagon is its texture: dripping rain and water, damp stone carved smoother than it should be, grating mollusk shells and teeth, rotten wood and rotten skin. The CGI is a weak point; it’s a movie with flaws and foibles. And it doesn’t wink at the audience like Re:Animator, or truly transgress boundaries like From Beyond. Dagon is about something more serious, more human, something that can make people skin other people alive: worship. Just know that on the path of worship you may find gold, but you may also find your hands too changed to hold it.

From Beyond (1986)

From Beyond is about the skin on your face: it is thin, ready to retract, gleeful to reveal the murk underneath. You will enjoy its peeling at first. From the moist humus of the flesh below will spring your ancient glands morphed into the sense organs of the future. This is a warning. If you explore your animal nature too deeply, it will change you permanently – to be reduced to a trembling schizophrenic is a light punishment. If you’re unlucky, you will become known to the deeper hungers. And to those predatory, bottomless, gooey appetites, “Humans are such easy prey.”

Review: Re:Animator (1985)

Re:Animator knows its purpose: it shows the ambition of men, the thirst to pierce and twist the will of others. Everything else is along for the ride and not to be dwelt on – the everyman and the love interest are rather bland, the cast is small, the sets are few. The movie’s flavor shines out like fireflies: David Gale’s eyes, Jeffrey Comb’s necromantic fluid, the doomed cat’s bright dark fur, all popping into and out of frame, never totally forgotten when absent, often funny when present, always surprising to see appear and disappear. Two words sum it up: brilliant fun.

Dream #1

This is a dream I had during the night of March 15, 2016. It inspired me to begin writing a novel. I still have the plans for it sitting around somewhere…

 

The dream felt like a movie. It was set in some 80’s world, kind of visually similarly shot to The Warriors. There was a clear protagonist, a young white male who was forming a band with his friends. They were starting to make it big (as per That Thing You Do, which I watched a little of last night) and got a gig at a concert house venue. They played there but a fire interrupted the gig, and for some reason the building was sealed to cut off the fire, but one of their band members was still inside. I remember in the dream it was 5AM and I was sitting in my car in a parking lot. I was, under the orange light on my dew-beaded windshield, waiting for something. I turned on the car and drove it. I got to the venue. I went inside with other people, maybe other members of the band.

The interior was dark, and then blue and a little smoky with the light coming in from the opening of the two big, metal doors. There was sort of a ring of wood around the interior. The ring was maybe ten feet wide with various things on it. In the middle there was a drop, and I came to see that in the hole there was water a few feet down. The band member that had been left inside had somehow been transformed into a pink rat, or maybe he had been that the whole time; but he was swimming around in this water and sort of clinging to objects that were floating in it, trying to stay up off the surface and trying to avoid something big and unseen that was swimming there. The fire had opened a portal to somewhere else; the water was lit from below with yellow light. The dream kind of ended there, but damn, it had a cool feeling of real art to it.

Twenty

Written on 2017/9/1.

When I was a child you told me right here that all I needed to do was try my best.

How long have you been waiting tables, sleeping on the couch until noon, writing and drinking on the weekends?

Look, it’s not easy after what I’ve been through, I’m getting better and I’m getting out of this.

If your mother saw this she’d say the same thing, get out and go do something real.

You don’t know what we talked about – I’m making my choices and she always wanted that.

She wanted you to be successful, not with no friends and throwing up every Saturday.

We’ve had this conversation and you won’t talk about my friends, not after everything.

Then maybe let’s not talk and you can just never start turning around.

You think this is all about you, when I’m facing right where –

Of course it’s about me, it’s about me and your mom.

Really, you’ll use a dead woman to tell me how –

Have some respect, don’t talk about her that way.

Then keep this between the two of us.

The anniversary and memorial was last Saturday. They had her pictures all around.

Yeah, you already told me.

Did you see her?

I wanted to.

Did you?

No.

That sense of embarrassment from seeing a picture of your adolescent self with bowl cut

In 7th or 8th grade I composed this poem in a dream and recorded it when I woke up. 

 

I think it strange

that I would ride

a car of dreams

or train of thought;

still I think it funny not.

 

It’s amazing how things can fade,

like the tinge on an apple

or a beautiful glade

 

So here I am,

with a banana as a bandana

and a sheep as a jeep,

blowing Nazis to hell and smithereens.

 

I wouldn’t like it to end this way,

but they are out to get me, say,

it would be me or them in the end.

 

Like the camel and his “humph”

people say, oh, it’s fair that way

but they aren’t in his body, are they?

Kind of like the Maine Lobster Festival

The bulk of this was written on May 17th 2018, the day of the hike.

 

As my father and I heaved toward the crest of the most active volcano of the Galapagos Islands, walking in the footprints of thousands of visitors, cars, and fire ant trails, our guide Pablo pointed into the red-barked forest.

“These,” he said, “are Guava trees.” The squat invaders are virile in proportion to the help they receive from the natives: symbiotic Brown Moss captures water sustains them in summer, Carpenter Bees pollinate their flowers, and Finches transport their fruits’ hundreds of seeds. This natural encouragement would have heartened those who, trying to tame a world much less habitable than ours, introduced the fruit here in the 1840s – Ireland’s Great Famine in the same decade killed a million people and forced another million to leave the country.

To be fair, the colonizers have pluck. The five-meter Guavas stand three times as tall as the Galapagos’ native ferns and grasses. They monopolize the sunlight and demote everything else to undergrowth. International cargo ships and the grooves of visitors’ boots were bound to errantly seed the Islands eventually, but visitors may not know that the Guavas dominate every ecosystem they’ve met, and are now, according to Pablo, “impossible to eradicate.” The Holocene, the period of natural history defined by human activity, will be geologically evidenced by the world’s blanket of plastic and nuclear radiation. It will be ecologically evidenced by sudden inhabitants who thrive but don’t fit.

So how to coexist with the scrappy trees? Park rangers have found one use for the wood: a few morose signs that say that the number of tourists in the Galapagos is twice what would be sustainable. This message unites our group in disquiet. Nobody wants to live in a fouled nest. But how do reverse so much inertia?

Back on the balcony of my hostel, surrounded by the smells of fresh asphalt and hot rubber, I tried my first Guava fruit. Reception: mixed. Some good flavor, too much pulp, too many seeds. Well, I thought, forward. Onto the next thing.

“Uroboros”: My affectionate name for a selection from The Hero with a Thousand Faces

I think this is the most life-affirming and practical thing I’ve ever read. I’m quoting from The Hero with a Thousand Faces, pages Page 220-223, omitting some parts to make a more cohesive narrative:

“[Myths] link the unconscious to the fields of practical action, not irrationally, in the manner of a neurotic projection, but in such fashion as to permit a mature and sobering, practical comprehension of the fact-world to play back, as a stern control, into the realms of infantile wish and fear. And if this be true of the comparatively simple folk mythologies (the systems of myth and ritual by which the primitive hunting and fishing tribes support themselves), what may we say of such magnificent cosmic metaphors as those reflected in the great Homeric epics, the Divine Comedy of Dante, the Book of Genesis, and the timeless temples of the Orient? Until the most recent decades, these were the support of all human life and the inspiration of philosophy, poetry, and the arts. Where the inherited symbols have been touched by a Lao Tze, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, or Mohammed – employed by a consummate master of the spirit as a vehicle of the profoundest moral and metaphysical instruction – obviously we are in the presence rather of immense consciousness than of darkness.

…Briefly formulated, the universal doctrine teaches that all the visible structures of the world – all things and beings – are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve…

…‘For,’ as Jesus states it, ‘behold, the  kingdom of God is within you.’ Indeed, the lapse of superconsciousness into the state of unconsciousness is precisely the meaning of the biblical image of the Fall. The constriction of consciousness, to which we owe the fact that we see not the source of the universal power but only the phenomenal forms reflected from that power, turns superconsciousness into unconsciousness and, at the same instant and by the same token, creates the world. Redemption consists in the return to superconsciousness and therewith the dissolution of the world. This is the great theme and formula of the cosmogonic cycle, the mythical image of the world’s coming to manifestation and subsequent return into the nonmanifest condition. Equally, the birth, life, and death of the individual may be regarded as a descent into unconsciousness and return. The hero is the one who, while still alive, knows and represents the claims of the superconsciousness which throughout creation is more or less unconscious. The adventure of the hero represents the moment in his life when he achieved illumination – the nuclear moment when, while still alive, he found and opened the road to the light beyond the dark walls of our living death…

…The hero, the waker of his own soul, is himself but the convenient means of his own dissolution. God, the waker of the soul, is therewith his own immediate death.

Perhaps the most eloquent possible symbol of this mystery is that of the god crucified, the god offered, “himself to himself.” Read in one direction, the meaning is the passage of the phenomenal hero into superconsciousness: the body with its five senses… is left hanging to the cross of the knowledge of life and death, pinned in five places… But also, God has descended voluntarily and taken upon himself this phenomenal agony. God assumes the life of man and man releases the God within himself at the mid-point of the cross-arms of the same ‘coincidence of opposites,’ the same sun door through which God descends and Man ascends – each as the other’s food.”