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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Note: This poem is actually twelve poems (ah, those pretentious Roman Numerals!) on a single theme: Specific times in my life where I became aware of myself as something other than the body by which I was known to others and even to myself, at first. That is, most of the poems are specific moments. A few, like the last section, are conclusions, parables, exercises for that mythical creature, "the reader". I'll add a few notes at the end. Here are the poems:


I know that bodies do not last,
but wonder if we do.
I remember once, exhausted
after too many laps, I stood
on the sand track, knees turned
to water, holding myself up
as if from above by wires,
head hanging, a leaden mass,
when before me were hive-like
crystalline golden cells, huge
grains of sand filling my vision
too close for eyes to focus, yet
unblurred, and I had time to wonder
if I'd hurt myself falling
on my face when, finding again
my eyes, I realized I still
stood, had seen or dreamed
those grains of sand at my feet
with other than my body's eyes,
"seen or dreamed" I say now,
but knew then only seeing.


If we are immortal,
we are all here.
It gives me pause,
even with those of us
who are in familiar bodies,
to think we are all here.
I sit near the window,
reading, hardly aware of the dog
asleep on his couch across the room.
He stretches, lifts his head,
scratches his chin with a few fast
rhythmic swipes of a paw, then
looks at me, and it astonishes me
to think that he is here with me,
has been with me all day, being
whatever he is just as you and I,
all along, have been with each other,
an idea that stirs me as if I were
a baby bursting with giggles
each time Momma pokes her head in view
and goes "peek-a-BOO!"


Once, sitting on the edge of a bed,
I noticed my head wasn't quite
in the right place, just an inch
or so out of kilter, my whole body
not quite right--in fact, it had
begun to slip from me, was hanging on
just barely by the habit of being me,
and I sat there or rather
it sat and I floated just above
and noticed my state and poised,
as if an unquiet breath or thought
would jar me loose to slip or glide
like a dew down a blade of grass
into alignment with the body,
and as I thought it, I did.


I don't remember much of being
anything this body was not,
but I remember one childhood day,
walking past the playground fence
on my way home, thinking, this is it,
I am really a third-grader, one of
them, whatever "them" was, I can't
remember now, but I remember
the certainty, the vividness
of what, then, being a third-grader was.
And now, if you asked me how old
I am, I would not have to look
at old albums or a wristwatch
to say "50" ("going on 51!"
as the third-grader would eagerly
add). And once, assailed by more
certainties than I could stomach,
I knew I was ageless, had seen
and done more than I wanted to know,
knew, not by remembering, but by
being unable to unpicture,
the bottomlessness of my forgetting.
It is not what I knew, but the way
I knew, as, in third grade, I knew
I was in third grade.


Right now it's more remembering
than knowing. You trot out
the same experiences for years
to prove things to yourself
and they get shopworn, encrusted
with the dust of words, the tarnish
of opinions. But I remember


When I think of an ending
to what I am, a lack
of me knowing I am, standing here
before the window, seeing
what my eyes can see, being,
somehow, a head which must be
moved to move me who am perforce
put wherever my body is put,
I wonder if this, what we call
life, this being a thing of flesh,
is not itself
that not knowing
that I am what I am,
that ending
to what I am.


A man sits in a cell and knows
(the way his forehead knows
when it cracks against the wall):
this is where he's always been
since he's been anything and
where he'll always be until
he becomes nothing at all.
What could be worse? Maybe
whatever he did to get himself
into this, maybe what he was,
could be again, must not


Odd that more people don't hate
having to go to bed. Children
understand, plead to stay up,
watch the good TV shows full of
violent action, want the hall light
left on, try to prolong goodnights
from loving giants who cannot hide
the fact that they are ready
to use whatever force is needed
to make the child be as much
as possible without sound or motion.
The child lies there trying out
different horizontal postures,
spreading the legs apart
to be a cowboy or, on his side,
drifts off, running in place,
an angel embedded in amber.
Children sense it is an unnatural thing,
an imprisonment, to be put
on a padded shelf, there to lie
almost still, only a few feet
in which to twist, having to close
their eyes and not do anything--


Perchance to dream. You can dream.
And if you don't wake up,
who will be with you in your dream?
What if, in your dream, you are still
you, but have not even a bed
to move in, are buried in your coffin,
not an inch of leeway to stretch,
utter dark, utter silence, utter
knowledge of never seeing the sky,
of no one knowing you are--
what does it mean then to say you
are still you? And if you had
no body at all but were still,
somehow, you, could you sense
anything, get in touch with
anyone? From these dreams gladly
we waken to our prison of meat.


Once, staring intently back at a cat,
suddenly I saw a human face
staring at a cat, saw from where
the cat's eyes were, saw so clearly
I could see a cat's face reflected
in the human eyes. It was a flash--
then I was seeing a cat flinch
and gallop full tilt from the room
as if she'd sensed (as cats do)
a ghost. Once, looking
at someone who looked at me
for a long time, I said to her,
"Your face just disappeared,"
and she replied, "I know.
So did yours." Once, lying
beneath pine trees, looking up
along the tall trunks through
pinwheeling branches to the sky,
I found myself in the sky,
and I could see and know
and I was I. Once, after making love,
I knew what she would say
before she said it and what
I would reply and what she'd say
to that, and I saw her knowing
me know this and I started to say
and she said, we said
as I knew we would,
"I know".


If I sit very still
I can feel it, my head a tension
and waves of tension around my head,
a force field, solid and habitual.
If bodies are traps, does death free us?
Not if, nullified by eons of force,
we've grown addicted to bodies,
think ourselves nothing without bodies,
think we must suck memories from them,
having none of our own, cannot see
without eyes, hear without ears,
we undead embedded in our heads;
releasing us is like releasing habitual
criminals. Death can't hold us,
only knowing can. We'll be back.


From beneath the earth
where we cannot move,
a worm.
From beneath the water
where we cannot breathe,
a fish.
From the fire
we could not withstand,
From our own guts,
where we will never go,
we send...where,
we choose not to know.
What can you be?
Where can you go?
If the air were a wall,
if your own flesh were a wall,
if you could see only as far
as your own retina
and could not unsee that,
if the future were a wall,
mirroring the solid past,
if...can you hear me?
From where?



Part 1: This occurred in 1964 or 1965. I'd been jogging round the track at Stanford (where I was a grad student), working out hard. I stood exhausted, looking down at the sand, and suddenly saw (as vividly as anything I'd seen) a microscopic view of the grains of sand, at first didn't realize what I was seeing, then, knowing what it was, thought I must have fallen, since my eyes seemed up against the sand, but (backing my vision back into my head), found I'd been standing up the while. As the poem says, I saw the grains in perfect focus, not blurry, as one might have expected had my eyes been a quarter of an inch from the sand.

Part 2: This sense of immortality and its corollary -- that we've all been here all along -- gives the game of "peek-aboo" a dazzling hall-of-mirrors quality. When Momma says to baby, "Peek-aBOO!", she's also saying, "Hey, don't worry so much about that cute blob of flesh. We're ancient friends, you and I." Maybe she doesn't know she's saying it. Maybe baby is trying to tell HER that. Certainly my dog seemed to be telling me we'd known each other forever. Somewhere he's scratching another chin, I'm sure.

Part 3: Briefly (1964-5) I had a few encounters with drugs. The verdict? I had drug experiences that made it obvious to me that I was not a body. But before those experiments, I'd found it fairly easy to move away from and towards my body. After them, I was kind of stuck to the body (like B'rer Rabbit to the tar baby) for years, looking for a way out. Psychedelics, I'd say, pushed me off on an elastic leash that snapped me back in, and when I snapped back, I found that I'd become sticky. (These days, I occupy a space in which, sometimes, my head is a long ways off, down by my toes -- just 6 feet from them. For example, sitting in a living room, talking with people, I'll notice that our bodies are very small and oddly distant.)

Part 4: That day when I realized, with surprise, that I was in 3rd grade, I was walking past a playground wall that was diminishing as I walked up the slight incline -- a diminishing of the wall's height that may have (inversely) heightened the realization. Numbers meant something. I'd only been in first grade for a month or two before being skipped (because I knew how to read from age 4), but had some difficulty in 2nd grade with my own immaturity and never felt I was one of the "real" 2nd graders, but on this day, well into third grade and doing a bit better (with a far more friendly teacher), it struck me that I was now a REAL 3rd grader.

Our labels, superficial though they are, are also the best way to become free of our labels. We find ourselves when we are amazed to realize that we are REALLY an adult, a lover, a tax payer, a car driver, a person with a job, an old person, a dying person, etc. We find ourselves in our amazement.

Part 5: You can't really wear out a good memory. It only seems that way when you try to use one of them to handle current upset or sadness. Instead of reanimating the past, re-creating it anew, BEING the enthusiastic child one once was, we try to buy new joy with that counterfeit, the memory, and, finding that memory (merely a verbal recitation after much use of it) ineffective, we dismiss it as "gone forever" or "useless" or "wasn't much after all." But it's all there and can be fired up again. In fact, one day, when you look around you and fall in love with the world again, you slip into that "memory" and find it fully alive and functional. (Forgive my rapidly shifting pronouns, we, one, you -- someday I'll make up my/our/one's mind(s).)

Part 6: Some slippery syntax -- that which is that that.... But I hope the point is obvious: Being in a body (to the extent that our involvement in the body clouds our knowledge of our spiritual existence) may be said to be the only death (ending) there is: We forget ourselves.

Part 7: This section suggests a few of the questions that might (if pursued) help us understand why these bodies and this belief in the absoluteness of death are so persuasive. For example, if we have done things in the past that we regret or that give us overwhelming indebtedness, we may prefer to believe that we are mortal and end at death. Where memories are painful, we may choose to believe there are no memories. In other words, though the thought of being imprisoned in a small cell is unpleasant for most of us, and though, if we think of it, the body itself is an imprisonment, there are probably things far more unpleasant that we think we avoid by being bodies. Another troubling aspect of immortality (not dealt with particularly in this set of poems, but in some of my others) is "Now what?" -- what does an immortal being do for a game?

Part 8: How huge those childhood beds seemed to my small body, how easily I could lie in bed with my legs spread wide, thinking I was being a cowboy. But such pleasures quickly palled, and on nights where I didn't easily fall asleep (perhaps because I could hear some "good" radio show downstairs, knowing it was good because of the gunshots), it was hard to avoid feeling a certain limitation, a sense of being only where I was, of being located (like a target), of being unable to be anything other than what I was. It was easier to pretend -- when awake and running about in the yard or lost in radio drama or talking to Mom or a friend -- that my limitations were temporary and flimsy, that there was future, over the horizon, just around the corner, etc. But lying in bed awake at night, I sometimes slipped from three to two dimensions, so that it was a relief to hear the distance being created by the moving a way of a distant steam locomotive's fading chuff-puff.

Part 9: Another nightmarish vision of self limited to self being no self at all, of limitlessness being another kind of limit, for if you extended to fill the universe, you would be just that, the universe. The point is not that existence is a nightmare, since we could, as players on a playing field of that scope, create newer, better games and dreams than we can conceive of from our current vantage points. In other words, we generate nightmare considerations by imagining our limited selves somehow (superficially) limitless. It's like imagining ourselves 10,000 feet above the ground, but neglecting to imagine for ourselves means of flight. But such silly nightmares do scare us back towards our illusions of mortality and are perhaps fed us through the generations to keep us under control.

Part 10: The love-making incident is a composite, but mainly refers to incidents in 1962 and 1964. My moment of filling up the sky occurred at camp when I was 12 or 13. There's a longer story to it, which you can find well into my longer poem, BLANK PAGES, on www.blehert.com. (Briefly, just as I was having some petty thoughts about how the other campers down at the campfire, wouldn't understand this experience, another camper, from behind me, used a small shovel to toss sand in my eyes, and when I cried, a counselor took me aside and tried to console me, thinking I was crying because of the sand, and I had to explain to him that it wasn't the sand, but the loss of that experience, and that I'd brought it about myself by indulging in the petty thoughts. (And I had to figure that out in order to tell him -- far less articulately than I've done so here.) The incident with the cat occurred in 1965, and one of those drug experiments precipitated it, but nonetheless, I saw what I saw, and I saw the cat seeing it too. Poor cat. (I've had other more vivid experiences in the absence of drugs (haven't touched a drug, in over 40 years -- except one flu tablet in 1974, a partial shot of novacain when a dentist forgot that I'd said no anaesthetic (in the 1980s) -- I stopped it, prefer pain to numbness; some second-hand smoke, a bit of caffeine, etc.). But here I'm pulling together a few scraps of experience that seem to me to create a larger picture.

Part 11: There have been times when I've become aware of my body as swathed in tensions, masses pressing against it, wound around it, etc. This came up during my brief period of drug experiments (about 7 of them in all) and several times before and after them when I would meditate (something I did a lot of, 1963 through 1968). I've since unwound these. (I'm no longer so "tightly wound.") I won't say that I got nothing valuable out of meditation, but it led me into some things that I found I couldn't handle with meditation, but could handle by other means and do so better by dispensing with meditation.

The idea of recidivism here is that so long as we have no strong sense of who we are, a self-definition and self-knowledge that is not dependent upon having a body, death is no escape: We'll get ourselves stuck on body after body (or drift around in a daze when bodies aren't available), because we can't conceive of any other way to have an identity and, thereby, a game.(Gotta have a uniform with a number to be on team, right?) Death won't "hold us" (apart from bodies). Only self-knowledge (becoming the player of the game or even the game maker) gives us the choice to be or not to be (a body or anything else).

Part 12: This poem is meant as a kind of exercise for the reader -- an exercise in locating oneself or dislocating oneself. It seems to be a turning inward into ever more solid introversion, with a twist at the end that perhaps points to the freedom of the being playing the game of being solid in a solid world -- and the role of live communication in freeing us.

For more data on bodies and ways of orienting oneself inside them and outside them, I recommend the books to be found at Scientology.org.

Friday, July 13, 2007


All sense is touch,
in a sense, with intervening
distance. With hearing we touch
waves of air or water and know
the motion of what sent them
(and touching the motion, know
across distance of selfhood, meaning).
With sight we touch light and know
with what force and degree of integrity
it bounced off or tore itself away from
what last it touched. Even smell
is the touch of chemical to chemical,
one sating with its excess the other's
craving. All these senses receive
couriers of distant news. Remove
all distance and we touch as now,
my love, I touch you...

Whence, then,
impervious to all my messengers,
this distance?

Note: When in closest conceivable touch, closer than flesh permits (if we were only flesh), in an instant (quicker than a bright day goes gray as a cloud slides over the sun), impossible distances intervene, sudden doubts open wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon and, as quickly, vanish. It seems, in our own universes we have distances and spaces whereof neurochemistry knows nothing.

Poetry Reading

Such a racket of feelings:
Clearly this poet lost her mommie.
That one lost his daddy.
This one needs a good cry,
that one a good lay.
This one is hungry and that one
feels guilty that others are hungry.
This one likes having loved ones,
but isn't sure about always having them,
and if not, how that changes the feeling
of having them. This one is gaga
about something I never heard of
before, but it's purple, and I think
it's some sort of flower. That one
would like to break windows until
everyone (or whoever THE SYSTEM is)
knows that he is not one of THEM
and have THEM admire him for it,
but not too much. These poets
could be anyone, but significantly,

Note: This is a mean poem. Most poetry readings are better than that, and most? -- well, many poets are saner than those described. So why did it give me such pleasure to write about these varieties of childishness? Maybe I'm just mean. (Someone said that a poem must not mean, but be. Perhaps I try to have it both ways, by being mean.)

But no, that can't be. I'm the good guy here. See my white hat? (^) So maybe even the saner, more professional poets sometimes leave me wondering: "What are you saying to me? Are you saying it to Me? Why are you saying these things? Why am I supposed to enjoy/admire/care?"

If you're a poet, please ignore my fussiness. You may have to say a few silly things to get to the good stuff.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Whipping Good Memories and Dead Horses

Despair, when it is, is bottomless, omnivorous,
swallowing whatever you throw at it. As your goals
vanish into its maw, you try to kill despair,
hurling at it your best memories, your triumphs,
your deepest truths, and these too are instantly
coated with sticky black drool.

Memories will only stand for so much, and then
they mutiny: "Don't you remember...?" "NO! I
never loved you, it was never good with you!"
An old truth is a slippery anchor in a maelstrom,
one more weight to drag us under.
"But it was good! It was wonderful,
remember? Please remember!" So one tells oneself
(or so we tell each other) like a teamster
in a blizzard who doesn't realize the horse
he's whipping has frozen to death.

Despair owns the walls of the room, each piece
of furniture, your body, the bed, the window,
whatever you can see through the window,
the texture of whatever you touch --
and any wisp of memory you drag into the room
where you are stuck, staring at or away from despair.

Despair is beaten by not believing what one seems
to know (that this night or week or month or year
is forever), by knowing that it eats anything
you bring near it, by not feeding it.

See that delicate ship hoisting
all its bright-colored sails into the dark fury
of a storm? See it plow under, all sails flying?

No, best to batten down, lie low until
one can move, can see or imagine a way to move,
lifting one foot, then the other
and moving in a direction one insists on calling
(against all of the nightmare's frantic denials)
forward; one finds something to do that one can do --
a little thing, tie a shoe, take a walk,
clean a room, get out of bed, scratch
an itch, listen to the Blues...

not some radical puffed-up parody of total solution
urged by despair itself, charged with
melodramatic electricity. Find one thing
that is (if we pretend there can ever again be
one thing better than another) better to do than
nothing at all, and do it,

and gradually -- as chaos resolves into up and down,
what is and what is not -- one can do more,
begins to feel that the circles
in which one has been moving have, themselves,
been moving, like a child's traveling ovals --

one has been getting somewhere, one begins to know
some things one never knew before,
and there are calmer spaces, breaks in blackness
hints of a sky that is not sea, a long arc of horizon,
a direction, a future and, therefore, a past,
the tingle (uncoaxed) of a few good memories,
still dazed, but alive after all,
a smell of salty tangled life
that could be hope.

A Theory of Murder

The thing about murder is it's too easy. Where's the game? You dent a body slightly -- if it were a car, it would be easily patched up -- and it's dead. The guy is gone.

In the arena of creating effects, wowing people, getting people to say "Man, you're too much!" or "Ummm, you're a great lover" or "Did you really just make that up?!" or "Oooh! Ahhhh! Don't stop!" or "ENCORE! ENCORE!" or "And the WINNER is..." -- in that arena, creating an effect upon someone by killing him or on others by killing their intimates is akin to aceing a challenging test by looking up the answers in the back of the book.

There's a game to not getting caught, and there are other ways to decorate murder with the semblance of intricate play, but I wonder how often something like the following happens (perhaps over several lifetimes, perhaps over decades):

A person accidentally kills someone he loves -- bumps that person off a cliff or puts a small hole in the otherwise intact face or by some small, seemingly harmless action causes a heart to stop, a clot, an unintended impact. Let's say it's sudden -- the person is very much there, full of familiar mannerisms and gestures, smiling, chatting, knowing your thoughts, responding to your words and expressions, and something happens, and the body is still there, almost looking at you, but has gone still, is unresponsive, no one is there, and you have no idea where your friend has gone, whether or not the friend still exists (and you begin to doubt, in the face of such apparently absolute absence, whether anyone could possibly ever have existed there). Let's say the body appears whole and unharmed or only slightly marred (as by a small bullet hole between the still open eyes).

There's a huge discrepancy between the enormity of the presence becoming an absence (friend here, friend gone) and the triviality of the visible causes (some slight damage to some tiny part of the body). The discrepancy would be less if the death had been slow and agonizing or quick and dramatic and gory. But here death seems too trivial an event to be associated with so huge a spiritual result. And it's particularly hard to deal with if you think you caused it -- if you handed the person the mushroom that turned out to be fatal or accidentally fired the gun you thought unloaded or, in play, tripped your friend who fell and hit temple against sharp stone and went still.

You did such a tiny thing, caused such a huge effect.

In such a situation, one solution -- one way you might make sense of it -- is to view your action as a terrible action causing terrible damage, magnify death, no matter how quick and simple, to monstrous proportions, live a life of pennance.

But a more attractive solution (since it lessens your guilt) is to say, after all, nothing much has been lost. We're just chemical accidents. When you kill someone, it's no big deal, nothing more than shutting down a few chemical reactions.

In other words, you reduce the enormity of the absence by deciding that there was never much of anyone there in the first place. Perhaps there SEEMED to be, but that abundance of beingness was an abundance you imagined, just as a child endows a doll with personality. You resolve never to do that again -- give depth of being to others, give others the means to disappoint you.

And if the loss was extreme enough (and your own carelessness flagrant enough), you might find yourself obsessed with proving to yourself that death is no big deal by killing some other people (intentionally) just to prove to yourself that it's awfully easy to kill people and makes no difference to the world or to you.

And along the way, you feel justified, since your victims inevitably betray you: You create what you think must be the ultimate effect upon them, but they reward you with no response. They just vanish. That pisses you off, so you begin to do weird things, like arrange bodies in lifelike positions, have sex with them, talk to them -- all desperate attempts to persuade yourself that you've created an effect on them by having them appear to be creating effects on you in return. I suspect this is part of the stereotype of the serial killer getting off on his killings, having an orgasm. And it's part of the rage associated with such people.

Eventually the only interaction that's real to them is killing, and that interaction is always initially a release, but soon after devastatingly disappointing -- an exaggerated parody of he letdown after bad sex, in the absence of live communication.

I'm not sure it ever happens that way (well, yes, I'm pretty sure), but I do know that we sometimes feel impelled to degrade our idea of identity and of the reality of other people. Killers and torturers tend to kill, as they kill others, their own imaginations. They no longer want to know that behind another face can be found another being like oneself with hopes and dreams. Life goes flat for them.

Since that perception of others, that knowledge that you are among fellow helloers, gets killed off when you kill others, soon it validates itself: You no longer need to deny that others like yourself exist, because, devoid of the imagination that lets you grant life to others, you can no longer grant life to yourself. When you begin to unsee the beings around you, you become less. In the absence of others, your own identity becomes unreal to you. After all, who else exists to agree that you exist? Having no playmates, no one to help (and a game is, among other things, a means to help ones teammates), you are dead.

So now it's OK to assume that others exist like yourself, because you dead yourself, devoid of dreams (it's no longer safe to dream), a distant spectator to the actions of your own hands. So the killing of those like yourself is now of no significance.

I wonder if it might happen that way?

And I wonder how engaging in wars creates killers -- or at least people dead inside. And I wonder how drugs designed to make us not feel much (so that we don't feel bad) might accelerate such a process. And I wonder what remains of the identities of those who promote and prescribe such drugs. No wonder they perceive that the person drugged has "improved" -- if they aren't really aware that there is someone there. Psychiatrist says "He's much improved." Parent says, "But he's like a zombie!" How is it the psychiatrist hasn't noticed?

The serial killer thinks those he kills are thereby much improved. They are purged of their phony eye-gleams and words and cutenesses. To the serial killer, life is a siren, a temptation to get caught in a painful trap. Chemicals pose as life. The serial killer frees the body from life as one removes bait from a trap. Not that psychiatrists are serial killers -- I suppose some of them aren't.

I wonder how those of us who'd prefer to be alive and have others be alive can create life faster than the deadly ones create death.

It must be odd to stand next to a living person and be unable to perceive the being. Here I am, miles and perhaps years from the "you" I address, and yet you are alive for me. I recall (partially) an old poem of mine about why I'd never become a serial killer: What if, without realizing it, I killed one of my readers!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Games Beings Play (poem & essay)

We Can't Go On Meeting This Way...

If my voice, my smile seem
as intimate to you as your own
(yours seem my own), it's because
you and I met long ago in a dream
(where first meetings happen),

one I'd thought my own until the day
my setting sun surprised me
with a tint of airy blue I'd never
put there. Thus the game began:

I put forth Romeo and Juliet. You
covertly took over Juliet, and
when my Romeo's avid lips drew near,
her tiny teeth nipped off his nose.
I did a quick fade out (stifling
an earthquake of giggles, thinking--
one of us thinking--"Will Romeo
be rebuilt in a day?")

to a long white beach
with palm trees and crashing surf.
You turned into an old airplane
and sputtered across the sun,
dragging a Coca Cola sign. I became
an ack-ack gun, you an elegant finger
plugging my gun barrel. I became a
crocodile, jaws closing over the finger,
which became a stick thrust crossways
to prop open my jaws--

Too trite! Go back
to the gun, no the finger, no, just
play it out (I said, you said, we...)--

and so into the soft sky rose our
crocodile, trailing a Coca Cola banner,
and, flaring to lurid orange,
set slowly in the West.

The poem above (humor me -- I call such things poems) I wrote as an attempt to liven up the way we think of the spiritual life. If we are spiritual beings capable of creation, immortal (and I think we are), then what do we do with enternity? Where's the fun? Most poems that approach this (and there are millions of them) deal with finding some long-ago "you" and becoming verdant landscapes, winds, storm clouds and mountains, pervading galaxies and pocketing universes as if they were a child's pretty marbles.

They're good on spectacle, but often light on games, an old difficulty resembling the traditional response to the Christian idea of Heaven: OK, here we are on a cloud with golden harps. Now what? (One of the more ambitious attempts to resolve this and propose a life both transcendent and playful is Herman Hesse's novel, THE BEAD GAME. A more fully realized approach is Nabokov's great PALE FIRE, both about this and designed to involve the reader in a game of this sort, with author and reader the competitors. Kafka's THE TRIAL is a similar, but grimmer game. PALE FIRE is about as much fun as one can have while reading a book, which, on planet earth, means about as much fun as one can have, though love, sex, hot fudge sundaes and high speed chases are good too.)

The game in the poem above is closer to the way I think we interrelate when we are most ourselves. The closest parallel to it that I know of in art is the depiction of Calvinball in the great comic strip, "Calvin and Hobbes", where the boy (Calvin) and the tiger (Hobbes) invent the rules as they go along.

Suppose you're a being and you live in a universe of your own creation? How do you know someone not part of your creation is impinging? Something surprises you! ("I know I didn't put that blueness into the sunset!") And then the game begins, no limit, no end of ways to express no end of emotions and concepts via exchanged creations, the rules changing with great rapidity, action epics lasting a fraction of a second -- or as long as we consider they are lasting.

And the rules are based on aesthetics. One puts up (creates, makes available) a handsome male, the other bites of its nose: Is this attack? joke? intimacy? It's playfulness (above) is understood because it livens a boring stock romantic image. In other words, to respond appropriately, yet freshly, you have to operate at a level of aesthetic awareness comparable to that of a poet who must respond to a line of poetry with a next line that is both immediately recognizable as appropriate and also surprising, expanding the game -- or, for the hell of it, plunging into chaotic nonsense that's a kind of art in itself (not a sunset, but a gorgeous crocodileset).

I mentioned Calvinball, where, if tagged off the base, Hobbes will "remind" Calvin of the rule he has just made up that Calvin must spin around three times before making the tag. An even better analogy to what I describe in the poem is something I once witnessed between two nephews of mine -- identical twins. I watched them play -- age 4, I think (I'm ancient, since they're now in their 30s). They were playing catch on the carpet, rolling a ball, but not just rolling it, using some toy that had a ramp to start it rolling. And I noticed that as they played, mostly without words, they kept changing the game, more than once in a second, responding in ways that implied rules, and it all made sense -- to them, to me, watching.

It was odd, my knowing exactly what the little changes meant, without knowing how I knew -- or rather, realizing why I knew: We are not, natively, the players of games (not only that). We are the creators of games.

The best ways I know of to experience this state in action are to get involved in improv. groups, jazz and jam sessions or any art form, and especially art with live interaction among artists.

The single most effective way I know of to introduce someone to an awareness of the extent to which living is a continuing creation of games is explained in a book entitled THE CREATION OF HUMAN ABILITY by L. Ron Hubbard. In that book (pages 207-208 in my 1989 edition) is a "process", a sort of game used to increase someone's awareness (a sloppy definition, but it'll do here) called "R2-69: Please Pass the Object." It explains exactly what to do to get someone aware of games and rehabilitate the sense of play. Try it on someone deathly serious and watch him/her rediscover laughter.

[Note: The process is labeled "R2", meaning "Route 2" because it's one of a sequence of processes designed to get someone somewhere (from spiritual state A to spiritual state B, for example -- a route), and is done after a set of processes labeled Route 1; and this process (R2-69) is the 69th process of Route 2.]

Apologies to the pious, but "spiritual life" is not synonymous with "solemnity" or "dullness" or even "sexlessness".

Monday, June 04, 2007

Consciousness Explained?

I recently read a longish pseudo-profound quote from a book called "Consciousness Explained". It was a very complicated explanation of what the self is, the complications required because it began with the assumption that there is no self, only a body and an incredibly complicated reason for a body to require the "center of narration" we (who?) call "self".

Such silliness is far more intelligent than the truth (or at least a workable truth -- something that can lead us to more interesting games). I don't mean it's smarter to believe that you and I don't exist. What I mean is that it's so stupid that it requires numerous graduate degrees to explicate. It sounds intelligent because it takes so much intelligence to articulate the complexity that results from such stupidity.

For example, if you assume that the sun and other planets revolve around the earth, the mathematics required to "demonstrate" this and predict motions and positions of sun and planets are far more complicated than those required if you assume that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun.

If you delight in paradoxes and complexities, don't look for truth. Look for desperate attempts to avoid truth. It's tempting for any intellectual to avoid truth, since truth is often simple: For example, you're you, I'm me, we aren't our bodies; that seems simple enough and obvious enough, and it's a workable hypothesis. Using it, you can cure illnesses, reduce crime, reduce insanity and a do a number of other desirable things. (OK, it may not be obvious to everyone, but some of us have seen what it can do as a hypothesis. The point I'm making here is that it's as reasonable a hypothesis as "We are the delusions of chemical actions in a brain pudding.")

But that's far too simple. It's too much like truism. It's something that just about any laborer or beggar could understand, most children, too. So it's useless to an intellectual. Intellectuals are a lot like pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical companies aren't much interested in letting people know what mineral and vitamin and some herbal supplements can do for them, because these things aren't patentable, so there's no profit in them.

Similarly, intellectuals profit (or win glory and rave reviews in the New York Review of Books and other lofty venues and tenure at universities) by coming up with complex brilliance that only a few people can grasp.

And yet the stupidity of "Consciousness Explained" is excruciating: The title says it all: Consciousness precedes explanation and is a far more basic concept than "Explanation". Another way to put it is that you can't resolve consciousness or get a clearer idea of it by explanations, but you can resolve explanations or get a clearer idea of them by consciousness. So the book is bass-ackwards.

We don't have a verb "to conscience". We can't say "Explanation Conscioused". Consciousness is basic enough that we don't do it. We are it. We are that which is aware of being aware -- and which (as described eloquently at this site) can create things to be aware of and agree about them with other similar creators. A less awkward title might be "Awareness of Explanation".

"Consciousness Explained" is a bit like starting with the idea that the books in the library were here before we were and that we are their delusion, and that these books are somehow culminating -- by evolution of language all by itself -- in a book about books that explains how and why all the books that exist have come up with the illusion of authors and readers and a world that exists elsewhere than on the pages of books.

The best way to understand consciousness is to be aware of being aware. Lately, have you noticed that you are?

Friday, June 01, 2007

How YOU Can Make Billions in the Mass Murder Industry

How YOU Can Make Billions in the Mass Murder Industry

Cho went about it wrong.
He just started shooting,
a crude and unrewarding activity.
Here's what he should have done:

1. Switched from English to medicine.

2. Gotten his degree in psychiatry.

3. Gotten on the American Psychiatric Association (APA) committee
that updates the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM),
mainly by creating new mental illnesses
by voice vote.

4. Proposed a new illness: Obsessive
Respiratory Rhythmic Inflation/Deflation Disorder
(ORRIDD) -- that is, breathing, a specialized,
chronic restlessness or tic.

5. Worked with a major pharmaceutical firm
to develop a cure (a lead pellet to be injected
directly into the brain).

6. Helped develop the marketing campaign:
may SUFFER FROM Obsessive Respiratory Rhythmic
Inflation/Deflation Disorder!!!

If YOU are suffering from ORRIDD, tell your doctor
or your local quiet, unsocial person (perhaps
one of our trained students or postal workers)
that you may need a prescription for QUIETUSIN!
Quietusin is made of the purest lead available
and is injected directly into the brain. The results
are instant, a blessed restful state for the first time
in your life -- and it LASTS! Lasts without your needing
a second prescription. NOTHING WILL EVER
BOTHER YOU AGAIN! This is what you've been waiting for!

7. Become a well-known proponent of Quietusin,
give talks on it to doctors, write a book about it,
get interviewed on the late shows, in magazines,
author studies on the reliability, the lack of
withdrawal symptoms (the impossibility of withdrawal),

8. Welcome your patients, point out (if they haven't noticed)
that they are suffering from this obsessive condition.
Get them to notice how much of their time and energy
is expended on this respiratory unease. Make sure
they are properly insured. Give them their "shot"
of Quietusin -- preferably outside the office,
to avoid messes. Collect from the insurance companies.
You can line up hundreds of patients in front
of a freshly dug trench, and use one of the latest
automatic delivery devices to medicate them all
in a second.

9. Find more patients.

10. Since many obvious sufferers from ORRIDD
will be in denial, utilize current state laws authorizing
mandatory out-patient medication to force those
who by virtue of this ailment (a disease just like diabetes
or tuberculosis) may be a danger to themselves or others
(your ex-wife's mother or your boss, for example)
to receive their doses.

11. Invest in perpetual care cemeteries, crematoriums,
armament manufacturers.

And so on. The possibilities are endless...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Mechanics of Being Right

How does one force oneself?
One must become two to be a problem.
Problems are convenient for those
who aren't the problems, since problems
stay right where they are, expending
themselves against themselves,
part of the landscape. Problems
are no problem at all, but beware
of solutions. Hitler, for example,
was a solution. He had no problem
with himself. We had to oppose him
and be one side of a new problem.

Once, perhaps, Hitler was a problem,
a precarious balance of jaw-breaking
forces, holding himself immobile--and
how clever of him to solve his problem
and become our problem.

That's an old poem of mine. Recently I saw a friend (or one-time friend) go through the conversion described above. While he resisted his cravings (booze, perhaps other drugs -- he admitted to booze), he was both sides of a problem in precarious balance, and thus held himself in stasis. He could become someone else's problem if someone else tried to help him, but left to himself, he was simply a problem, his cravings poised against his social leanings. He spoke softly, tended to mumble, seemed restrained, a bit vague, his communications trailing off into the ether.

Then he solved himself, managed to unbalance the impasse, started drinking (and maybe was "medicated") -- why? Long story, probably, and one I know only a small part of. But having solved his problem, he became the problem of a number of other people, as, rather cheerfully, in a hoarse smoke-and-booze-rasped voice -- with no vagueness or trailing off -- he began to threaten and insult people who'd thought him a friend ("I'm gonna kick you're ass", "You fag!"). He's thus opted himself out of several social circles. He appeared to enjoy all this -- after all, it was action. I don't know if he found the morning after enjoyable. Usually such solutions lead to new problems which lead to new solutions. And usually there's a descent. Each problem is more severe than the last, each solution more desperate, unless something intervenes to reverse the process -- some bit of insight that makes it unnecessary for the problem to exist.

After all, we like games, and it's a game to solve a problem. Games are, in a sense, problems -- opposing forces trying to hold one another motionless, like two football teams. That is, each team tries to be a problem for the other team, and each team tries to solve that problem.

So one way a problem vanishes is if one has other, more interesting games to play, so doesn't have to maintain his minor problems in perfect balance with such dedicated tenacity. For example, people "rise above" their petty problems in a crisis, and, having done so, when the crisis is over, typically are better able to deal with the petty stuff.

But in the absence of some new awareness that enables us to let go of a problem, we solve it, and the solution becomes a worse (more limiting, more gameless, less fun) problem. This applies to all of us, I think, not just the person described above.

This is not about the rightness or wrongness of his actions. Perhaps he was miserable without the booze. Perhaps the people he threatened deserved to be threatened. (At least, whomever he mistook them for deserved it, probably a long time ago.) The point is the mechanics of it: A problem slipped along its fault lines, an earthquake in his psyche that left him able to move. He ceased to be a problem to himself and became a problem to others, who found themselves worrying about what to do with him.

In my poem, above, I use a far more extreme example: Hitler, who went about becoming a problem to the world with high spirited confidence, at least until he began to get beaten back. And the German nation as a nation went through a similar process, moving from post-war apathy and apparent lack of a shared mission, lack of games to play (stopped) to the cheering sieg-heiling crowds in Nuremberg rejoicing at the "Triumph of the Will". Germans ceased to have problems -- nearly full employment, prosperity, armed strength, high standard of living (for those considered to be German), etc. Germany was no longer a problem to itself, but a problem to the rest of the world.

Which led to a deeper defeat, millions dead, etc.

The Germans had a desperate solution: Just kill all the Jews and enslave all the Slavs and... -- well, when you're desperate, any solution seems better than none.

MUCH better than none. That bottle, that snort or injection is gold! Just saying "To hell with them all! What does it matter! I can do anything! There's nothing stopping me!" is exhilarating. Until someone or something stops you.

One way to define the role of ethics in our lives (our taking responsibility for ourselves and others and, in widening concentric ripples, society, mankind, etc.) is that ethics allows us that joy of freedom without making us a problem that others must solve by stopping us.

In other words, ethical action allows the high without the hangover and without the broken marriage, the lost friends, lost job, lost health. This is a riddle to someone who equates ethics with doing what one is "supposed" to do, rather than a matter of integrity, something that aligns with one's own goals and that is not inconsistent with freedom.

That's a mouthful of abstractions. Sorry. Here's another poem on this subject (the brief high of capitulation to a desperate solution):


How is it at our craziest,
thrashing out in rage, screaming -
we feel so RIGHT?
It's sheer electricity,
like the edgy air during a summer storm,
almost a relief,
because what has been tormenting us,
demanding that we act out its obsession,
this ghost we've been wrestling with day and night,
this clenched fist in the forehead -
we've let go,
given it our own voice, body, knuckles,
blood - we've given it what it wants,
and even as we rage,
we are at peace,
riding the wave of our rightness toward
where mist and distance blur
the crash of foam on ragged rocks.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


We keep using words that don't work anymore
(we're told)--beauty, heart,
truth, love--using them because
we want them to work.

Keats spoke
simply of truth and beauty, and an arc
of brilliance that lit up his century
leapt the gap between dream and know.
Yeats had to give birth to a terrible
beauty to ignite us.

These sparks,
like stars hazed over by city lights,
now are blanched in the neon flare
of frenetic signs blazoning the truth
of True Cigarettes, the beauty
of beautiful shampoo, the breakfast
cereal you'll love and the politician
you know is right in your heart.

Can one ashamed to say "I love you"
love? We try to heighten love and truth
and beauty, add garish auras with
"diseased", "hectic", "skeletal beauty",
"the rictus of love", "the bruised
apples of truth left to us", "the
algebra of the unknown heart"--

but we cannot further overload
these circuits; the fuses blew out
decades ago. Yet we stand here
in the abandoned house, flicking
the dusty light switches on, off,
on, off (because it is all we know
on earth, but not all we need to know),
hoping for a light.

Note: The poem above is a bit condensed for an essay, but I think a careful reading will find in it a linear discursive line of reasoning. Language deteriorates when it ceases to provide us a means to communicate what we want to communicate and, in particular, a means of sharing our most important experiences, which, thus becoming difficult to share, to that extent become unreal to us, since much of what makes these experiences (of love or beauty, for example) real is our sense of agreement about them.

Usually when we consider the degeneration of language, we look at the way words once vital have become trite, so that speaking of love, truth or beauty is "truism", stirs no spark of recognition, just tired nods.

In the poem above I look at another sign of degeneration: The strains introduced into language in an attempt to do battle with triteness. For example, where the word "beauty" ceases to induce swoons, perhaps "a terrible beauty" (Yeats) will stir something up. And decade by decade we find more odd and perverse ways to position beauty in hopes of wringing a few more drops of feeling (even if only disgust) out of the word.

When poetry or other verbal expressions rely too much on such efforts, the result is a mere masking of the degeneration, as when, lovers, fallen out of love, keep trying to stir up the embers with crotchless panties, odd sexual positions, adultery, threesomes, orgies, etc., none of which have anything to do with revitalizing the love (based on free-flowing communication) that, by this time, the lovers have ceased to believe could ever have been possible. Being in good communication made sex fun. Trying to force sex to be fun does not engender good communication.

Problems vanish when the lies that hold them in place are spotted. Problems persist in ever more pervasive forms when they are "solved" by a concatenation of desperate gimmicks.

How does this apply to poets and their communications? I have some phrases that mean something to me and perhaps have helped my writing. I don't know whether they'd be of use to others, but here are a few of them:

While part of writing is to write and keep writing and write a lot, it is more important to become someone who has something to say.

I try to look at my reader and talk to him/her (that may be you).

Friday, May 18, 2007

On Resisting Evil

Because the evil have made the trains
run on time, we are wary of efficiency
and accomplish nothing.

Because the evil have misused force,
we hesitate, hoping for miracles.

Because fools have thrown away
their lives for madmen, we imagine
there is nothing worth dying for
and, dying anyway, live in fear.

Because the evil have created
formidable organizations, we dream
of standing alone, swallowing
that swindle (dreamed up by the weak
to subdue the strong) that organization
must be abhorred.

Because the evil seem driven
by destructive purpose, we are
wishywashy, lost, as it were,
in qualifications, lest we be tainted
by zeal.

Because the evil rely on solid stuffy
citizens (who can best be governed
by fear of loss of status) and call them
sane, we think we must be crazy
to be creative, so create only

Because madmen have equated
love of our own country with hatred
of all other countries, we try to love
mankind by despising our country,
as if love of neighbors could grow
from hatred of self.

Nothing is left to us if we try to be
good only by being what evil is not,
nothing but evil itself, which is maybe
a violent effort not to be evil.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Shrinking Creativity

[Note: I'm a bit allergic to "one" as a repeated pronoun and to a lot of "his/her" and "he/she", so I've settled for "he" in most of the following essay on artists (which is loaded with pronouns). I do know that not all artists are male.]

Recently, I tuned in to National Public Radio just in time to hear part of the "Science" hour, where a female psychiatrist was being interviewed about her book on creativity, and we got to hear the psychiatric line on it.

Here are the viewpoints (opinions presented authoritatively as scientific):

1. Creativity is almost entirely an unconscious activity over which the creative person has little control.

2. Creative people don't know what they're going to create when they start to create something. Art just happens. It probably kills creativity to outline the work in advance or otherwise try to exert conscious control over the outcome.

3. Creative people don't create their own work. They all say that it's as if "the muse sat on my shoulder and spoke through me."

4. Based on her acquaintance with many writers in the Iowa School of creative writing (back in the 70s), she has concluded that creative people have a higher than usual incidence of mental illness, both in their family histories and in their own lives. They suffer from "mood instability". She says that the ones she interviewed did not think this mental illness was good for them, that, contrary to the idea of the wild genius relishing his insanity, they all felt that their "mood instability" hindered their work, and said they got their best work done in between bouts of "mood instability." (This seems to me to be a covert argument for drugging them to handle their unwanted "mood instability"--that is, their emotional roller-coaster, which is caused mainly by connection to people who ignore or invalidate their work. And yet, those same drugs -- for example, anti-depressants, are notorious for putting dampers on creativity--including the act of creativity we call "sex.")

I think it important to understand these points, and realize that they are a subtle mixture of lies and truth, and that they ARE pretty much the psych line. Here, roughly, is my take on each of the above points:

1. Creativity is as much a conscious activity as the creator is conscious. Awareness is not the enemy of creativity. Most people have a very dim awareness of their own universes, so have little knowledge, responsibility or control in that area. When in contact with their own universes (their own dreams, hopes, ideas, creations), they are overwhelmed by them as if by some alien invasion of ideas and pictures ("The story just leapt out of me, as if I were taking dictation").

It may seem that being effect of creation, and unconscious of it, is an aid to creativity--they are contacting areas unknown to them; thus it seems unconscious. Yes, when most people try to communicate what comes from their own universes, they are dealing with territory unknown to them. As they know themselves better, the process becomes more conscious and the mastery greater, not less -- because they are more aware of their own universes, less obsessed with the agreed-upon, neutral, no-man's-land we call the physical universe.

2. An outline may be a constriction (I never use an outline), but it may also be helpful as a guide or a barrier--a barrier, can be a challenge. Certainly if the poet sets out to write a sonnet or some "fixed form," the barriers of a particular game (the rules for rhyme and meter or other formal constraints) may aid or hamper creativity, depending on the writer's ability to confront those barriers and use them successfully. It's difficult to write a formal sonnet without knowing one is writing a formal sonnet. And yet some formal works happen to be fine art.

The idea that the creator doesn't know what he will create until he creates it is a half-truth. Obviously creation doesn't occur if what's created is already created, so there's some truth to it: We create what we create when we create it. But that act of creation, when an artist is operating at peak, is instant fullness, perception of richness, permeation, knowing. The thing is there, created at that point (that's my experience). It will change some in the process of writing it down, working out how to translate it from my universe to others' universes (and that, perhaps, is the alteration needed to give an instant creation some persistence--in minds of others, who recreate it. They think they are getting it from me, when actually I'm stirring them to create something; therefore, they've misowned it (attributed to me what is their own), which means it will persist for them too). But there's a tremendous and acute knowingness involved.

[One way we get things to persist is by attributing them to others. If I want to spread a rumor and have it take root, it helps if I attribute it to "everybody" or even to God, our theological everybody.]

If this shrink had interviewed Nabokov (probably the most creative writer in the last century), she'd have heard a different story. I don't have the exact words at hand, but here's how Nabokov described his writing of a novel: He'd write on note cards, which were on a sort of podium, so he could write standing up. He would pace the room, then pause at the podium to fill out a card. He'd put the notes together later (like a mosaic). He said that at the start the entire work was there for him, surrounding him. He said it was as if he were standing inside a huge, beautiful cathedral, perhaps under the dome, but it was dim, only tiny details emerging from the darkness here and there. So his work was a matter of bringing his own creation to light.

In his pacing he felt as if he were viewing the cathedral with a flashlight, catching a detail here, another detail there, writing down each point of glimmer on a note card. But it was his creation from the start, and he knew it was there, created in all its finest details. This is just his particular metaphor and method, not mine, probably not yours. The point is, he always stressed that from the point he created it, the creation was there. The knowingness was senior to the unknownness. He created it, and he worked out (flashlight-view by flashlight-view) what it was he created.

I recall that when I wrote papers in college, I'd have a concept, an involved set of ideas, and I'd have a clear sense of numerous interrelationships and interconnections, but I'd have to go for long walks turning the thing (already there) around in my mind, seeing it from one viewpoint, then another, then turning it back again, incorporating more and more stuff, sometimes for days, before I could sit down and put it all on paper. (I no longer have to do that. I don't need that particular excuse for knowing--or Nabokov's.)

Being effect of his own creation to the point of having little or no idea what he is going to create is as true for an artist as the artist isn't aware of what he's doing. Also this idea that he must be effect confuses the act of creation with the act of communicating the creation, which is a problem of language and compositional technique. The instant of creation, of bringing concepts into being, gives him a sense of a creation having occurred, a wholeness. Dimly or vividly, the artist is aware of that presence, that created wholeness. Crafting it (for example, putting it into words that will stir a comparable act of creation in others) is an act involving additional creation or re-creation, a keeping it in view or keeping in touch with what he has created--at least enough so that he can recognize when he has said it or when he has departed from that creation.

Here's where most artists have some degree of "not-knowing", mystery, feeling that some other force is leading them on, feeling despair if they lose touch with that force, muse, inspiration. But that transcendent force is the artist himself and his own creation. And the more aware the artist is of that act of creation and of the resultant concept, the less the artist feels moved by some cause external to self, and the less the artist feels his grasp of his own creation is tenuous and difficult. Knowingness is not the enemy of creation. (Unknownness of self is the enemy.)

3. The idea that the artist doesn't create his work, that some muse bypasses him, the words going directly from his muse (or inspiration) to the page, is an idea derived from the creator's unawareness of his own universe, or of that universe being his own creation. That unawareness doesn't make him more creative. His attempts to create involve him in unawareness, because they stir up a universe he has forgotten he created, or is creating.

An author doesn't create more alive characters because the characters "go their own way" (as opposed to the author's directing them), but many authors prefer not to be aware of the levels of consciousness at which they are capable of creating life. (As an artist moves up toward personal spiritual freedom, the process simplifies, because he simply creates what he creates. Ability to create life improves.)

4. Of course many creative people have "mood instability." Suppressive persons are always eager to "help" them. Even if no one puts down their art, the frequent lack of an audiences is in itself an invalidation. Plus there's the haunting suspicion that he is dishonest and faking it. (The Iowa "creative" writers seem to me to turn out a lot of work in which all of them seem to speak the same voice.)

In addition, there is the liability of running into past incidents of loss, pain and unconsciousness while working in creative writing classes that encourage writers to dredge up painful experiences, to take on personally (as method actors) the gruesome thoughts and feelings of characters, as in a play, etc. The basis for much creative writing instruction is that something "merely" imagined, as opposed to being dredged up from one's most traumatic experience, will lack "authenticity."

Also there's the push to be critics of their own work long before they've gotten a good flow of writing going. There is the notion that to write well, the writer must experience (be effect of) everything, where "everything" usually means promiscuity, violence, drugs, deliberately immoral behavior; he must be involved in all this to flaunt his "authenticity" as a true artist by living a degraded life, etc.

And then there are the hidden standards: Is my work great? Am I changing the world? Am I doing any good for anyone? These standards are "hidden" because they are undefined and, maybe,undefinable. Greatness -- as the word is used by critics and artists -- is like "obscenity" in the courts: "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." (So pronounced a judge in an obscenity case).

Almost every artist faces, too, the contradiction between the instantaneous acts of creation -- whole worlds created in a flash -- and the slow, grueling work (at first, usually) of getting something well-written or painted or danced. And the still slower development of audience, income, fame. In other words, he creates what should be a huge effect (and is in his own universe, his own dream), then undergoes the enormous invalidation of time-bound, barrier-ridden physical-universe communication lines. The artist lights a bomb and, in the world where we all live, nothing happens or just a dull, distant pop. Or a whimper.

Imagine you have something brilliant and urgent to say to the world, and it's all there and vibrant and alive, but to communicate it, you have to go through a bureaucracy of bored officials, most of whom don't speak your language. It's different if your work is entirely along material communication lines (for example, if you've developed new, improved toilet paper), no dipping into your own universe nor impinging on the native universes of others.

You can live your whole life without ever noticing the communication lags (for example, the time lag between the time you ask a question and the time you receive an answer, or between the time you address a vision to millions of readers and the time when, having received it, they send you their gratitude) of the material universe, because you ARE a communication lag, not aware that you're waiting for an answer, because you are BEING the waiting, being the trap, being human flesh. As soon as you become aware of creation, you begin to suffer from the dominance of a universe that is everyone's agreement--automatic mediocrity.

Also, most creators who persist, feel they have to sell out to have an income-- become, for example, teachers who must toe the academic party lines. In addition, some of the so-called creative people got into that line of work because they couldn't confront producing anything else. It's not that they're creative so much as that they lack the ability to confront business, real estate, bodies, sales work, medicine, objects more solid than notebooks. I don't know how frequent that is, but I can think of many examples, and I suspect it's a little bit true of most. I can certainly see it in myself, not as a major factor, but as a small component: I didn't like being neat, well-dressed. My hair is unruly, and I hate hair oil. I don't like schedules or neckties. I wanted to do something where I could be a slob, and still "get respect." That's not the main thing I wanted from art, but that element is there.

Certainly SOME people turn to the creative professions because they figure it'll be easier and get them out of things they don't want to deal with. Such people, faced with pressures of having to come up with real products and market them, are miserable. They dreamed only of writing the great American novel, after which publishers and audiences would magically appear, as if summoned by the rubbing of Aladdin's lamp.

So the shrinks are right: Many creative people and wanna-be creative people have "mood instability." But that is not inherent in creativity. Creation is JOY. But the artist declines to the degree that he cannot turn his life into creativity: He soars to creativity, then plummets into uncertainty and mundane editing and promotion and marketing, which is depressing, especially when it fails. So the only way to live a creative life without despair is to become more creative in all areas of life, self, family, groups, mankind, plant and animal life forms, life sources, spiritual freedom, the imagining of a relationship to one's concept of infinite freedom--which means becoming more causative in these areas.

In other words, if he creates great work, then spends the night being vicious to his wife and children, using drugs, eating bad food, professing poverty as "proof" that he is a great artist, lamenting the fact that he is unjustly not yet famous, getting drunk over it and being a mean drunk--there is going to be a roller-coaster, or "mood instability."

Once he's become aware of his own universe, how can they keep him down on the materialist farm, tilling brain chemicals for the sacramental brain religion. He has at least to become just a little bit causative about earning a living, having a family, associating with groups, etc. If he uses art (as many do) as justification for having no groups, chaotic love life, poverty, etc., he's going to have problems with "moods." If he use his art--his knowledge of how to create--to lead a creative life, he may notice that all areas of life require continuous creation. He may have failures and occasional ups and downs, but he won't have that heavy contrast between bursts of artistic sublimity and the downward plunge into a tedious, grungy, uncreated life.

Or he can stay on the roller coaster, being an art addict, having his art highs, followed by life lows. He should probably join "Creators Anonymous": Whenever he feels like writing a poem, he calls his 12-step buddy, who talks him out of it. He needs to get past withdrawal symptoms and never touch creativity again, because he can't handle causative creativity. (Poetry lodges, so to speak, in fat cells--must be a brain function; brains are made of fat. He'll need to sweat poetry out, lest he get flashbacks of compulsive creativity.)

The correct handling is to get a life--that is, a Causative Life. Bring life to all areas of existence, expand knowledge and effectiveness. This may require drilling the technology of communication. The wrong thing for the artist to do is to assume that he has a "mental instability," to be corrected by psychiatric drugs and evaluations and labeling.

If, on the other hand, he buys into the psychiatric view (perhaps not recognizing where it comes from), he will probably move in the following directions:

1. Art is unconscious; therefore, it's important to be unconscious, to cultivate drugs and mystery, to experience murky, chaotic sex, to give free reign to "impulses," to ignore discipline, persistence, awareness; to live a corrupt "authentic" life in the underside of decency and reason. This "proves" he is a rebel genius, that destruction is creation, and "proves" that anyone who does not appreciate him is a middle-class philistine pig.

2. The artist never knows what he is creating--and the less awareness he has of what he is doing or where his creations come from, the more he is a true creator. So the way to create is to wait for something to come--sometimes he sits in front of a blank page for weeks, and nothing comes (it's like constipation)--but that's all he can do, other than stir up unconsciousness with a drug, or drink, or some other stimulus that weakens decisiveness, lowers awareness, and "releases inhibitions," so that he feels free to write some form of chaos that he is sure will add up to "great literature."

3. Since he doesn't create his work, but the muse (or inspiration or some higher power) does it all, he is not, as an artist, responsible for the effects he creates. Moreover, since his work comes from a higher power, he, as artist, is God-favored, and above all that other stuff in life. He is superior to others; he can mess up his life and hurt others, but that's okay, because he's an artist.

4. He will expect to be "mentally unstable," because insanity goes with creativity, although it sometimes gets in the way. He will go to a psychiatrist to handle it. He won't handle it by raising his level of responsibility for other people's lives. He won't handle it by taking more control of creation. He will remain pure by knowing nothing. He is an artist, not responsible for creating anything--the muse does it. He rides the spontaneous and unconscious Muse (to oblivion).

If an artist begins with artistic power and craft, he may produce some good stuff on this downhill road, but it will be a rapidly accelerating plunge. And at each downward spiral, it gets more difficult to turn things around. (Ask Brian Wilson what it took for him to get back some fragment of his magic after he escaped his years of psychiatric captivity -- partially escaped, still on a long pharmaceutical leash, limited to the lovely wistfulness of "Pet Sounds".)

The psychiatrist is not the artist's best friend. Why would those who see differently (have their own personal visions) trust the herd of pompous suits who have produced DSM IV, the psychiatric bible that classifies every form of action or feeling or perception that departs from some never-defined norm as "mental illness"?

Artist, find out who you really are before someone sticks you with a trendy, but toxic lie.

Note: I wrote the first version of the above essay over a month ago, aiming at a specialized audience. My thanks to Russell Salamon (old friend, excellent poet, one of the Lost Angels of Southern Cal.), who edited that essay to make it suitable for the general reader, whoever he/she may be. I then gave it a final edit (final so far). Those of you who know Russell's work will be able to spot his phrases instantly.

Opinions of Opinions

Opinions are fun. They give us things to argue about in bars. (Which team is...? Which player is...? What are women all about? Men?) They identify us. We wear them like pin-on name tags. We can be proud of them. Even if we've borrowed them, once we call them ours, they are a source of pride because our opinions are the right opinions because they are ours -- circular logic, but we enjoy traveling in these circles. We consider our opinions good company.

Except sometimes they're not. Sometimes having opinions becomes like reswallowing one's own vomit. We get tired of hearing ourselves say them (especially when someone we're with has heard them 1000 times), tired of thinking them, tired of that tight little circle of words and attitudes, tired of being nothing else. It's a relief to look at something (say a leaf or a puddle or a bottle or the quality of light in a doorway) and notice that it's not an opinion, but a thing one is looking at.

Probably long ago we could create things, say "let there be a universe" and there it would be (and we're still in it!). We seem to have lost that knack (poetry a poor approximation, but still a creation). And from creation, it appears we deteriorate through various stages. For example, long after we feel we can't create, we can still LOOK at creations. We can see, can have considerations (con-sideris, with the stars -- no longer with the Gods as creators, but still pretty high), for example, we can consider it a fine day, and, lo! it's a fine day. And when we no longer believe our considerations have force, we can still have opinions about the weather.

I won't say opinions are the last resort, the final consolation prize for our failure to be gods. We can fall lower, be unable to have an opinion, be only the automatic circuit that mouths the opinions of others, be less than that -- since the blessing and curse of this universe is that there is no bottom. (No top, either.) It's a blessing, because we're never at the bottom. It's a curse because no matter how bad it gets, it can get worse. (That's why we have death -- to disguise that bottomlessness from ourselves. Suicides, poor deluded escape artists, think they've ended something, like the prisoner who spends months of exertion digging a tunnel only to come up in a neighboring cell.)

[I suppose a topless and bottomless universe might be a blessing in another sense as well -- for some of us, anyway -- if the universe is a beautiful woman. Some of us might not mind coming up in a neighboring cell if that woman were there, waiting for us.]

So opinions may be only one station among infinitely many on the way up or down, but it's a popular stop these days. If a man can't create a game (say baseball) and can't play the game, and can't afford to own a team or manage a team, he can still call it HIS favorite team and have millions of opinions about it. Opinions are a kind of ownership. As a dog makes territory his own by pissing at the borders, so we make things our own by having opinions about them: Teams, politicians, wars, places, anything and everything. We even have opinions about God. We defend them -- sometimes violently -- until they become, for us, fact or belief, something we think we know. Not that we can't know things (even God, perhaps), but when knowledge is a solidification of opinion (a conviction), it's vulnerable. One day you know something -- maybe you simply know whatever it is one knows when caught up in the sweetness of a dog's beseeching eyes or the hard eagerness of a cat's. Maybe it's just a moment. You're suddenly aware that you're here and now and that everyone and everything is here and now with you.

Anyway, time is full of holes, and one day you trip into one of them (something falls on your head, and you're knocked flat, and as you come to, you woozily notice, then notice with unfamiliar vividness the way the feet of people walking past move off into space and make the space they walk into -- you notice dimension) -- and suddenly you know something. And when that happens, you know something else: That all your opinionated knowledge is just a paper-thin husk of knowledge. Or the next time you start to tell someone what you KNOW about how Babe Ruth was twice the player Barry Bonds is, you suddenly know that this is not knowing; this is a a torn, dog-eared sepia photo of knowing, something found in a stranger's attic, nobody you've ever known, hard to imagine it was once a someone with a life and people he loved and who loved him.

Another reason why a little knowledge is a dangerous thing: It exposes all our fraudulent knowledge, the memorized data, the assertions, the support of authorities, the argumentative statistics -- it turns much of our life into a weary charade and makes us long for more knowing, even painful knowing.

Opinion as ownership is hollow. We stick our opinions all over the surface of something (the weather, our spouses, our kids, our work) until nothing shows except our opinions. Nothing shows to us, that is, but we also tell our opinions to all, in hopes that they, too, when they look at the weather, people, things, politics, will see only our opinions. That makes our opinions real -- because they are shared. But what we own is this coating of opinions, which prevents us from noticing that what we thus own is an alien thing, all the more alien for being thus owned. For example, when all I know of my wife is my opinion of her, I lose track of the existence of another being with her own dreams, separate from my own.

When we've filled the world with our opinions, seeing only our opinions, we can no longer have opinions about anything BUT opinions. And I think many people live their lives that way, aware of nothing other than their opinions of their opinions.

You come to us as wings to carry us from one subject to another, O pinions, but soon we find we are shackled by you, O pinions.

[Why does "pinion" mean both wing-feather and shackle? Because birds are restricted -- to parks, for example -- by having feathers removed from their wings so they can't fly away, and since "pinions" were removed to restrict motion, the birds are said to be "pinioned", so "pinion" comes to mean that which restricts, and thus the freedom of flight becomes imprisonment, O pinion! But I digress.]

Lest I seem to mock others, let me assure you that I've fallen into this trance of opinions myself and still slip into it at times. Opinions (for me as for most of us, I think) run through my consciousness in endless ostinato (for the musically illiterate -- a musical phrase repeated over and over again by the same instrument or instruments). Many hours I've wasted day-dreaming, not of conquest by sword or phallus, not of leading armies or illuminating kings or capturing criminals, but hours of imagining myself eloquently persuading people of my opinions, being on talk shows, telling the world my opinions, proving to scoffers that Tolstoy is superior to Dostoyevski and Thomas Mann is mediocre, that there haven't been any great songs since the Beatles; proving to a dreamed-up murderer or accuser or woman who left me long ago that I'm a worthy person with profound opinions; finding brilliant things to say to someone who earlier bested me in argument, leaving me and my sacred opinions gaping. I read something I don't like, and hours later find myself (lying in bed, trying to sleep) working over my opinions, my wonderful opinions on the subject -- who could fail to agree with such wonderful opinions!? I wake up still chewing on these now sour opinions.

Go ahead, just ask me, ask me about anything, but please ask me! Ask me what I think of the Iraq war (I'll come at it from 10 viewpoints and tie it all together for you) or homosexuality (they're all wrong about it, all sides are missing the point) or God or.... Hell, am I the only one who has his own internal muttering (though brilliant) bag lady 24/7? Reminds me of a great line from one of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems: "The taste of me I could not spit out."

But I exaggerate. I'm not grinding out opinions 24/7. There is respite. More and more there is respite, whole minutes devoid of these sticky critters and whole days where opinions (traveling in their pastel schools, each school a mob of identically-pouting faces) drift in and out of my coral reef, but do not touch me (hanging there, floating).

I find it's a great relief not to have opinions, not to HAVE to have opinions. I begin to own things by looking. I simply look or touch or otherwise perceive what is there. After all, when you own territory by pissing on it, what you own smells of piss. How refreshing -- a world that doesn't have my stench, isn't sodden and sticky with my mastication of it, like a dog's chewy rawhide toy.

And at times it becomes a wondrous thing to me, the eagerness with which people leap to have opinions, swarm about call-in talk show phones like sharks around blooded bait. I wonder, how is it these people want to have opinions about things that don't concern them? After all, there are times when we NEED to have opinions. For example someone says, "What do you think of [this poem? going to a certain restaurant tonight? that movie?]" and politeness demands we come up with something. Or we're asked to be judges, or at work we're asked to report on "options" and recommend a course of action.

And having sampled knowledge, one may begin to find such duties onerous. How do you get us back on opinion, once we've seen some truth? But most of us manage. We may even be able to make a game of it. And sometimes, just for the fun of it, we may jump in (one night at a cocktail party) with an outrageous opinion. And if we get rebuffed stingingly, we may find ourselves, in bed that night, doing a play-by-play and formulating an invincible opinion -- trapped again, having to unstick ourselves again.

E-mail is the latest opinion trap. I see a message that seems to be MADE to provide me an outlet for my vast and convoluted wisdom. I spend hours answering it, finally send it, notice that I've done none of the things I needed to get done today -- and today is gone! And gradually (with frequent recidivism) I wean myself from this intoxication of opinion and learn to go through 50 or 60 messages I don't need to answer without...without answering them. And when I find myself forming opinions, I remind myself that I DON'T HAVE TO HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT THIS, and what a relief! There is so MUCH about which I don't need to have an opinion. I can even not know things.

That's one of the sweetest siren songs of Opinion: Not knowing is dangerous. One must know. One can't live not knowing if going to war will be a terrible thing or not, without knowing which candidate is the best, without knowing if terrorists will strike here again, without knowing if Global Warming is for real or not, without knowning who was the greatest, Ruth or Cobb? Jordan or Chamberlain? Who was worse, Stalin or Hitler? Eventually (in this mood) there's hardly anything one is willing to not-know. We become like the compulsive gambler who must bet on everything. "Hey, see that guy tying his shoe? $10 bucks says he knots the bow twice." "See those leaves falling? A dollar says that one there lands first."

Opinion is our way of knowing things we don't know. But I said that before.

So when I can let go of having opinions, I can dispense with having to know, another great relief. And it puts me closer to knowing. Not so paradoxical: The false knowing we call opinion is out of the way. Now I know what I don't know, so I can LOOK. Or better, I can pervade, get into, become intimate with, practically BE that which I would know.

Not that I have to know. But my ability to know rises as I shed my opinions -- or rather my need to have them. I can still have them. It's fun to have opinions when you don't have to have them. What? You think all opinions are bad? Nonsense, you don't get it, let me explain, it's really simple, you see, opinions are fun. They give us things to argue about in bars....

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Opening Up Again

I've missed a lot of spring (and a few years, it seems, of springs, summers, winters, autumns) sitting in a dark room answering and originating e-mails. This spring I've started taking walks. Last week I took a long one, much of it along wooded paths, dappled with light and shade and flitting bird shadows, bird song, squirrel rustles and all the other familiar props.

It began to get to me (or I to it). I liked the world a lot. Loved it. Started to talk to it.

I realized some things I'd always known, corny things, of course: That wishes come true, that our thoughts and feelings make things happen. I noticed something a bit less obvious (though, really, it's another way of saying that wishes come true): When I get too involved with trying to do the right things, with trying to understand what is happening to the world, what chaos is being wrought in it, when I badly want to do something about the wrongnesses I see --

[the possible destructon of the planetary food supply by genetically modification, the glut of mind-and-liver-and-nervous-system-destroying FDA-approved drugs (particularly those prescribed for non-existent mental "illnesses"), a population sapped by artificial sweeteners -- as if sugar weren't bad enough... -- OK, maybe some of these aren't real to you, but you can probably list your own bete noires] --

but the wrongnesses seem overwhelming, and the few things I think of doing (e.g., signing petitions and writing letters to Congresspersons who depend on the designated villains for their campaign funds) seem futile, and even these futilities pile up in my in-box, as I fall behind and neglect my own production (poetry),

and I begin to feel desperate, start to daydream of solutions, huge effects I might create, though I know the dreams are stupid (what do I know about blowing up things, and wouldn't the consequences be heavy oppression and a scarier world?),

but as I walked through the woods and felt a renewed love for our planet and you and even for myself, I realized the trap I'd gotten into, and it vanished -- at least it's gone right now.

What happened is that as I walked I realized that it does the world some good to love it, even lessens the likelihood that some of its denizens will need to resort to psychiatric drugs or feel impelled to muliply their billions by further poisoning us. Affinity creates a space for people to be themselves, be people of good will. My small wave of affinity created a small increment of the space for good will, and lots of us create vast spaces for it.

When I get locked into desperation, I lose faith in the value of creating small effects. Worse, I don't see them anymore. I don't see that my dreams are affecting others. I go blind to this, so think I need to create huge effects. And that need leads to despair.

This is what happens to most artists at some point: The need to produce only GREAT and MIND-BLOWING art renders them mute, unable to create. One man struggles in vain to create an effect on others by leaping about, waving his arms and screaming obscenities. Another man has greater impingement, though all he did was listen to someone and acknowledge or smile, in passing, at the beauty of a child or a cat. The one screaming can't conceive of creating any worthwhile effect simply by admiring beauty -- and CAN'T admire it because he can't RECEIVE that small effect. Not only does he not feel he's created an effect unless he can create a huge effect (like blowing up a planet -- in an extreme case), but since he can no longer perceive any small effects, he can't experience them: He can't feel, because only huge overwhelming feelings can touch him, or so he thinks. He must push sex toward violence, for example. An extreme case would be the serial killer who can't be turned on by anything less than murdering and mutilating -- and in time that fails him, so he tries to find greater outrages.

I know of people -- GOOD people, eager to help others, aware of ways to help, willing to work at it, able to lead others -- who get caught up in this despair of small effects and lose the ability to feel. They still pursue their goals, lead movements, hide their despair behind masks of calm certainty, but have lost their own dreams because they no longer know that small effects are significant -- perhaps are not even small. They MUST save the planet, CAN'T save the planet, become obsessed with visions of mad, violent, revolutionary chaos, fight the visions down (usually), and are locked in combat with themselves, unable to spare a nano-erg of energy for attention, much less admiration.

I'm not saying one should always be satisfied with creating small effects, never strive for larger games, greater scope of action. But I'd say that the ability to create large effects derives from an ability to create and appreciate the small effects. If you can't care for the ones you're with, your large-scale actions will be tainted by desperation. The world you strive to save will be an abstract world with no live beings in it, only symbols.

Another thing I'm not saying (actually I'm not saying practically everything) is that the path to creating a better world begins with the ability to take a walk and fall in love with the world we have, because for many people that's too difficult. There are easier steps on the path. For some people, perhaps a first step would be to notice that one exists and not get nauseated by noticing this. There is no bottom to awareness, no bottom to dreams. Even the stones are dreaming, but are so caught up in the frantic random criss-crossed zinging and twitching of their molecules, that their e0ns-long dreams are never completed, never blossom as what we'd call awareness. They cannot dream themselves awake.

I believe that wishes, prayers, dreams all work. We always get what we often don't realize we want. When we wish against our own wishes, things get complicated. When we get simple enough and aligned with ourselves enough, we no longer have wishes. We have, instead, decisions. We decide what sort of world we want, and we put it there. Except when we're real good at it (fast-draw artists), the deciding and the putting it there aren't separable. That must be why, when I feel most in love with the world and everything in it, I feel so quick. The quick and the dead. Quick, yare, ready, responsive, perceptive -- these are things that go together well.

I wrote this quickly, made the phrases tumble over one another, piled up the commas -- that's how a spring day came upon me last week and has been with me since. Sorry I haven't offered you much talk of sun and cloud and buds, etc. It would be nice to do it all and give you that day, but you can make your own. I hope I've created a small effect here.

I have.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

On Seeking God

He thought it would be fun
to play hide and seek. These were
simpler times, when his only playmate
was God. "God," he said, "you hide,
and I’ll try to find you." He covered his eyes
with his hands and counted for a long time
(and in those days, a long time
was a real long time), but when he opened his eyes,
God was still everywhere,
in plain view, which spoiled the fun.

He said, "No no no, you’ve got to HIDE,
get it?" (God has always been a rather
difficult child. We used to know that.
It didn’t bother us. We thought that was
how it was supposed to be.)

So this time, he counted...and counted
like forever – more like forever
than what passes for forever these days.
But when he opened his eyes, there was
God, the big goof, as obvious as an ostrich’s ass,
except more so, since God didn’t even
turn away from man, much less hide his head.

So he said to God, "OK, I see this is
difficult for you, sort of like ceasing
to be Yourself, so let’s turn it around: I’ll hide,
and You come find me. Don’t forget
to count...", and he looked for a good hiding place,
but where can you hide when everywhere is God,
nowhere to hide but within God? How could he not
be found instantly? But he had a bright idea:
He would simply not be there. He’d be elsewhere
or nowhere at all. He simply wouldn’t be,
just go dead, unconscious, oblivious, unfindable,
so that’s what he did, and God couldn’t find him,
and, he noticed, he couldn’t find God either – if there was
a God, and if there was himself, for that matter – he couldn’t
find himself either and couldn’t recall what the hypothetical-he
had been looking for.

That worked fine, except the game was no longer
a game, since it had no ending (so far).
And from then on something, perhaps a trace of himself,
sought himself, occasionally, in the process, catching a glimpse
of divinity, or sought divinity, occasionally catching
a fleeting glimpse of himself.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Disappearance of the Bees

We've had beautiful weather (in DC area) the past 4 days, so I've gotten out in it. For three days I didn't see a single bee or butterfly or moth (late April!). Maybe it's partly the unseasonable cold April in recent weeks, but having read various Internet articles about the vanishing of honey bees (estimates running from 50% to far more of the adult bees leaving their hives and not returning, their fates unknown), I lay in bed last night creating lots of bees -- lots of insects, but especially bees, visualizing them bumbling about blossoms, crowding into their hives ("do a little dance -- get down tonight!"), boiling out from a hole in the rocks, swarming, darting about -- generating a lot of affinity for them, a space for them. I created butterflies, too (some of them also pollinate our plants), starting with the "easy" ones, the white cabbage butterflies (or are they moths?), with one or two viceroys and monarchs.

So while jogging today (for an hour, all of it in a suburbia filled with blossoming trees) I saw ONE (count it, one!) bee and, not far away, one modest white butterfly. Well, it's a start.

The articles on the bees said that they're required for about 70% of our fruit/vegetable diet. I don't recall them mentioning whether this disappearance of bees is just in the U.S. or in other nations as well. (Of course, B's have been disappearing in colleges gradually for decades as the Self-Esteem doctrines increasingly dictate that everyone must receive an A.)

I think we're going to have to put out a lot of love for bees, all of us -- you've been stung? Get over it! We need these guys. And they're wonderful creatures: They don't eat other creatures. They trade pollination service with flowers for the stuff of honey, which they also share with us. Free trade exemplars. (I suppose you could call them pimps for flowers. I prefer to think of them as the third sex of flowers.)

I suppose they aren't popular with ardent Women's Libbers. All the work of the hive is done by sterile females (the worker bees). The males (drones) have as their fulltime occupation keeping the queen pregnant. The queen has as her fulltime occupation (after she's fought to the death with other potential queens to be THE queen) getting laid and laying eggs. Hardly a lesson in sexual equality.

Anyway, even if you don't care to consume honey, if you like flowers and vegetables, you should put out a postulate for the return of our honeybees. (Note: Besides the one bee I saw today, I've also seen a couple bumblebees in the last two weeks. The one today was the first regular honeybee I've seen.)

Meanwhile, I've decided to make some predictions about this honeybee shortage and how it will be "handled" (if we fail to postulate them back into our lives):

Articles about the shortage of honey bees will creep slowly into the back pages of newspapers, but won't make it to the front pages until accompanied by news of "studies" by prestigious universities that trace the problem to a virus. The studies will be funded by companies like Monsanto (manufacturers of insecticides and genetically modified crops) or by their front groups (foundations, etc.). Probably the virus will be something that's been around for a long time, and will be said to be a new variant. The evidence won't be stunning, but a big deal will be made of it, and some new Monsanto of pharmaceutical product will be offered as a solution. The possibility that insecticides or GM plants may have something to do with it will not be mentioned or, when brought up, be dismissed as improbable. No one will ask whether such factors might have lowered the immune systems of bees and made them more susceptible to viruses or why no such virus had wiped out our bees before.

The government will be asked to fund a handling. Various handlings will be suggested. To make up for the honey shortage, the people who produce Splenda, Equal and other artificial sweeteners will come up with artificial honey, golden yellow, better than bee honey, vitamin fortified NutraSweet syrup, etc. (Maybe the sugar people will do the same -- if the sugar beets and sugar cane can do without bee pollination.)

Perhaps we'll open the borders wide for Mexican laborers, millions of them, who will receive less-than-minimum wages to swarm through our fields with Q-Tips, cross pollinating plants by hand. (That could be done, right?)

Monsanto will produce genetically modified bees that can resist the virus (but whose honey will cause liver disease and whose swarms will tend, on occasion, to turn into killer bees for reasons unfathomable). Or perhaps Monsanto will produce all sorts of food-crop seeds genetically altered (by adding genetic material from teen-aged boys) so that their flowers will self-pollinate. We'll be eating nothing but "West Virginian" fruits and vegetables. (No insects? Try incest! Same letters.)

Or perhaps killer bees will move up from South America to fill the vacated niche in our warming ecology, and Lilly will produce a drugged gas for rendering them less hostile (except when it sends them on savage killing sprees), while tincturing their honey (they do make honey, don't they?) with the same chemical, which will give the honey a calming effect on humans (except when it sends them on savage killing sprees).

Or perhaps in some areas most food crops will become rare, and we'll see a reversal of the vegetarian move to replace steak with eggplant and soy substitutes. Vegetable lovers will be offered, instead, brocolli and beans made from cow fat and various chemicals. Etc. (But what will cows eat?)

Essay by Dean Blehert