Thus the philosophical hermit crab retreats inwards into the abandoned shell, into the deepening mysteries of the Golden Ratio ever deeper in, smiling at a conflated memory of Parmigianino's right hand and his own mis-shapened claw.
I often wake up and think: today I'm going to get around to X. Then the day is gone. A week goes by. And I think about X. In my thoughts, I work a little on this unrealized idea. Ok, tomorrow, fresh start, plenty of time to get to X. Then, time happens, as it always does, and X is pushed to the back of the room. Gotta clear out this area for the dance, roll up the rug, put the animals out back, place X up on the shelf so it won't be messed with. Weeks. Months. Always with X in mind. Adding a little there. Making a clever addition here. That's nice. Can't wait to get to X. Months. Years. The interruptions of life.
That which we fail to remember is that which becomes absent from our heart, no longer has any dwelling within us, no life, no breath and is soon a sad souvenir covered in dust. Dust is the sign of forgetting. This "signature of lost time."
The sad problem here is "the likes of you and I" don't come up with much to speak of when the "making a living" portion of the day is taken away. (And here is the sorrow that haunts the figure of Stevens.) What remains of the day are a few hours within which to relax and forget the tedium and the thousand little compromises that emptied the soul. Not much "cause for pride and contentment." I think of the Eliot line from Prufrock: "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." I see that spoon removing a little bit more of the soul each day. And I think, I've got plenty. No need to worry about what the small spoon takes away. But that spoon is a voracious and predatory creature whose innocuous appearance is its camouflage. It feeds on the remains of my day.
But when I opened the lid to that 70 quarts of blood and brain and rotting head... there is no language to describe the terminal horror of that stench. It was beyond nausea. It made me want to kill myself so that my brain would not have to even remember the smell. It was like an animate creature that reached into the most primal parts of my brain tissue and fiendishly milked out ever drop of fear and loathing and disgust and absolute reversion. I immediately got a headache. There was a high pitched whine, a keening sound, piercing my thoughts. The only way I can express the sense of it is to say that for the first time in my richly experienced 50 plus years, I smelled evil.
I think of William James' "moral equivalent of war". I read all of Crane as dark internal confession. All of his work is "an open declaration of his concern". It seems to surprise readers to learn Crane never fought in a war. But he did. The internal war every human wages within themselves. The Devil rides... perched on the shoulder wearing a coat of angelic wings.
Open Don Quixote and read only the first few chapters. Here is a man who has lost his mind. But who has not surrendered. This is the beauty of the Quixote. And Sancho Panza riding along beside him, who cannot see what Quixote sees, but still perseveres, still remains and stands loyal to Quixote, here is the mirror in which I look within to see what is missing from my own life, here is where I peer deep into my own eyes searching for the Pulse.
Again, just words, language pulling its revelatory rabbits out our broken hats. But this tool of language, even the ur-language of thought is all we have. Consider the dream in which you are given a key to escape from the dream. However, if you use the key, you only further substantiate the "reality" of the dream. You cannot use a dream-key to escape the dream. The key "re-pre-sents" (beautiful word) some thing other than what it is in itself. The "For Sale" sign is not itself for sale. It points beyond itself. The thief in the Zen koan cannot steal the moon reflected in the bucket of water.
I have taken to sleep recently as I once took to drugs. The want for it comes over me like a fog of desire. I indulge myself in it richly with deep initial breaths as if I am pulling in the first clouds of smoke from a burning Morphic rock. I can feel the deep blue oceanic atmospheres of the night-times of the brain growing within me like a pervasive vine, twisting and twining though my inner world.
What is the nature of the interior language of the self, perhaps the soul; this cloud of meaning that gathers within our brain, the music of thought, the montage of images, the symphonies of sound, theaters and cathedrals of memory, the smile of the mother, laughter of the friend, sigh of the lover, the taste of a kiss, the fragrance of a Christmas dinner?
The process of abstraction, of making the thing, the experience of the thing, into a word; of making the territory into a map; the meal into the menu. It is understood the word is not the thing.
To live one's life as a work of art. The Zen rock garden: pine needles blurring the raked lines of gravel, moss on the stones. Aeneas' fallen branch in the ruins of Apollo's Temple at Delphi. The wind from all History singing upon an Aeolian Harp, completing, over and over, Kubla Kahn's lost verses. The Chapel at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert: woodstove, high mullioned windows like Japanese screens, the canyon cliff beyond, rays of sunlight filled and outlined by pinon incense. Gerard Manley Hopkins' Windhover with its elegant structure of building alliteration: "Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle!"
The Enchanting Prison. The beautiful prison cell. The key you are half in love with, waiting out the hours of the day for the chime of its arrival, the insertion and release. Knowing you are being broken down, the interior discipline of self and soul being replaced by the external structures of the prison. You attempt to forge elaborate rituals in the brief intervals allowed for your internal life. However these are worn away by the exhaustion of hope. When will you be freed?
I have never been more acutely aware of the "limited medium" of my self, this "shell" that my spirit resides within.
The poetry of unconscious timing is always fascinating to me. Out of the blue you suddenly find yourself in a peculiar state of mind that prompts you to pull down a particular book from the shelf or listen to a piece of music or open up a journal to set down a new entry. In the process, you realize that there is a beauty to it, a symmetry, a rhyme, a connection. Some element within the experience resonates with a larger whole, places it into a composition of being where it increases in density, acquires weight, enriches with meaning, becomes part of the music.
The key here is resistance. There must be something out there to engage the intentionality of consciousness, to trigger it into high intensity.
Looking down through the pool of my mind, I can see the Source deep below, wavering distortions in the water, trembling of rock. The surface of my mind is calm, still, reflective in those places where the light shines upon it. Here, in the shadows of my self, I can see to the bottom, through the substance of my mind, this water, down to the source, the in-rushing stream of the essence that fulfills my being. Then, the flashing movement of a minnow, catching the light, vanishing.
The poetry of T. S. Eliot has shaped my development perhaps more than any other. I remember being a sophomore in high school, studying in the library, a friend throwing down a copy of The Waste Land upon the table with frustration, saying that it would take a genius to understand it. Why, I asked. It's just really difficult, they replied, significantly adding, everyone knows it means something, but Eliot made it difficult to figure out what exactly that is. My friend continued, he even added footnotes because no one could figure it out. I was intrigued. I wondered why a poet would make something intentionally difficult.
There are times where I am just beaten down. Physically drained of energy. Mentally empty. The river of my will, a shallow pool. It seems that there is nothing left to do but go through the motions. Let the events of the day push my passive flesh around. Nothing is worth doing. Everything is oppressive. Existence itself a burden. Something to be endured. I am full of Sartrian nausea.
I take to heart the "except to a hermit in the desert" phrase. Nevertheless, this passage captures a spirit of freedom, of an essential goodness to human nature and culture, that I believe we have lost sight of. The imperative is to recover "the unenforceable" within ourselves. To that end, I am striving for greater discipline and balance in my own life.
The notion that there is a body and there is a mind led me into confusion for a long time. Language is a powerful tool that operates on reality.
Regarding the kōan, I believe that the Truth is not something that has to be committed to memory, that anyone should ever have any fear of forgetting the Truth. It is evident in every moment of existence. To forget the Truth would like forgetting the air you breath. A fish forgetting the water that it exists within. The danger is in not being aware of what is always, necessarily, present. You forget it because you are so used to it, habituated to its presence.
I once read that the Greek Philosopher, Chrysippus, died from laughter after he saw a donkey eating some figs. That seemed strange to me until I imagined the scene. To this day, I find donkeys almost unbearably amusing, especially if they are eating. I can't explain it. Something about the donkey's mouth and teeth and the simple donkeyness of it all.
Ontological Difficulties - Essential questions. The very existence, being, of the thing is in question here. Why was it created? Who is the audience? Why is there performance at all? I think of a spectrum from an autistic savant filling page after page with unreadable language to serial murderers 'decorating' their dungeons to Holy Men chanting mantras in isolated caves.
Andy: Otis, what in the world are you doin'?
Otis: I just got back from old man Davis's place and he sold me this entire horse for twenty dollars.
Andy: Otis, I don't reckon you can notice, but you got a horse that gives milk.
Otis: I knew he was a good buy.
Recently, I've been collecting images of women pouring. Something about that act of pouring. Resonate. Acquiring gravity for me. Centering.
A Series of Subtle Interviews, Conducted by the Inimitable Dr. Geo. Kisker, With Five Tortured Souls Who Have Spent Some Time On the Other Side.
Days go by like wild horses. Never enough time.
To do what?
A film of still images, like Chris Marker's La Jetée, each with a series of captions. Dynamic interplay between the word and the image, each fighting the other for meaning. The film is called Chimage.
He sits in the dark room, elbows on his knees, head hanging down, defeated.
So I went out to the Desert in search of the Fugitive Gods. After many weeks, I found the traces.
Isn't it strange to become "finished" towards a particular author? I always remember a statement by the under-rated mystery writer, Ross MacDonald that he could often "get around" a certain author after a time, see where they were coming from, what they were up to with their words. But, said MacDonald, he could never "get around" Faulkner or Shakespeare.
Still relentlessly pursuing my ever approaching, never touching Purity.
I've been busy: working out my re-considerations regarding natural language as a form of crypto-text to be de-cyphered (technically, decoded is perhaps more accurate - but there is something there even at an alphabetic level, where cyphers work).
My obsessive question of how or what or why one might create in the face of evil, under the shadow of terror and knowing the blackness of our time has led me to the work of Arthur Szyk.
Awakening, you walk down the hall to the kitchen.
Your shirt catches upon a small crack in the wall.
Looking closer, there is a curious snag.
It was ten minutes past five that Friday afternoon in April when Holly Foole sauntered across the cockpit of the charter boat Faustina and vanished down the three steps which led to the cabin.
Skeletons in the Waste Land
May is an all right kind of month. It is a good time to collect up the gifts of the dark world and the life in symbols of ecstasy, of chanting dead rose ends.
O My My My, that Ole Bone Dance,
that shuffle and that shake, that poke
and slip and slide into the ole pink
Wow Mom Wow! Look at that cow!
They slowly turned their gaze towards the newborn child. The mother picked it up and kissed away the last remnants of birth: clinging, vague shapes of glistening innocence. The father only stared. His hands clutched at the tattered book under his fingers. His knuckles were white with fearful pressure. The baby gurgled and spit. The mother began to sing
Dust-filled drops of rain fell cold and heavy through the winter evening. It had been falling steadily the entire time I had been on the path. I was walking underneath a grove of old oak trees, their empty branches doing nothing for the rain. An emptiness pervaded my thoughts making me feel melancholic: longing to recover some forgotten strand of hope or purpose.