Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

It's All One to Me

the West says we are each alone,
and the East says we are all one,
and they say the one same lie,
for you are you
and I am I
and we can communicate.

The dictionary derives "alone" from "All one." "We are all one" -- not a cozy thought. But you are not alone, and we are not all one. These are not alternatives, but the same thing. I am I. You are you. But we can communicate, because I am able to be whatever you are able to be and vice versa -- you can say my words and make them yours, see what I see, even be, for example, Dean Blehert, for I am not these or any things, but I am and you are and we can communicate.

Dean Blehert is a sequence of viewpoints I occupy -- or anyone can occupy. (One head, slightly used, to let.) To be is an ability. To be alone or to be all one is not an ability, but a misunderstanding of the meaning of "alone" and "one" -- to be one WHAT? To be alone with regard to WHAT? We are not alone. We are not one. We cannot be identical who are not our identities.

When we misunderstand each other, a blankness sets in, which we explain to ourselves (we being so accustomed to knowing, that the blankness following misunderstanding is intolerable; so we coat it in explanation) -- we explain it by saying "I am alone." Then we solve our aloneness by saying, "We are all one." But once we are all one thing (one VERY together thing), we are alone again.

We maim and harm and betray each other, and that's OK, because there isn't anyone else, and besides, we are all one. A sin against oneself or another is simply a communication that cannot easily be received because the sender knows the receiver is unwilling to be what is communicated. (Communication includes duplicating; one must be a mirror in the process, willing to accept an image.) No matter, for there IS no sender, no receiver. How can there be a sending (to whom?) if one is all alone or if all is one?

The West says we are each alone, and the East says we are all one, and they say the one same lie, for you are you and I am I and we can communicate.

Dwindling Spiral

The physical universe is as eternal as the two-minute race between Achilles and the tortoise. That is, it lasts forever if the speed with which we exhaust lifetimes accelerates proportionately to our approach to its limits. When there are only a billion human years left, we'll become ants and have another trillion ant years left, and so on.

To participate in that eternity, we need only concede that we cannot ourselves create new energy -- an easy concession in a universe so rich with pre-fabricated energy, so solid and agreed-upon.

Once in the game, we operate by using physical universe energy (it's a monopoly, our Standard Oil) to control physical universe energy and bodies and cars and planets (congealed energy -- previously used, but only by a very old God to drive to church on Sundays).

But the more energy is used and reused (as the physical, like a dog, licks up what it spits up), the less controllable it becomes. We cannot make fresh energy. That's in our admission contract, remember? Nobody gets into this universe without first waiving the right to create energy, because those who can create it, can also make it vanish, and that's dangerous, if we want this universe to last. So we chew over the same old ergs for trillennia until it's all amorphous gruel, no use to anyone.

The way out? We'll have to forget about hurling galaxies about, but if we make ourselves real small, within our thin gruel of galaxy, we'll find stars bursting with energy to play with, untapped Niagaras -- and when stars are exhausted, we can shrink again to be overwhelmed by yet more miniaturized explosions.

After a few millennia of bodies in machines creeping over the skin of a pretty blue planet-marble, fuel runs short. We can look forward (unless we remember how to create our own energy) to a 10-second aeon of jockeying electrons and talking in voices much too shrill for ants to hear (Quark Quark!), hoping for our terasecond of fame, hurtling round nucleii, whirled without end, Hallelujah, amen.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Memo to the Class of '59

Time stopped in the '50's. I was born in the '40's, which is where the REAL movie stars (Gable, Hepburn, Tracy, Cooper) are from (well, from the 30s, too), but I first noticed I was noticing there was a world in the '50's, which is a time period hard for me to distinguish from an artificially sweetened news magazine ("The Weekly Reader") for kids passed out in school with its photo of "the car of the future," all fins, chrome and cockpits, and articles about America, the good guy.

So I grow old from the 50's, except there's no growing FROM them, because the 50's won't go away, because they were "modern times." They were what the American Dream had been waiting for: cars like space ships and every home agleam with all the modern conveniences, just a few more diseases and racial and political unpleasantnesses to clean up (by explaining to Africa and India how silly and unmodern such things were and showing them the cars, lawns, offices and supermarkets) before we would all be Ozzie and Harriet and not have to feel guilty about it, because everyone else in the world without regard for race, creed or color (as long as it was nothing outlandish) would be Ozzie and Harriet too.

Time had to stop there, because where could you go after "modern." (Yes, now we say "Post-Modern", which is another way of saying "Damn it, it's still the 50's and it pisses me off!")Beyond "modern" lay science fiction, and no one really goes there. People keep struggling to understand the 60's. They find the 60's complex because they assume they already understand the 50's -- the insufferably bland and insular and bovine 50's, that we blame the world for not being like anymore.

But we're still there, even Generation Z or whatever we're up to now -- they're still in it, though they don't remember Marilyn Monroe, cowboy movies, or the Korean War. We make our future, decide it, agree upon it -- or we don't. The 50's was when America stopped creating a future, so we live there -- in the last future America created.

But what of the mad 60's dream? Nah, that's self-conscious stuff, like counting sheep to fall asleep, the effort to out-create the solid, easy 50's agreement that had settled hairdos and everything else in the world forever and to come. The 60s protested too much. The 50s just were/are. We live in an old dream that is falling apart, unless we can bully a bit of future into being with our art.

Maybe someday someone will understand the 50's so that we can stop living in them. I hope so: They're getting mean. Maybe they need our love.

If We Outlaw Dreams, Only Outlaws Will Have Dreams

Psychologists and psychiatrists like to warn us of the dangers of "Hero complex," "Delusions of Grandeur" and other delusional states they cannot distinguish from the real thing. Or perhaps, to a psychiatrist, all grandeur, all heroism is a delusion. (They never speak of "Delusions of Expert Testimony" or "Delusions of Glib Cynicism").

No, they warn: Beware the man who dreams himself a hero; of such are the fanatics, the crazed assassins of our day. (And yet, what child does not dream of being a hero?)

These students of the soul they think does not exist (for psychiatry means healing of the soul, and if you have one, they can cure you of it) -- they fear any who dare disagree. Those who dream their own dreams are not well-adjusted, nor do they need our fear to compel agreement with their dreams.

Those who imagine themselves heroes well enough, are heroes. Greatness is one's dream come true for all, all our dreams come true in one.

Beware those who fear dreamers. Beware those who cannot dream.

The real madmen can only borrow the dreams of others, overwhelmed by the agreement called the world, its solidity ever demanding "Just who do you think you are!"

The real madman is what the psychologist and psychiatrist try to mass-produce, with their ideal: The well-adjusted person, someone who craves agreement and dares not dream, not even for himself alone in bed, for to dream one must disagree. Isn't that what dreaming is about? -- disagreeing with what is, putting something else there?

Yet even the madman clings to his last desperate fragment of truth, that he is someone special -- for who is not a hero, having once decided to be? (And I think every child at some point decides to be a hero.)

Therefore, in the only world he recognizes (everyone's), he registers his specialness the only way he can: bombs, bullets, sloguns -- solid dreams prefabricated by others, flung or fired into a mob of gaping flammable faces, eyes wide with terror, pain and guaranteed recognition. No need to think: He gropes for his quick fix, the confirmation of his specialness by a world that swallows dreams and shits headlines.

What Became of Baby Doll?

Mama causes things. Little girl gets caused -- ears scrubbed, teeth brushed, dress and shoes put on, shoelaces tied ("...and don't get them muddy!") by Mama. Overwhelming, all that one-way causation, unless little girl is given a littler girl to scold, dress up, take places. Little girl can't be trusted with baby sister, but a doll will do.

At least that's how it used to be when dolls were mostly rubber and porcelain babies or cloth Raggedy Annes (little girls) or furry teddy bears (cuddly -- pets that can be handled, yet won't need to be buried in a shoe box beneath the bushes in the back yard because "I told you not to handle it so much").

Mama caused things to happen to her child, so her child caused things to happen to her mock-child or pet, child becoming mock-Mama. Later, in grade school, big girl snipped out Betty and Veronica from comic books, dressed them (Fold Tab A into Slot B) in cut-out clothes, wanting to be Betty or Veronica, because they could cause things to happen to boys, who specialize in causing things to happen to girls.

That's how it used to be. But tiny hard-plastic bimbo-Barbie (our Betty and Veronica) is all the rage with tots. Who is trying to be what? Who wants whom to be what? The child is mother to the nubile teen-ager? (Babies are, after all, unwanted.)

And Barbie is so small -- an adult doll, yet tiny compared to the long-ago pliable soft baby dolls that sat up and said "Mama!" and lay back and closed their lashed eyes.

Our dolls are aging, and so are our children. If we live again, a newborn baby is, after all, someone who recently died. Perhaps the next generation of dolls will be tiny old people, made of hard slippery plastic designed to be shoved up into the womb to entertain pre-natals and remind them whence they come.

Can You Feel Fingernails Growing? Whose?

I trim my nails -- they grow back.

But WHEN do they grow? While I sleep? I never catch them at it. Or maybe what I call "my nails", what I feel when I put attention on them, IS their growing -- the quick of my fingers against their slow,but steady; motion against motion, the earth against my feet, all motion: The earth and my body tugging against each other, the earth's slow internal magma convulsions, my body's tiny convulsions, more than one throb each moment; the earth's spin around sun dragging or pushing me along with it, and all that fizz of molecular motion -- motion against motion is what we can perceive, perhaps what we can cause -- Give me your hand.

My motion?...no, my body's motion, for I, feeling motion, must be no motion, stillness. Why? Because I do not change. Once, not long ago,I sat in a crib -- I remember -- and felt all these motions, and then, too, I was me, and before that -- I remember it, better than I remember all the fads of motion of those times -- then, too, I was me and could cause and perceive and mirror motion and remember and re-create it.

Surrounded by motion, the only show in town, I thought I, too, was motion, but when I know who I am and have always been, I see that I do not change, and all the illusory "was-ness" drops out, this succession of me's, beads on a string, becoming the one pearl of who I am only and always, unchanging, unsleeping (it is I who watch over my sleeping), this awareness of the awareness of my toenails growing or of nothing at all, here I am.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

How Fame Happens

What blocks the road to fame also eases the way: You go along, bouncing in your own estimation from "I am someone" to "I am no one," occasionally coming to rest halfway between at "Maybe...who knows? Does it matter?"

You know you are good at what you do, but knowing doesn't make it real -- that takes agreement, and you aren't even sure you agree with yourself. But your being unknown is what wins the day, when, finally, someone whose opinion counts happens to pass over your work and gets yanked back to it and says, "Hey! Who is this? It's terrific!"

To this eminence, you're no one -- the condition you've long cursed -- and that's your gateway to fame: To you you're no one...someone... no one.... To this someone you're simply no one, then someone, suddenly someone, pure someone. You don't arrive with all that baggage, the decades of self-doubt (this eminent fellow wasn't there when you were vascillating through the years), the skin of "small-time", "local", etc., acquired despite (or by) your efforts to resist it.

You are that "bolt from the blue." Your decades of effort got you no recognition worth mention, so you come from nowhere. You aren't even a recognizably "pretty good" or "reliable" poet. The road is wide open. Now you need only remember that fame is mere opinion. Your work is to touch individuals and make them more alive. Fame is only a way to reach individuals, only a way. Aren't you glad fame hid from you until you were able to use it without becoming infatuated with it...well, almost.

Hat's Off!

When I was little, and my Dad went to "the office", his presence in the house was strongest in the front closet, where, on the top shelf, like a row of conservative silent fathers, were hats, part of the uniform, like suits and ties, part, really, of the shape of a man's head in the 1930s and 40s, narrow-brimmed, felt, front-to-back dented. Fedoras, I guess, though I heard them called only "hats" -- where did they go?

They vanished before anyone heard of global warming. Why? They were hardly unmanly. Even now they don't look quaint on Bogart or McMurray or Mitchum. I read recently that the first dictator of Paraguay ordered every man to wear a hat (this in the tropics) so that respect could be shown to ladies by doffing them.

(What a good word, "doff" -- from "do off". Why didn't it become mob slang: "Vinnie, that asshole needs to be doffed." We'd have the Mafia Don and the Mafia Doff.)

So maybe rudeness or Women's Lib unhatted us.

But, by the way, how do we account for the passing of women's hats? They were never doffers, but always hatted, not just at banquets, but whenever they left the neighborhood (e.g., to "go downtown" to shop or see a doctor) and sometimes close to home, big-brimmed bonnets and tiny pill-boxes with bits of veil in front, all shapes and shades. These, too, are gone or worn to stand out, unusual.

But hats don't characterize Mom as they do Dad. Women were most often in and around the house, bare-headed. But men -- any day downtown, lunch hour, groups of suited men passing, heads brim-crossed and muffin-creased, silk bands out, leather sweat-bands in, hair or skin(fashion was kinder to bald men then) nestled in soft silky white inner lining, just enough brim to shade the eyes -- trimmed cowboy hats for crowded city life. If they'd lasted a few years longer, I'd have gotten my first one around age 17 (1959).

Were they expensive? Did blue-collar men own at least one, for going to church? I'm so ignorant. When I was a kid, a man was someone who went to an office. But I think they all -- even the tramps -- wore fedoras, though some were hand-me-down, frayed.

When hats vanished, how many hat makers went unemployed? (Were they all twitching-mad from mercury in chemicals used to shape hats -- mad as hatters?) And how masculine those hats were! What more seductively perverse than Marlene Dietrich in a man's hat? Did poets then wonder what had become of top hats? Derbies? (Imagine Abe Lincoln in a Fedora, Bogart in a Derby.)

OK, so times and styles change -- women's far faster than men, because, in a "man's world", fashion was one of the few things women were allowed to change (without consulting men) in their self-definitions. But this was so quick: It happened in my time, my Dad's time, I don't know when or how or why. There went Dad and his cohorts to work in suits, ties, overcoats and fedoras; then the same men went to work in suits, ties, overcoats and no hats. How do such things happen. Was it Eisenhower? I see Truman fedora'd, but not Ike. He was military. Fedoras were civilian.

Probably it was the return of all those soldiers (about 16,000,000 of them returning after WWII), not in a rush to replace one helmet with another, really in no mood for uniforms of any sort. My Dad wasn't accepted into the Army: Flat feet. Being a civilian in a fedora was not something he was proud of. In 1945 arrived a flood of demobbed, hatless heroes from the world's most informal army, known for slang, chewing gum and breezy postures. (Hitler hadn't expected much from such easy-going troops, officers who responded to formal invitations to surrender with "Nuts!")

It must have become young and heroic to be hatless. (But why didn't they do away with ties as well? What a sadly missed opportunity!) That's it. I'm satisfied. I'm sure that's the answer, so don't tell me about the felt mines drying up in 1946 -- I don't want to hear it.

Trust the Deserters; Victims are Always Dependable

The boyish, sincere network interviewer sympathetically invites horror stories from a living room full of victims of the CULT-Of-The-Week Club. Then, to be FAIR, he questions one of the CULT leaders, who denies it (we are given 20 seconds of his 30-minute statement), but official suited and neck-tied blandness can't compete with teary-eyed women telling how they were DRIVEN to slash their wrists and feel just terribly GUILTY -- and then, to be even more FAIR, a svelte newslady reads letters from obviously unsvelte people who claim to be HAPPY with the CULT, choosing only passages that are abstract and kind of JESUS-IS-WITH-ME-NOW-AND-ALL-IS-WELL, as moving as "Have A Nice Day" from a Happy Face.

They don't fill a living room with the letter writers and let them talk to us. Happy cult members are only shown in too-enthusiastic crowds, not in living rooms or one by one.

But we have to believe those who've LEFT. After all, they were there. They know. "It's a cult! They brainwashed me! They took away my money, my self! They ganged up on me! They all do whatever they're told!" (An army of fanatics prepares even now to snatch YOUR loved ones...).

Easy to believe them: They MUST be victims; who ever heard of a victimizer criticizing a victim? Why would murderer hate murdered? Why would swindler despise dupe? Why would a husband who beats his wife call her a tramp? Why would the guy who joined up and claimed to be one of the guys, then took off with the silverware and an emptied bank account or two want to put down the group he deserted? Why would a crooked politician accuse his enemies of being corrupt? (Are newspeople ever corrupt?)

Why would the meanest kids whine loudest about their parents' meanness? That would be crazy (and yet, who are the loudest whiners?), whereas these are just nice people who claim to have given their lives -- by mistake (whoopsie!) -- to a crazy CULT, then come to their ravaged senses.

We believe because they tell us that something we don't understand and don't want to understand, something whose truths don't wear their hair the way our truths do, is evil, insane -- meaning: Don't worry, there's nothing there to be understood, no threat to the certainties upon which depend our after-all-reasonably-satisfactory lives....

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It's Impossible to Understand

When horrendous things happen, like the Holocaust or 9-11, we often hear people say that such things are beyond understanding. Actually they are easy to understand once one realizes that there's nothing there to understand. That is, they are acts of no-understanding.

Most of us, except those who like to implicate the hand of God and then torment themselves asking why - most of us know this when it comes to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other "acts of God". That is, we don't try to understand them in the way that we try to understand human actions. We understand that they are not to be understood in that way.

Someone seeing odd marks on rocks and thinking they might be inscrutable ancient religious sculptures, might spend years puzzling them out, or, learning that they are typical of the markings made by glaciers, would feel an understanding. He would understand that they were not to be understood in that way.

Where we drive ourselves nuts is in trying to understand insane human action (for example, the Holocaust), assuming the understanding is there simply because human beings are the actors. But those who commit criminal actions are not there, are not the ones who act. A criminal will tell you, he didn't do it: his hands did it. The criminal's crime is not in the act, but in allowing himself to become less than he is, allowing forces no more human than hurricanes or glaciers to supplant him. Another word for this is "irresponsibility." A criminal is a person who is not responsible for his actions. And that means that the criminal doesn't do anything, doesn't cause anything. It is all done to him or through him. He was only following orders, whether from Hitler or from mysterious voices, compulsions, obsessions, needs, etc.

And, of course, to say "he couldn't help himself because he's mentally ill" is to validate this irresponsibility, to reward it. This is the main activity of psychiatrists in the legal system: To explain that it's OK for people to fail to take responsibility for their actions, and that this failure excuses those actions.

This passes for "understanding" in some circles: To understand bad actions is to be able to list the excuses for them. There's some truth to the notion that it helps to understand what a person has been through, but carried to an extreme, it amounts to telling us that we are all victims, incapable of taking responsibility for our actions.

When you look at insanity, you are looking at an absence of understanding. Trying to understand an absence of understanding is like talking to a chair or a table or a rock - or a hurricane - and expecting a verbal answer. Insanity is not difficult to understand once you realize that there is no understanding in it, nothing to be understood except that it cannot be understood.

That doesn't mean nothing can be done about it. It just gives you a starting point for increasing understanding. Once you know that the actions are insane, you know where to find the being (who understands...who IS understanding) - you know the being is not in that insanity, so now you can locate him and get in communication with him. How can you locate him, if you think he's the bundle of tics or stoniness right there in front of you. He'd like to be lost in his insanity - easier than confronting what he's done or allowed to happen. Our trying to understand it helps him stay lost.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

If you've been reading the news lately, you may have come across the new warnings the FDA is considering adding to ADHD drugs (Ritalin, etc.). You have to read the inside pages. The front pages are reserved for announcements of new miracle drugs. The inside pages tell us that the new miracle drugs may be ineffective or dangerous. Ten years later, when it becomes obvious that the miracle drugs have killed thousands, the news may make it to page one.

Over the past month or so, we've learned that ADHD drugs sometimes cause cardio-vascular trouble. (This has been known for decades, but until it hits the headlines, it ain't so.) We've learned that the anti-depressants so dear to Ms. Shields (and shame on Tom Cruise for objecting: What can a man know about such things?) cause birth defects when taken during pregnancy in a significant number of cases, cause other problems for child if the mother tries to withdraw from the drug during pregnancy and have been implicated in numerous cases where mothers killed their infant children. We've learned that the toxins in anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, excreted by users, are increasingly being found in the flesh of frogs, wild birds, etc. - and in tadpoles, lead to developmental problems: missing limbs and other environmental side effects. And these psycho-toxins get into our water supply - are not dealt with by the filtration systems now in use.

(You perhaps haven't seen those articles? Visit your nearest Google today!

I just wanted to pass on the good news: All sorts of bad things are happening, but it won't bother us, because we'll be getting slightly-used-but-good-as-new anti-depressants from our drinking water.

Or perhaps I'm just an alarmist. Surely the experts know what they're doing. Surely we're in good hands.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Exposing Evil

Yes, there are evil people who conspire, some behind familiar masks. Which are they?

You can spend your life searching them out, or just draw them from hiding by creating something beautiful.

Either the beauty moves them to come out of themselves, shaming their smallness, or it exposes them when they can't resist attacking or snidely misinterpreting it. Either way, you've improved the world.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mr. Magoo

It gets worse and worse: First the quarks got blurry, then I couldn't make out electrons, then I started bumping into atoms, even heavy metals, then couldn't even make out molecules without my glasses, and so on, until these days without my specs, I can't tell one galaxy from another from across the room, but I'm too vain to wear glasses all the time, so I make do with blobs of light and shade.

I think there's a planet here. I see hints of it on occasion, since I'm required by law to wear glasses when driving, peeing, or dreaming.


Silent movies became talkies. Why not add sound to paintings? The Mona Lisa, for example, would say endlessly, "Ummmmm?" Munch's "The Scream"--that's obvious.

A landscape's hush, a still-life, there are the challenges. I don't know if we could make out what the fragmented voice of "Nude Descending a Staircase" would say; perhaps, "Oops!"

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Solving Other People's Problems

Other people's problems are the easiest in the world to solve. You look at this guy who's complaining of getting nowhere in life, and you see he's a slob, he's a blob, he's indecisive, he's not trying, he's... - well, you look at him, and you see all the obvious solutions: Take a shower! Get some decent clothes, exercise, DO something, be presentible, decide what you want to do, go see some people....

At first he seems hungry for your suggestions, even says "Wow!" a few times, but one by one, upon closer scrutiny, he rejects them. He can't do this because...and that's no good because...and he doesn't have time for that or money for this and he doesn't think that would do any good....

And as you persist, working it all out for him, showing him exactly what's needed, making charts, he begins to get upset with you, and when you leave, he thanks you stiffly and you know he won't do any of it.

(And you lie awake wondering what you did wrong. So now YOU have a problem.)

People get ornery when you try to take on yourself their misery. Often, it's all they have. Every problem is a dear possession, hard to relinquish. Before it became a problem, it was a solution to some other problem. That's why, when you look at this guy, you immediately see solutions: Because that's exactly what you're looking at - all of this guy's solutions.

Being a slob, for example - what could that solve? It could solve having to dress up and shave every day. It could solve fear of people, by making one so repellant that people are kept at a distance. It could solve the loss of Dad or Uncle or Grandfather, who loved him dearly and was a slob, so by being a slob one keeps that person alive. Who knows what it solves? He doesn't. He's not aware of what he's doing. It's all submerged beneath heaps of old discarded solutions become problems.

And those earlier problems - they, too, were solutions to something. How do you unravel this? Where does it end?

Normally, it never ends, life becoming a dwindling into ever more confining solutions to solutions to solutions. That's why so many are now on psychiatric drugs: They are desperate solutions. And people themselves move, gradually, from being the solvers of problems to being, themselves, problems (the homeless, the insane, you're pal who is pissed at you for trying to solve his problem or for failing to solve his problem...) that must be solved by others. Thus, problems are a contagion.

So how can you help another or even help yourself?

It helps just to view what is - not try to solve it, but simply confront it. It helps another if you can just get him to view what is. It helps a person rise above problems (actually the problems simply cease to be problems) if you can get him to look at things or touch things - you know, walls, furniture, sidewalks, trees.

Perhaps you've experienced this yourself: You had lots of problems spinning round and round in your head. You took a long walk in hopes of sorting them out, but they just kept going round and round, leading into one dead end after another. But meanwhile, it's a beautiful day and you start noticing things, and a particular slant of sun on some kid's bike beneath a tree feels good for some reason, seems to take you back to a happy time in childhood - or you start to become aware of wind sounds in the leaves or notice a cat hiding behind a bush, staring at you.... You walk for a long time, maybe traces of the problems flitting in and out of consciousness, but you are simply aware and increasingly aware of a larger and more detailed and luminous world. When you get home, you look for the problem, but isn't there any more.

What happened? Nothing much. You just stopped trying to solve something, and it vanished (and with it, the entire chain of earlier problems and solutions that held it in place).

Awareness dissolves the lies that create what we call problems.

How could you use this to help someone else with problems? Here's a silly example: George has a problem: He can't go anywhere. Why not? Because he's in his house holding onto a door knob (attached to a door). He can't let go of the door knob, so he can't go anywhere. If you try to help him solve this, you get nowhere and are tempted to dismiss George as hopelessly insane, though his reasons for hanging onto that door knob are probably quite logical. Maybe years before, George was in a tornado and was saved from being blown away by grabbing a door knob and holding on tight. A door knob attached to a well-anchored door was a great solution.

But this was long ago, and George doesn't remember it, prefers not to think of that painful time (lost his family and his house, nothing left standing but the door he clung to), and probably doesn't even realize he's holding onto a door knob. He just knows that when he tries to go anywhere, he gets yanked back, and this is messing up his life, because it makes holding a job impossible, much less eating or going to the bathroom. (Yes, George needs a lot of help just to stay alive.)

He's tried everything! For example, he had the door taken off it's hinges, so he could drag it around with him, but that, too, was awkward, the door too heavy and bulky and upsetting to others. He's also tried isomorphic exercises to bulk up his shoulders and biceps so that he could more easily carry the door or maybe pull himself away from it, but the stronger he gets, the more tightly he holds onto the knob.

How could you help George (who, apart from his being unable to let go of the door knob, is rational )? Well, you might have him look at the door, look at the table, look at the wall, look at the door knob in his hand, look at one thing after another for hours, until he realized there was a door there and a door knob there. He may seem to know these things already - after all, he's been told about them often enough. But are they REAL to him? Of course not.

Once they are real to him, you might ask him to hold on to the door knob as tightly as he can, and have him do this repeatedly (each time saying "Hold on tightly to that door knob", and when he does, saying "Thank you" or some other acknowledgement, so that each time he does it newly and knows when he's done it), and after a few hours (or a few hours a day for several days) of this, George will suddenly realize, "What the hell! I'm holding onto this door knob!" And he'll let go of it, just like that. (Maybe he'll realize at this point why he was holding onto it and start laughing and not stop laughing for a long time.) And that will be it. You didn't offer him a solution. You just familiarized him with what is - and as he confronted, increasingly, how things were, a lie vanished, and with it, the problem.

He didn't solve his problem. It simply vanished.

(I call drugs a desperate solution, because the way out of traps involves confronting them, becoming more aware of what is, and drugs are designed to suppress from view the exact things that need to be confronted, on the grounds that they are upsetting. So drugs are a good way to make it more difficult ever to be free of one's problems.)

A silly story? Or do our most formidable problems rest on foundations as fragile as George's? Do we have to work as hard as George did to maintain the problem keep it in place, keep it from vanishing? Do we hold on tight to our problems?

I've had the following experiences:

I had problems. I took my attention (somewhat) off them and concentrated on listing things I'd started, but never completed (including letters unanswered, housework not done, etc.). I took the easiest of these and finished it, then took another and completed it - at the start, some of these tasks looked forbidding, but as I got the easier ones done, the harder ones began to look easy too (I was on a roll); I completed them all or at least got them all well underway, and somewhere along the line, the problems that had occupied my mind for weeks vanished. Some of them had nothing obvious to do with the tasks I was completing, but they, too, vanished.

On another occasion, having attention on problems, I just looked for all the incomplete communications I could find and completed them, and my problems vanished. I answered my letters and e-mails, called some people I'd long meant to call or had been avoiding calling, told someone something I'd been avoiding saying, etc. And my problems disappeared.

The single most powerful thing I ever did to deal with problems (in 1968) was get into Scientology. In fact, since a particular session of Scientology counseling that year, problems have never since seemed as solid and desperate as they did before that session. At the time it seemed like magic, because I'd been a buzzing hive of problems, but I came out of that 30-minute session utterly free of them, able to view life as a game that included challenges, but none of the things I'd considered problems (stucknesses, MUST-have-CAN'T-have impasses) remained.

It was at that time that I worked out my parable of the man who couldn't let go of door knobs. It was the best thing I could come up with to explain what had happened to me. I'd seen exactly how and why I'd been clinging to the situations I'd called problems, and suddenly was able to let go of them. Not "solve" them, not "do something about" them, just let go of them and get on with the game of living.

Imagine a guy who keeps hanging onto the "problem" of not having the money he needs who stops having that problem. Does this mean he goes into apathy on the subject of money, gives up? No. That would be a "solution" - not caring. Letting go of the problem does not mean lowering responsibility for one's own condition. It means ceasing to fixate on some lie that prevents change. So if you are able to dispense with a money problem, that doesn't mean you won't have money. On the contrary, it greatly increases the likelihood that you'll prosper, since you're attention isn't hung-up in the "problem" of money.

The techniques used to deal with problems (and other basic traps of existence) in Scientology are not just applicable to individuals. For example, right now the United States has "problems" with terrorism, drugs, etc., and keeps trying to "solve" them, and, sure enough, the "solutions" (for example, invasion of Iraq) are becoming problems. Hmmm. Dear United States, what problem do terrorists solve for you?

(NOT as silly as it sounds. For example, we have "problems" with getting oil inexpensively and "problems" about finding excuses for moving into the Middle East oil countries and "problems" about the Arab countries accepting Euros as well as dollars for oil and this destabilizing the U.S. currency and economy and "problems" justifying the existence and expense of parts of our government that previously depended on exaggerating the might and evil of the Soviet Union for their existence and funding; and "problems" keeping the people of the United States in line as well-behaved consumers and "problems" moving an increasing share of the money of citizens into large corporations via the government - for example, right now the Bush Administration is making the argument that the FDA must restrict the right of citizens to sue pharmaceutical companies because the expertise and viability of these companies may be needed for the War on Terrorism. I'm not saying these are the reasons for the War on Terrorism. I'm simply citing possibilities. What I know for certain is that the "War on Terrorism" is a solution, and therefore has become a problem and therefore is based on lies. Enough aware citizens would cause the problem to vanish.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Entertainment as Containment

To entertain: From "between" (enter) and "hold" (tain), to hold between, as when entertaining a guest between walls or thighs.

We amuse a guest, divert. Guest is stranger, stranger is enemy, enemy is to be killed. We make the guest at home: held lightly between. Even if the wine is poisoned, we amuse, divert, distract, come to think of amusement itself as entertainment, a holding (the suspension of disbelief), and when we hold an opinion between the whore-legs of the intellect, we entertain a thought.

When a thought, like the Man Who Came to Dinner, stays too long (well entertained, but enemy after all), takes over this little home, our mind, we have an obsession; we are held between, much to the entertainment of all.