Sunday, November 29, 2009


When Lynda and Michael Sexson organized “Logon ‘83” I was circuit-riding through Montana and didn’t own a computer but had worked on one at the U of Chicago Law School, transcribing. The name of the conference was a pun, of course, since one “logged on” to a computer and the Internet and “logon” relates to reason, order, word as in the Christian theological word, logos. Lynda teaches religion and Michael teaches English. The conference, anchored in the computer, was both inspired and enabled by their national circle of friends, which was remarkably eclectic and at the same time in harmony.

I’m still looking for my notes, which I’m sure I saved somewhere, but I’ll draw on my memory for this informal post. One of the speakers was the inventor of a counseling program, very Rogerian, which said, “Would you tell me more about that? How does your memory of your mother relate to this? Do you think that’s unique?” The psychologist inventor was chagrined to discover that his own secretary was sneaking into his office while he was gone so she could be counseled by his machine.

It was a summer conference and the temps were hot, along with the local feminist movement. One session became so inflamed that it looked like violence until Michael, who was “enabling” the session, mildly suggested that we all go have a cold beer and that was enough to break up the deadlock. I can’t even remember what had everyone so wrought up.

I wish I could remember more of the sessions, which created categories in my mind that have never failed me since. One of the most potent was Thomas Moore (who has written MANY books and maintains a website at whose session was about our tendency to anthropomorphize our instruments, from the ventroquist’s dummy like Mortimer Snerd to guns like “Ol’ Betsy” to, of course, computers -- like Hal. And now, 25 years later, it appears that Hal-like computers can think for themselves. (Shudder.) They don't just counsel -- they fly airplanes.

In addition to Thomas Moore speaking, he taught a class on dream interpretation and I was kindly allowed to audit since the Sexsons were technically part of the Bozeman UU Fellowship and therefore my parishioners. The class was so desirable that it had been closed early and the room was crammed. Two attendees were party crashers.

These two boys were still trying to understand the great Counter Cultural wave in this country and their own interior lives as well. They were college age, but not college students, I think. They had not paid the fee to register. They had a dream they wanted to present for interpretation. As nearly as I remember, it was about driving an endless road and running over a snake which deflated with a long hissing sound. Innocents, they had not understood the phallic connection to snakes or even journey-as-life. They were still unraveling “Star Wars,” (1977) just finding out that there were other religions besides Christianity. I suspect some girl had told them about Joe Campbell and even fished out of her backpack a copy of one of his books, which is how books got around in those days. (“I’m Okay; You’re Okay” traveled in backpacks as an unpublished manuscript for years, gradually losing its outer leaves.)

Thomas Moore carefully and kindly guided them through free association: what snakes were there in their lives? What did the highway mean to them? As this whole new world opened up to these boys, their mouths hung open in astonishment. Others among us smiled smugly. Then the door burst open and in came the female registrar on the prod. She gave those two boys the hook -- they were outta there in a hurry -- and the class was aghast! We were all liberals, tolerant, inclusive, and so on.

So then Thomas Moore treated the occasion as if it were a dream. It DID have its surreal elements, so sudden and such a change in mood. What did we think of when we considered authority figures? What does it mean to limit a group? (There’s a whole body of scholarly comment on “fencing the Communion,” which the early Christians did -- only allowing baptized people to take the bread and wine.)

All of a sudden we realized that EVERYTHING is metaphorical, everything has both a personal history and a larger history plus relationship to old and deep patterning. And that much of the work of consciousness is bringing up some of that while maybe suppressing other elements we’re not ready to handle.

Tim and Cinematheque are beginning to do dream work, which is about all these things, because the antiretroviral called Sustiva causes over-vivid dreams, nightmares, and the temptation for the guys is to just evade them by not taking the drug, but it is one of the few drugs that can get into the brain. Maybe the “only.” Tim’s thought is that doing dream work -- not the way my mother used to with her gypsy meaning book on her nightstand -- it mostly dealt in reversals -- but personally and specifically with each guy trying to recover his dream on video. This turns something uncontrollable and mysterious that grips a vulnerable person into something that can be objectified and even aestheticized. Made into an art work. Shared. Even sold, because these drugs cost like hell, which is part of the nightmare. Even nightmares can become part of the healing instead of more of the affliction.

So I went looking on the Internet for Thomas Moore and there he was, sturdy and gentle and unafraid of guys at risk with compromised life-paths far worse than driving over snakes. He sent me an email and now I see he’s a community. I’m waiting to be admitted to the forum list.

Lynda and Michael Sexson are still professors in Bozeman and just published two things. One is a video about historical children’s books, like primers, (stand by for a review as soon as I get the DVD) and the other is a revival of “Corona,” which was a literary magazine they edited decades ago. Now it is an $80 “box” that includes things like a little figure made of mud from Arlo Skari’s daughter’s ranch and her article about it. I say it in that roundabout way because Arlo Skari has traveled with the UU community and is a staunch guardian of the Sweetgrass Hills where the stone dreambeds of the ancient Blackfeet still exist. The box contains a number of articles uniquely printed and the expensiveness comes in part from having to hand-pack each box. This is where I’ve predicted that “books” will go post-codex, freed up by the eRevolution. Humanities Montana pays no attention to all this stuff, except they did make a grant. They’d rather stay in Missoula on the safe side of the Rockies.


Lance Michael Foster said...

The part on anthropomorphizing of the inanimate-- you might like to check out the post "The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon"--

I do agree that books vs electronic formats are in flux of course. I remember I made a little river mud mask I gave to Roger Dunsmore back in the 80s when our Wilderness and Civilization class went canoeing down the Missouri for a week.

Although obviously I really enjoy the e-world, and it empowers the voices to be able to find outlet, I am still troubled with the longevity issue--

So much of our history and culture is only online anymore. I know people talk a lot about electronic archiving, but there are major problems with that, which I am sure you know already.

Editor said...

Hi Mary,
Welcome to Barque: Thomas Moore Forum at You're in! Thanks for the description of Logon '83. I enjoy reading Lynda Sexson's Ordinarily Sacred.