Posts Tagged ‘buddha’

Put Your Butt Here

July 26, 2013
Put my what where?

Put my what where?

My seventh-grade students dream bigger than any directive.

When a street sign like the one we saw on the way to the High Line tells them Place your butts here, they will comply like good citizens, and then defy like even better citizens. They are budding semanticists who know that words both open and close doors.

Each word has a special charge.  Thus surely my students will also put their “buts”  here—and their “ifs” and their “ands”, amending signage to reflect a vaster cause:  Please place your dirty cigarette BUTTS here, but don’t stop moving your ANATOMICAL AND MOTIVATIONAL BUTT towards the greater good. 

When their personhood and minds are respected and “bolstered”–thank you for adding that to our vocabulary list, Obama!–my students think with their hearts: with this kind of cognition from a contingent of twelve-year-olds, the results move (the urban equivalents of) mountains.

Writing Up High:  What's your inner phenology?

Writing Up High: What’s your inner phenology?

These young people follow the signs that maintain convention only in so far as this doesn’t handicap the growth of a vital community.  Otherwise, we teach them how to edit radically, and use words to set everybody free.

My students now look at their city and see the secret gardens reestablishing themselves incognito in the most misshapen, arthritic sidewalk cracks, in rich and poor neighborhoods alike.  Like the human spirit when nourished, these “invasive” plants won’t be held back.

This same crew is learning Urban Ecology.  I make the pleasant mistake of writing Nettles Prick on the board as part of a parsing lesson.  They have to squeeze their anatomical butts and slow down their breathing to keep from erupting into hormonally-mandated giggles without end.  Prick: thank goodness some body parts are inherently funny.

The Buddha said all life is suffering, and certainly studying grammar, were it a shaming prison for their otherwise rolling thoughts (as it is often taught), can be that.  But these little Buddhas know how to keep the joy in the rules and the rules in service to saying what they need to say.

Serious Laughter Pollination

Serious Laughter Pollination

A short prayer to the Curriculum Fairy: May all young people use their whole body and whole mind to follow their whole heart.   May all young people sit down on their anatomical butts RIGHT HERE and refuse to budge, should anyone try to fence them from their wildest dreams out of  fear about the vestigial societal anatomy they may dismantle in the process.

May those who would rather pick their butts than support our young authentically have an ingrown hair that wakes them up to what pain is.

May all young people without exception be happy, healthy, safe and at ease.

(And to all you young people who are applying to college shortly and are ready to write your essays, visit our Essay Intensive programs to guide, inspire and challenge you HERE!)

Natural Grammar

Natural Grammar

Heart Wattage

May 4, 2010

Heart Wattage

sandy sangha

On a pavilion of Wat U Mong, a “forest” temple close to Chiang Mai University (and miles from any forest but that of the mind), lie the Buddhas in disrepair.  There are a lot of them and impermanence has had its way.  Some are just a head, or missing that capstone entirely; some are corroded and chipped at the shoulders or laps– Time’s habitual equivalent of nail-biting.  Of various materials and sizes, they rest all together in an order-less pile: so much for that.

and now I lay me down to...

Beside them, garbage lolls about in the same way it does everywhere that humans gather.  The boddhisatvic plastic bag is the second-tier congregation even in the holiest of spaces and is never too far from its populist sidekick, the plastic bottle.  One local entrepreneur, “Mr. Brandname” sells new-ish shoes on the steps nearby to the throngs of Thais who have showed up to make merit before Songkran, the New Year.  Not bad: propitiate an imitation Buddha, get a new pair of imitation shoes, and leave happier, luckier, and with something concrete to show for it.

Wooden placards with Instructional Caveats are nailed to the trees, the usual admonitions about time passing, slovenliness, and attachment.  Drunkenness is singled out, in this whiskey culture, as a direct road to decay; one sip signs you up for a permanent subscription to Samsara.  The irony is that the signs themselves, set along the route to the building wherein the new monks get their heads shaved during initiation, are in worse shape than the livers they attempt to guard.   And no one has bothered to apply a fresh coat of paint.  Let the morality fade with the rest of the game.

The lone statue of the emaciated Buddha, made of dark stone, all its ribs visible, sits away from the action down the way from the central chedi.  Dead flowers, slough of the parched trees, mark the way to his seat: nature’s own emphasis. This is Buddha in his starvation phase, depriving himself of the nourishment on which all humans rely to sustain life, and yet sustaining it anyway.  But his gesture proved to be egregious, even to himself: why bother living, then?  By the time you learned what it is to be alive and conscious, you aren’t anymore.

ribbons of breath

Speaking of which: we’ve now come and gone through Thailand.  This post will grandly disrespect time, with all due respect.

Time: [nigglingly] Sister, why you gotta call my bluff?

Me: Relax, you always get the last word anyway.

Time: Yeah but–

All the Signs of Heat

The English signs around here are rife with misspellings. “Crap salad” is a favorite of mine– to chuckle at rather than to eat.  I feel a certain sensorial resonance with that blooper of a repast, as it’s exactly what the heat does to my brain.  A few words about the heat: It’s hot. It’s so hot that talking about the weather is, at best, redundant, like asking someone about how they would be if they told you how they were.  The pollution sits atop the Chiang Mai valley as a cap on a baseball player: there is just no playing the game without it.

And it’s hot even for the Thais: worst dry season ever, say some.  Not only Farang homeostasis is in peril.  When I checked the weather prior to our departure from Istanbul, the general tourist information for the month of April said: “Don’t go, if you can avoid it.”  If you can avoid it?  Is karma like a punch you dodge?  Nah.  You take it right in the hypothalamus.  Which F referred to during an anatomy lesson as “that…you know…hippopotamus…in your head.”  Not too far off.

But despite this heat, beauty weakly prevails.  Your average flower is hardly as limp as the people look.  Even the Bangkok airport (as frenetic as usual in the midst of the larger red-shirt crises) is a reminder that beauty belongs everywhere: its walkways, however institutional, are filled with fresh orchids.  A few robed monks wheel suitcases around like the rest of us.  I had a misguided assumption that monks would travel sans baggage.  After all, they’ve given up on the world and wear an orange flag to mark this fact.  Do they really need a toothbrush?  Nah.  We know how it goes, though: the abandoned world has a way of living on inside the head.  It’s a wonder Buddha’s cranial muscles held out long enough for him to downgrade from asceticism to the Middle Path.

orchid onslaught

But we have somewhere to go.

In the center of a two-street by two-street Muslim “village” hugging the North wall of Chiang Mai… The Masid issues its mellow call to prayer.  The sun balances at the apex of sky—god’s flashlight.  Neighborhood kids are chanting Koran verses in open-air classrooms.  They’re lucky enough to study here during their sweltering summer break from the government schools; the ants are practically pole-vaulting in their pants.

lunchasana

Meh Lah heaves her huge rice cooker, brimming with hot jasmine rice, onto a dolly and beside it, the equally large pot of whatever she’s prepared for their lunches.  This creation is often as unidentifiable as it is gorgeous smelling.  She wheels her contraption down the street and into the mosque courtyard, where she portions out the food to the children pitchfork style. This is how people used to live; close to what was needed, the mosque like the axle of the wheel of daily life.

Once upon a time, I too lived in this place, in the open home of three sentient beings that likely none of you will ever have occasion to meet [for this reason, I’ll use their names in full].  It’s beyond the scope of what I can write to haul them into verbal animation.  So I will try anyway.

Dha, passing their doorway, sees me walking up the road with Y, my feisty French bud, and J.  In his white cap and white get-up, he is momentarily shy, the way certain ghosts are reputed to be.  When I stayed in this house, teaching in return for being taught, he and I became inseparable.  We were a truly odd pair: he, the wise-man of the hood, short, strong, indefatigably informative and in his advanced middle-age and I, the foreign blonde then in my twenties, more wiry and bubbling with adoration than is normal around here.   I wince at years gone down the rabbit-hole.  Yet the feeling of being in these rooms again is perversely identical.

Entering Meh La’s house, it’s clear time is a nice fable we tell ourselves to organize what defies category.  Y comes along to translate because I’ve forgotten virtually all my Thai, the first travesty of the day.  Dha had predicted, after teaching me to speak, read and write (and to box…) that within three months I would have learned the remainder of the language by myself (easy!) and taught it to the rest of my country (American adventurer!), “from sea to shining sea.”  Seems not.  I’d have an easier time reading rabbit pellets as a sham augur than deciphering even a single Thai grapheme.  Dha shakes his head in disappointment and tries to speak to me in Thai anyway: but, sorry!, willpower doesn’t override cognitive deficiency.  I imagine my face, linguistic registers closed for business, looks like a broken slot machine: full of promise, but winning mechanically impossible.

We are immediately seated on the wooden bench by the window—which comprises, with its identical twin on which the eldest sister, Dihan, spends her days and nights, a wet rag over her forehead, eating whatever snacks are handed to her– the only furniture in this rather big room.  There’s a comforting amount of clutter around (refrigerator shelves not excluded) of unknowable utility—revealed by the fact that occasionally someone digs around in it for something, and comes up with what was sought.  The doormat is an old jacket, near the point of shredding.  The bathroom mat is a mop-head.  What else would you use? And the T.V., centerpiece, is the lord of it all, a fly-catcher for prana, a feudal fiend you tithe with your life energy.

dha's dharma

Feeding The Fire

plates of prana

Upon arrival, we’re “serviced”—fed as much as we’ll agree to eat—until we plead (and plead and plead): EEM! (“full”).  Lah gleefully loads our plates as if they are the last culinary chedi, wiping sweat from her forehead with the back of her sleeve.  Dha’s first pointed question could rival even a Jewish mama for its bodily concern:

Dha: Salah, tung poo?

The Linguistic black hole engulfs me.  I look up from the bottomless bottom, but no one lowers a rope.  Tung poo sounds like a noodle dish.

Dha: Sa-Laaaah, You don’t remember tung poo?

Of the many, many things I don’t remember, this is, yes, one. The fickleness of my memory, since arriving back in Thailand makes me think I understand what phantom-limbs must feel like: reaching for a tea-cup with a hand that is no longer there.

Dha:  Sa-LAAH! Tung poo? When you cannot bathroom…

Me: [enjoying a lightening-speed neurological reconfiguration, such as Moses, cloud-covered, must have experienced when the Lord used his outside voice to speak the Tablets…?] A-HA! CONSTIPATION!

Dha: Yes, Yes.

They say the elephant never forgets but the elephant has nothing on my Thai family.

Last time I was here, not only was I really clogged, but I also begged “clogged” on the occasions that home-made food was put before me that just I could not fathom ingesting.  Am I constipated? Is that an existential or physiological question? Really, it has all the cheery immediacy and indiscretion of a T.V. commercial.

[Got heartburn?  Try this…] Constipation also happens to be as conceptual as it is actual.  The mere mention of it lights up a chain of suggestibility that goes straight to the colon’s hypersensitive antennae.  And memory is insistent, although you never know what it will insist upon.  The buffet of human experience stands.  The colon, like the fox in its hole, can never get enough.

Dha immediately falls in love with J in a way that is so manly and exclusive I suddenly know how the second child must feel.  Between our former bond comes the broad shoulders of my boyfriend.  Dha ladles out his perennial advice piecemeal, punching J amicably in the leg:

Without rice, no power.

And About the coffee-

One cup: good.  Two cups: common.  Three cups: dangerous.

No cucumber!  It makes the man [finger twirl next to temple].

In the heat, you must smile.  Otherwise, you go crazy.

Sigh.

Pac-Man Philia

It’s weird what love does to us, how it asserts its logic in a Pac-Man-style: eating all the obstacles in its way as it goes along.  Dha, who I love beyond what I can speak, refers to me as the “vegetabalist.”  He holds J chummily around the neck while J, blessed be, chews on sugary dried squid.  As in: sugary dried squid.  To Dha, I’m a pure one, since I don’t smoke or drink coffee (do little sippies of Nescafe count? The heat makes you want weirdly…).  By his standards, purity is an easy qualification to make.

grace

Pac-Man consumes the next tasty dot, and the next one.  P-M is notoriously nearsighted—his next mandible maneuver may just take off my one and only head (dot-shaped enough for government work).  And this would truly be fine, since it’s conceivable that in my cardiac locker, thereby exposed, there could be a bit more Thai stored than in my flailing forebrain.

The N Factor

We decide to head more North.  Among the many delusions which one can agreeably host on a daily basis was this: the mountains must be cooler than the city.

Well, actually, no.  The thoroughly deluded are equipped with a short-term protection against the fact of the matter: the necessity of being right.  We were entirely wrong; the heat triumphed at first light.  But in the place of our wishful thinking, we had the profound pleasure of seeing an old friend …

We go to Mae Suae, near Chiang Rai, to the “waterfall resort” of N, a retired general in the Thai army, who now guards the king on rare occasion and spends as much time as possible around green things.  His resort is visited mainly by other Thais and Europeans—those people who come across it in the back roads of Chiang Rae while motorcycling.  If one wants to “live like a Thai person” and wonders what a Thai person might do on a resort holiday, the answer is: watch T.V. and eat fried stuff.  This presents a simple solution to the complexity knots we untie and retie in daily life.

N says to us over breakfast, when he joins us for mangos (which God must have intended to hoard for herself but accidentally dropped off the precipice of heaven, gifting the scavenger race below): You see the nature, you see the flower, you feel good. And it’s true: trees are the stars of this show and the rest of us are just sweaty back-up dancers, always falling short of photosynthesis.  Have you seen how trees lie in the arms of their brethren when they die, until they rot as is?  Can you imagine holding a corpse, even of someone you adore, until that point?  “Tree pose” is but an aspiration—and, in fact, a “pose”.  Meanwhile, the forest keeps exhaling in our favor.  So that life can go on…

heart shmear

N is very convincing.  It’s hard to really suckle your bad attitude when you look at the banana leaves fanning about.  N had wanted, at heart, to be an engineer, but he came from a family of soldiers, and it was his to carry the ancestral mantle.  You could not envision a more ahimsic being:  hospitalized three times this year for health complications, he says to us, apologetic for his English (um, have you heard my Thai lately?  No, me neither.  Because it comes out sounding like a broken fax machine): It’s alright, I’m not worried, because I know my soul is still strong.

Naturally: because you, dear N, understand the link between feeling good and doing something basic and available.

The Lahu kids at the creek on their summer break wave us over to the flat rock where they’ve gathered, cluttered with beer bottles and cell phones and the usual hagiography of adolescent spare time, and point at their noses insistently.  They call us the way you would call a cab in a pinch: but they want us to take them somewhere that doesn’t involve getting up.  We don’t have drugs.  We don’t even have pockets.  Nevertheless, when they pass us walking in the midday heat later on pitiless dirt road, they offer to fit both of us on their motorbike.  They point ahead.  We wave them onwards.  Thanks, we’re actually enjoying this jack-ass constitutional. Yes, we noticed not a single other human being tries to walk at noon without a shadow.

But back to N: Got that?  You see the flower, you feel good. It’s a simple cause-effect leap.  If it were a self-help book, it would be one page long.

In a wordless: Enough

“With each day passing, what have you been doing?” queries The Buddha from the tree trunk at Wat U Mong.  Leave it to Big B to interrupt the bliss of ignorance with his spiritual nosiness.  And tacked onto a neighboring tree: “Until death there is nothing enough.”  O? Enough is enough, goes our adage.  But “enough” is a vague, entirely subjective category.

soothe the spirits enoughly

When S was dying, we went to visit a rigorous healer in Long Island, who also owned a gym.  Master K had a particular connection to some esoteric medicinal arts in Thailand.  Afterwards, he drove us to the train station. While S was resting his head, fresh from a vigorous scrubbing under wet towels, meant to entice the bad karma (which had coalesced into a tumor?) to pour out his ears like so much water, K caught my eye in the rearview mirror of his enormous SUV (yep).  The Master said to me, with all the confidence of a gym trainer giving abdominal crunch instruction to a gym buff, you received a gift in Thailand, but you don’t know what it is yet. Now do fifty crunches.

Reflecting on it now, he likely did not know what the gift was either.  But that I had it—this was as evident to both of us as the fact of the windshield.

I suspect that what he alluded to belongs not to me but to all of us: it is the gift of being alive in the first place, and the recognition of that fact.  Whatever it is or was, it seems it is still in my pocket, perennially unfindable, like pesky housekeys.  Though we had our questions about K’s methods, the following thing happened to me in his home.  As I sat in his leathery livingroom waiting for S and looking at the picture of an elderly monk in a gilded frame, his bony shoulders lifted almost up to his ears, the monk winked at me.  So refined was the movement that the meeting of lids made a clinking sound, like champagne glasses at a toast.

I glared back at him Brooklyn-style, daring him to do it again.  But that kind of thing you’ve got to catch the first time around.  I tried to stare him down but his monkish unflappability prevailed: he was all customary portrait frowns, as if Nirvana was the worst idea anyone didn’t have.

Get it?  In the blink of an eye.  Take a look at what’s here.  You’re allotted about enough time for that before your karma comes calling.

When I departed later from S, oddly hopeful and sad, the mala prayer beads I’d worn around my wrist since my first trip to Thailand inexplicably exploded in the middle of the city street.  The wooden beads scattered everywhere.  The passing traffic couldn’t have given less of a shit: it plows onward past holy and unholy alike.  I stood there stunned.

No hope for protection from the gifts we are given.

But in the meanwhile, mangos are so very, very sweet.

perhaps

Butterflies in Aix-Stasis

January 5, 2010

Dali claimed that the job of the artist was accretion, that time would take care of the selection.  I’ve got to put my money on that one: where my mouth is.  I post this having passed through Barcelona and now from a table in Istanbul, where I can hear the ships on the Bosphorus laying into their horns, like NY drivers stuck behind the recycling truck.  The following terrain is for you to hopscotch through.  May 2010 bring you lightness, nimble feet and good head-gear. [pics of mountains and lavender taken by J.]

aroma-there-apy

Pre Ambles on Imps

“Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman”—John Berger, Selected Essays.  I imagine that man sweats, tantalized; his sweat becomes the Seine, and Paris, contretemps gender-hopping, bats her eyelashes, full of lights.  Whatever is going on here, it must involve the illusions or clarifications of ecstasy.

Berger also insists that the artist’s way of looking “ increases our awareness of our own potentiality.”  Because so-and-so has now framed it this way, the universe does a tap-dance, when you had experienced said universe as merely shuffling along in holey Keds. Why we need, and I mean need, art.

The aperture shifts; life is capable of being re-seen.

But as artist, to worry that what you are writing must be important, or somehow matter, must shift somebody’s seeing, is a worry that can instantly crush the tip of your moving pen.   It’s the swift stomp of a Jolly Green Giant on a not-so-Jolly day, on which lording over the frozen pea-crop has made him more of a melancholic than megalomaniac.  The pen then bleeds its blackening blood, as when a jugular is tampered with.

Better to put the question of importance onto one of the delicate wooden sailboats on a leash in the public park of Paris, hand if off to a local kid to drag round and round the circumference of the excitable fountain.  The kid will be thrilled, while you can continue unperturbed on your tryst with your page, that placeless space.

For the psyche of the page is uncontained in an inverse proportion to its absolute physical limit.  Here, you will deposit yourself at the mercy of the familiar conclusion that being alive makes, radically and rudely, no sense at all.  In fact, it is a beguiling experience in the first place, so thank goddess someone went and invented the normalcy of pizza, which exists in every country like the sky exists in every country.

to tree or not to tree

Arrivals are a part of Departure, the Butt-end part: Views of Aix

We stay on a winding street, which curls up from a bridge Cezanne particularly loved. On the side of the shoulder-less road, where one harrows with speeding compact cars, lives a stoic Titan’s Bonsai with a towering Afro.  Good thing it is kosher to tell your boyfriend you’re in love with a tree, because he knows you won’t ever, exactly, leave him for it.  Our front yard, tickled by the mistral, has a cedar tree as mayor; I fall in love with this one too, fickle-hearted arborophiliac.  But tell me: what woman can resist a tree in a powerful position?  The cedar gesticulates as if an Italian explaining an opera plot to another deaf Italian.

There are, in fact, many Italians who live here in Aix-en-Provence, or so says our delightful host, Jacques.   Jacques also tells us that the French complain and complain about the current proliferation of Franglaise.  But, truth is, France lent us the words in the first place! So it is rather like recalling tires: Come home to Mama, you funky English bastards! France calls.  And the Anglophone lexicon takes off running.

To not at least attempt to learn the language of the place where I am strikes me as unforgivable, as if I were, by ignorance, tacitly authorizing a (purely) linguistic genocide.  And so for three months, caught up in other mechanics of living, I shyly avoided French.  Now, in the space of a week, I invite it in, to excess: a language binge.  My head swims with words that won’t combine symbiotically.  The entire French vocabulary is at a seventh grade dance, publicly and pubic-ly exhilarated, and yet hugging the Doritos bowl instead of each other. Moi and aussi in contractual avoidance; etre and avoir just puked bright orange in the bathroom. The prepositions dans and en have phoned their mother, from the last working payphone on earth, to please come take them home.   The pages of the dictionary flap in the illiterate wind.

flossing the toes

Stretches

Weeks later, J reads aloud from an interview with Jim Harrison who reports that, honestly, much of life is not disappointing, but vast, open spaces; “The character in [his] book, Home, feels a delicious and particular sense of nothing.”  When one travels, those same vacant interstices either yawn or utterly evaporate.  It is easy to feel that one, as a particular being, is a palpable stretch of nothing (see note above, on importance).  But it is easy to feel the opposite, too; life is so congested with experiences that spaces of nothingness must be possible only in the hereafter, wherever here and after might be.  Or perhaps this is only true for one who lives in cities.

We can’t find a proper bus station, and a skinny-legged teen in tight jeans, which make his legs look even more like spokes, leads us round a corner to the right place.  He loves rock and roll, Jerry Lee Lewis—do we?  His face breaks out in a grin just to bring up the topic.  When the bus arrives, holding his 60’s guitar upright, he plays on his iPod a video of himself performing with another guitarist, who looks insurmountably hung-over, in love with fingering, and white-haired from the effort of it.  The kid is so pleased by his own sound he’s tapping his feet and smiling at the other passengers.  The bus is filled with sonic waves of decades that have long gone under.

While il pluie pluies onward, mesmerizingly idiomatic, I’m memorizing phrases that are laid out phonetically in the Romance section of the instant-French book, just for kicks.  “I know that you are wrong”: Je sais que vous avez tort, is one I keep coming back to, trying out on J, a declaration to be used whenever one’s narcissistic rectitude is called into doubt.  To my right, a little “crap” of herbed, local chevre; to my left, a glass of red, red wine.  What could be wrong?  By way of description its meaty fabulousness, its Sumo wrestler of a flavor-punch, the wine shop’s proprietress could only puff out her cheeks and pinch them madly.  Meaning…?  Sometimes others save us; sometimes we must save ourselves.

The Mountain is High Enough

crux, crucis

Today, on Mt. Victoire, beloved geologic lump of Cezanne, we immediately lose the trail and scramble up the sides of rocks, into sticky brush.  The clouds perch in the sky’s lap and I keep twisting round to look at them, but J’s a trailblazer.  How hardcore can you feel when you’re hugging a mountainside in a hoodie and a little orange dress?  The air in Aix is thickly redolent of pine, rosemary and dried lavender.  We pass olive orchards, sunlight so raw it could liquidate everything. My belly is rumbling from hoofing all over the mountain; it’s hard to obey the signs that instruct the passerby to please respect the work of the olive farmers.  How did Cezanne schlep an easel up here?  I’m so hungry I’d eat his paint, if it were food-colored; eat a natura morte of grass and creamy sky.  The wind comes after me as we pass another tidy grove of trees and signs begging respect for their fruits. I consider those (many, many, many) who are hungry, living in proximity to food that is not theirs and may never be.  After all, the nobility continued to dine finely in restaurants with transparent store-fronts, while the Parisian peasants just outside had no bread at all.  Most of the world’s hunger is not due optional exertion, as mine is—a metabolic outcome of the pure joy of ascending something bigger, fiercer, and rockier than oneself.  Instead it is a hunger that verges on irreparability.

I don’t touch the Olive.  I’m a good girl, and I can read.

noli me tangere

Funk Master

I sit freezing in the TGV station with J, where the menu features “salty softnesses.”

Because we sat down at a chrome table in the TGV diner before the used coffee cups and sugar packets were cleared, someone thinks we have already been good patrons and so deserve to dilly-dally.  The garcon looks too tired to be bothered by much; he chucks emptied break baskets at the small dresser were a baguette sits nonchalantly, staling.  The young man next to us orders tea; when it comes, the cup has a hole punctured in the bottom.  His charcuterie plate looks like a wholesale rug reject pile.  Welcome to France, he says to us.

Butterflies Everywhere

As surely as the slumbering wife in Folger’s commercials of yore woke when her husband– praise be– ran water through the ground beans, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross woke up to her true work as an “expert” on death and dying when she visited the concentration camp at Maidenik, still rank with the remains of destroyed bodies.  On the walls in the barracks, holding her disbelief like an unwieldy package, she saw: butterflies.  People, faced with no lighter prospect than untold suffering at best, had made butterflies.  And so she thought: there is something here.

There is something here.

She looked again.  Another butterfly, and another and another.

The Aim is Aimlessness

Yesterday, because the sun came out by accident, as if it tripped on a cloud and couldn’t help itself, J and I went on an aimless walk.  We didn’t set out to be aimless, but we were cursed by the city from the start.  Aimlessness is initially a luxury, a pure open seeing.  But when one is aimless for long enough, a certain heart-sickness can set in, the pointlessness of being alive peeking from every crack in the sidewalk like a boogey-man in training.  Does the heart, then, crave a certain direction?  “In rejecting suicide, we are all creatures of faith”, says a writer in The Nation, speaking on Fanny Howe.  When we have no compass, a walk will do, because it implies there is somewhere, anywhere at all, to go.

On days when my sadness is overripe, I usually choose to walk along the Seine like this, into the wind and cold; Christmas bulbs float in the water.  The statues on the bridge that extends out from Invalides, the glorious Pont Alexandre III, are dipped in gold.  Winged, furious horses rear up towards the sky.  Sorry guys: you’re stuck to a column.  But if you manage to unearth yourself: take me with you?

I see two kids biking with helmets on.  They must feel like they have the lamest parents in the world, marked for life as the only French offspring ever forced to take safety precautions.  Their dad, I notice, is gaily helmet-free.  The burnt-out shell of a motorbike rots under a tree on the promenade above.  The water nudges the sides of the houseboats.  The houseboat grunts.

We walk all the way to Notre Dame.  I think Notre Dame is more beautiful in its hindquarters, where the balustrades protrude grandly, than in its imposing interior; if an elephant graveyard could be a building, it would be this.  Mere Mary (eponymous) stands in the middle of an otherwise bare square park, the ultimate pigeon lady.  She clucks: well, I don’t have bread for you guys, but I’ll see if I can turn my son into some edible wafers… Irony of all ironies: the memorial to the Shoah is placed just across the way from the church’s rear.  It is at the very tip of Ile du Notre Dame where the island comes to a sharp, pointed finish.

For Shoah

I don’t know what to expect.  The description outside prepares you with the history of the genocide and the conscious erection of the monument: it ain’t just your average plaque.  A long narrow stairway brings you into the basin of the place, like Anne Frank Huis turned upside-down.  And perhaps this is what a grave is: a house standing on its head.  Paul Celan loved a quote that went something like that.  The chi going the wrong way on a one-way street.

At the entrance, a tough guardien interrogates: Do you have a cell phone?  A camera? She asks sharply, as if the next question will be: are you Jewish? No and No and Yes.  I overhear that the visitors all say no when asked about electronics (has anyone handed you any oversized, suspicious, ungainly, odiferous, scatological, technologically unverifiable packages since you packed?) and, funny that, cameras are flashing in the memorial’s sanctuary.  People lie with such grace: if poor Pinocchio’s nose enlarged every time he fibbed, our situation is quite the opposite.  It is as if, whenever we ‘fess fallaciously, our synovial fluid surges with lubricated glee, and our joints work better.  The pleasure of a lie greases the organism.  Watch people returning from France, suitcases bulging with wine, pass through the “Nothing To Declare” area of customs control. Really.

We squeeze down the narrow stairway between high, white walls.

E.(K.)R. for Embodiment

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross declares: “Life ends when you learn everything you are supposed to learn.”  Is this a good reason to stay dumb? A French friend tells us that when you smile while walking down the street, people here assume you to be naïve; did you not notice, dope, that the world is a big bulge of suffering?  That misery is the great common lot of humankind?  And so a smile, a cheery face, is indicative of a certain idiocy regarding this basic premise.  The appropriate scowl, such depravitas writ large, is like a boy-scout’s unsecret secret handshake: I understand, bro.  Ain’t no Dimeatapp-Plus for this malady.  It’s called embodiment, and no one has found a panacea yet.

Thrust

The triangular thrust of the memorial is intentional.  In the open court, above the high white, concrete walls, one can see the blue sky.  Of course one can see sky.  What good is imprisonment if you don’t know what you’re missing? A little rookie seagull perches on the top of the wall.  The bird has no idea either what’s below it, cocking its head from side to side, having little bird spasms of bird feeling and bird nerve reflex.  At the apex of the courtyard, black metallic triangles stab towards the visitor; beneath these, the breathy Seine shows through a grate.

The interior requests silence; the writing on the wall is testimony but the thousand lights in the receding hallway are greater testament.  A sassy professor at grad school once lectured on the prophecy of the wall: who will read the writing there writ?  (Thanks, Selah!).  But these prophets came too late.  The writing on the wall was a post-script, not an S.O.S.  These memorial lights are like pores in the heavy, dark chamber, but still the recess ends in black.

Interiority

I heart Thomas Merton.  He writes that the hardest thing to accept of St. John of the Cross is: the awful neutrality of his interior solitude.

Except Elizabeth Kubler Ross dared enter the chamber of interior solitude of the other. For she was radical and crazy enough, in her time, to ask the dying patient the one question the person longed to be asked: what does it feel like to be you?  She trashed the objectives of liver count in favor of the subjective, the thing that could really catch the light, in its quick passage, of the individual’s spirit.

I think, dying as we are, we all long for that question, and to be able to answer it honestly.

Salon

We’re in the wine-cellar of a bar.  A tall, wooden giraffe lords over the proceedings, which concern poetry.  The poet, S, who is reading somewhat reluctantly, wears a heavy pinky-ring.  His poem begins “At the age of 60, I wish to be torn limb from limb by a gang of indifferent women”; this is not quite quartering, more like sloppy, Dionysian butchery.  He name-drops some 15th century poets, most of whom managed to keep all their limbs about them.

J is beside me on the floor pillows, and we’ll feeling artist-y.  To spend all your time with one person is like this: within the space of an hour you can go from being as close as two adjacent skin cells, to being utter strangers.  Proof that another person is simply unfathomable.  Which is true of our own core, as well, I suspect.

J goes and becomes a poet, and a beautiful one, overnight. He makes one precious artifact and then another, stays up all night sweating about the fate of the world.  Black beret, nah—he stops before that part.  But he’s playing with the overwrought affect.   I am in love with him, except when I want to throw him off the Eiffel tower just to understand gravity that much better.  And he, I think, would run the same experiment.  What do you say, J, you reading my blog posts these days? Fancy meeting you here.

Stendhal used to write his thoughts on his pants, I learn from Beverly, also reading under the auspices of the giraffe.  Stendhal apparently was a scribbler who knew what words would feel like pressed against skin.  She goes on to read a translation of a piece about a jug, which impeccably rotates the object, and finishes: “For everything I’ve said of the jug, couldn’t one equally say it of words?”

What can one say of words except, like love, they can be quite useful in reframing?  If J chucks me off the Eiffel Tower, which would cost us 20 Euros or so just to climb, I’d have to put that last thought on my pants, or write it into the sky with the tip of my finger.

Buddhaholic

I finish this post at the Buddhas again, because I can’t stay away.  The exhibit is curative for my feeling hangover; for emotions had a barbeque in my heart-quarters and then hit the road, leaving all their litter for someone else—or no one else—to deal with.

This is like the Marais for ducks, J observes, when we see all the drakes pecking one another’s bottoms, in the pond of Parc Monceau, while the lone hen meditates on the concentric currents afferent to her body.  I adore Parc Monceau—Proust did too, I think, when he stopped nibbling on his Madeleine long enough to go for a walk.  It’s got some manufactured Roman columns, busts of famous folks, all in marble, reached after by women with plaited hair.  More importantly: its got trees and shrubs enough to please the urban nature-itch.  It scratches that itch with a million accommodating angles of flora—and the obligatory lawn, which you not only can’t touch (says the rules) but you can’t even think about touching.

Inside Musee Cernuschi

Nirvana: “l’Extinction du Souffle.  Here, I watch the guide animatedly point at the statues, which look anything but animated, more like a flip book whose pages fell out, the memory of something active.  Older, well-dressed ladies gather around his lecture.  They nod.  Sakyamuni: refusa de traiter de questions metaphysiques. Mindfulness sounds almost exotic when you write about it in French.

The bodhisattvas hold out arms, broken just below the elbow, hollowed where marrow should be.  They proffer something invisible—resource-less, and yet the epitome of resource.  Their noses are chipped from dumpster-diving, smile-first, into the garbage piles of suffering all sentient beings park in front of the temple of the body.  The left hand rests on or near the heart: c’est moi?

The Buddha’s ears hang low; “completment fagosite”—the guide is saying, or I am mis-hearing.  The crowd nods, graver than the grave.  The Buddha’s eyebrows almost touch each other; the guide’s eyebrows have gotten lost in the maze of his forelocks.   The smell of perfume wafting from the (mostly) older ladies on the tour rings the Buddhas as, in another locale and era, incense might have done.

And then a Vietnamese guard, Trong, siddles up beside me, and begins singing the Amitabha Buddha invocation in my ear.  To our left, a bodhisattva stretches out her piriformis—it is tough hopping century to century.  Then he sings in my other ear– what is this?  I think that one of the can-can-ing Buddha angels has taken a flying leap too far and wound up in the thin air of this lifetime.

You must pray to Amitabha, he explains gently, to pure your mentality.   Ami-tofu, Ami-tofu—(Nope: not a veg side dish, but an authentic invocation!)– nine times, day and night, calm mental.  Sakyamuni our teacher in this cosmic realm, he says.

And when he sees my eyes brighten, he takes my elbow and brings me to the secret corner, where his chair and jacket are.  Votre montagne, avec lucidite.  He reads my journal over my shoulder, while I write down what he says.  What are you writing? He asks. My privacy instincts sheepishly retire.  This was how it went in Thailand, too, and it’s not a voyeuristic thing.  Private thoughts are, in fact, no more or less interesting than anything else.  They are just: material.  And so I show him my journal:  I’m writing down what you say, I say.

He points upstairs with a grin, where the Buddha is waiting for me.

Anachronistic Amitahba

Amitabha Buddha sits in a tear drop of fire.  Fire will burn away your impurities, the book teaches me.  But, no: actually, fire will burn away your impurities and your purities, wreck the whole damn project.

Amitabha is in the upper mezzenine of the museum, enjoying an unbroken drsti upon the stairway.  He is of marble, and his robes sit in his lap like a pet cat.  His third eye is gutted out; likely a gem once was placed there.  The recess is so deep that if Amitabha were sentient, his forebrain would be in jeopardy.  All around him, little angelic buddhas float in Samadhi.  Amitabha himself is suspended in the uncheckable tear of Samsara.  Paris, in turn, is held by the ambulant tear of the Seine.

In front of this Buddha, I am holding myself back from getting down on my knees, but barely.  This is the second statue that has ever pulled me to reflexive genuflection, as unstoppable as the urge to defecate.  Fact is, I am so in love with this Buddha that I have just demoted myself from equanimity.   I wonder: if I make myself as tiny as possible, can I climb into the well left behind by the absence of his third eye?

Cold Curtain Call

It’s freezing out now, and the pipes along the Seine look like they are drooling icicles.  J is opening the tall shutters to let in the cold air.  We’ve been instructed—chastised—that in Paris one must do this every day in order to vent the moisture—otherwise they become stuck shut.  There is a parable in this about understanding.  I think this happens to the mind as well, a slick layer of black mold settling so deeply around what is insular and familiar that to open one’s mind seems almost dangerous, and therefore should be foregone, like tap water that comes out yellow.

But I think that this trip, and its gift, is in the framing.  Again and again, the seeing must recur.  Again and again, I must put my worries in a fragile boat in a hiccuping fountain.  Again and again, I cannot find the word for the thing I want, and so I must do a gesture dance, meet with frustration, do a gesture dance again, and finally go outdoors, look at the constant sky with its own inconstant vocabulary, and blow a great, big kiss– to Paris, that nostalgic orchard of contradictions, or that young man helplessly in love with an amused, indifferent, older woman.

provisions for the runaway

Starting O, Elfishly

December 3, 2009

Le Comedie Keebler

Starting O

One can always start over.

This life is neither overly funny nor overly miserable but perfectly both, a maha-miscegenation of opposite states.

Therefore, it is neither the tragedy mask nor its cheery counterpart that I wear to write my minor blogistics, but a face in imitation of the Buddha’s—that great unifier of antitheses.  How?  His characteristic, light-hearted non-preference.

discoursing

A special exhibit brings the Buddhas to Paris.  They don’t wince at the small attention-span of the crowds: their faces are fundamentally composed.  But imagine: three-thousand years into Nirvana, Buddha got caught chewing gum– oral fixation!–by the Karmic Cavalcade.  He tried to wink in bemusement, as if to warn the other Arahants in the hood that Buddha-nature is just what you make it, but his face was (oops) made of stone: dang.  Dharma was drool from the open mouth of Time, agape at the world.

The faces of the Buddhas of Shandong, housed in Musee Cernuschi in Paris, look out from a backdrop of maroon walls with such clarity of feature and such smooth bone structure that I wonder if Nirvana does, indeed, alter one’s physiognomy.  Jonathon Kabat-Zinn, MD & MJ– Mindfulness-Junkie– claims as much for the effect of mindfulness on one’s biology, so why not a countenance re-chiseled by an eternal tryst with unadulterated reality?

I hear the command of the status-hungry teen in Dazed and Confused: Wipe that face off your face, bitch!

One can always start over, Richard Freeman says, and this process begins simply by saying Ah.

Ah.

Aw, Shit: Brief Interlude on Expletives.

In the episodes below, expletives occur.  I weigh their usefulness.  My conclusion?  Expletives, far from being the white trash of hermeneutic anthropologists, not deemed worthy of a moment’s further study, can instead be a light unto themselves, as Krishnamurti advised each of us to be.

I’ve come to relate to expletives (caveat: sloppy conceit about to unfurl!) as Tupper-wares containing the true messiness of feeling, which are set on the formal table-top of the reasoned and reasonable line of writing.  Observe children, having newly acquired language, who almost always laugh when an adult lets a curse word rip.  They pick up the crass supplement as inevitably and irrevocably as a playful dog goes after a wet stick.  The curse word then becomes the mantra of the moment– shit shit shit– a mantra which tends to mortify the attending adult.

But the expletive needn’t mortify.  Let it, instead, be the tie that binds a statement to its true emotive root: the tapas in language that is difficult to suppress, and which has a primal grist to it.

Anyway, the dialogue is imagined, and what follows is imaginal, and so the expletives therein also serve to bind you back to the real, the idiomatic & the possible.

A Coy Consumer

[Entering the shop on Ave Bosquet, ketchup and sugar cereals visible on display in the windows].

Me: How much did you say this shit pie crust costs?

Real McCoy: Five Euro.

Me: By which you mean five Euro?

The problem with the world is hyper-literalism.  It is hard to boil the problems down to one, but if I had to pick, I would pick: literalism.  As in: literalism.

Me [aside]:  The pilgrims would not have charged an ex-pat five fucking Euro for Keebler products!

[aloud]: My, this pre-shucked corn in shrink-wrap looks so pastoral!

Real McCoy: That’s Expenso-Corn.

Me [aloud]:  Genetically related to the one’s the pilgrims supped on?

Real McCoy:  Incontrovertible.

Me:  How ‘bout that Libby pumpkin pie filling for seven Euro—

Real McCoy: Cinderella’s Chariot.  That aluminum can is a reliquary.

Me:  Fairylicious!  Like the story of Thanksgiving!  Once upon a time there was a little dollar that was persecuted by all the other currencies of the world–

Real McCoy:  France was busy dry-roasting Protestants when Thanksgiving happened.    If you want cheap crust, go back to USA.

Me:  [aside] Me thinketh the Salesman doth wax metaphorical!

[aloud, louderAll the little dollar wanted was for its worth to be recognized as equal.  To be free to worship G(old) in an environment of tolerance…

Real McCoy: And would you like some Sweetened Condensed Milk?

Me: The dense are always sweet.  It’s their coping mechanism.

Real McCoy: [with superb British annoyance] We’re closing five minutes ago.

Me:  Dollar, dollar, whereforeartthou my dollar? Deny thy father and refuse thy name.  A dollar by any other name would smell as–

Real McCoy:  I can’t take poets complaining about price tags.

Me: Can we start over?

But despite this blog’s diadem of dialectic, the aforementioned Keebler was, in fact, purchased.  Thank you, J, for breaking the mostly broken bank.

Lafayette and Leftovers

In Paris, thanks-giving happens not once a year, but every time one leaves a shop, or receives what one asked to be given.  The legendary dinner party, hosted by the friendship-knows-no-fences Indigenous of North America for their unexpected guests, passes unacknowledged and (sic) uncelebrated.  Rather unfair, I think, considering the French government did benefit from the ensuing entanglement of their (then) nemesis Great Britain with the maverick-y nouveau-colonists (no, Palin, we forget you not!).  Those colonists not only ate, but begat and besieged, until they were ready to bite their thumbs at the Crown– thanks, Shakespeare!– and do other unmentionables to the axial skeletons of their generous, crop-smart hosts.

native land in savasana

Marquis de Lafayette, imprisoned in Austria after his return to France from the front lines of the American Revolution, where he was BFF with Washington (who later requested L ship him a French donkey: an inside joke?), was forced to eat his meager provisions with his hands.  The guards were titillated, watching this nobleman make do without the refined intermediary of cutlery.

But Lafayette had gone to America as an bored trust-fun kid with a penchant for adventure and liberty, and as something of a military idiot-savant.  So he assured his guards that all was well, he even preferred to eat this way (or so says the children’s biography), for he had done so many times with his indigenous friends in America.  Aw: learning from the people of the earth how to dispense with fork, knife and spoon!  Our anatomy provides the same equipment, for free, conveniently attached to our carpal bones.  Perhaps it was this meditation sui manu which also led him to contemplate manual labor, manumission and man hogging the vote.

What would he think about the fact that the Native Americans remain largely invisible, that the price of our pumpkin pie was and is high?  It is easy to glorify eating with your hands when you can afford to eat.

The pilgrims chewed their lips, I suspect, when they realized there weren’t going to be any leftovers.  No doubt if they’d had Tupper-wares full of expletives, they would have popped the lids off.  After all, who can dress entirely in black and not cultivate an attitude problem?  As it was, they might have prayed that in this land of spaciousness—wherein God could practically pole-vault over the nebulae—someone, or something, would continue to provide for them.  The dollar, contemplating its own face before it was born, made no comment on the matter.  Likely God hid behind his favorite cloud, which was shaped (say some eye-witnesses) as a turkey leg.  He put their prayers on the shelf of ozone, to have as a spiritual midnight snack.  You see how imagination makes problems?

But I can Start Over.  Ah.

S K Y

They tell me the sky is a scattering of certain light

They tell me the sky is a scattering

They tell me the sky is

They tell me the sky

Why is the sky true?

Some people say: think less, you’ll be happier!

But keep taking away words and ideas of the real and what remains?  Existence as a big blob, like chewed gum.  Paris has sharp lines in it, as an old person’s epidermis.  When the sky lets its grand blue nature show shyly through the clouds, there is nothing left in life to reckon with.

But from our kitchen, we have to crane our necks dramatically to see sky—Orpheus would be proud.  The smell of pie lingers, a foreign invader, and the funk-smell of aluminum cans emptied of their claustrophobic comestibles.   There is a residual odor of ingredients that have been forced into creative unity by the oven’s heat; whether or not foodstuffs find this oneness as liberating as certain yogis promise it is, is fundamentally unknowable.  You can use the tried n’ true method of mastication to interrogate the pie on this matter.

Scientists tell me the sky is a scattering of blue light.  But you cannot sue a person for not understanding.

Liar Liar Pants On

Hilter came to Paris once after the German occupation.  He stood in front of the Eiffel tower and had his picture taken.  Then, like a good tourist, he left.

deficit or danurasana

As the day veers toward twilight, the Eiffel tower is flaming.  An old man jogs shaking one finger in the air, as if the dirt perimeter of Champ de Mars has been very, very naughty.  An old lady walks bent over so she can see her own feet, which rotate laterally and are clad in royal blue shoes pointed at the tips; I suspect she is the matron anciens of the Keebler Elves’ French outpost.  A large dog barks at the tree where the starlings bark back, the weeping branches gigantically alive with sound.  Suddenly, the starlings cease altogether and the dog waits, its tail alert.

I leave the park to its gypsies and exercisers.  Tonight there is no one in the grocery store.  Raised urban, I consider this the portent of an undisclosed emergency.  In agrarian settings, one watches the forbearance of birds and other animals, which always seem to have a certain prescience regarding imminent disasters.  But here, one must observe the patterns of cue at the grocery and read them as an augur would: too empty or too full when it should be otherwise, c’est mal.

I’ve taken to their non-organic (yep) bloated Braeburn apples, which get a suitably oversized bin unto themselves.  Industrialized agriculture, anyone?  It’s like being raised in a Xerox machine. These apples were likely given good lives, and they taste (fib of fibs) like pomme pur, whose sufferings were nurse-maided by loving migrant orchard field hands.  What would Michael Pollan say?

I imagine Hilter looking at the picture of himself, the exposed grand edifice in the backdrop, and smiling.  Was it a clean smile, like the Buddha’s?  I wonder if H framed it, if he heard the starlings, if any living thing dared to bark.  I wonder about the perfection and symmetry of this apple, which I’ll eat for breakfast, and its crisp edges, and the tragedy of needing to have things only one way.

The Café is OK, if you’re an Elf

What about writers in Parisian cafes; where are they all now?  I’ve been hiding out on the rug in my apartment to do my scribbling, well aware that in Paris, the myth of café-compositions is still writ large.  So, sated by the offerings of elves and done defying tradition, I pursue this a little.  Turns out in the good ol’ days of J.P. Sartre (can one properly have nostalgia for nausea?) and E. Hemingway (aw, alcoholism avec suicide, so quaint!?) writers regularly patronized– or even camped out in– the cafes here because the apartments they could afford to live in were shit-holes.  Like Keebler crusts?  Perhaps– but lacking the particular hole (for shitting) that is an asset to a domicile.

For these apartments were without toilets or anywhere to cook food.  So, rather than entertain in a squalid square-inch of a rental, writers spent the day and the night in the café—which was, at that time, affordable—and drank coffee by the gallon.  Even genius is pragmatically oriented around the bladder and the belly.  That and the antidote for gargantuan loneliness, which can enshroud the word-trafficker: other beings, being others.

the fire in the belly

This Table Is The Buddha

This table holds everything sacred: But the whole universe is on this table!– RF, paraphrased.

I suspect the Buddha also would have enjoyed “sitting” in the cafés, whether in the snaking, cobble-stone bowels of the city or in the brilliance of the fashionistas boulevard.

Here, like everywhere, the Buddha could hold open his empty palms.  Therein, emptiness would shine like a new dime on the grubby sidewalk.  The many worlds whir around his ears as mosquitoes in rainy season.  He is so busy starting over he has not begun to solidify experience.

It’s O.K. if you live in a shithole, he might teach; emptiness costs less than a cup of coffee!  Unless you live in Boulder, CO (remember, this is the worldly Buddha’s caveat, I’m just a Brooklynite receiving dictation!) in which case the present moment, vacuous and voluminous at once, may be packaged and sold to you.  And you’ll buy it, because you’re ready to taste the pie in the sky, and to hold your own close while talking about letting it go.

And in Starbucks, the little man opens his laptop, and sighs.

Calvin the Non-Aesthete

John Calvin sits on the edge of his cot.  It is the metaphorical Wednesday of the 1500s: in relative terms, somewhere in the middle of a long century.  He is at one of those familiar junctures where he’s come to a firm decision in himself; he gathers up all the aesthetics he can find, including those posturing as dust mites, and stuffs them into a shoe-box.  Then he puts a brick on top of the box to secure the lid.  Then, as one who’s niggling doubt induces sweeping gestures of self-fortification, he cinches the pile with a chastity belt—and folks, these exist, metallic and teethy, in the Museum of Erotic Art in Paris—in his new and institutionalized Calvin-cosmos, there will be no fucking aesthetics.

He puts the entire contraption so far under his bed he has to squat down every day to be sure it is still back there.  This may have been the beginning of the style known as minimalism or of what Freud would term repression.  Calvin is likely pleased that music will no longer interfere with celestial conferencing.  The elect will be distinguished by their ferocious commitment to boringness.

F agrees with me that there is something comforting and something terribly discomforting in his approach.  Imprisoned aesthetics?  OK.  But she’s wondering about free will.

The Elves et Al

“And love, which is true attention to whatever and sometimes/ some one. . .”  –Robin Blaser, who died (just this summer) with love’s rattles at play under his xyphoid process.

But how to place the attention…?

The Keebler Elves suggest a processed-crust kind of love.  The Buddha, a psychological wet-t-shirt kind of love.  The Native Americans, a kind of multi-directional earth-as-my-eyeball kind of love.  John Calvin, a Spartan affection.

But none of my imagined creatures or peoples can quite tell me how this is done– and perhaps that is the best and the worst of the problem.  The world and all its weirdnesses, including the unruly imagination, are only here for so long, and all explanations and all manuals temporary assets, like disposable contact lenses.

As for me, I wake each day bearing a kind of unbearable love.  The best I can do is to disguise it as a blog.  And now, fellow traveler, I’d like you to take off my mask, as it is time to start.

Ah.

peu a peu