Friday, October 13, 2017

Clear Shallow Water

I started reading this novel, ``The Driver,'' by Hart Hanson, and I did not like it much and decided to stop. But then I came back to it to read a bit more and found this:

I tell Dad I'm sorry.

``No shame here,'' Dad says. ``It's important for a man to be decisive, but that has two parts to it. Are you listening to me?''

I'm listening.

``Part one is making the decision. That should be the hard part. Take all the time you can to do that properly. Part two, taking action, that's the easy part. You got ahead of yourself this time, is all. You put part two ahead of part one. Take your time making the decision so that the action you take is clear shallow water. Just like the German poet said.'' p.24, The Driver,' Hart Hanson

PS. I found three old poem from 2010 here (on this blog) by accident, and put them together on the "Hello Poetry" site (Winter in Three Acts):
 http://hellopoetry.com/poem/2162481/winter-in-three-acts/

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Body Intelligence


As Lucy reflected on her outrageous behavior of the night before, the memory only served to draw her upward, like a flower toward the sun. It was one of Lucy's gifts, to recognize the intelligence of her body and the utter impossibility of denying it. No matter how many times her father had said it would ruin her, she'd always known that her carnal appetite was the one thing capable of saving her. If she believed in God, it was here. Surely, He'd given us such appetite so that we'd stay---for a while at least---on our side of the fence. Without the force of the body, its compulsions, what would prevent a person from sprouting wings before his time and demanding entrance to paradise? ---p.39, ``Edgar & Lucy,''  Victor Lodato

It seems such a fancy idea, the intelligence of body, but for me it has taken years to approach and utilize it in a meaningful way. And still, sometimes, often, it becomes the source of huge anxiety for me.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reality, Power, Death, Truth

What is ``real''? Anything, any entity, that is repeatable. Something that takes place only once, cannot be real, or at least, we cannot establish its reality.

What is ``power''? A sustainable influence. In that sense, power is real influence.

Sustained lack of power corresponds to death. Therefore, death is real lack-of-power. And, hence, life is real power.

We cannot be sure that every entity in our world is repeatable and hence real. Therefore, truth must contain both real and unreal.

I picture the world similar to Cosmo, with the empty space corresponding to unreal and the celestial bodies corresponding to real. I suspect that the world is completely dominated by unreal.

We have no direct way of understanding what is unreal, except by projecting it onto something real.

We have very serious limits on our understanding of the world, especially when we limit ourselves to scientific methods of inquiry.


Quotes from another John Burdett novel, ``Bangkok Haunts,''  that I started a few days ago, but as usual I'm reading it very slowly:

``The dirt poor don't actually have selves to destroy. When they get a little power, they know it's only for a moment. They have no practice in preparing for the future. They generally don't believe they have one.''

``For the poor, birth is the primary disaster: owning a body that has to be fed and sheltered and looked after, along with the drive to reproduce, to continue. Everything else is kid stuff, including death.'' ---pp.18-19, Bangkok HauntsJohn Burdett

``Even dead, that woman has the power to turn your world upside down.''

I take a couple of beats to absorb that penetrating observation. ``Not only mine. The FBI isn't exactly naive, but she's in shock. It's what it does to your faith in life. Makes it that much harder to get up in the morning. You don't want to believe it, but it's hard to ignore the evidence.'' ---p. 21,  Bangkok HauntsJohn Burdett

PS [2017-08-06] -- I am reading a detective novel by Stuart Neville, ``So Say the Fallen,'' and liked it very much so far.

McKay closed the vestry door behind him, leaned his forehead against the wood.
Shakes erupted out from his core, to his hands, to his legs. His knees buckled and he collapsed into the door, then staggered across to the desk beneath the window.
A good man.
The words clawed at him.
``I am not,'' he whispered. ``I am not.''
A good man.
Maybe once. But not now.
I killed a man so I could have his wife.
Go back out. Go back out and tell her.
Tell her there is no God, that she is praying to air and stone and glass and nothing else.
Tell her this good man is a killer who deserves hellfire for his sin.
But McKay went nowhere. Instead he remained at the desk, wishing he had a God to pray to. ---p. 113, So Say the Fallen, Stuart Neville


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Freedom, Religion

A couple of days ago I read a discussion between some friends regarding religion, worship, freedom, and slavery. In Farsi and Arabic, the terms for worship and slavery have the same root, so that worship means giving up one's freedom in the service of God. Today, I came across the following paragraph in another John Burdett novel (Bangkok Tattoo) I am reading (Hudson is a CIA agent in the novel, the narrator is a Thai detective whose mother, formerly a prostitute, owns a bar/brothel, and Hudson is in love with the mother):
One night, after the two a.m. curfew, the bar is empty save for Hudson and me. He is drunker than I've seen before, though still more or less in control. Sitting on a stool, he starts to talk, as if continuing a conversation, probably with himself:
``Freedom? What kind of dumb all-purpose Band-Aid is that?'' With pleading eyes: ``I mean, what are we selling exactly? Money is the state religion of the West. We pray to it every waking minute---and we're gonna make damned sure every last human on earth gets down on their knees with us. All our wars are wars of religion.'' ...   ---p. 202, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett 
The modern/Western man is proud of his freedom, even though he worships (i.e., is in the service of, slave to) money!

PS 1. [2017-06-21]. A bit more on American life from the same book (spoken by the same character, Hudson):

``Most people won't stay in the Agency very long. It's like any other job in the states---American's get restless, bored, enraged that their talents are not properly appreciated. We move on. We move on---change the view every ten minutes, and you can convince yourself for a while that you've escaped the treadmill. But not forever. After a certain specific moment in life, you start to look back. You discern a pattern. Something ugly, manic, cramped, tortured, and repetitive. That pattern is what you are, what your culture has made of you. But that's not a reason for giving up. ... It's not a reason for changing sides. You got to soldier on, right or wrong. How you ever gonna know how wrong you are, how you ever gonna learn your life's lesson, if you're just a feather in the wind? You gotta suck it all up---there's no other way.''  ---p. 232, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett 

PS 2. [2017-7-17] . I am finishing the book and here are parts of the last chapter that appeared very interesting to me:

In the cab on the way back, in a jam on the outskirts of Krung Thep, I ask the driver to tune in to RodTitFM. Visit is interviewing a famous abbot from one of our forest monasteries:

Pisit to abbot: The more I think about Thailand, the more it drives me insane---I mean, totally crazy, insane, mad.
Abbot: Because of our overwhelming problems?
Pisit: Yes, our overwhelming problems, exactly.
Abbot: Which problems are you most overwhelmed by?
Pisit: All of them.
Abbot: Excuse me, but are you really expressing yourself accurately? Is it not more precise to say that it is not the problems that are overwhelming---after all, they are just problems out there somewhere---but the difficulty in solving those problems?
Pisit, resignedly: If you like, yes, the difficulty in solving them.
Abbot (with satisfaction): Ah, then Buddhism can indeed help you. At first I though it could not, but now I am pleased to say that it can.
Pisit: Yes?
Abbot: Well, it's very simple. It is not the country's problems that overwhelm you but your egoistic belief that you can be instrumental in solving them.

A scream from Pisit, then silence. ---p. 301, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett


Nirvana: We look out on the world and we see only a dust-laden collection of homemade symbols. Those that fit our prejudice of the moment we keep, the rest we dump. We are distracted by distraction by distraction. Nothing is happening. Nothing has happened. Nothing will happen. Emptiness is the ultimate challenge; identity is for suckers. Says the Buddha: All meaning is realized, the universe is nirvanic. ---p. 302, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett


PS 3. [2017-7-25] . I started another John Burdett novel, ``Bangkok Haunts,'' and here is a quote from the beginning:

``Death,'' the pathologist says, ``the way a culture views death defines its attitude to life. Forgive me, but sometimes the West gives the impression of being in denial. The Thai attitude is a little different.'' ---p. 12, Bangkok Haunts, John Burdett  

Friday, June 09, 2017

Violent Buddhism

I am reading a couple of novels by John Burdett which feature a Buddhist Thai detective. Here are some interesting excerpts:

``Whatever little mind picture you've got of me by now, kid, you better dump them. I don't have an ego. Those Chinese burned every little bit of it out of me ... there was no way I was going to spend the next sixty years dragging a bleeding, damaged, heartbroken, resentful, miserable stump of ego around. ...'' ---p. 347, The Godfather of KathmanduJohn Burdett

``You thought you would play the martyr, get yourself a permanent seat in nirvana in return for your sacrifice, your undeniable stinking goodness? What are you, some kind of Sunday Christian? Didn't I already make it clear that good isn't good enough? ... Good is even harder to kick than evil. They are a duality, you know that, you don't get one without the other. ... And anyway, you have no right to deprive me of my karma. It's all me driving this. This is my moment, not yours, so who the fuck are you to screw it all up because you can't live with yourself? If you can't live with yourself, dump your self.'' ---p. 346, The Godfather of KathmanduJohn Burdett

``[Clive of India] was the first to make the connection between arms and narcotics. This little thug from Shropshire, who would certainly have been hanged if he'd stayed in England, saw the way to finance a whole private army, and the model proved so effective they repeated it all over the world: narcotics, slaves, and weapons. It's the great tripod upon which our global civilization continues to be based, even if they have changed the labels and the slaves get health insurance. The plain fact is, the sociopathic nature of the modern corporation started then and there with Clive. ... '' ---p. 345, The Godfather of KathmanduJohn Burdett


Wednesday, May 03, 2017

en·light·en·ment

Before ten thousand steps, I
squint my eyes for the
Temple suspended in clouds

******************************

... three men traveled together, a Christian, a Muslim, and A Buddhist. They were good friends, and when they discussed spiritual matters, they seemed to agree on all points. Only when they turned their gaze on the outer world did their perception differ. One day they passed over a mountain ridge to behold a fertile and populated valley below.
``How strange,'' said the Christian. ``In Village One down there the villagers are all fast asleep, whereas in Village Two they are lost in a hideous orgy of sin.''
``You are quite wrong,'' said the Muslim, ``in Village One everyone is in a perpetual state of ecstasy, whereas in Village Two everyone is asleep.''
``Idiots,'' said the Buddhist. ``There is only one village and only one set of villagers. They are dreaming themselves in and out of existence.'' ---p. 46, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Roots of Evil

I have been developing a novel structure of concepts around the theme of ``the functions and responsibilities of the rational, conscious mind.'' Among these concepts are those related to roots of evil. I saw a book in the public library today that caught my attention, ``Hitler: The pathology of Evil,'' by Geroge Victor. He is apparently of the Jewish faith and therefore much less inhibited in his analyses. Here are some excerpts:

Why the pessimism of Bullock and others about understanding Hitler, and why the lack of progress after fifty years? Some difficulties in understanding him have been mentioned [My note: `his secrecy and deceptiveness' is mentioned before]; another is that key pieces of his story are offensive. That he was a sadist is accepted, but that he was also a masochist---equally important in his acts of state---is not. Particularly difficult is the matter of his victimization in childhood. For many people, seeing him as a victim--a figure calling for sympathy---is unacceptable. In addition, writers have been careful about offending Jews by suggesting that Hitler's anti-Semitism was linked to his identification of himself as Jewish. His ethnic ancestry was German, probably also Czech, and possibly also Jewish. No more can be established, but there is ample evidence that Hitler thought of himself as Jewish in the core of is being---in his ``poisoned'' and ``diseased'' blood. Still another difficulty in explaining Hitler is concern that understanding him may lead to forgiveness, to condoning actions of the Third Reich, and to weakening bulwarks against such destructive convulsion. Taking the opposite position---that understanding is the best protection against a repetition---an attempt is made here to give the fullest possible description of Hitler's personality in order to explain the destructiveness of the Third Reich. ---p. 9, Hitler: The pathology of EvilGeroge Victor

By the time he was an adult, Hitler hated his father, and with ample reason. That hatred, along with self-loathing, ruled his life. ....
The idea of evil coming from a Jewish father also provided an explanation for Hitler's own troubles. Growing up with self-loathing---``rotten to the marrow'' were his words---Hitler found the cause in his ancestry, which he believed had poisoned his marrows. ... ---p.18, Hitler: The pathology of EvilGeroge Victor


... The overprotected child gets limited experience in self-reliance and tends to feel weak, vulnerable, and defective---incapable of managing without help, dependent on others for rescue from predicaments.
The effects of devotion and overprotection were soon evident. Adolf was a bright boy, learning rapidly---the only child in the family to grow up highly intelligent, talented ambitious, or grandiose. He also grew up extremely insecure. ---p. 25, Hitler: The pathology of EvilGeroge Victor


... The usual reaction of a boy who sees his father beating his mother is fear, an impulse to intervene, and shame about the failure to do so. As an adult, Adolf reportedly would have a recurrent nightmare in which a Jew menaced a woman and Adolf failed to intervene, feeling humiliated. Recurrent dreams come from a childhood trauma.
....
Frequent or severe punishment conveys to children that they are evil. Being nearly killed by parents conveys that they are unworthy to live. Adolf began to experience himself as evil and worthless---feelings he would describe in middle age and be troubled by until his death. ---p. 29, Hitler: The pathology of EvilGeroge Victor





Friday, January 13, 2017

Fiction

I have come across a strange novel by Diane Schoemperlen, ``Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship.'' Here are some quotes from the beginning:

This first stage of writing a book involves a lot of thinking time which, to the uninitiated, appears to be a lot of time wasted doing nothing more than looking out the window. --- p.28, Our Lady of the Lost and Found, Dian Schoemperlen
This is exactly the story of my past few years. Maybe I am writing a book without even knowing myself!?! :)

 ... Studying laundry on a line strikes me as a suburban version of reading palms, tea leaves, or tarot cards, a method of divination useful in determining not so much the past or the future but the present, which, to my way of thinking, is a state every bit as occult and enigmatic as the other two, requiring, but seldom accorded, equal measures of interpretation and exegesis. --- p.28, Our Lady of the Lost and FoundDian Schoemperlen
A beautiful interpretation of present and deciphering the meaning behind it. Small signs like this indicate that the author has felt something!! :)

And the following are quotes from the epigraphs of the book:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The irony of writing about such an experience in the modern era is such that, if I say to people, ``This really happened,'' not unreasonably, they will be inclined to doubt me. They might suspect me of boasting, or assume that I have lost my mind. If I say, ``I imagined it, I made it up, it's fiction''---only then they are free to believe it.
                                                   --- Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace

Ultimately, I have found it is meaningless to hold the yardstick of fact against the complexities of the human heart. Reality simply isn't large enough to hold us.
                                          --- A. Manette Ansay, River Angel
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
--- p. xi, Our Lady of the Lost and FoundDian Schoemperlen
I love the sense of suspension of reality here.

Finally, this paragraph is filled with a hidden sense of sadness and heaviness:

Day after day, week after week, year after year, I went on with my life in the usual secular way: making meals, making beds, making books, making promises, decisions, and mistakes, making my own dogged way in the world, with all of these divine images stowed away somewhere in the intricate folds of my brain. They were like dream images, those ones that are so vivid when you first wake up in the morning, and then within minutes they begin to fade until, by the time you get the coffee made, they have disappeared completely and you are left with nothing more than an uneasy sense of having lost something but you cannot say what. --- p. 48, Our Lady of the Lost and FoundDian Schoemperlen


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lies and Shadows, Silence and Time

Two quotes from ``Ceremony,'' Leslie Marmon Silko's masterpiece.

The first one is long and about the lies with harbor deep inside and shadows:

... He had a crazy desire to believe that there has been some mistake, that Floyd Lee had gotten them innocently, maybe buying them from the real thieves. Why did he hesitate to accuse a white man of stealing but not a Mexican or an Indian? He took off his gloves and stuck his hands inside his jacket to wipe the broken blisters on his shirt. Sweat made the raw skin sting all the way up both arms, leaving his shoulders with a dull ache. He knew then he had learned the lie by heart---the lie which they had wanted him to learn: only brown-skinned people were thieves: white people didn't steal, because they always had the money to buy whatever they wanted.

The lie. He cut into the wire as if cutting away at the lie inside himself. The liars have fooled everyone, white people and Indians alike; as long as people believed the lies, they would never be able to see what had been done to them or what they were doing to each other. He wiped the sweat off his face onto the sleeve of his jacket. He stood back and looked at the gaping cut in the wire. If the white people never looked beyond the lie, to see that theirs was a nation built on stolen land, then they would never be able to understand how they had been used by the witchery; they would never know that they are still being manipulated by those who knew how to stir the ingredients together: white thievery and injustice boiling up the anger and hatred that would finally destroy the world: the starving against the fat, the colored against the white. The destroyers had only to set it into motion, and sit back to count the casualties. But it was more than a body count; the lies devoured white hearts, and for more than two hundred years white people had worked to fill their emptiness; they tried to glut the hollowness with patriotic wars and with great technology and the wealth it brought. And always they had been fooling themselves, and they knew it.
.
.
.
The moon was bright, and the rolling hills and dry lake flats reflected a silvery light illusion that everything was as visible as if seen in broad daylight. But the mare stumbled and threw him hard against the saddle horn, and he realized how deceptive the moonlight was; exposed root tips and dark rocks waited in deep shadows cast by the moon. Their lie would destroy this world. ---pp. 177-8, Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko

The second quote on silence and time:

He stopped on the edge of the clearing. The air was much colder. He had been so intent on finding the cattle that he had forgotten all the events of the past days and past years. Hunting the cattle was good for that. Old Betonie was right. It was a cure for that, and maybe for other things too. The spotted cattle wouldn't be lost any more, scattered through his dreams, driven by his hesitation to admit they had been stolen, that the land---all of it---had been stolen from them. The anticipation of what he might find was stung tight in his belly; suddenly the tension snapped and hurled him into the empty room where the ticking of the clock behind the curtains had ceased. He stopped the mare. The silence was inside, in his belly; there was no longer any hurry. The ride into the mountain had branched into all directions of time. He knew then why the oldtimers could only speak of yesterday and tomorrow in terms of the present moment: the only certainty; and this present sense of being was qualified with bare hints of yesterday or tomorrow, by saying, ``I go up to the mountains yesterday or I go up to the mountains tomorrow.'' The ck'o'yo Kaup'a'ta somewhere is stacking his gambling sticks and waiting for a visitor; Rocky and I are walking across the ridge in the moonlight; Josiah and Robert are waiting for us. This night is a single night; and there has never been any other. ---pp. 178-9, Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko

Finally, a bonus quote from an Aeon article, ``Wild thing How and why did humans domesticate animals – and what might this tell us about the future of our own species?'' by Jacob Mikanowski

Source: https://aeon.co/essays/how-domestication-changes-species-including-the-human

Keeping pets meant inviting animals into the family. It also created new relationships of inequality. The anthropologist Tim Ingold at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, who has spent years studying the reindeer herders of Lapland, argues that it is a mistake to regard domestication as a form of progress, from living in opposition to nature to harnessing it for our benefit. In The Perception of the Environment (2000), he notes that foraging peoples generally regard animals as their equals. Hunting is not a form of violence so much as a willing sacrifice on the part of the animal. Pastoralists, on the other hand, tend to regard animals as servants, to be mastered and controlled. Domestication doesn’t entail making wild animals tame, Ingold says. Instead, it means replacing a relationship founded on trust with one ‘based on domination’.

When humans start treating animals as subordinates, it becomes easier to do the same thing to one another. The first city-states in Mesopotamia were built on this principle of transferring methods of control from creatures to human beings, according to the archaeologist Guillermo Algaze at the University of California in San Diego. Scribes used the same categories to describe captives and temple workers as they used for state-owned cattle.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Possum

From a novel on (lesbian) love, loss and grief, remembering, and amnesia:

The possum travels light, its little brain just a bit of spit and blood, poor synapses that can't recall where it slept the day before. It's nomadic, solitary, stopping here or there to sleep, to eat, and in the spring to mate. When cornered, it'll hiss and bare its teeth, and then commit its suicide. You think it's dead, and chances are it is, but when you leave it might wake up, sneer, and move along. ---p. 60, Toward Amnesia, Sarah Van Arsdale

What is kindness? Kindness is a way of walking, of approaching subjects. It has deep roots in a view of the world based on equality. Violence comes from inequality and requires justice. In an equal world, there are swift decisions, but they are not violent!

A quote on human sacrifice:
``The practice of human sacrifice was fundamental to the Aztec's faith. Thousands of men, women, and children were killed each year in hopes of appeasing the willful gods and keeping the fragile universe in balance. On holy days, priests in black robes led victims---warrior, prisoner, slave, or maiden---up the Great Temple and carved out their beating hearts with a flint knife.'' ---p. 15, Dancing with the Tiger, Lili Wright

And a quote about listening from a strange novel:
... I listen. That's my business. Listening. That's the difference between me and the Harvard guy. The Harvard guys don't listen. ---p. 156, The Last Thing He Wanted, Joan Didion


Monday, December 12, 2016

Is There a Tiny Fragment?!?

This quote comes after a particularly disturbing and depressing description of life in the Soviet Union in early 20th century:
``Not all of me shall die.'' Shulubin whispered. ``Not all of me shall die.''
He must be delirious.
Kostogolov groped for the man's hot hand lying on the blanket. He pressed it lightly. ``Aleksi Filippovich,'' he said, ``you're ging to live! Hang on, Aleksi Filippovich!''
``There's a fragment, isn't there? ... Just a tiny fragment,'' he kept whispering.
It was then it struck Oleg that Shulubin was not delirious, that he's recognized him and was reminding him of their last conversation before the operation. He had said, ``Sometimes I feel quite distinctly that what is inside me is not all of me. There's something else, sublime, quite indestructible, some tiny fragment of the universal spirit. Don't you fell that?'' pp. 482-3, Cancer Ward, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Is this hope or illusion? I believe Solzhenitsyn leaves it up to each of us, readers, to decide on our own.

I have felt the lack of trust and sense of betrayal described in the following very acutely:
... Cancer was a front-parlour subject, but it wasn't in the same class as a broken leg or a heart attack or even a death. It was apart, obscene almost, like a scandal; it was something you brought upon yourself.
Other people think that too, but in different ways. Rennie used to think it herself. Sexual repression. Couldn't act out anger. The body, sinister twin, taking its revenge for whatever crimes the mind was supposed to have committed on it. Nothing has prepared her for her own outrage, the feeling that she'd been betrayed by a close friend. She'd given her body swimming twice a week, forbidden it junk food and cigarette smoke, allowed it a normal amount of sexual release. She'd trusted it. Why then had it turned against her?  pp. 73-4, Bodily Harm, Margaret Artwood

In fact, there is a close, and yet obscure, connection between trust (faith?) and that tiny fragment inside ...

Clear Shallow Water

I started reading this novel, `` The Driver ,'' by Hart Hanson , and I did not like it much and decided to stop. But then I came ba...