“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”
“When we treat man as he is we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already was what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.”
“I find the great thing in this world is, not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have.
We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
How about them Moose goosers, Ain’t they recluse?
Up in them boondocks, goosin’ them moose
Goosin’ them huge moose, goosin’ them tiny,
Goosin’ them meadow moose in they hiney!
Look at them Moose goosers, Ain’t they dumb?
Some use an umbrella, some use a thumb.
Them obtuse Moose goosers, sneakin’ through the woods,
pokin’ them snoozey moose in they goods,
How to be a Moose gooser? It’ll turn you puce;
Gitcher gooser loose, and rouse a drowsy moose!
Black is the color of my true love’s hair
Her lips are like some roses fair
She has the sweetest smile and the gentlest hands
And I love the ground whereon she stands
I love my love and well she knows
I love the ground whereon she goes
I wish the day it soon would come
When she and I will be as one
I go to the Clyde and I mourn and weep
For satisfied I never can be
I’ll write her a letter just a few short lines
And die a death a thousand times
Black is the color of my true love’s hair
Her lips are like red roses fair
She has the sweetest smile and the gentlest hands
And I love the ground whereon she stands
I have a (hopefully short) fascination with selfies and the templated, iconic poses that people use like symbols. I scanned a whole bunch using only black and white to see how simple the image can get and still easily be understood. The answer is pretty damn simple. These things are branding or logos to make us instantly recognizable to the “customers” browsing and swiping.
(Blue steel, Ferrari, Le Tigre, and Magnum are the names of poses from Zoolander.)
in this infinite blue-gray ocean of
moments that never were, and moments that never can be
come to me, before the horizon takes you,
come to me in this beautifully flowered raft for the moment that is ours alone,
drink wine with me and close the never away outside, for now.
love each other foolishly and fearlessly,
by the light of the other’s eyes, a graze of soft warm breath
on the cheek,
along the neck,
then tender kisses, deep kisses, and kisses on the smile.
our bodies merge, inside as inside can be,
it is impossible to say
who is farther inside the other
then everything, everything, shakes hard.
the scent of warm skin,
heads touching, hair mingled.
in the quiet,
a shared thought cradles us as one.
sleep close to me then, with your head on my shoulder
and my arm around yours,
we’ll rise and fall on soft waves, embracing…whispering until
the morning sky claims you and carries you away
no plan. no goal.
none of this to make the future
bend along the path of an old sad story that
we never remembered in quite the same way.
we’ll use our always to cut this glowing moment
out of the never.
Unlikely as it seems, almost everything I’ve been writing about here fits together in a big puzzle.
I want to connect the dots for anyone determined enough to follow it in case I get hit by a bus because I have been considering that option lately.
I’ve built a hierarchical map that describes (most of) the structure. It is a work in progress always and forever. I am attempting to link up parts of the map to related articles but that’s a lot of work, buddy. I’ve made it a page rather than a post so it doesn’t retreat into the distance, never to be seen again. This is probably more work than you are in the market for, loyal reader (and I do mean singular) and I present it with that disclaimer. It’s basically a big damn complicated flow chart.
Portrait of the artist as a young portrait. It only seems natural to start interpreting selfies as art. There is a classic pose framed carefully. The sitter composes their face as they wish to be seen. It only remains to make a painting out of it. I can’t wait to do a duck face.
I think I’m going to tackle a series of these and see how it goes. Here is a rough example.
Tomorrow being what it is, let’s take a moment to consider unrequited love.
Unrequited love is the the percentage of Love’s iceberg that is underwater.
Hold in your thoughts the millions on earth whose love is not returned.
Imagine the multitudes fretting and pining for Allison, Allen or Akbar.
How many meals ignored and hours unslept?
How many alone in a room feeling more than they can contain but containing it.
How many bearing sorrow.
How many right now are making phone calls they shouldn’t make or texting someone they shouldn’t and will soon spend a few minutes hyperventilating while saying “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid”.
How many have never spoken to the one they love at all?
How many bravely not getting in touch day after day to honor the wishes of one that didn’t love them or didn’t love them anymore.
Here’s to the solitary business of not getting what you want, the commonest love on earth.
“Unrequited love is a ridiculous state, and it makes those in it behave ridiculously.”
― Cassandra Clare
There is a rather famous story about moths that you might well have encountered as a student. The class would have been discussing evolutionary theory.
The common form of peppered moth had a pale coloration suited to hiding on the bark of light-colored tree trunks. This camouflage apparently enabled it to avoid being eaten by birds. Then, in 1848 a specimen with black wings turned up, in the industrial city of Manchester, England. By the end of the 19th century, the dark peppered moth was everywhere, and the paler, mottled version had vanished, becoming virtually extinct.
This was perhaps the first clear instance of human behavior increasing environmental pressure on local species and observers noting and following it. The industrial revolution roared up to speed and the universal use of coal for heating and industrial production had blackened skies and forests. An editorial in an issue of Nature quotes an 1851 railroad guide to the English industrial midlands: “The pleasant green of pastures is almost unknown, the streams, in which no fishes swim, are black and unwholesome…the few trees are stunted and blasted.” Continue reading
“First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons — but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which had lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world — a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring — this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.
Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. A man may be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of Cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else — but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit. A most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.
It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain.”
Carson McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories
Long, long ago, in a faraway kingdom there was a Queen. She had fought many battles to save her kingdom and her people. Tragically, the king who she had loved was cursed and under the control of an evil witch. He renounced the queen and their marriage. Under the spell of the witch he had marshaled an army and attacked his own queen and people. The battles were bloody and her kingdom was reduced but the queen had protected her people as well as possible and she continued to rule over them kindly.
In the passing of time,she grew lonely. Two strangers appeared, days apart and strangers to each other as well. The first was Sir Biff the hunky. The Queen had a weakness for men in armor and the magnificent Sir Biff, tall, golden and masterful, instantly caught her eye. A smoldering excitement built up between them. He showed the bare minimum of deference to her position and seemed to enjoy crossing the line when possible. The queen thought to herself that this wasn’t really about her, it was him seeing what he could get away with. He was a respected knight and a decent man. If there was anything wrong with Sir Biff, it was that he imagined the whole world exclusively on his terms, and on his schedule, including a possible marriage to the queen. The Queen sensed this and even through the heat of their attraction, worried a bit about what it meant.
Have you ever met someone who was nice or cheerful to a fault? They are all about being positive and cooperative but you glimpse in them tiny reflections of rage, sorrow and cruelty? They are at the office, at the PTA, and abundant in church groups. As they grew up with people who couldn’t stand their anger or spontaneity, these vital human traits were shoved downward until not even they themselves knew the behavior was there anymore. These are the psychological materials and the mechanism of the Shadow. Any part of us in the shadow is prevented from maturing naturally and finding the right place in a rich personality. Shadow materials grow dusty and miserable, paralyzed or barbaric. They raise themselves without guidance or human contact. As exiles from the country of self we see them as repellent refuges who may be hated openly. The shadow material is externalized in other people as lazy, crazy or slutty for example. The frequent connection to anything foreign is a way of distancing themselves from these forbidden elements of self as much as possible.
When someone in our lives needs to relate to us on a level that includes shadow material we deadlock, rage, and reject over the very existence of the problem. Frozen families and crippled relationships live here, if they live. The only way to surmount this logjam is to open the oubliette where we have hidden them and begin by recognizing who is in that dungeon. You can’t instantly free them, they are barbaric and immature, they do not know how to behave. First we do an inventory of our exiles and accept their existence. Then we make visits to them and hear their story. Then slowly we let them find their place in us again, bit by bit. People who have done their shadow work are more trustworthy, their decisions are more reliable and their kindness is more genuine. They listen better.
The harsh and moralistic tone of people denying their shadow is how they represent themselves as more trustworthy, etc. but prevents them seeing the “fine print” their secret inner lawyer attaches to every contract. If someone hasn’t done their shadow work but is forced to encounter their shadow material, the result is often a psychological crisis and breakdown. If the work has been done the same situation may result in a rueful smile or a humble (but not shamed) acceptance. An explosion in the open air is far less destructive than a buried and contained one.
The amazing poet Robert Bly is the hands down best writer on the the shadow.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed”–1 Corinthians 15:51
Copyright Hugh Miller 2019 ©
From my novel. As a warning or as encouragement, a good bit of sexy sex takes place throughout this story, some more fun than others. Also typos, so many typos.
Now to set the scene…
Big Sur, CA: After drinking some champagne spiked by a mysterious stranger, Felix/Shams (both names crop up, same guy) our protagonist, and lovely, innocent Drew, (our protagonista) who have said no more than hello to each other so far, briefly fell asleep in the hot tub with a handful of friends and acquaintances. The group decamps from the hot tub and back up to the house. They are naked.
As he entered the house, Shams squinted, the light was blinding, and it had seemed so soft before. He watched the others sit down on the floor together. Mary rubbed David’s shoulders and Drew appeared to fall asleep immediately on the couch. He stood with his hands shading his eyes from the light, watching her, god she looks so sweet and gentle. Shams wheeled and walked back out the door. The night was full of fireflies now. Here, where no fireflies live. He considered telling the others but he couldn’t seem to turn around. The bushes rolled past him in shadow. He continued until he reached the sudden drop of the cliff, straight down to the Sea. Standing there in the wind, he breathed deep and shook his head.
Fireflies? Looking down the rough face of the cliff to the ocean, he found himself laughing in the dark. It sounded weird and he stopped, concerned. His body felt odd and rubbery. He backed away from the cliff several feet and sat down. Then it struck him.
“I’m tripping,” he said aloud and the words hung about his face like tiny mirrors. But this didn’t feel like LSD or mushrooms. It didn’t seem fair, so much strangeness in one day.
He was so alone. At once he fell over, completely out of touch with his body, panic filled him for a moment and then it was just gone, and then he was gone! It was pleasant, a very strange pleasure like waking up and stretching. Like waking up and stretching as pure disembodied space. Suddenly a wild careening force caught him and he was yanked through…(what exactly?) and embodied again.
He was flying, a constant hum shaking his body. Dark pillars of impossible height stretched away in all directions, his vision fragmented as when looking through a cut crystal.
Over the hillsides of the valley below, great star shapes moved slowly, their appendages waving. His Jaws flexed a strange sensation as his muscles moved sideways as well as up and down. He flew on through the cool night toward the warm star shapes.
Enticing and welcoming the star grew before him immense beyond understanding. A delicious smell filled the air as he landed. The star spread out in all directions, dwarfing him. A shadow! Danger! He buckled his legs to fly but was too slow; a massive blow struck and a steady mauling weight crushed his body. Pain exploded through him for just a moment and was gone.
Free of the body Shams scattered like sparks and coalesced again in the skittering, pulsating force that carried him. Caught in the whitewater of some airborne energy river he finally had a view around and below. A latticework of shining calligrapher’s brush strokes in constant smooth motion.
“What is this?” Said Shams. A calm voice replied “Connections and pathways”. It was not spoken; it rose in his mind and faded like smoke. It felt like a discrete entity. He soared along the pathways between the connections.
“Who are you?” Thought Shams.
“Are You?” The Voice echoed and laughed with the bright happiness of a child. An image of Eileen formed in Sham’s mind, “Mom!” He cried.
“Yes, Mother” The Voice replied. Instantly, doubtful, Shams said “Eddie?”
“Yes, Eddie” it said. Shams collected his thoughts, and quickly said Bees, sheep, me, black holes, mice? Before he finished the voice was saying “Yes, bees. Yes, sheep. Yes, me. No, and yes, mice.” it paused, “Get it?”
“I was a mosquito back there wasn’t I, when I got killed?” asked Shams.
“Yes, mosquito, then no mosquito. “Said the calm voice. “More visits now.”
“Why?” Cried Shams as he felt pressure building, and pop! Some membrane snapped and he was embodied again. He reclined in a soft pit. Above his head a dark ceiling. He tried to move and found he had no control over this body; a weak paddling of its limbs was the only result. It was terrifying. He couldn’t even lift his head. He yelled for help and heard it come out “Waaaaahhhhh” the shock scared him and he began to cry helplessly, he couldn’t control his emotions any more than his body.
Loud noises came from outside the room, and a voice, moaning. There was no separation between him and this body. Anxiety and despair engulfed him. He screamed louder. A shadowy giant stood before the crib and shams felt a desperate relief so strong that it needed to be cried about as well. The giant leaned down like night falling. Soft coos tenderly flowed across his soul and at last soothed him. His cries broke in parts separated by gasps and his calming heart. He was raised up tenderly. The love giant sat with him and released a breast right into his mouth and he fell upon it greedily. All was warm, all was safe, and all was good.
And Wham! Another membrane parted, and completely disoriented, he was in another body. He was in a messy room, bedclothes tangled like dreadlocks. He was on all fours. Looking down he glimpsed slender pale arms supporting body and breasts, a teenage girl by appearance. She shook her head and he glimpsed a shock of brown hair fall past her eyes.
Fingers probed her vagina “Nice and tight, like I like it.” Said the owner of the fingers.
She turned and looked over her shoulder, Shams saw her companion. A portly but muscular black man with a fat slightly off-center erection. He licked his hand rubbed her pussy with it. Shams could tell she was on something, Quaaludes possibly, downers for sure. His own mind felt thick with it. She smiled at the man uneasily, equal parts anxiety and boredom. She had been through this and through this. Shams felt the cock head against her ass, straining for entrance. He felt sick at heart and helpless as she reached back between her legs and guided it home. The man pumped furiously right away, and the girl fought to control her breath, stifling a little cry. Pleasure and pain battled in her and she fought both of them. Shams realized that the battle was between the man and the girl. He was trying to wring a reaction out of her, tearing up her guts, and she wanted to wring him dry quick and just be alone for a few fucking minutes. She leaned down and pumped, matching his moves, increasing the pressure. In moments, he shivered and gasped, “Jesus!” She continued to pump harder knowing it would start to hurt him now.
“Well that’s enough; but you just can’t get enough, can you?” he said, pulling out.
“No, I just can’t get enough.” She said quietly.
And Shams was free again, but just for a moment. On it went through the forms of plants, Barnyard animals, Starving people, a toad, a cockroach, He was trapped on a wild sideways elevator ride crashing through individualities and finding them everywhere, lonely and hungry.
Drew awoke. She felt absolutely marvelous! Then she noticed something quite unusual,
“I’m God!” She said, laughing.
A man turned and looked at her. He looked like Popeye the Sailor and she smiled at him. She realized that she had no clothes on and it was perfect. I am a luscious young God! She smiled to herself, why didn’t I notice this before?
Reductionism is a cultural behavior required of scientists. If you wander too far from reductionism you will be ostracized. Reductionism denies that anything is greater than the sum of its parts. Things may appear to be complex but when looked at correctly they are “Merely” so much of this and that. It doesn’t account for what is happening with these “merely bits” that generated complexity.
Religion pushed science into this reflexive position. Religion is like rising floodwaters always seeking the weak point in Science’s levee of empiricism. Religion generated this dogmatic defense within science that would have been unnecessary without the influence. One can sympathize with the need to keep theology out, but the results are like a peaceful culture becoming militaristic in its own defense and losing something important.
Reductionism in religion is the name of the game, it is the machine operating as intended. “It is God’s will.” Religion takes a world of complexity and mystery and sorts these according to its filing system, placing each in an “orthodox box”. If this boiling down mechanism wasn’t present in church doctrine the religion would be saying, in effect: “Here is the eternal, unchanging truth unless someone has a better idea, one that seems to fit the facts better”. In other words, science. When the Pope weighs in on something heavy in his official capacity, clarifying it in extra-bold red underlined words for all time he is speaking “Ex Cathedra“, or infallibly. Use of the Ex Cathedra voice in science is plainly antithetical to the mission.* In war, the difference in weaponry evens out into a common approach. Both settle for example on bows and arrows or spears and clubs, otherwise it isn’t a battle, but a rout for one side. Science fought religion’s reductionism by developing its own parallel. The parallel had to be hard, cold and unflinching. It used the serious daddy voice. It defined and circumscribed scientific culture to the world at large with unambiguous borders. It is understandable and regrettable.
But reductionism in science is the mirror of doctrinal certainty. It is a bulwark against invasion but it makes us dumber.
Reductionism confidently declares our current level of partial understanding as the end zone of reality. Since its origin, every scientific discipline has crawled painfully over lots and lots of wrong to find little bits of right. At every point down this ever changing track the current state of knowledge determined where “Nonsense” began. It’s reminiscent of “Aren’t you lucky you were born a member of the one true church?”. Science history is full of people who found treasure where the experts said there was only nonsense. It doesn’t mean nonsense is where to look, just that it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Things that are “Unscientific” are things science doesn’t want to talk about. Often but not always, for legitimate reasons. Some exiled things will likely become accepted scientific facts someday. It would be much more true to scientific principles to refuse to answer questions from outside the data or at least give an unambiguous disclaimer that reporting the facts of scientific research is like reporting what you see looking out the window of a train, there is the truth and there is the truth a mile further along the track, both are true to their moment: Neither describes with certainty what we will see ahead. The facts of science have transformed the world. But to the long view they are like the rocks dug out of the tunnel as we pass through, and the real riches of scientific research are the emerging questions that power our forward journey.
It is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explains not, then it says there is nothing to explain.
– Bram Stoker, Dracula
Reductionism is like a kid who argues that whatever does not fit into his toy box is not a toy.
– Nancy Pearcey
>* except for “flat-earthers” and their ilk, fuck them and the stupid horse they rode in on.