Monday, March 2, 2015

World Religions

I read a book once,
an encyclopedia
of the religions of the world.
It didn't mention my religion;
I must not exist in the world.
So while I'm floating in space
or something,
don't forget me.
I'm around,
looking for a way.
I think I'm alive.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Something Bigger

I should never feel comfortable with where I am.  I should always try for something bigger.  But what does that mean?  I recently spent a Sunday working in my church's nursery.  I sat on the floor.  I played with toys.  The little kids played with me.  I was more or less another toy to them.  At that moment I was happy.  At that moment I felt the closest I have in years to breaking through, to no longer being captive to anxiety.  At that moment I was in the moment.  Was that something bigger?

I see grand things in my future.  I always have, even in the depths of self-loathing, even in my learned helplessness.  The problem is I keep looking for some magic to put together the pieces.  I don't easily make or follow my own rules.  I can't do steps.  I see the pieces, I see the final machine, but I can't make the machine out of those pieces.  The work doesn't scare me; the certainty of failure does, even though I know somewhere in my mind that failures inevitably precede success.

I'm trying to slow down, to train my mind to focus on where it is instead of where it has been or should be or will be.  I'm in the process of moving to my own little apartment on a small farm in a neighboring town.  I will rake leaves and pick apples and plant seedlings.  I will write.  I will be aware of what I'm writing.  I will be aware of what I'm writing here and now.  I will be aware of the raking, the picking, the planting, here and now.  I will be aware of the art, the music, the cranes, the geese, the wind, the water, the horses, the coyotes, the brush, the trees, the mountains, here and now.  I will be aware of sleeping, waking, walking, sitting, breathing, eating, bathing, dressing, cleaning, here and now.  I will be aware of what I read (in the present tense) more than what I'm reading.  I will be aware of what I sense more than what I'm sensing.  I will be aware of myself.  Here and now.  And maybe, just maybe, these little pieces will fit together, will form my something bigger.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Gratitude

"He didn't want to feel grateful--gratitude was like a handcuff which only the captor could release."
-from Monsignor Quixote, by Graham Greene


I've been doing this occasional series of posts I call, with a mix of sincerity and a little sarcasm, "Virtues."  I've only informed you of this fact once, but I think you can fairly easily figure out which of my posts I consider part of this series.  Here's one.

This is a tough one.  How can you feel grateful when you feel more pain than love, when people do a nice thing and, "like a handcuff," won't release you?  What if they think that you should be eternally grateful for some minor thing they've done for you?  What if a sincere "thank you" isn't enough?

Well, thank them anyway.  Feel grateful anyway.  Even if they never thank you for the kindnesses shown them.  Even if they backbite and gossip.  OK, so I'm telling you to do something I have a tough time doing myself.  Let's try anyway, shall we?

I'm not the type who does things to be seen doing them.  I'm not trying to say this makes me great.  It just makes me uncomfortable to direct any attention towards myself when I'm being the non-performing, "real" me.  I like helping people, and most of the time I'd rather not receive credit.  However, I don't take well to people calling me lazy or self-centered, either.  I've had one person tell me that I should point out every single time I do something nice for others, that it makes the other person feel good to know that I, in particular, have shown him or her some little act of kindness.  There might be a little truth there.  I don't know.  And maybe I do good deeds less openly, in part, to prevent others from thinking of me as someone who would help them out at what is, for me, an inconvenient time.  It's more complicated than it might seem to be on the surface, but I can't see myself changing, and I don't know that I need to change.  I think I'll just keep doing what I do, for now.

Do I shy away from the obligation to feel grateful, though?  Do I avoid people in part because I don't want to feel the cuffs of gratitude?  I know I'm uncomfortable when kindness is shown towards me.  I know I don't quite know how to react beyond saying, "Thank you."  But I like to feel loved.  I like for my birthday to be remembered.  I like to feel that there are other people whose lives would be affected, on a regular basis, by whether I'm alive or dead.  That may sound a bit harsh, or it may seem that I have a woe-is-me attitude, but I think most everyone likes to feel that they have that level of value to at least one person.

Gratitude is good, to simplify it.  However, the doer of the good deed gets more out of the act than the receiver.  We should feel grateful for the opportunity to give a little bit of ourselves to friends or strangers.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Year 2014

Yet another year of stuff happening.  None of it was particularly interesting, but I'm going to talk about it anyway.

World Stuff
  • The San Antonio Spurs win the NBA Finals!  It's been too long, but here's #5.
  • Stuff goes down in Crimea.
  • Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II are made saints.  Good for them.
  • The UN declares 2014 the "International Year of Crystallography."  International crystallographers are thrilled.
  • The FIFA World Cup is won by, I want to say, Swaziland?
  • The Winter Olympics takes place, briefly reminding the world that there's something called "short track speed skating."
  • Олександр Турчинов becomes acting President of Ukraine, after Віктор Янукович is removed from office.  Так.
  • Philae detaches from Rosetta and lands on 67P.  This is actually fairly important.
  • Americans become aware of the horrific actions of ISIS/ISIL, which now controls much of Iraq and Syria.  ISIL derives from a group affiliated with al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda derives from the Mujaheddin.  The Mujaheddin were formed to fight the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.  They could afford to wage war against the Soviet Union because they were funded by the United States.  The US tends to create its own problems.  Fortunately, history always shows that we learn from our mistakes.

People Stuff
  • George Wortley, George Guerieri, George Bornemissza, Georgy Adelson-Velsky, Jorge Zavala, George Hilton, George Downton, Jorge Arvizu, George Kohut, George McDonald, George Scott, Jorge Jottar, George Hansen, George Digby, Georges Delahaie, George Radwanski, Hans-Georg Bohle, George Sluizer, George Savage, George Herbert Swift, Jr., Sir George Christie, George Coates, George Dement, Giorgio Stracquadanio, George Bookasta, George Dureau, George Burton, Jorge Romo, George Kline, George Francis, Georgi Milanov, Georgette Rejewski, George Munroe, George Little, George Zuverink, George Spencer, George Hamilton IV, Georgy Ragozin, George Heilmeier, Louis George, Georgi Slavkov, George Roberts, George Shuba, Jorge Polaco, George Shuffler, George Goodman, George Nicholaw,  Giorgio Gaslini, George McCague, George Freese, Georgina Henry, Georges Hamel, Georg Stollenwerk, George Anastaplo, Jorge Obeid, George Lenne, Georgy Martyniuk, George Modelski, George Lerchen, George Armelagos, George Decker, Georges Lamia, George Ho, Jurij Gustinčič, George Morrison, Giorgio Faletti, George Moore, Jorge Jacobson, George Lyle Ashe, György Lázár, George Linton, Giorgio Rebuffi, Jorge María Mejía, George Ardisson, Georges Lagrange, George Fisher, George Miller, George Fitch, and Angalifu die.
  • George Washington Carver, George Washington, George Frideric Handel, George Halas, Georg Ohm, George Wallace, George I, George III, Giorgio Basta, George II, Georg Cantor, George IV, George V, Saint George, George Carlin, George C. Scott, George Eliot, Georges Sand, Jorge Luis Borges, George VI, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, George Gershwin, Georgia O'Keefe, George Jones, George Bernard Shaw, George Berkeley, George Patton, George Harrison, Georges Bizet, David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, George Burns, George Pullman, George Dewey, George Fox, and George McLellan are also dead.
  • Giorgio Armani, George Michael, Boy George, George Foreman, George Foreman, Jr., George Foreman III, George Foreman IV, George Foreman V, George Foreman VI, Georgetta Foreman, George Clooney, George Mitchell, George Karl, George Papandreou, George Lucas, George Pataki, George Takei, George Gervin, Paul George, Eddie George, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, George Clinton, and Jorge Bergoglio are not dead.

Me Stuff
  • I write some.
  • I read some.
  • I make some changes.
  • I lose a lot of weight.
  • I move to Albuquerque.
  • Albuquerque's in New Mexico.
  • New Mexico's in America.
  • I learn some.
  • I forget some.
  • I love some.
  • I get angry some.
  • I find out that I'm actually not that bad a person.
  • Who knew?

All Remaining Stuff
  • The earth makes one more trip around the sun.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Procrastination

Whatever you think is important isn't, in the grand scheme of things.  It matters little what you do, but you do it anyway, because it might just affect you or someone you either care about or desire something from.  Or sometimes you mean to do it, really, sincerely, but forces outside you (not you yourself, of course) prevent it from getting done.  Or you feel your mind breaking as you do it, so you do other things that are suddenly, impossibly urgent, giving you a sense of accomplishment that quickly dissipates as the thing again rises from the depths.

But the thing's really not a big deal, though, so why bother with it?  If you put a thing off long enough, you won't have to worry about it, because the thing will resolve itself in one of the following ways:
  1. The thing doesn't really need to be done, so no one notices that the thing isn't done.
  2. The thing happens to not be dependent upon you, so the thing gets done despite your inaction.
  3. The other party to the thing, the one expecting something of you, just gives up on you.
  4. You end up royally screwed, but you can always put off fixing the new thing.
  5. The earth is swallowed by a black hole, putting an end to all things.



Motivation is key.  The labor you put into a project has to be justified by the outcome.  I write, but few people read what I write, a few get upset by what I write, a few disregard what I write, most don't care what I write, so why do I bother announcing myself as a writer?  Why do I slog through perfectionism and self-doubt, blocks and headaches, just to be ignored in the end?  Superficially, there doesn't seem to be much of a reason.  I'll occasionally, very occasionally, get meaningful feedback from readers, which is greatly appreciated but not enough to keep me going.

I write for me almost all the time.  I try to write something I'd like if I revisited it months or years later.  That's the motivation behind this blog, and that's the motivation behind the fruitless attempts at writing my novel.  And here is where my writing process fails.  I know what issues I want my book to address, I know the key characters, I have in my mind a general plot outline, but my mind is too full.  I'm ready for the hard work required, but I'm frustrated by the lack of an immediate outcome.

That's the dark side of this blog.  It becomes the suddenly, impossibly urgent thing that needs to be done, while my novel is neglected.  These posts take work, and they deal with issues that are important to me, but my efforts might be better directed towards achieving my most immediate professional goal, that of producing something publishable, something that will tell a complete story, something that I'll like well enough as I read and reread it.  Oh, and something that might just make me some money, if I'm lucky.

The way to write is to write.  The way to write what you want to write is to ignore all distractions and be patient enough to hate yourself as your process emerges.  Sometimes it's best to procrastinate your procrastination.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Go To Sleep, Dammit!

My housemate has a friend visiting from Arizona for Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is over.  She's the widow of his best friend, and they've known each other since their youth.  They haven't seen each other in many years, but they've talked.  They aren't young now.  They haven't stopped talking.  I can't not hear them from my bedroom.  They're drunk and still drinking, discussing deep matters while watching Snakes on a Plane.  It starts as a loud slur on the arts, how he can use a piano to make the sound of wine bottles falling in a wastebasket, how she wants to take a painting from the wall to incorporate into her weaving.  It progresses, and her head's on his lap while they ramble about their past relationships, his sexual loyalty, her attractiveness, where their relationship goes from here, the value of their creations.  Cheap wine and vodka make nonsense sensical.  They're going to his bedroom.  I'm thankful for desperation.  Now the house is quiet.  They're lonely in there.  Can't they find somewhere else to be lonely?  Can't they be lonely apart?  I'm lonely, and I don't keep others awake with my gibberish.  Instead I share it with you, to be read at your leisure.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Because the Cheese

Because the free cheese
kept him from rotting,
because the cheese
was unbearably bland,
because the cheese
cramped his bowels,
because he had nowhere to go
but his spot in the trees
because of those who kept him 
in the corners of their eyes,
because he had no choice
but to join the line,
because he depended on the cheese,
for he could not live on bread alone,
he broke.