James Baldwin said that the “poet’s work is to change the world,” be his format fiction, drama or the essay. But that “changing” assumes that the particular writer possesses the power to exact that change in his readers’ minds and that he has something of extraordinary value to say that most others cannot or will not see, much less accept. So much depends on these witnesses to and interpreters of the writer’s words, his readers. Also, words are the most exact dissectors of human emotions, thoughts and actions while, at the same time, have overtones that can account for misreadings. In short, there are many variables that can get between the writer and his changeable audience. Therefore, what are the chances of “changing the world,” even for a little while? Some writers have done so: Marx, Freud, Joyce and the various scribes of the Bible. These upheavals in the world were cataclysmic but relatively short-lived, if one recognizes the decline of Christianity, as well as all religious mythologies.
Dylan Thomas said it best in his brief poem,
“In My Craft and Sullen Art”--
But for the lovers, ...
Who pay no praises or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.
In other words, all art--and especially the writer’s art--is tragic because the motivating force behind his need and desire to touch and change his audience, his readers and even his fans, do not even listen to his words and to him. Why? Because they are not the writers and, so, have far more important things on their minds. To quote Thomas again--
the lovers [have] their arms
Round the griefs of the ages
and not around the words of the poet who may, indeed, be trying to comfort them.
Then, there are those viewers of art who can listen, see and understand what the writer is saying to them but who do not agree with him. All things in this world are relative to each other and to those who try to interpret that relativity. Therefore, a writer’s “success” or “failure” is a relative judgment that can be accurately measured only by the duration of the particular writer’s words and what ideas he and they have effectively changed while he was alive and/or by what he has left behind after his death.
And so, a scientist’s changes on the natural
world around him are more likely to succeed than a writer’s attempts to change the human world around him. Be a designer of cars rather than a frustrated designer of minds because, then, you can see and touch the effects of your efforts; and be a writer only if you are attracted to failure.
“Words alone may be certain good,” but only to the writer of those words, not his readers.
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Ours is a private enterprise economy where one side advocates a welfare-state in which the “haves” help the “have-nots” by a progressive tax system and a set of entitlements, that is, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and a host of other rescue programs for the indigent, disabled, and unemployed.
The other side holds that “earned” wealth
is entitled to be free to enjoy its privilege without being taxed “in order to...increase the general welfare” of the state; therefore, to tax the rich to help the poor is “immoral.” (general indebtedness to the NEW YORK TIMES and, specifically, to Paul Krugman in his op-ed, “A Tale of Two Moralities,” on January 13, 2011).
And neither side is willing to give in because it “knows in its heart” that it is right; and, further, it is the entrepreneurs and captains of industry that have made this country great and not their armies of cheap
labor. Brains versus brawn--and all the corners that can be cut in the battle: hence, greed versus survival, corruption versus honesty, exploitation and repression
of the workers versus exhaltation and influence of the corporate elite.
Add to this chasm in our capitalist society, the escalating fact that, over the past forty years (since the end of the idealistic 60’s and the advent of a more self-interested society, no longer a “Great Society”), the pride of being on the “correct,” that is, controlling, side of politics has engendered the belief that only one party possesses direct access to “the truth.” And, so, each side has become cocooned by an insulating sense of its own self-importance over the “inferior” view of the opposing side. There is no room anymore for healthy debate, practical compromise, and civilized relationships between and among adversar- ies. Winning has become everything to the point where, now, it is “all or nothing at all”--
in the name of any hollow victory.
And when push comes to shove, violent crises erupt, first, in invective and name-calling and, then, in the use of deadly force.
After which, the purging begins its cycle anew, always doomed to failure because our decisions are too deep, too profound and, above all, encased in personal antagonism. (general indebtedness to the NY TIMES and, specifically, to Thomas Friedman in his op-ed, “Tree of Failure,” on January 13, 2011).
Aside from resigning ourselves to repetitive crises of violence followed by short-lived crises of conscience, can any definitive and lasting solutions be found and successfully exercised? Probably not, in our present forms of government. Peace treaties between the warring factions of fractious politicians are always interrupted and discarded in the face of new wars (like health-care) and ongoing struggles (like
abortion, some thrity-eight years and still intensely divisive).
A group of aristocratic landowners founded our Republic along some grandiose lines of
”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “equality for all” (or, at least, a “3/5 equality”). And over the 235 years that have passed since these “white farmers” fought for and won our independence from a single foreign power, we have continued our fight against all foreign powers, real or imaginary to the point where our numbers have changed geometrically and our values and ways of governing have changed in light-years. We have progressed from a loose confederation of colonies to a super-power, from a slave state to a free state of comprehensive civil rights, from an expansionist destiny to an occupying force in too many countries that do not want us there, from modest lawmakers to extravagant betrayers of the public trust, and from a civil society to a chaotic one
where, often, mob-rule tactics (carrying of firearms to local assemblies and hortatory and radical speech to stir up the swelling
ranks of disgruntled protestors). And this inclination to violent change has occurred on both sides--from “Hippies” to “Tea Partiers” and points inbetween.
Therefore, our ways of governing must also evolve to meet and confront our shifting realities without a continuous taking of sides in never-ending conflicts of wills to power. Translated into some specifics, our governmental structures have become petrified, written in slanderous stone, and they must change to ensure a genuine political balance of influence: our two-party system must be abandoned and reshaped into an equality of representation freed from economic self-interest and legislation by lobbyists and their corporate sponsors.
For instance, a guaranteed 50-50 split in lawmakers in BOTH Houses of Congress,
together with a dual executive branch
(that is, two GEO’s, Government Executive Officers, not “Presidents”), and with a recon-figured Judiciary of 10, not 9 Justices, with
impasses being broken by immediate votes of the people in a set of ongoing referen-
dum elections which, in turn, would aid in creating a more involved electorate than one who votes every two to four years, if at all. If the people will not, cannot govern themselves more directly and willingly, then others will do it for them, as is done now--to no one’s satisfaction.
The details, mechancis and even feasability of the above matter less than the renewed conviction that America is worth saving at any costs and by any means necessary.
Until we revamp our quasi-democratic system into a truly equal and functioning one, these Disunited States of America will be condemned to repeat the darker sides of their history, instead of learning from the extreme lessons that we see and hear
exploding all around us on a daily basis and that we pay lip-service to but which we never learn from nor ever fully understand.
There is only one self-interest that matters and that will count when all the words are exhausted and all the hypocritical attempts have failed--and that is the survival and prosperity of our country. Otherwise, we shall go the way of Rome and all truly failed states, done in by our own refusal to practice restraint in the face of overpower- ing greed for money and hunger for power.
No one can “save” us except ourselves and our own best interests. And we need a workable system of hard-working and honest leaders and diligent lawmakers to enact our rhetorical/persuasive words and beliefs into the hard facts and acts of reality.
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Daisy is a phony; Blanche is sick; and Desdemona is an angel. And they all want love, love and more love, except one. Of these three female heroines (and of all the characters in these three works), only Desdemona knows what true-love is and how to react to and behave with that kind of love: accept and do not question it and never speak or act against it. But she has one tragic blind spot that she does not and cannot foresee: her husband’s obsession with and destruction by the “green-eyed monster” of jealousy, which costs her her life. But up to and at the very last moment of her life, she maintains and professes her undying will to always respect, serve and love her master, her mate and her husband, her Othello--who kills her.
And it is this eagerness to sacrifice her life for her beloved, no matter what, that sets her apart and allows Desdemona to tran-
scend all of her innate self-love in order to only give and not to take from her true-love
until she gives up her last breath to him and “dies upon a kiss.” Desdemona’s love is en-
tirely innocent and beyond naivete, com-
pletely trusting and devoutly loyal. All of the human weaknesses have vanished from Desdemona’s words, thoughts, and deeds: she does not direct nor does she correct; neither does she neglect nor suspect. She can only realize and express her love by giving it and herself away wholly in body, mind and soul.
Desdemona is an unrivaled ideal love that exists only in books until she becomes flesh and blood and dwells among us. A more believable kind of love, the kind known to us living in the real world, is self-love, all forms of which try to pass themselves off as true-love but which are not because their pleasures all proceed from and return to our own very selfish selves. Love makes us feel so good, except when we have to work and sacrifice for it, including sacrificing
our own self-centered needs, desires and
egos to those of our loved-one who comes
first and before any of our own needs, desires and egos.
But how can that be? Don’t we all have needs? Yes, we do. And what should we
do when our needs are not being satisfied?
Let someone else walk all over us? No, not in any degrading or violent way as Desdemona does not do until she is finally accused of disloyalty and infidelity by her, then, deranged husband; now, the willing suspension of her natural ego leads to the unwilling suspension of her natural life, that is, she knowingly and wilfully dies for her unquestioning and unflagging love of Othello.
And in this conscious and deliberate choice, she becomes iconic of the highest kind of
love in the abstract, but unreal to her view-
ers. However, in the choosing of another’s ego over her own, she points the way to the essence of true-love: giving over taking.
But even unconditional and free giving brings great pleasure back to us, if our
gifts are accepted, recognized, appreciated and returned in like manner: my making you feel good makes me feel good in return and, so, love feeds on and grows off of another’s love, symbiotically, like some ever-flowing and revolving energy.
Whereas Daisy, Tom, Myrtle and Jordan are all false purveyors of love, leaving Nick’s recongition of and respect for Gatsby’s “romantic readiness for hope” as the only true-love of that novel.
Likewise, Blanche and Stanley are both consumed with a self-devouring and ego-
filled self-love for themselves above all others, with only Stella and Mitch approaching true-love; but even they surrender to their own insecure egos and needs in the end, both rejecting Blanche in order to “save” themselves.
Therefore, what is the essence of true-love? Honesty with yourself, for each of us knows when we truly love someone and when we are trying to satisfy our own needs, desires and egos, especially with sex and financial security which are inter-
woven with all love to the point of genuine confusion and wrong choices with poten-
tially disastrous results.
To love and to be loved in return--honestly, selflessly and completely--is a phenomenon
devoutly to be wished, rarely to be found and not to be dismissed. Love comes and goes and makes the world go ‘round with it, but it is almost never free from self and ego.
“losing through you what seemed myself;
i find selves unimaginably mine”
(e.e. cummings, “silently if ...”)
is a miracle of time and place in a world of seeming, false and selfish loves and a life-
time of almost endless searching.
We fade away, but love endures.
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Slide by frame-by-frame:
Blinding ripples of sun
Sparking off glassy grey water,
Shafts of whitewashed birch trees
Patched with dark splotches,
Saturated green meadows with
As light clicks down to night
Slowly tracing vermillion-white gel-strips
Across oversized window panes of
The COAST STARLIGHT EXPRESS--
We ride together in cramped couchette
Into UNION STATION.
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Some prejudices are linguistically based, that is, the folks against “gay marriage” seem to be stuck on the traditional meaning of the term “marriage,” which has more to do with a “union of two things,” as in “the union between God and his people” and also the “love of Christ to His saints” than it has to do with a “marriage between one man and one woman.”
Therefore, what is needed to slow-down the confrontation between rationally minded people and homophobes is a new word, a neologism. I propose the word “mate,” as in “same-sex matings,” “mated for life,” “soul-mates.” If this term has “animalistic overtones,” then let us take a clue from our more basically instinctual primates, from whence we all come, that is, if one believes in evolution--another culture clash. I would also suggest that our most sacred Bible has had undue influence upon our concept of “marriage between only one man and one woman” and, therefore, is overdue for a
reevaluation of its sectarian prejudices.
And as long as we are at it, that is liberating and enlightening our insular and isolated points-of-view, may I also suggest a new word to ease our uneasiness and squea-
mishness associated with the “mentally ill,” who seem to be in season lately. Not to banish our all-time favorites, such as, “crazy,” “nutso,” “batty,” “loopy,” and “loony,” and even the more euphemistic “deranged,” which can all serve usefully colloquial purposes when more precise words fail us, but to add a term from another of our skewed uses, that is, “gifted.” For what else are our mentally ill and too often misunderstood brothers and sisters but those who have been “gifted with,” given extra-minded levels and filters of exceptional and, at times, unique ways of perceiving the chaotic world around us.
And if these visions of alternate realities do not correspond to our agreed-upon set of civilized codes of conduct for the benefit of our society’s survival, then also consider
that our other and more uncommonly
“gifted” individuals often operate on the edges between mental health and mental illness, that is, the intensity of their brains are balanced on the razor-thin divide between rational sanity and creative “insanity,” an entirely relative word too often defined by a too narrow group of individ-uals known as “psychologists” and “psychi- atrists,” who have recently removed the term “homosexual” from their heretofore his- torical catalogue of “diseases of the mind.”
“Mated” and “gifted” also sound so much move positive and far less pejorative than
the oxymoronic “gay marriage” and the con-demnatory “mentally ill.”
Change your wordings and witness the change in your attitudes, unless you are
stuck in the mire of your own personal human illnesses, better and more commonly known as “fear,” “ignorance,” and “hate.”
What’s in a word? Everything--that is inside of us, implicitly or explicitly stated.
So, let’s say what we do not mean but which is far more accurate.
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After years of observation, I have found that most people do not like to listen to others and what they have to say, if we listen at all: most people are tuned-in to the endless tapes inside their heads, called their egos. And to get free of ego is almost impossible because that’s what it is there for--as proof that you exist.
So that, when you attempt to talk to another person about something of interest to you, she either does not hear you or she couldn’t care less: “Oh, yes, that’s nice, what did you say?” Unless you speak from a position of recognized authority and, sometimes, not even then. One’s own ego-noise drowns out almost all other noises unless some bits of that noise apply directly to what is on your mind at the time.
Futhermore, our egos never fail to correct and contradict what we do hear from others in an attempt to bolster our own insecure need “to be right” or smarter or both.
In short, it is almost impossible to get free of ego; and, therefore, writings (books and articles) directed outwards towards others
can only claim an audience that is pre-inclined or newly interested in what your book or article is about. And rightly so since most self-reflection on paper is personalized rubbish which no one should be interested in, including too many recognized and published writings that pass for pop-lit and that pass into instant obscurity.
So, who are those worth listening to? Those whom you know, respect and who have what you believe are important things to say to you, either in conversation and/or on paper. And so, your Uncle Joe or Aunt Maude can be of greater interest to you than established and recognized writers, not only for the specificity of their points relevant to you in particular but also for their keen observation and expression of those points of interest to you.
The implications of this observable fact are many, the most evident of which is in simple conversation, as mentioned previously.
Then and in more formal conversations, say between teacher and student, between parent and child, or between husband and wife which are rarely paid any attention to for a host of other extraneous reasons, not the least of which is familiarity and prejudice, even if you are married to a best-selling author.
Givers of advice and directions are paid only ear-service and, so, we get lost again and again.
Doctors and lawyers are listened to more often and more seriously but, often, are dismissed because what they say is not what we want to hear.
And forget about what preachers say since they have never been there and, therefore, don’t know what they are talking about.
“People do not listen” seems to be the inescapable conclusion here. And the reason we do not listen is that we are preoccupied with the exercise of our own function. And we are all very important, witnessed by our need for blue-tooths, blackberries and capital I-phones: we must be connected ‘lest we miss something. Perhaps, all new-born girls should be immediately implanted with phone-chips into their ears to save them and their mates ultimate dismay?
It is the rare person, a Thomas Jefferson, it has been said, who had dinner with the most interesting person in the world when he dined alone in the White House one special evening. How many people can wait in a doctor’s office, unarmed with any electronic media or a disposable magazine
or newspaper but with only the memory-
chips in their own minds? Or, at the very least, a pen and a paper with which they can amuse themselves endlessly?
People, students in school, workers in officers, and children at home are not taught much less required to listen, only to zone-out, rather to zone-in on their own sounds. Also, notice, please, the almost reflexively voiced “What?” to any clearly enunciated and maximally voluble statement directed even at your most intimate and familiar friends. Are they hard of hearing or are they just endlessly plugged into the sound of their own words and thoughts constantly spinning around in their self-centered minds?
Yes, what we say to ourselves is important but if we would just balance our speakers so that we can hear alien sounds that try to invade our space, it would be a much more
satisfying world for all concerned.
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Silver shafts, streaking light,
Irradiated morning mists
As down and up
A Redondo Beach hill
I drove through euphoric sights
Towards a glowing new day--
For a son had been born to me,
The first sunrise of my life.
Then, things fell apart
The point would not hold and
Sunsets followed as
Light clicked down to darkest day.
Times passed and up he grew
And so did I
As we each forgave the other
And ourselves: I for abandonment,
He for hurt and doubt.
Our days melded and we mended
Alone and together until now--
Tonight: he comes and goes
On a night flight to
His corner of the world
And I remain in mine.
Every time, each day,
Their sunsets sink
Down into inky oceans
Where divided horizons
Mark their separate ways
And united minds link
Their meandering motions.
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The dilemma of human life is survival of the self while, unavoidably, exploiting the selves of others.
We know that we exist because we can
contemplate our egos, that is, to be conscious, we must have a sense of self, a manifest ego. The problem comes with one’s degree of self-awareness which varies along an almost infinite scale as there are egos in the world, that is, our planet currently holds approximately 6.5 billion people, soon to be 7 billion and expanding, and each one of those selves must feed its own ego and body to exist.
Microcosmically considered, your and my egos can coexist with minor conflicts. Macrocosmically considered, we cannot coexist since the world’s goods and services are unequally distributed. Hence, the omni-present war between the “haves” and the ”have-nots.” Here enters our conflict of egos for the supremacy, or even
coexistence, of our own individual self at the expense of the other self: in world governments and their populations, between and among self-serving politicians, corporations, careers, education and, most notably exaggerated between differing cultures and their ideological culture-wars: conservative versus liberal, right-to-choose versus right-to-life, gun-regulation versus gun-freedom. And neither side is willing to give an inch, declaiming their rightness and righteousness with much ego-driven and selfish force of indignation.
Even and especially in normal, everyday conversation, we each speak from a sense of the correctness of our own egos and the inferiority of the other’s ego. Everyone wants to be on-stage, recognized, approved of, praised and applauded because that is the way we want it and be-cause that is the way that we are made.
To get quit of number is difficult enough, but to get quit of ego is virtually impossible, unless we abnegate and advocate total
self-effacement, that is, stifle all self-expres-sion in deference to the other’s views and
opinions. You see the paradox and the subsequent dilemma here: to settle the inevitable conflict of egos, we must forego and renounce all ego. It is not enough to say “be objective and argue only from facts and science,” those absolutes that are absolutes, because most of us are not one-hundred percent rational when it comes to a clash of our ego with another’s and the screaming need of the self to feed itself at the expense of other selves: to be selfish is natural.
All desires are selfish, that is, they operate from self-interest, by definition, be it “love” (even true-love), generosity, sacrifice, and dedication: all of which make us “feel good”; otherwise, we would not express them. In essence, we will not transcend our needs and our desires because we cannot erase them from our consciousnesses; we can only modify them, selectively and reasonably, but those are relative terms and
cannot be standardized or agreed upon.
We are supposed to and are trained to out-grow our childish egos and, to an extent, we do manage to modify our selfish desires once we become adults. The problem with all of these guidelines is that they are all highly relative and subject to unique circum-stances in every child and every parent’s raising of that child until we are no longer children, but still “think and see as children.” In that sense, some/many/all of us never
“grow up” but only grow in our abilities to
get what we want. And ambition and diligence are applauded, again, at the ex-pense of the other, and it cannot be otherwise, by definition. What I want and need is paid for by your not getting what you want and need. Or else we would not live on earth but in paradise.
The self and its ego are real and necessary,
but our minds are malleable--if they were not so selfish. And “super-ego” is not enough to quell, to contain and to overule
our faulty “egos” because the societal resraints, which are the “super-ego,” are made up of individual egos, some of which are more powerful than others, again, by definition.
So, we must live with and within the bounds of overextending our naturally expanding and insatiable egos and try to remember, that is, be highly conscious of the other and his needs.
But someone once said,
“...reason not the need!...
Allow not nature more than nature needs...”
And we definitely don’t.
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Since the self and its ego-demands are the center of all of our problems with others and the conflict within our own egos, the next steps involve how to get beyond and outside that self so that we can finally see the world devoid of our own needs, desires and wants.
Knowledge of the outside world in all its countries, cultures, governments and peoples and the “others” in it is the first transition we must make. If one can broaden one’s awareness through an ongoing familiarity and investigation of one’s outside world, not the natural and immature world of his limited self, then one has the possibility of developing a genuine interest in what is going on and important to the “other” in all of his/her infinite variations.
By following in print, pictures, and video the news of world events, like the revolutionary revolutions sweeping the Arab world today, one can easily detach from his preoccupa- tion with the exercise of his daily functions
while performing those daily duties of work, family and relationships in his community and his world. This process is a developed and a developing one that journalists naturally engage in, occasionally at the risk oftheir own egos and very lives, as a war-correspondent does: when one has bullets flying around his head, he is intensely in touch with the survival of his self while even more intensely involved with the “others” who are shooting at him, that is, why and how they can be trying to kill him.
It can take that drastic a situation to shake one out of his isolated and insulated self to an awareness of the “other’s” culture, history and development. This shift need not be this extreme, but it helps.
The next phase is becoming very good at what you are now doing, that is, observing and evaluating and analyzing the “others” in faraway and nearby realms. Which, in turn, can revolve one back into an even denser involvement with one’s new and talented
over-self and cause one to fall back in-love with what his old-self has become: an expert on the “other.” Hence, pride enters and creates an even more egoistic self, for one is no longer his old and incipient self but a worldly and far-seeing and matured self: one becomes a "personality" in-love with his own image, be it in the neighborhood of his peers or in the more enlarged spot-light that comes with an audience, say of students, associates, or the public.
And so, one has come full circle from one small enclosed circle to a far larger one that is even more enclosed and clothed in a more renowned ego: a more bloated self, now preoccupied with the importance of his own talent and expertise. And humility is nowhere in sight. Self has recreated its self in a grander version where the old common flaws of selfishness and non-consideration for the “other” have merely changed into more pronounced and larger versions of an original and naive self.
Is it ever possible to achieve a complete and lasting sense of the “other” and a minimalization of one’s own self? No, because the total denial and abnegation of the self is the highest form of pride in one’s self. The best we can do is to compromise with our own needs, wants and desires and try to maintain a balance between brash self-centeredness and a somewhat modest concern for the “other.”
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Addie Bundren, William Faulkner’s nihilistic heroine in his post-mortem tale of the death of the South, intones that “living is preparing to stay dead a long time.” Her father taught her that philosophy after he continued living in his memory of the dead-and-gone ante-bellum South, and Addie remembered those words “AS [SHE] LAY DYING” and as the South decayed around her and with her dead body in Faulkner’s experimental and great novel.
But living IS preparing to stay dead forever, or it should be our most important “preparation,” that is, dying and letting-go of all our earthly ties to this planet and all that we have ever known since we “rose from the dead when we were born” and became aware of and conscious to this life.
“Comedy is hard; dying is easy,” quip modern-day comedians, and their audiences take it as a passing joke--true but not relevant to them. No one wants to nor is he ready to die at the end of his life. But
here is the problem: what is “the end” of
one’s life? When is it “time to, finally,let go”
of all that we hold dear and all that we have ever known? “Not until I cannot hold on anymore and then some, including all heroic mechanisms to keep me alive and plugged-in,” say some reluctant to give up the ghost.
We SAY that “when the time comes,” we will go quietly and resolutely; not true. Man will claw at and hold onto his fading sec- onds for as long as he can; and not until our plug is pulled or we simply expire in our hosptal beds of terror, will we ever let-go.
Why? Because the alternative is not that promising, be it a mythological “heaven” in an after-life of intermittent faith or the “big
sleep” of the nothingness of non-existence--
something we cannot even comprehend, much less accept. And it terrifies us.
Needless to say, we are not prepared to “meet our maker” or our nothingness. So, how can we “prepare” ourselves for our deaths while we are still alive and can
speak of and contemplate such things?
First, we must realize, acknowledge and accept that, at the moments of our deaths, we will, most probably, NOT “be ready” to let go, that is, “Talk to me on my deathbed”
and “ignore all my rhetorical protestations now.”
Moving beyond that unknown, we can and should contemplate our nothingness: what does it mean to “not exist” anymore? And why must we not exist anymore? That is, why must we die? Good question and the only question. Because that is the way the world and our lives have been crafted by a superior-power of unintelligent design who “got it wrong” in his/her/its original plan or by an accident of chance and a collision of atoms in time and space. Whichever we choose to believe in matters not; the end-result is the same--eternal and infinite no-thingness, whatever that means to our individual consciousnesses--now--while we are still alive.
We need an understandable and a graspable analogy, an image which we can wrap our minds around and see. Such as, going-under and giving up consciousness while on an operating table or even going to sleep at night; one is inducible and adjustable and, hopefully, reversible, that is, we “know” that we will come out of the ether and breathe and exist again by the skilled and trusted hands of our trained doctors. Going to sleep every night and wilfully letting-go of our daylight conscious- ness is a natural function and an habitual practice to the point of our not even considering that we may not wake up again. That is, we let-go with the assurance of grasping hold again:
we expect to wake-up and not die.
But what if and when we, rather, KNOW that we wil not wake-up again and that this time it is “forever”? A certain reluctance sets in and we hold-on for dear life. How can we break out of our instinct for survival and our reflexive refusal to just allow
ourselves to “let go” with peace, dignity, and volition?
First of all, decide and convince yourself that you will die. Second, decide when you want to die, that is, at what point in your conscious existence: when you are no longer able to communicate? or when you are no longer willing to exist without the qualities and values of your living life?
Then, decide how you want to die and plan and prepare for it: by end-of-life directives to those whom you trust that will survive you and attend to your wishes. And, finally, by a practical and workable plan for your own death when others--doctors, lawyers, ministers, loved-ones-- will not let you go, for “your own good.” That is, arrange for someone to give you an overdose of morphine or have on-hand adequate and potent enough pills to let you “shuffle off this mortal coil.” The means and method is important, but it is not the most important thing: your own attitude towards
life and death is the key. You must make your conscious self understand and convince itself that life, although your greatest gift, also has limitations and imperfections that you have been fighting all the days of your life and which you, finally, are glad to be rid of--with no regrets, no unfinished business, no hanging on for the sake of another miserable day, hour, or minute. Think of the pain and the money you will save your loved-ones, the space that you will no longer take up in overcrowded hospitals or well-staffed hospice care-facilties, and how tired you have become of holding-on lately.
Know when it is time to go, preferably at a high-point that you have repeated and cannot top again in quality, if not in quantity;
go out under your own steam and your own timing so that you will be remembered as one who lived, perhaps, not wisely but who knew how to die, well.
Very few of us know how to die, well or at all. So, why not prepare and practice for your final act while you are still alive? Act on and in your own death, and do not allow this natural human right to be withheld from you by any outside and “well-meaning” person or persons or system. You were not allowed to choose the cirmcumstances of your own birth; now, choose the circum-stances of your own non-existence: the ul-timate problem to “letting-go,” which also instantly disappears along with you.
And won’t it be a relief to not think anymore, something you could never do even when you wanted to? And try to re-member that “nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Death is not so bad; it is the living that is the problem, one after another daily problems that keep arising like uninvited little pac-men emerging endlessly from themselves. Just shut-off these words, words, words and let...go...
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A REVOLUTION OF ONE
“You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We’d all want to change the world...”
sang the Beatles during the 1960’s. And many young people actually did revolt, that is, they went out into the streets and protested and organized and chose leaders and made demands--and got their heads bashed in. And came back the next day and the day after that until their movement succeeded, failed, or compromised itself out. The Civil Rights Movement was successful, as far as it went; the Anti-War Movement (against Vietnam, specifically) eventually helped end that war after thir- teen long years, which had torn the country apart; the feminist, gay and environmental movements all made inroads and continue today. But all of these young “revolutionaries” paid the price--with their hearts, their minds, and their bodies on the line.
Since those days, things have calmed down in the streets but not in foreign lands
where there are two wars going on, with one trying to wind down. But no revolutions or even mass protests here in “safe America.” Why not? For one thing, there is
no more compulsory military service, no draft. For another thing, young people have learned from their predecessors; now, you have new means and methods with which to organize and revolt:
you have your iPhones, Blackberries, Grey
Tooths, the all-powerful internet, and such
things called “Facebook” and even “Twitter.”
You are connected--if you choose to be. But there is no longer the will, the desire, the passion and those kinds of people--selfless, dedicated and committed, and obsessive--to go out into those streets and stand up and against the everpresent forces of repression, corruption and the status-quo. You seem to just “not care.”
And there have been incidents to revolt over: a deep recession caused by the pure greed of a small number of capitalists gone wild, income inequality, and racism. But why haven’t you revolted? Mainly because of “media mangagement” where we are made to believe that “everyone has an equal voice” in the issues of our country and, therefore, we have much “freedom of speech”; whereas and in reality, we are being played by the power elite of political and special monied interests, the corporations. There is no overt repression and censorship of ideas and expression, only covert manipulation and a false sense of freedom by our government leaders and financial giants and corporations (oil, auto, food, entertainment, and health conglomerates) who lobby and own politicians and who, in effect, run this country. Egypt is a clear dictatorship; ours is a false democracy. Egypt’s young people are in revolt; our young people are asleep and comfortable.
Finally, we are afraid--of what? Of “losing our stuff” (Chris Rock): our oversized cars, our fashionable clothes, our sleek flat-screen t.v.’s, our fast-food, our “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.” Ours is a materialistic society in which we have been spoiled rotten, which has lost its positive values (family, honesty, and compassion and our willingness to serve others), and which has subdued us into a docile dependence on things versus people and ideas.
It is you, the young people, together with your Egyptian counterparts, that are the only hope for a more enlightened future. But some of us are not yet awake, some of us are still comfortably asleep in our passive and lazy, hazy days of self-indulgence and non-thinking, only zoning-out and in on the latest special effects and dreams of easy success, even instant fame and endless riches. Some of us still “want to be just like Mike”--Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan and do not want to work
for and at anything because we are lost and have no positive role-models to look up to and to guide us. We do not believe in anything and we do not know how to believe.
But most of you here are not lost; rather, you are finding your way, more and more every day. You have found your way here, to this classroom and to other class-rooms to real jobs and careers where you labor for yourselves and for “the other”: nursing, law-enforcement, teaching, fathers and mothers--the most important job in this or in any other country at any time.
You need not violently revolt out in the streets but, rather, in your own mind and with your own skills, in your heart and in your sense of giving, in your awareness of “the other” and in the lessening of the importance of “your own self.” And you do not have to throw rocks in the streets to make your revolution a reality.
All you need is a book, a pen and some paper in your own space; and with your miraculous mind, alight and alive with the winds of world-change blowing in from the outside, you can make your own revolution--
because you ARE your own revolution.
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Have humans exhausted the possibilites for waging war? We have been at it since the beginnings of time and have almost perfected it during this last most destructive century. Yet two land-wars remain, winding down as they screech and shoot, crackle and pop, explode and implode.
Our current and retiring Secretary of War,
Robert Gates, recently said in addressing his cadets at West Point that “any future Defense secretary who advises ... sending a big American land army into [any area] should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”
Perhaps, our heads will not “be examined” but, rather, rearranged?
Technology over 2,000 years has moved from the rock and the spear to the super-soldier and the drone, robotic war in its infancy. And since technology ever evolves (until someone or something
presses the button, that is, blows up the planet), then war will also evolve and, dare we imagine, render itself obsolete and go the way of the dinosaurs? Why not?
Our futurists have given us sci-fi visions of
“star wars in galaxies far, far away”; but they have not gone far enough in their thinking. All they have given us are bigger and better bangs. We need more and more believable incentives to keep trying.
We have entered remote-control conflicts with our Nintendo pilots and our long-distance drone-drivers delivering smart bombs to defenseless people. “The bomb” has made total war irrelevant but has propelled us further into limited and unwinnable wars. And our current land-wars have driven home the point that they are inefficient in that they cost too much in “blood and treasure”; war is busting the budgets of the world and decimating the men and women and their families who fight
them while the rest of us bemoan our rising
gas prices in the comfort of our homes.
It is time for a change, reflected in the global sweep of revolutions currently blowing across foreign lands. People want something different, and the first thing that everyone wants is an end to war, as we have known it. But what can replace it? War is a money-maker and a money-loser, a sacred and vaunted tradition of the few and the brave, a thinner of the herds and a survivor of the fittest; it is all that we have ever known.
Conventional war has just got to go, and everyone knows it. But to do that, humans must be either eliminated or totally repro-
grammed: with regulated sources of aggres-sion and with ample supplies of resources.
And since both goals are unachievable, humans are--sooner or later--doomed; and history will have come full circle and fulfilled its destiny for self and ultimate annihilation.
Some people say, and really believe, that what is needed and what is the only way to avoid all future wars is to scourge the earth in a new holocaust of fire and death so that what is left can start again from scratch (or whatever is left) and, maybe, this time, we can get it right, having witnessed and lived through the inevitable conclusion of limited warfare. The earth has had blackouts in its ice-ages and astronomical storms and has regrouped after these millenial intervals to arrive at where we are now. That is, must we destroy the race in order to save the race?
Short of extreme solutions, we can either turn our nations into sealed enclaves defended by impenetrable systems, create robotic armies, and let those who must kill each other have at it. Just cut the global ties and disconnect the international web of interdependence and revert and retreat back into the dark ages--until things have calmed down, just a bit.
Love has not saved the world, either as espoused by the 19th century romantic writers or by the demonstrating hippies of the sixties. And prophets have come and gone and their visons have ended up in holy books. Scientists and gurus of advanced techonologies are still working on the problem but are creating only more and better weapons of war in the process.
Outside of a true alien landing and invasion from outer space, we are here to make the best of a bad situation alone with ourselves and our insatiable self-desires. If we could, one child at a time, readjust our priorities away from self and out towards “the other,” then we might have a chance. But I doubt it. Do you?
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Is there even such a thing as “freedom”?
Mythology claims that we lost it when we were ejected from the Garden of Eden after we chose to exercise our free will--that was also predetermined, if one believes that the Old Testament god was omniscient as well as omnipotent. We were banished from paradise to work, live and die by the sweat of our brow and to bear our children in pain and sorrow. A set-up job and a shoddy excuse for having to live on earth and in reality. In these pre-history senses, we are certainly not “free” anymore.
Philosophically speaking, specifically exis-
tentially, man has never been “free” except by rebelling, that is, defying the absurdity of his limited existence, not by committing suicide (the “only intelligent thing to do,” according to the atheistic rationalist Camus)
but living as if our lives had meaning by
exhausting our capabilites for action and forging our essences from a sheer quantity
of experiences over any quality because there is no lasting “quality” to our lives because we all ultimately die and are forgotten forever.
Therefore and for starters, we have two strikes against even considering our “free-
dom.” But practically and in our daily lives, we all struggle and some of us actually believe that we are “free” to succeed--or to fail. But even here, the deck is stacked against us from our accidental birth condi-
tions and resultant situations: we are not all born with silver spoons in our mouths but, rather, with being unable to feed ourselves and our children; the poor have never been free and they are not likely to be.
Also, for those of us not fortunate enough to live in the land of the free and the home of the greedy, they are entirely under the tyranny of their national dictators. And it is only now, after some forty years of merci-
less repression by assorted tyrants, that we
see surprising and genuine and, in some
places, effective and successful uprisings: the toppling of kings and presidents that have become irrelevant in the new century.
But these magnificent rebels are fighting and dying every day for their yearnings after freedom--to work, to speak, to survive and to reclaim their dignity as human beings. They are wonderful and heart-breaking to watch, and they should make us feel ashamed of our petty little complaints about the rising price of gasoline, not enough guns to protect our homes and our persons, not enough healthcare nor satisfied with our work-in- progress, not enough jobs and loans, and usurious credit card rates and takeovers by corporate special interests. To be sure, all honest and legitimate challenges to our “freedoms,” depending how your priorities line up and how your views see things. To be denied our right to baragin collectively for our jobs through our unions and our representatives, not to mention through our government reps who have, largely and in effect, sold out to the monied interests in
our country. In all, we are not looking very “free” these days.
Add to these crimes against freedom, our disappearing and almost non-existent chances for some sort of success by ear-ning a college degree, and you have a very large portion of our promised mythic American dream edited down to an elite few. Education is no longer the path to a house, two cars, and a family with any kind of realistic security.
Our former freedoms are being, one by one, eliminated each day, but we are still free to protest, speak up and out, and to demon-
strate--and, maybe, even to win a few battles here and there. But overall, we are controlled--bought and sold daily--by the upper one percent of our population who control fifty percent of the nation’s wealth and money.
The only question that remains for Americans and their erstwhile “freedoms” and “just way of life,” our fake democracy, is how much and how long will it take for us to rebel against our governments, starting with state governments and, then, on to the national government? Some think that we are nearing our breaking point with every financial meltdown, every economic recession, every denial of our wants and needs as citizens of a, supposedly, free country. Well, America is not a free country anymore, and we can no longer succeed in a legal and ethical way by just working hard and being honest and productive.
We are still being manipulated and blinded by our media and the officially slanted presentation of our rights and freedoms by those who know it is a lie but who must maintain the show in order to keep their jobs and to survive off of us--their servants, serfs, and slaves in modern dress.
Enough is enough and everyone has his/her breaking point. Is ours here?
Just listen to what is going on in our disunited states, in our capitol, and around the world and, finally, have the conviction and the courage to not only say “No more” but to also act on it by going out onto our streets and letting the whole world know that our paradise has been lost, too, and that we are with them, not in real and violent oppression but in unprincipled mis-rule by our tyrants and elected officials whom we trusted with our lives, our honor and our most sacred fortunes to live better lives than we have been promised and which we are now tolerating .
Freedom may be “not having anything left to lose,” but it should be having everything to gain--and we are not.
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“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.”
We are constantly at the mercy of Nature which reminds us, from time to time, of our infinitesimal insignificance and limited and tenuous lease on this planet. At the same time, we are the most important “fly” in our own minds and in our short stay here. We are totally free and responsible for all of our decisions, while maintaining the illusion of control and knowing that we are in control of nothing significant. Even avoiding to decide and act is deciding not to decide and act, so that everything that we do or do not do is our free-choice. We are fated to freedom and condemned to slavery simultaneously. We are truly a paradoxical species in our very existence, compounded by the complexities of our own conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions.
“What a wonder is a man” and what “a quintessence of dust.”
In the microcosmic scheme of things, we are the very sources of and reasons for
the existence of all that surrounds us--from modern wonders to inner visions and beyond. Without us, the world would not exist; and with us, the world may, some- day, cease to exist, as it has gone dormant before in ages of ice and fire. Further, we also pass on our discoveries to the next links in our eternal chain-of-souls, as we take up our inactive places of retired links in the ever evolving and continuing inter- dependence of all those who have, are now and who will people the earth in the millenia ahead. We are all connected in a family-of-man sense and even though our sequence may be interrupted and apparently broken by natural and unnatural disasters, our tsunamis all ebb and recede, leaving us with the debris of our lives to reclaim--and to go on with more creation and destruction.
Nothing changes, only the players and the scenes.
But the nature of man and woman has and is constantly changing, some for the better and some for the worse. We certainly have more choices available to us today, even if we do not make the right ones: is traditonal
marriage necessary or even beneficial to all relationships between two persons anymore? Is religion still helpful for us to believe in ourselves and our purpose in life? Will technology save us or will it destroy us? Are we improving in our capacities for love, understanding, compassion and sharing with “our others,” or are we drawing more inward in self-defense and for reasons of survival? And are we growing more selfish and greedy as more “things” are made available to us in our everyday lives?
Are we progressing or negatively progres- sing, that is regressing as we move forward
in our ongoing quest for our dreams in gen-eral and for the American Dream in particular?
Do we “beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”? or are we getting closer and closer to our wished for destinations? Are our hopes and our dreams in America a lost cause, or is America merely waiting to be rediscovered? While in other parts of our shrinking world, are they reawakening and reclaiming their civilizations, some lost for decades and centuries but not forgotten?
Some minds have said that the “world must end in fire or in ice” before any new growth can emerge and in order for the ebb and flow of our oceans and rivers to cleanse and revitalize themselves.
And, so, tsunamis may be good things as wake-up calls to a species, many of whom have fallen asleep and have forgotten how to swim.
“And the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.”
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Should we invest in nuclear energy and should we engage with Libya? Neither one is a clear and even answerable question.
All of our decisions, from personal to
national to global choices, suffer from a risk of increasing information, a situation which should be the opposite, if human logic is applied. But human logic has been preempted by machine and technological logics, which have minds of their own. Why this paradox here? We are still in control, aren’t we?
The more information that we create (rather that our human mind-surrogates generate at geometric, approaching astronomical rates), the more questions are created about more information that is not yet available; and an endless data-evolution spirals out of control: infinite information creates an infinite number of new questions. Or the more we know, the more complex our world becomes and the less we know. For instance, too many choices inevitably result in too many wrong choices or inaction.
This logical paradox links to problems of management, research, and technology itself in the creation of limitless information.
Plus the principle of entropy which main- tains that there is a force in nature moving towards the breakdown of all systems, both biological and man-made, for instance, climate change and global warming, as well as established governments--all new phenomena with more appearing daily.
A mere fifty years ago, which we can all re-member vividly, “life was simpler,” a true and obvious fact that has progressed from cliche-status to insightful significance. Our jobs, our relationships, our governments and even our wars were simpler in the sense that they were more transparent and had limits within clearly agreed upon para-
meters. Then, came the Sixties and with it,
Vietnam, Civil Rights, social revolutions in sexuality and gender rights, new environ-
mental awareness of what we eat and what we do--and the computer.
Is today’s limitless progress positive, nega-
tive or a confusing mix of gains and losses?
And how are we--you and I--supposed to make complex and complicated decisions about child-development, relationship-development, and nuclear energy develop-
ment with ever-changing information?
There are no longer any clear rules, values and even guidelines to living our lives in the presence of and connection to “the other.”
All is self-centered and self-serving in an imperfect storm of relativity where the quantity of our opinions and interpretations
are overpowering the quality of our decisions and, thus, the quality of our lives.
Are we in a period of transition and adjust-ment to a new world of perfectable techno-logy or on the edge of an abyss of endless confusion? Time will tell, but we are running out of time and just running to catch up. “We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into” the future.
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What happens when you don’t believe in anything that you have ever believed in?
That’s when “the wheels come off” your mind and you start to slide out of control. And you had better catch hold of yourself, or you may crash and burn.
You can lose faith in your religion, if you have one; in your god, if you believe in one;
in your loved-ones, if you have any; in your country, if you ever believed in it; in your past, if you remember it. Therefore, if you have none of these, you cannot lose your faith in them. But then, you are empty.
You have a self, an ego, and a sense of your identity or you don’t exist. How much of that self is you and how much is what is only propped up by those things and people around you: your job, your education, your friends, your children, your mates, and your sense of history and tradition? We do not spring blank from a womb; rather, we have evolved into what we enter and what we
will eventually become either by choice or by chance. But is there anything entirely separate and unique inside of each one of us that is “us” and not formed from other variables? We are an aglomeration of genes and cells amalgamated and gestated for nine months. Then, we are expelled from our hiding place and blinded by the new light of our inherited reality. What we, then, make of our individual realities is what determines who we are.
Heredity and environment are often called the “twin tentacles” of fate--from our earliest childhood memories, our later traumas, and our most recent thoughts and feelings. If one has a rich store of these elements, then one can have a rich life, outside of physical limititations and handicaps which we cannot control.
So, what things can we live without and still say that we exist? Our lists of conscious and unconscious moments of meaning:
the time when we thrilled at a surprise birthday present; the time when we first recognized our mothers and our fathers; the first time that we fell into confusing and wonderful love with another human being; the day that we made the winning score in a game of contested skills; our first original and genuine idea and the time that a teacher recognized us for it and praised us; our special skill; our first child; our first death; and our own deaths.
We are our experiences and our strength is other people. But we must “keep the wheels” on ourselves. No one else can do that for us; we can be held and helped but we cannot be saved. Except by love for someone and something else outside of our selves; we are locked up inside ourselves until we can release our energies to another without expecting anything in return. Then, the wheels stay on.
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Everything is energy, either actual or poten-
tial. And atomic energy can be released from matter, harnessed and directed towards creative or destructive ends. And
energy cannot be destroyed, only transfor-
med. Therefore, one can suppose that when we die, we merely transform into “other energy” forms and “float around in the cosmos where we dance with the stars and with all the living and all the the dead.” A poetic thought and a comforting one for anyone looking for an after-life philosophy, as good as any and better than most.
But there is another primal energy that has given birth to the species and has built our societies: love. Like radiation, it is power-
ful and dangerous if misdirected (note meltdowns, past and present). It needs to be kept “cool,” that is not overheated from overexposure, and covered with water (fuel
rods and “hearts on sleeves”).
But, most of all, it needs to be used, that is, released into usable energy (power plants
and fuel-cells for generating electricity and love for engendering hope and faith). It fulfills itself only in being directed outwards towards creative ends. And, occasionally, it needs to be replenished (from plutonium and from our emotional spirits).
Unlike radiation, however, love cannot be controlled--by definition as a human emotion. We may try to manage it, but it has a mind of its own and will usually act without our direction. And we cannot choose to be “in-love”; all that we can do is to accept it when it comes to us from whatever source. And nurture it and try to make it grow into true-love so that we can, then, release it back into the atmosphere as active energy to be used, in turn, by other reactors and so on and so forth.
True-love, as opposed to all kinds of selfish and self-love, can only be realized in giving itself away to “the other.” If held within ourselves out of fear, it will die along with us.
Love is of itself, by itself, and for “the other.”
It is all around us, actually and potentially. It is the prime virtue of the three: faith, hope and charity/love.
Love is the stuff that dreams and daily lives are made of. Love is within all of us, even the most reprehensible and “evil” among us, although it may take some finding and releasing.
We cannot “live on love” alone, but it is difficult to live without it.
Love is. And we are within it--waiting to be released from within our selves to live in
“the other.” And few of us ever realize this fact of its existing only in being given away.
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since 1953: 119 atomic test explosions ABOVE ground level
19621-992: 1000s of atomic test detonations below ground level
Distance Nevada to Los Angeles: about 400 miles.
No reason to be ESPECIALLY scared about radiation from Japan, which is about 8000 miles away from glow-in-the-dark City of Angels
(by the editor)
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When America becomes the poster-child for dysfunctional government on a scale that intersects with greed and mean-spirited ideology, then it is time for revolution. How much and for how long can we abide these
destructive ploys to decimate the poor, the needy and the elderly, as well as the entire middle-class, in the name of “fiscal respon-
sibility”? Enough is enough. And, now, it is time to fight and to call an end to the abso-
lute selfishness and outright disregard for humanity in favor of the corporate elite and the monied minuscule minority of the upper
1 % who control 50% of the wealth of this country, that is no longer a democracy but a plutocracy of the rich.
Never in the history of this nation, even in the “robber-baron” days of old, have a handful of “haves” called the shots on the “have-nots” to the point of decimating our national economy into full-out recession by a privileged minority of financial thieves who have robbed our country blind and,
then, had the gaul to ask for help in the form of billion-dollar bailouts. And, even more galling, received it from the very govern-
ment that they almost destroyed because they were “too big to fail.”
We, the populace, do not understand the sophisticated ins-and-outs of high global finance, but we do understand that we have been exploited by a band of unprecedented
crooks who have stolen our country and who continue to steal under our very noses
through legislative manipulations that our supposed leaders are unable and unwilling to defend us against.
In Madison, WI, and in Ohio and in Indiana, the people have risen and taken to the streets and the ballot box in defense of their livelihoods and rights. Teachers, firefighters, and the police haver rebelled against being scapegoated for a select few in power. And they have support from many sources, around the country and around the world. America is America no longer, and it must
be saved from an extreme group of class fanatics who would prosper at the expense of the masses.
This movement to extinguish the middle-class has been building ever since a black man handed his opposition of racists the worst popular defeat in their history. These historical misfits cannot and will not accept the truth that this country has moved on from the bygone days of bigoted prejudice against “the coloreds,” women, and the gays--all those who are different from the
heretofore ruling class. And only by holding on to their outmoded religious biases and delusions can they hope to survive. Their day is over; a new America has been born, and a new world is forming around us. The tide has turned and it is irrevocable, and those in the wake of this tsunami can either get out of the way or be piled onto the debris of an outdated society.
But these remnants of retrograde leftovers will not go without a fight to the death: it is either them or us. The line has been drawn and the battle must be enjoined; otherwise, our country will be lost to the forces of
a benighted and fierce extremist fringe that would destroy America in order to have it for themselves alone.
We were victorious in our first revolution;
now, we must be victorious in our second and equally important revolution of the mind and our wills to not be swallowed up by a
voracious and insatiable few who would have our lives and our most precious liberties for them to devour and destroy.
But we are yet passive and we will not move or be moved until the radical fringe touches us personally, one by one. We are too comfortable in our private little material- istic and insulated worlds until we are threatened directly in our pocket- books, which we have been but not enough.
America is a greedy, fat and lazy society of gluttons who will continue to feed off the flesh of plenty; and it will not be until that
carcass is picked clean that we will ever come close to a revolution like those that are sweeping the world of desperate and deprived humans who have been denied for centuries while America has been bloated on our good life and dreams of even more.
We get what we deserve; and if we do not revolt--and soon, we will get more and more of what we have earned and clung to for too many years: mediocrity and survival on a shoestring that, slowly and inevitably, will close around our necks and kill us and our wayward way of life: for self and self alone without any consideration for the others of our world. Just as the organized crime syndicate of Wall Street almost choked on their own greed, so too will we choke on our own passive selfishness.
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“Repeat the lie over and over again
and tell it with enthusiastic fervor--
and it will become ‘the truth’ with
those who hear and sympathize
with it and who will spread it to others.”
This is the current method of political pro-
paganda being used by both parties, but especially by the far-right Republican Party.
“We want to take our country back.”
“No more big government, and keep
your hands off Medicare.”
“Obama is a muslim foreign national.”
“The deficit can and will be erased on
the backs of the underclass.”
The last comment, however, is true but never uttered by those who would erase the deficit and “balance the budget” by further exploiting the poor and middle class.
On the other side, the far-left Democrats,
the lies are not so much lies as exaggera- tion and unsupported enthusiasm.
“The Republicans are irrational and
“Giving tax-breaks to the rich is counter-
“Republicans are racist and ignorant.”
“The Republican base is made up of
evangelical extremists and corporate
Although some of the left may believe these statements as totally accurate and
obvious, not all Republicans can be painted with such a broad brush.
In other words, both sides are recalcitrant and unwilling to work with the other side, even if “one side is crazy.”
Tune into FOX NEWS and you will hear the same cyclonic wind of distorted facts, lies, and outright woppers. Tune into MSNBC and you will hear smug and condescending
attacks dripping with satirical vitriol and aimed with righteous superiority at the limited and hypocritical minds of their opposition.
Never is there any “benefit of the doubt” given by either side to the other side. Nor is there any serious discussion of “both sides of the issue.” One side is either “all wrong” or just plain “evil.” There is no civility left between and among legislators and, even and especially, among so-called leaders. It is all or nothing at all, take no prisoners, do or die--and we, the forgotten constituents, are lost in the malestrom. It is as if the government is for the sole sake of government and not for the sake of the governed.
Something has gone seriously wrong with our lawmakers: they have metamorphosed into demagogues preoccupied with the exercise of their own power. They have renounced their representative nature and are, now, representing only themselves.
When, where or why this aberration has occurred and taken hold is irrelevant since neither side will listen to the other or even to its public. Each party is cemented in its recalcitrant ideology, split into schismatic rifts, and engaged in a fight to the political death--of us, their sponsors and abandoned supporters.
What will, eventually, happen is that the public will become not only fed-up, a point which we have passed long ago, but also
actively antagonistic and, ultimately, rebelli-
ously revolutionary. And we will rise up off our couches of comfort and take to the streets and to the ballot box in support of a new party that is emerging as you read this
protest--and as we use up our patience and frustration in place of action and visible change.
The current condition of our country cannot
continue as it is; a breaking-point will be arrived at, and the psyche of our nation will rupture at its strongest part: “our lives, our fortunes and our most sacred honor”--in the name of freedom, liberty and prosperity shall once again be claimed in our new declaration of independence from the forces of impasse based on the pursuit of power for power’s sake.
“The people, yes,
the people will live on.”
“Power to the people.”
“Of the people,
by the people and
for the people...”
We are the people and we shall not be denied and lied to in the name of “political
truth.” We will be governed justly or we will not be governed at all, and our nation will descend into factional anarchy.
All of you whom we have empowered with our vote--listen to us and heed our wills or you will not be allowed to exercise your abused power in the name of the people whom you have abandoned. We will be heard.
“No justice, no peace.”
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Is anything free? No. Nothing is free: the bread we live on, the air we breathe, the death we shall all endure. There is a price exacted for everything under our sun that we access. Nothing is free. So, is “free love” free?
What is “free love”? In the Sixties, “free love” meant sex without boundries. And that certainly did not turn out to be “free”:
relationships were formed and broken, along with children’s lives and many parents’ hearts. At best, it was an aberration of the time, an attempt to formulate a philosophy into a single act.
“Make love, not war” was a slogan that sounded true; but it was rarely followed, much less even listened to. War was and is hell unleashed upon the earth’s human kind, no matter if it was “unhealthy to children and other living things”: war has one purpose--to kill and to destroy, in spite of children, reason and, most of all, love.
Love is very expensive to maintain.
There are three kinds of love. First, there is limited and imperfect love, the kind not based on complete knowledge of the other,
not founded on total honesty and shared responsibility but, rather, is directed by an imbalance of self-love over love of the other: it is more taking than giving, and it is the most common form of love that most of us live with and settle for--reality-love.
Then, there is true-love which has all of those things that limited-love (above) lacks; and it must be worked at over a long period of time and nourished until it evolves and it is, usually, long-lived.
And finally, there is extreme self-love, often disguised as the “great loves” of history, as in Antony and Cleopatra who were figureatively and literally death to each other; they were so bad for each other that they, ultimately, killed themselves for each other (she with a snake, he in a battle). These are the impossible loves: Romeo and Juliet (“star-crossed”); Gatsby and
Daisy (unreal images of each other in spite of their extravagant romance): all those “desperate love-stories” that never could be nor ever were--except for those foolish enough to pursue them against all facts and all odds. They are the stuff that movies are made of and not the stuff that everyday realities are made of; “the course of true-love never did run smooth,” but the course of this kind of extreme love falls off a cliff--and its “grand and heroic lovers” with it.
All love is paid for in time and effort and, finally, loss. Every love investment is a limited and taxing investment that, in the long run and like life itself, ends--and “all is vanity” (that is, in vain, futile). But while love is alive and flourishes in joy and glory, it is priceless. Everyone wants it; some die for it. But true-love is elusive at best and, obviously, not “free” in any sense of that word. Love costs us dearly in heartbreak and sorrow. But is it “better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all”?
Some would say “yes” because a “little love” is better than no love at all. As a rational
question, however, the answer is a resounding “no, it is not better,” mentally or emotionally--but rationality seldom intervenes in most matters of love.
Yet love is the prize of all existence in all its pain and suffering. It is the “sun, the moon and all the stars”; it is “the light of the soul’s return from darkness”; it is the be-all and end-all of all creation--”until death do us part.” And death WILL part us from our love and our loved-ones: the highest price of all--the letting-go.
Is this return worth the price? That depends on the parameters, that is, the pre-conditions that we place upon our choice ”to love or not to love?” And all these “conditions” are false and untenable, that is, they have little place in anything to do with true-love and no place at all with extreme love: no conditions of money, compatability, backgrounds, gender or race can dissuade
a determined couple; they will try to over- come those objections, and they will often be successful. Therefore, there is no such thing as “unconditional love” that we all say we want. And all conditions are out the window when it comes to extreme love. The price for impossible love is whatever the heart needs and what the reason tries to say “no” to. Extreme love transcends responsibility, loyalty, devotion and fidelity; it is beyond true-love because the self has everything to do with it. The “great love” is an exaggerated need of the passions, an insatiable desire of the body, an appetite of the primitive; it knows no bounds of family, friendship and, especially, of vows. And it is in those ways that this kind of love is very costly and destructive. So, what kind of a man and a woman would risk all for a chance at this fatal love? That is, if any man and woman WOULD ever risk everything for a shot at something that does not exist on earth but which they believe, in their most confused unconscious, is worth the gamble and the price that will be paid--the intense highs and lows, the tension and the stress, the burn-
out and the extinguishing of the flame itself--for a life or even a moment of this unreal thing. Is it worth the price? I think not.
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42 people a month have been gunned down
by gangs in L.A. in the last 30 years for a total of 15,000, mostly gang-bangers and mostly young (under 30). That’s more than our losses in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with enough left over for a third war. And these murders have all taken place within one section of the city, South Central, where stress-levels of children under 10 have been calculated to be the same or a bit higher than children in Baghdad.
These totally wasted deaths have been over territory, mostly, with some due to
control of the drug trade. That is, if you are not in your particular ‘hood, you can be assassinated in the rival gang’s ‘hood
according to the “turf rules”: a life for a life.
Therefore, some bangers have never been out of their own enclaves for their entire lives. And so develops the ongoing cycle of violence from one generation to another,
with no end in sight.
Gang intervention units and law-enforce-
ment have not stemmed the tide. Nor have education and job programs. Some former gang-members (“OG’s” for Old Gangsters) have returned to their neighborhoods to mentor their younger brothers and sisters and have made a slight difference.
When all the interviews are done and re-
corded, it all comes down to a lack of love and the absence of fathers. 70% of all black babies are born to single mothers. There are no male role-models in the
“No one bent down to me in the gutter and took me by my hand and showed me how to be a man. I had to learn for myself on the streets with the closest thing I had to a real family, my gang-family who loved and supported me and protected me from other gangs. They were my father and my brothers and my role-models.”
“I spent all my life wondering if my mother loved me because she did not show it. She
never gave me a hug or a kiss. She was too busy chasing men and going some-
And this same story is repeated by all bangers, but not until all the excuses have been aired:
“ I didn’t choose my destiny; my
destiny chose me.”
“I didn’t know nothing so I had no
“In the ‘hood, it is surviving that
“I was offered love, support, status,
power, and money when noone else
offered me anything. Where was I
supposed to go?”
Very few gangsters admit responsibility for their choices and life-styles.
“That’s all I knew, so what was I
supposed to do?”
Only when confronted with survivors who
have escaped the ‘hoods and made crea-
tive lives, will they even listen. And, then,
it is still a hard-sell because noone will give
a parolee a chance, and most of them have been in and out of jails all their lives. So,
it’s a vicious circle, at best, and a direct line to death and destruction, at the worst.
The older siblings teach their younger brothers and sisters by their deeds and, so, they become their role-models. And the cycle continues to churn on and on with the younger ones replacing the older dead ones as “new gangsters on the block”--armed to the teeth.
And guns have replaced fists and clubs and knives: AK47’s, Osis, Magmums, shot guns, rifles and assorted handguns. And in true
terrorist style, it’s a bullet for a bullet and a life for a life. Unlike terrorists, however, there is no ideology as cause but only
ignorance, neglect and desperation.
And noone and nothing has been able to stop and break the cycle yet, although some inroads have been made, notably by businesses like “Homeboy Industries” which gives jobs and training and chances for
willing gangsters to produce products and services and, so, produce productive lives for themselves.
Real opportunities with real results plus
encouragement--and love are the solutions
to this blight if there are any solutions. The only thing certain is that it cannot go on like this, but it has and it looks as if it will continue “going on.”
Change starts with every gang member that is converted; then, it spreads to a group of gangsters and, then, to a generation of gang-free young men and women. And once a single generation has gone without
the seduction by gangs and the OG’s have died off, then a new cycle can start: one of
lives saved, not wasted but, rather, nurtured and encouraged to grow, age and die natural deaths like the rest of humanity.
Gangsters are not animals, their behavior to the contrary, but human beings searching for love, like the rest of humanity. We simply have to help them find it and to guide them through once they have made the choice for life over death. We cannot just ignore them and pretend that they don’t exist in their isolated ghettos because we are all responsible for each other in this universal family, the family of man. These are our sons and daughters and they must be saved from themselves---with our help.
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T AR G E T
Scavengers stalk the aisles
Picking over skeletal remains.
All animals are scavengers, running and
limping towards their deaths. But humans are more pathetic because they search and search, hoping that one of their posses-
sions will be life everlasting. Of course, it never is, but that does not deter them from
their race against time.
“All things that live must die,
it is nature’s route to eternity.”
So thought Hamlet, who “could not make up his mind.” But he got it wrong: substitute “nothingness” for “eternity,” and you have the key to what most men will not and cannot accept: all life ends with the death of consciousness. Emptiness, the big sleep, nada with no “after-life” or “divine plan or purpose” and not a god in sight. Now, what is so bad about that? Sounds restful, doesn’t it? And isn’t eighty years enough?
First Shopper: Are you sure you are right?
Second Shopper: As far as I know, I’ve never been dead, yet.
First Shopper: So?
Second Shopper: So?
First Shopper: So, what should I do?
Second Shopper: Prepare to die. “Living is preparing to stay dead a long time,” wrote Faulkner and he should know: he’s dead,
and he isn’t coming back.
Second Shopper: But isn’t that a bit harsh?
First Shopper: Au contraire, mon frere: it makes living meaningful?
Second Shopper: Huh?
First Shopper: If death is eternal nothingness, then life is a meaningless prelude. The trick here is to turn the meaningless of everday drudgery and trivia into something meaningful.
Second Shopper: Now, just how do you
suppose you can do that?
First Shopper: Just work on it, you’ll get it,
eventually. And try not to take anything
Second Shopper: Anything?
First Shopper: Especially anything. Just defy absurdity. And then do as much of it as you can. Quantity, man; there is no quality. See?
Second Shopper: You are a droll one. But
can I still go shopping at TARGET?
First Shopper: Ah, yes, shop until you drop. And you will--drop that is.
And so, we go about our daily rounds with plans and pluck, passing the time and be-
lieving that what we do is important, which it is--for awhile.
The next time your are in TARGET, pick out any one of its determined and/or lost shoppers and watch her. What you will see (if you are really looking) is a confused
animal, sniffing up and down the slick aisles,
anxiously looking for “stuff” that she does not need. And “Slouching towards BEST BUY & BEYOND to be born, the rough beast” eventually just checks-out as she nears her real target: death and oblivion--or the next super-sale.
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“When one separates from his/her mate
(friend or spouse) in an ongoing and long
relationship, one separates from one’s former identity as it was defined and prac-
ticed by both partners whether the parting is new, temporary or final.”
That is the general and most widely accepted explanation when your emotions and reason (your ego) have been torn apart, leaving huge, empty and painful gaps where there used to be strong bonds.
But, in and on a deeper reality, what has
been forged together can never be com-
pletely separated; there are always threads of connection that bind forever. Parts of your other-self embed in your memory, in your feelings and in your thoughts--whether you want them to or not: they are parts of your old-self. Now, what the new reality is
is exactly what you will make out of that new-self that has suddenly opened up before you and yearns to be fulfilled.
How can you create and forge this new-self?
First, go with your feelings: let the shock, pain, anger, loss, regret and even recrimina-
tions flow out of you in tears, sadness, screaming or laughing. Get them out of your system: what you need is a good flushing-out, a catharsis of toxic emotions.
This process will take some time and may never be cleansed completely from your
old-self. Wounds take time to heal.
Next and after acceptance of the break has settled in and you have acknowledged it, it is time to build your new-self.
Start with those things that you already have had separately from your former other: friends, routines, and activities. Slowly add to these bases new facets and entirely new forms. You like to watch movies and television serials, so now enhance and re-fine that desire by expanding your sources.
Expose your self to new forms: art films,
silent films, take a course in television and film appreciatio--and writing so that you can figure out plot #35 B before you see and are puzzled by a new plot structure, something never done before. Ask your-self how you would resolve the ending;
just ask “what if?” Play with your mind around what is presented to you; basical-
ly you are rubbing your brain cells together
and working out story-lines. Your mind is what you are after; feed it and it will grow;
starve it and it will atrophy.
Be careful of merely throwing your new-self into new hobbies, which don’t last and waste time and money. But if an interest peeks out of you, follow it to see what is there. The rule in all these “self-improve-
ment” projects is to try to change your old-self style into new or lost styles that you have forgotten or didn’t know that you had in you. To hold onto your past with your other is untenable since you are separated
in body and mind. Do not seek the ghostly
presence of your former other in the crannies of your home and in the corners of your mind; he/she isn’t there anymore.
You can choose to replace your old-other with a new-other which, at a mature age, is usually not worth the effort. But keep an open eye; successful mating is mostly timing and luck--and a lot of work. If you are just worn out, let replacement therapy slide, for awhile or longer. However, a new- other can do wonders for your ego and your healing, but all the good fish in the sea have been mostly been caught already.
And always remember that you and your former-other are in separate relationship rehabs, so do rehabilitate your old-self. And try not to fall back into wanting your life to be “what it used to be” and what you are
used to. But if all else fails and nothing comes but wave upon wave of cloying sadness, help yourself by contacting your
other and just talking or dating. Yes, you may now date your other; do it if you can.
If your separation was an amicalbe and rational one, then take advantage of that over a fast, mean and angry tearing-apart, shouting and screaming out-the-door one.
Keep your other as a friend, if at all possible, especially if you actually were friends before.
None of these actions are easy, but they are all possible. And in a worst-case scenerio, you may have to rationalize and manipulte your mind into believing that your other is still with you, will always be there for you and is a part of you and vice-versa.
Because at the deepest and unconscious level, you are not separated in spirit. All others are parts of us and our strength is in those others: we are all links in an infinite chain of souls.
And in all platitudinous cliches, there is a seed of truth until it becomes abused and overused. That’s where maxims come from.
Hear in your mind of minds and in your heart of hearts, your other saying to you--
“You are not alone. I am always with you.
I love and always will love you. I am here.”
So, do not be sad or weep for your old-self;
take comfort and build that light into a new self-confidence where, if you are not reborn, then you, at least and at most, are not dead yet.
“Tomorrow is another day,” Scarlett exclaimed in her best falsetto and false heroine voice. And there is truth in that cliche, too.
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yes, what i meant aby "observation in academia" is "self-indulgent critical bullshit analysis" of the writer which, almost always, the ersatz critic has no idea of what is remotely going on in his better.
all the "work of the work" (a typical professor's phrase to justify what he does in his class rather than teach the daily import of the great work that he has in front of him--is my criticism): all the "textual
structural analysis" which bores any real reader to death (as you say, "i always hated reading critical analysis." good for you; i always loved it and THOUGHT that it meant something, which it does but only within the limits of understanding the themes and messages to his readers that all good writers
are trying to communicate. FAULKNER doesn't give a shit about his "revolutionary style" in the face of his horrific and human themes of his characters; yes, it pulls in the critics because their job is to figure it out but, and if they ever do "figure it out," then they miss the point of the work. i would guess that part of his style is deliberate and self-conscious; the other part, i am willing to bet on, is that that was the way his mind "worked," i.e., recorded his inner voice and that's the way it comes out on his page. JOYCE is entirely the opposite--an egg-head supreme who, if we are to believe the critics (like ELLMAN, right?) created huge and detailed superstructure that formed the grid for his ULYSSES; WAKE is the=nighttime newsreel of his now blind mind, like MILTON's and BEETHOVEN's
deafness: the deep interior of their minds and spirits (since there is no such thing as a soul, right?)
now, you say that you read "for plesure": are all the books that you read "pleasureable"? of course not; some must be terrifying and tragic. do you mean that "you read to pass your time" and to "fill
your days until it's time to care for someone?" please excuse the harshness, but this kind of thing has infuritated me ever since that one professor, old but not doddering, stook up in front of a course on how to read FAULKNER and proclaimed to his stunned audience, his colleagues included, poking the air with his bony index finger with each "PEDANTRY STINKS" (poke), "PEDANTRY (poke) STINKS
(poke)..."PED-AN-TRY STINKS" (double poke). and he meant not only blatant ostentatious displays of learning but even and more so that kind of "literary analysis" that provides professors' salaries because their benighted departments and their venal administrators have stopped educating their charge in the ways of man and, rather, have shifted to the ways to make more and more money and, thus, to gain recognition which, in turn, leads to more and even more money, which they then fatten by raising students' tuition to the point now where no real person can afford, or even want to, go to college. they are disgraces to the profession of teaching.
if a teacher cannot translate FAULKNER's message--in either FURY or DYING--into the daily "blows and shocks that" their young students encounter everyday of their yet vulnerable lives as "mini-adults," then they are just masturbating in public by passing off method/technique for message because they
DON'T UNDERSTAND what the fuck FAULKNER is talking about since it is "entirely out of" their insulated experience and just about some dysfunctional aristocarats or poor dirt-farmers in the SOUTH post-Civil War. that's what "FAULKNER IS AN APOLOGIST FOR HIS BELOVED SOUTH"...that he
"loves the SOUTH the way a man hates his wife" which was his response when some interviewer with balls enought to ask the obvious question asked him the question.
to me (in my one encounter with greatness as a freshman in PRINCETON's library in a dark, oak-paneled room as he sat in the distance, a wisp of shocked white hair above an ever extinguishing pipe that he kept relighting between droll and drawled one-liners to my totally innocent and uninformed questions when i had not read one work of his work--and he instantly knew whom he was talking to, so he was very nice), he said to my one-line question, "HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER, MR. FAULKNER?" his response: "YOU FIND Y OURSELF WITH A PIECE OF PENCIL AND A PIECE OF PAPER IN YOUR HAND AND YOU'RE HAVING FUN, YOU ARE ENJOYING THE PEACE AND CONTENT-MENT OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT." well, that may not have been the whole truth--given his alcoholism and his marriage--but that was what came out on the highest and lowest level to this naive and sincere young student who had genuine questions about what he felt inside.
any real artist--writer, painter, composer, or Indidan Chief-- writes mainly for his audience, to teach them what he has learned about making it to the grave with the least possible anguish. and if he does not do that, then he is a fraud, an accomplished technician and not a creator who is concerned about his audience--even if he isn't. so, and if, you as a reader and a student, cannot relate to the work in hand, then stop and get another piece that speaks to your mind, heart and emotions.
AMEN and end of "Sunday Morning Sermon."
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No, not the financial mystery instruments
that nearly wrecked ours and the world’s economy but, rather, the question:
“Is everything--especially, a work of
art (like a compostional style of
sounds, that is, music arranged in
symphonic structures)--derived from
another, previous inventor of that
For example, let us consider BEETHOVEN’S signature style: “trying to find an ending”--with much ongoing brio and
contrapuntal development. One interpreta-
ion here is tha he did not “want to find an
ending” because he was flying with the gods above and beyond his earthly notes; would you want to come down off that high? I wouldn’t, and all the great artists
(unlike me) would not have “it” end since once “it”--the flight of creative imagining--is over, what is there left to do but die, again and again and again.
“To die” in Elizabethan parlance meant, also,
to come in a physical orgasm, wherein the man loses his consciousness momentarily
when he ejaculates into the woman’s flesh.
Also, “to literally die at the moment of great-
est happiness and pleasure” was a KEAT-
SIAN and a WAGNERIAN definition of the
ultimate mental, emotional, and spiritual function, in such works as TRISTAN AND
ISOLDE and in KEATS’ having been “ever in love with easeful death.”
But back to BEETHOVEN and his FIFTH
SYMPHONY, his most well-known and almost unending work via his incremental repetition of previously stated and, now, re-
stated and onwardly developed themes/ melodies in motif forms that metamorphose constantly.
That is why he never bores because he never repeats the same notes; he, rather, alters and develops them endlessly.
You know what is coming, but not how,
this time because he is always changing
backwards in order to go forward. Just
listen to the FIFTH a few times, and you
Now, was his signature original or was it
derivative of someone and something else
that came before him?
Yes, the same exact style of the “unending
symphony” was composed by HAYDN in his SYMPHONY #82, “The Bear,” in 1786, some 22 years before BEETHOVEN’s famous 5th, first performed in 1808. And when he first came to VIENNA in 1787, BEETHOVEN took lessons from both HAYDN and MOZART.
And whom were HAYDN and MOZART
influenced by? Another predecessor, no
doubt, going all the way back to man’s first
discovery of music and the compostional theory of notation.
And so, too, are HEMINGWAY and FAULKNER derivative of another? Of
some nameless journalistic writer for HEMINGWAY and of JOYCE for FAULKNER.
And the same can be said for painting until the cliche does speak truth:
“There is nothing new under the sun,”
except when there is “something uniquely new” and “it” happens for the first time, rarely but occasionally.
Can you think of any examples? From any art form or, even and especially, from pop-art where all is notoriously derivative. Is
HIP-HOP something new? No, because, first of all, it is not music; it is street-chanting
and, as such, derives from previous chanters and chants, going back through INDIA and AFRICA and, now, the world
hails it as a “new art form.” Not so.
Most probably, there is nothing new under
this sun, at least. The best that any artist can do is derivative of something that came before him, and there is always something
that came before him. And there always will be.
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Into every life, a little romance must fall.
Romance is the idealized qualities that are always hoped for but which rarely occur or last--like undying and dedicated loyalty, both emotional and sexual. It is flowers and candy and candle light and walks on the beach; it is poetry whispered into your ear by your lover; romance is all those things that are not everyday occurrences but those very special events that take prepa-
ration and planning, like weddings, birthday parties, honeymoons and engagement rings. Romance is the opposite of what happens everyday, the routine of living that repeats the same mundane things which are engaged in thoughtlessly because they have to be done, like washing the dishes, taking out the garbage, taking clothes into the drycleaners and picking them up, gas-ing up the car and keeping it running. it is he reality of what is expected in daily rela-
tionships that are taken for granted and done because they have to be done. Romance is what should be; reality is what is.
True-love has much romance in it that is treated as a natural way of functioning: in true-love, one is more in-love with the idealized version of one’s mate when he/she has cracks in his/her exterior. True-love is not superficial infatuation but, rather, a total acceptance of your “other’s” wonder-
ful qualities: he is your Prince Charming and she is your Cinderella.
Also, true-love must be freely given away in order to surive and, in that sense, it is totally self-sacrificing. There is no trace of selfishness in it, and the more that it is given away, the more it fulfills itself.
In the three love stories that we read in this course, we have--one would-be romance, one harshly realistic love, and one drama of true-love on the highest level of life and death.
The Great Gatsby is an unfulfilled romance, no matter how much the hero of the novel, the “great romancer himself, the great Gatsby, wants it to be. He lives outside Daisy’s world of the established rich in his tastless mansion of the nouveau riche (Gatsby is a bootlegger, a criminal) and as much as he tries to have Daisy crash his parties so as to impress her with all his money, she never appears until she is intro-
duced to James Gatz as her long-lost lover.
Then, she spends every romantic second that she can create with Gatsby and their memories together when she was 16 and he was 22, a handsome young lieutenant in the First World War. They were both young and beautiful and in-love, but time and circumstance and Daisy’s selfishness
passed them by while Gatsby carried his burning romantic torch for “this golden girl of his dreams” who he believed, to the very end, would leave her husband finally and join him in an ultimage gesture of romantic love
Our next work, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, is harshly realistic with the only romance provided by Blanche’s delusions and fantasies which all fail because they are not believable and that they come from Blanche’s disturbed mind. Stanley is the ul-
timate opposite of any kind of romantic and tender feelings for anyone or anything ex-cept himself and his most basic needs, i.e.,
food, drink, sex and going to the bathroom.
He is “ape-man” redux recombinated from the cave he lived in thousands of years ago. And like the beast that he is, he howls like a hurt animal after his mate leaves him for a few minutes.
The other two characters--Stella (Stanley’s
wife) and Mitch (Stanley’s work buddy and erstwhile suitor to Blanche) walk on the edges of romance and reality but, eventual-
ly, get pulled over to the destructive side of reality--rape, madness and betrayal.
OTHELLO is the story of “a man who loved not wisely but too well,” and one who could not control his passions, especially his irra-
tional jealousy for his pure and innocent wife, Desdemona. At the end of the play, Othello loves himself and his own ego more than anyone else in the play, including Des-
demona and, so, sacrifices himself to that profound selfishness, suicide, that he is not even aware of. He is the General of Venice, most revered and emulated by all men, adored by his wife, hated by his ensign, Iago, and he is black--an outsider in an all-white and politically corrupt culture that he found himself in the city state of Venice in the 16th century.
In reading, reflecting and identifying with these classic love stories, try to find the true-love or the parts of true-love that exist in the pairing of the characters. Remember that true-love is marked and distinguished by a sacrifice for the “other” with no expec-
tations of anything in return except the ful-
fillment of giving your love away, freely and wholly to another.
So, what does all this matter to you here and now?
Find true-love wherever you can so that you can recognize it when you are ready for it and when it suddenly appears in your life shining and glorious.
Also, remember that most loves are not true-loves but some are. Look for examples of that in your reading and compare it with your own life; and be honest, even and especially, when your common everyday love doesn’t measure
up to these fictional romances. We must romance the love in our life to make it real and magical.
* And write down, make notes on, what you find so that you can piece together a paper on the three stories and the differences between the true-loves and the selfish ones told by--F. SCOTT FITZGERALD, TENNESSE WILLIAMS, and SHAKESPEARE.
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