Sunday, December 20, 2015



Free associating on the Sunday morning before Christmas, though Christmas has very little to do with it.  An open winter.  This morning is bright, as has been promised for a week without arriving.  The occasional thud of a car door as the Baptists arrive at their church next to me.  Cats were up at 5AM in the dark wanting food, which I should not have provided because now they’ll be up at the same time every day.  It works in the summer.

The Striped Terror rather likes the maternal vibe of Crackers and slips up to bury his nose in her yellow fur, but the old duchess hisses hard to drive him off.  Still, she lets him be close.  And then comes the Dust Bunny, who has a big crush on the Striped Terror though he’s only half as big, and he wraps himself around Stripes in a hug as wide as he can manage.  Until I stick my head out, which freaks him so much he bails over the footboard and crashes to the floor.  He’ll be back.  Meanwhile Squibbie sleeps in dignity under the cat warming light bulb out by the computer.

The Striped Terror restraining the Dust Bunny.  Sorta.

I’ll try Gendlin’s “Focusing” technique, imagining an attic or a threshing floor where one can identify issues and put them aside to clear a space for something important.  It turns out this is actually how the brain works, except it’s impossible to understand without metaphors like floors and crates and boxes.  “The Working Platform” they sometimes call it.  I won’t number the issues I’m pushing aside because then you might consider them “listicles,” and they’re not.  They are true concerns.

A pressing issue is “infrastructure”, both physical like the sewers and power poles and political like the deterioration of prior assumptions and arrangements about reservations and small towns.  Reservations cannot now be as separate as intended when they were so different that they were still adjusting to horses -- very successfully.  But they can’t just be thrown in with everyone else without losing their identity and their rights.  Small towns were once organically generated when there were enough people to need services like stores, schools, churches and police.  But now that the numbers are sinking, we’re in an awkward place.  Put that crate over there.

The transition between “things” that are assumed to be self-contained units, including people, and related to each other mostly by confrontation and domination, have given way to reconsiderations of everything from boundary to core in terms of continuums.  Gender, for instance, has escaped cultural polarizing into “male” vs. “female,” so that now “we” (educated Westerners) see sexuality as fluid, responsive to environment, and self-determined -- with the physicality coming along however possible, even with the help of surgery or molecular intervention (hormones).

Why isn’t this also true with identity in general?  As a culture we’ve always been interested in multiple personalities, not just differences in presentation in order to adapt to a situation, but actual organized “persons” with names and styles, sometimes forming a kind of family in which the stronger protect the weaker and the wicked tease the virtuous.  What if all this theatrical role-inhabiting were seen as variations in a natural spectrum or continuum of “persons” depending on the connectome of identities in the brain, a sliding scale.  It becomes clearer and clearer that identity is not one permanent named entity (ID-entity) but that everyone reassembles their identity all the time, because so much of identity is in relationship to something outside themselves: weather, work, friends, travel, reading, political coups, war, disease, falling in love, inheriting money, having a baby . . .  It’s scary to think of a person having no center -- surely they must have something that corresponds to the “spine” of a character in a play.  But what if they are jellyfish, drifting.  Jelly persons.

I suspect that jelly persons read in search of a spine.  They want arousal (the unification of energy, the focus of attention and purpose, the increase in awareness) and they want enlightenment. (What has been missing?  How do things work? Is there really anything transcendent?)  Life is a streaming event, a process, so we want to get the flow going and according to the research of Csikszentmihalyi that means doing things at one’s limits -- not beyond them, but AT them.  (If you look at his TED talk, notice that he’s a “leatherman.”)  

What happens then is that the true (deep, dark, limbic) mind takes over, the mind that is NOT in words but in interaction with the world: paint, gravity, sound, physical exertion.  The chatter of the word-mind shuts up and the 200-plus kinds of awareness are engaged in unity to do or make something.  Paradoxically, this can be done while writing, but only if the writing is AT your skill limit and your courage to investigate.  None of the struggling writers I see on ever talk about the ecstasy of writing.  Sometimes they say it’s therapy.

Now the Striped Terror has recognized that I’m awake for good (as opposed no good) and is out cavorting in the snow with the Dust Bunny.  These cats are clocks: they insist on a daily routine.  They are a safeguard against drift into mental and emotional jelly. 

from "The Best Offer," a recommended movie

Still in bed, half asleep, hypnogogic, I walk through rooms.  They are the rooms of the many films I watch.   Some opulent, some empty, some cozy, some traps.  I reflect on my lack of interest in maintenance.  Dusting, replacing, shaking out, straightening, reshelving.  It makes me feel lazy and disreputable when I’m aware, but the truth is that most of the time I’m not.  I really don’t get too bothered even about a toilet that doesn’t work properly if I can think of a workaround.  (A bucket.)   When company comes, I suddenly see through their eyes and am a little shocked, but then go to defiance.  I’m an artist, see, and I don’t have to accommodate anyone else’s culture.  That’s why I needed a house after years in apartments.  But years in apartments didn’t teach me how to maintain a house.  Hmmmm.

Sharp awareness: the internet is not going to remain the same.  Blogging is not going to remain the same.  Is it really enough to accumulate all these proto-books in 3-ring binders?  Maybe it is.  Maybe books are transient the same way people are.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  But that’s from the point of view of a writer.  From the point of view of a reader, I WANT those books.  I want to know where they are and how to get them.  I’ve learned to look through used books, not new books.  So far I’ve not pushed on to ebooks, whose key seems to be listening while driving.  Hmmmm.

Coffee.  Hot coffee gets me up.  A quick flash of my mother craving hot coffee in her old age.  It never was quite hot enough.  Life . . .  is life ever hot enough? 

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