Friday, September 08, 2017


Old Testament Ecology

The minds of computer programmers, which are usually young, often Asian and even more often male, are the key to understanding programs or even basic program-negotiating, but even when I can dimly see what their “hallucination of structure” might be, their youth means that they have sharp eyes and nimble fingers.  I still get left behind.  Only just now have a found a teeny arrow on my blogger dashboard that, when clicked, will give me a list of my blogs.  There are more than a few.  I’d forgotten most of them.

Some of these are just parking spots, some are sort of manuscripts in progress, and some are probably what Steve Pressfield calls “refusal to summit,” that is, to finish the damn project.

One of the latter is the constantly reworked thesis for my Meadville/Lombard Theological School thesis, meant to qualify me for a D. Min degree.  As I develop my own theology (which is a process-based stream), as my sources also unfold (new science all the time), and as the George Lakoff theories mature (if only I’d known them then, since they were just beginning to ferment on the same U of Chicago campus), the writing doesn’t abandon what I’ve done earlier but changes slightly — most often for the better I hope.  (Clearer, more useful.)

I put it under a “scare” warning, that it’s only for adults, but that’s mostly for blogger so they don’t suddenly dump me with the excuse that I’m offending someone.  My ultimate backup is always on paper in binders, but it would be a drag to retype.  Somehow CD backup never seems dependable to me.  I think the Cloud is a con.

This morning is smoke-soaked, as it has been for weeks.  It was supposed to be hot, but I just had to go get a jacket.  On the east coast devastation is churning up the islands and peninsulas.  I imagine all those big rogue snakes winding around trees to hang on and then the whole tree is uprooted and sent flying.  The alligators will be turning up in strange places.  On the west coast, it’s earthquakes and tsunamis.

The communication media in such times concentrates on video.  Small groups with evocative names accumulate footage, someone (maybe them) edits it, adds music, and offers it to some platform for broadcasting.  Casting broadly abroad, maybe by broads sitting in studios, like Rachel Maddow.  In her case, a whole team will be studying, researching, phoning, going on foot to interview, and so on.  

That’s not the same as a writer, alone, thinking, choosing words, groping for ideas by drinking coffee and walking.  What is the structure of my hallucination?  I resist editors and publishers, because they can try to force my structures to align with theirs.  Most of the writers I know tolerate this — maybe with some strong resistance — and some claim that their writing is better for it.  That has not been my experience.  But they sell, and I don’t.  I don’t even try.

I suppose it’s because of a zigzag life-path which resulted from an effort to escape all dominations and restrictions.  Sometimes I look compliant and ordinary, but it’s only a disguise.  I taped up alongside me this quote:  “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.”   (It's Flaubert.) People use it all the time without really meaning it.  It runs counter to the idea that writers should be crazy-wild, defiant, intoxicated.  Lots of people want to be writers as a license to live that kind of life.  They get very little written.  There’s another type of “writer” who likes the idea of being tormented, suicidal, eaten by love, more sensitive than anyone else.  They may produce a lot of writing, but no one wants to read it.  There’s often a grinding sameness to it.

Writing can be excellent within the clarity, complexity, vividness that is meant for a scientific reader or a technical reader.  The book about “Insanity” with the ass on the front I talked about a few posts ago turns out to be VERY difficult reading, so that I have to drive hard to discover the valuable ideas.  It’s an arrogant cruelty to write like that, but maybe it’s really the way they think.  Then I’m glad never to meet them.  (Migod, I just googled to get the proper title for the Australian science book and discovered there is a SERIES based on insane sexy girls.  Writing equals fiction to a lot of people who buy books, but fiction pretending to be confessional.)

Writing can be obscene, unlikely, shocking, and still be clear and useful.  At one point I set out to read pornography, which made all my spam revolting — why do people need so much equipment when they have bodies? — and discovered that a very long spectrum of human assumptions and practices are out there in print.  Some was highly aesthetic (often Japanese or French) and some was so disgusting that if I told you about it, you’d never get it back out of your mind.  I can’t.

What I’m sneaking up on is the failure of religious (whatever that is) writing to escape from publishers pandering to an audience they probably only imagine anyway.  Mawkish sentimentality, pseudo-Zen inscrutability, Queen of England/King James stuffiness, and all those UU’s like ants at a picnic.  So far, none have exceeded the simplicity of Ninian Smart quietly making a cup of tea.  Of course, that was video.  

I guess for words I approve I’d have to go to Emily Dickinson with Gerard Manley Hopkins for backup.  You can tear their poems to pieces, run them through the sieve of their real lives, and they will still reconstitute into something whole — not so much insights as something you want to say out loud, probably several times.

I’ll reread my writing, which is years old now, and see what I get out of it.  I had an earlier blog called “Take my Hand.”  Maybe I’ll see whether the Way Back Machine will give me access.  There is a decade long dialogue with a co-writer, but it cannot be shared without the permission of the other writer.

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