Tuesday, March 28, 2017


It appears that as a writer my body of work will be mostly this blog.  I’m grateful that the platform has remained fairly stable.  Blogger is a blog-publishing service that allows multi-user blogs with time-stamped entries. It was developed by Pyra Labs, which was bought by Google in 2003. Generally, the blogs are hosted by Google at a subdomain of blogspot.com.”  I began to post on April Fool’s Day, 2005, intending to record Blackfeet materials I had saved and to promote my book about Bob Scriver, “Bronze Inside and Out” which had just been properly published by the University of Calgary Press.

That’s when I went through the looking glass, though I was more like the “Alice” in the series “Luther” than any little girl who chases rabbits.  One of the first things I confronted was the death of publishing.which I had assumed was a matter of merit, but soon was revealed as a kind of mafia.  I had known that about the art world and the rez, as well as city and county government back in Oregon.  And in the world of liberal religion.

The qualities of blogs are well-suited to intrigue, now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t.  They can be like journals, but the way I do it — which is called “long form,” they are more like anthologies.  For a while I used a lot of photos, both my own and those from sources online.  For a while I had a secondary supporting role in a whole other form that we called “vooks” — where the videos included were really the main thing, composed or “woven” of hot-camera real-life images.  It was a fermented, polemic, sometimes obscene blog.  (Blogger tried to block photos of naked people but in the face of uproar from users, backed off to requiring that they be labeled “adult.”  I don’t know what is adult about a naked body.  Or why it is more objectionable to show a photo than to write a description.)

By now I just write these daily posts of 1,000 words or so.  Sometimes they are true “blogs,” (b-logs) that include lots of links to other blogs or vooks.  (Like the one yesterday linking to Grant Slater’s eloquent work.)  The truth is that it’s quite like presenting a spoken essay (sermon) every Sunday except that in my worldview, every day is Sunday.  And I can’t see your faces reacting.  This is what I wanted to do and what I love doing.  It is very hard to explain, partly because most people have such a narrow understanding of religion, one that I’ve worked hard in seminary to escape, thinking that churches would want that.  It was a hard blow to realize they did not.

In some ways what I’m doing is evading all institutions.  The exchange is accepting near-poverty (I’m just above the line because I own this house, which is a vulnerability as much as a protection.) but doing something that isn’t prevented by aging.  I can’t get the lid off an aspirin bottle, but I can out-think most neo-atheists, mostly because I’ve abandoned their categories altogether, on grounds that their paradigms are old, moldy and destructive.  I’m not the only one thinking this way.  (If you’re interested, see Yuval Noah Harari’s companion books:  “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” and “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.”  They are best-selling books, accessible and based on the paradigm-breaking work of science.  That sounds pretentious but they are easy to read.)

Sapiens” asserts that “Three important revolutions shaped the course of history: the Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago.  The Agricultural Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago.  The Scientific Revolution, which got underway only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something completely different.”  I take that to mean the cyber-revolution which may make “Borgs” of us all.  

He does not talk about the Industrial Revolution which may tucker out when the organic combustibles (coal and oil) are exhausted, but maybe not if we can get to wind and sun.  Around here, people are poised somewhere between ag and industry.  You might call it “tractor culture.”

There’s another way to look at stages of thought, which are individual stages:  basic infancy to 5 or 6, childhood from then until the onset of puberty, the years of sexual maturation, and then another turn of mind that is based in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain but supported by the whole body from the gut to the skin.  This is where the humanities are born, the weaving symbolism of existence.

Because my first job was teaching in high school here, it’s easy for me to see that high school — which is a fairly recent development in education and meant to prepare for working life — is no longer doing what it’s supposed to, but that small towns in rural areas are still playing by high school rules, supported by a media that isn’t even that mature.  In fact, it looks as though our highest levels of government representatives have never had basic civics education that would have been provided by an old-fashioned citizen-preparing high school.

When brains evolve —EVERYTHING evolves — the tissues must struggle against the confines of the skull.  The prefrontal cortex somehow managed to push that bony wall out to make room for itself, but generally the brain has condensed.  There are hominin skulls that are much bigger in terms of capacity — they just don’t have pre-frontal cortexes.  It appears that the most recent evolutions of the brain have been internal to cells, a particular kind of cell that allows us to share in a secondary way the movements and emotions of another human being: when we watch the dance, our muscles faintly echo.  Some see this evolving right now.  Another evolution is quite different: the ability to think in abstracts, to imagine what is not present.  This is math.  Grad school stuff.

A sad part of evolution is that it evolves in mosaic patterns, so that one set of people might unfold into the full range of human possibility but another might hit limits, let’s say about high school graduation.  One population thinks in terms of concrete experience and the categories they already know.  Another might soar off into the thin air of physics and quantum theory.  The two groups will not understand or even like each other.  What could I say to that archetypal starving Somali woman carrying her dying baby that she could even hear, that wouldn’t terrify her to know about.  The fact that people elsewhere can control fertility, demand clean water (with mixed results), vaccinate against disease, and start riots would mean nothing.

But then when I talk to locals here about global warming— even reframed as climate change — or about Trump, I get about the same result, even though the wall of suffering that separates me from a Somali woman is mostly not apparent.  And here I am, as so often in these blogs, off in the weeds.  I need all my energy to think about the weeds and the paths.  I do not want to waste energy arguing with editors who tell me what won’t sell, nor do I want to obey all the techie demands, though they are in a position to force me to use new petty little features.  I’m not even very appreciative of reader comments.

My friend often uses the image of someone hooded, grasping a staff and traveling the wilderness.  I’m more like the Neanderthal cave inhabitant who crouches in the entrance, scowling at the river below and trying with every bit of energy to grow a pre-frontal cortex above my eyes.

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