Wednesday, January 31, 2018


People will do anything unless someone stops them.

If someone does something outrageous enough, no one will stop them because they won’t believe it’s happening.

—Robert Macfie Scriver

These two adages came from Scriver’s years as town magistrate and justice of the peace — not law school.  His experience was ground-level on an “Indian” reservation.  Pretty basic, which is the point of the justice of the peace system.

I used to deploy these quotes to talk about the Great Falls cannibal, David Bar Jonah, who killed and ate boys of his neighborhood, which no one could even imagine, and could not be tried because the mother of the only proven victim refused to believe he was dead and therefore would not cooperate.  (Bar Jonah was arrested on other charges and died in jail.)  I’m not making this up. 

Sometimes I would use the quotes to consider the holocaust in Germany, which the citizens refused to believe was happening.  Today what are American citizens refusing to believe happened, until the evidence and testimony are overwhelming?  I mean, that has nothing to do with Russia.

Now it is finger-fucking of more than two hundred (265 and still counting) beautiful, disciplined, achieving girls in East Lansing, Michigan, by a certified doctor, Larry Nassar.  This had been made possible because of the rules of secrecy (euphemistically called “confidentiality”), which protect professionals like doctors, lawyers, and clergy so that they can have healing and helpful access to the personal secrets of their clients.  It is NOT meant to protect professionals who violate clients.

Stigma, confusion, and shame enforced secrets of the girls kept them from telling parents and authorities what had happened — damaged them and prevented the revelations that would have given the law access to their protection.  Since 1997 girls were telling each other and adults they trusted — including parents — what had been done to them.  They were shamed, shushed, ignored.  Or some said it was the authorities who gagged them, admonished them to not tell such things.

Credentials, importance, reputation of a male middle-aged doctor were just cages confining silly girls — you know how they are — just entering adolescence and having Freudian fantasies.  No one had explained to them what safeguards they should have had (female nurses in the exam room) or what signalled trouble (no gloves, no lubrication, no prior discussion, both vaginal and anal penetration).  No one considered the fantasies of a male middle-aged geek.

Why weren’t the girls/young women — all of them serious and reliable — given classes in their own physiology, how to identify pains and sprains in an activity that was bound to create them, where to go for help if they were abused, what normal treatment is effective and why?

We need to do some serious rethinking of what privileged secrecy, sexual shame, and “handling the truth” really means.  There’s been a lot of “drift” in standards and now so much bald nakedness is accepted that we can look at the President’s wife naked and shrug it off.  Yesterday’s porn is today’s best seller, which quickly becomes a yawn.  “Appearances are deceiving” and now that anyone’s face can be put on anyone’s body, clothed or not. the phrase “lyin’ eyes” is simply a fact.

If it’s extreme enough, sex can still be suppressed, turned back on accusers, suffused with enough emotion to confuse the issues.  But it’s probably money that is the real subject.  As sex is “liberated” to be open and benign (as though that were possible), the money value goes out of it.  Those seeking to sell must explore to find the frisson that will bring the customer back.  

Luckily, it’s not that hard.  I’m told there is a body [sic] of porn that focuses on pretty girls who are marked with the places animals are cut to make butcher’s cuts of meat.  I once went to interview a professor of animal studies at Bozeman.  In his office, above his desk, was a poster of just such an image.  I don’t know whether the girl was a gymnast.  The prof was only a little bit uncomfortable that I was staring at his poster.  Why didn’t I complain to his department head?  Why didn’t someone else?  Or did they, and found themselves laughed off.

So, in a kind of typology, there are true secrets (something known but not to be told); open secrets that everyone knows but pretends not to; denied secrets which are fairly open until they can be monetized (plus or minus); things that are not thought of as secrets or even shameful until someone from another level of society or a different country is shocked and horrified; things that no one can see even when they are in plain sight; things that truly aren’t there though people claim to see them.  (I have a bit of trouble grasping some of the “harassment” claims.)  

Maybe the most dangerous cases are the ones where certain persons claim to have insight and “vision” into phenomena that no one else can see.  Doctors, scientists, spies, art curators, and religious leaders.  Emperor’s new whatever.

Consider the subject of nutrition, which is vital enough to everyone’s well-being, and now is trampled earth where dozens of theories about the proper way of eating war it out.  Animal fat is deadly.  Plants are trying to kill us all.  Take these pills that I alone can sell you.

The most dangerous cases are the one that feed institutions: hospitals, universities, athletic programs, humane societies.  (What IS humane?)  Because then all the machinery comes down on the person, whether they are huge football players suffering concussions or flexible little girls being finger-fucked.  Why are these gymnasts always girls?  Where are the male gymnasts who are just beginning adolescence?  Aren’t fantasies about their bodies so easily marketed?  Or is it because that impulse is so easily made real in the showers?  They don’t need the fantasy of medical treatment.

Ground level observation by people in a community with a shared standard of behavior, “levelers” and anti-intellectuals, have their uses IF they act on what they see.  Too often they pretend they see nothing because it will cost them, if only in terms of trouble.  Yet that cost is real.  Ask those gymnast girls how outrageous something must be to trigger action.  There is more than one way to “eat” a child, or at least their happiness.  Sometimes it is their own parents who do it secretly.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


This post is so familiar that it sounds dumb, but it's worth looking at one more time.

Old obsessions about whether one is “good enough” at whatever one is doing has roots going back to earning grades in school and before that to the basic human learning project: walking, talking, getting what one needs.  Given what we know scientifically now about how much first ideas get imprinted as “reality” and are nearly impossible to overcome, it’s not surprising that our expectations of ourselves are unrealistic, even destructive.  It takes a lot of "not good enough" to learn to stand without clinging to the furniture.  So it's hard for an adult personto bring up to consciousness what is realistic, possible, and desirable, maybe for the purpose of choosing new goals but maybe even for the discarding of old standards and recognition of what was achieved without thinking about goals.

An obvious variable is the size of the pool your froginess lives in.  Being a noted Montana Writer is one thing, choosing something much bigger or much smaller means considerable change to adapt to the national scene or global issues and may leave one's previous fans behind. To abandon writing “for” one’s own socio-economic or educational group by reaching out to a different audience will radically change one’s standards and subjects.  It will mean a different sort of intermediary (editor or agent) and maybe a change of instrument — maybe from bound books to smartphone, from paper to electronic.

It’s not just a matter of marketing, but also the kind of alliances and feedbacks, the sources of encouragement and positive criticism as well as cautions, and the ways “backstage” one can supply those things to others.  Marketing does need to consider who the consumers are and how big and flush that pool might be.  Right now the pool of women with an appetite for escapist novels is huge, but they don’t have a lot of money, time or storage.  Therefore, ebooks shine.  If you don’t write that sort of thing or market that way, “failure” of skills is hardly the problem.

Some venues are not pools but rushing rivers.  Political, scientific, and other fields, even those requiring complex researched knowledge, move along quickly.  Today’s major insight is tomorrow’s old discarded stuff.  The time investment necessary is a limitation, which means money both for living until the payoff and for going to places, talking to people, searching archives.  Budget constraints are not the same as lack of skills.

Returning to the first premise about worthiness, are those standards what was chosen or is it residual, maybe set out by people in the past who are no longer relevant.  Maybe they’re dead people, like ancient Greeks.  Maybe they’re family people who imposed their values or demanded success that will make THEM look good.  To find these things one might need a therapist or at least a legal pad and enough time to draw webs, maps, names and relationships.  This is especially true if the early, semi-buried forces conflict:  one says the most important factor is correctness, standards, and the other says what counts is innovation, the startling.

The force can be strong when it’s from people you love, even if they’re dead.  Maybe more so then.  You’ll need that Gestalt two chair strategy of sitting in one, imagining the other person opposite and talking to them — then switching chairs and speaking for that other person.  What did they want for themselves?  Where did they get their ideas?  What has changed in the world since they gave you advice? Was there still some small voice saying, "You're good enough!"

Maybe your ideas about the entitlements provided by love have changed.  This is where my line of thought began.  Devoted enabler that I was, putting off my own goals in order to support the work of a “genius” husband, just how good did he have to be to justify my effort and self-denial?  An old woman said to me (when I was still young), "Scriver was good, but not THAT good!  He was no Charlie Russell."  I suspect that the Charlie Russell who was so good was a figment of her imagination created by advertising.

Then in the ministry I repeated the pattern:  just how totally did I have to devote myself to a denomination to be a truly worthy minister?  In both cases, the terms of reward, the value systems, changed out from under me.  Plainly, there was not love coming my way, so why should I — to be crude — put out?  At this point some people have extra-curricular affairs, which is a cheap fix attached to a lot of expensive destruction.

Effort of clues, truth and analysis — imagine the TV series detectives creating the wall of clues scribbled on post-its — has a payoff in the end:  skills and knowledge that are part of oneself, not located in the situation at all.  Their loss, my knowledge gain.  

Maybe the problem is not the fact of the dynamics, but in the ideas of virtue and how to measure it.  What counts?  Sales?  Inspiration? Praise from Charlie Rose?  (Charlie Who?  He's over.)  Satisfaction of creation according to one’s own standards?  But what if part of one’s character structure is always that dissatisfaction with one’s own work?  As if loss of that dissatisfaction is somehow a loss of motivation, a caving-in to limitations. 

Sometimes the “chair” opposite me is a pew full of parishioners from the past.  Once I said in a sermon about accepting limitations -- that I would have loved to be a ballet dancer or an opera singer, but that wasn’t physically possible.  The congregation all laughed merrily and I was surprised that I teared up a little.  It WAS ridiculous.  But suppose I’d analyzed it, suppose I looked for the reason I wanted to be those things.  

Ballet and opera are extraordinary performance skills, not unlike preaching, but differently physically based and requiring many hours of training, practise and discipline.  They are often historically justified — one responds to what is traditional, to some degree even in defiance, like “Drake Lake,” the all-male version of the white ballet template.  Agnes de Mille did something a little different.  Stocky and strong, not at all sylph-like, she choreographed ballets for cowgirls.  But most people think preaching is a "gift," a talent that is God-given, so it won't matter how good you are -- it won't belong to you.

I’ve gone to blogging, which for a manuscript preacher is hardly any jump at all.  Sequential, personally informed, responding to a regular schedule, reaching for depth — the weak link is not knowing who is in the “pews.”  The great joy is the surprise of discovering that persons of true comprehension are out there.

When I started writing small stories about Blackfeet, I gave some to my mother, showing off.  Her verdict was “I didn’t expect to think much of them but I ended up quite affected.”  All I heard was that she didn’t expect much. I put those stories on, separate from the “serious” writing on  Why the separation?  Am I thinking about a separation between fiction and serious discourse?  But I often put the fiction on prairiemary first, then shift it to wordpress which is considered a more sophisticated provider.  Actually, I don’t like it because it has too many bells and whistles, which steals energy from the actual content.  

But maybe it’s also because a certain contingent of people, some enrolled and some not, will attack fiction politically.  They don’t read wordpress blogs, so it’s safe storage.  Good enough.

But what if you want to be amazingly brilliant, world-changing insightful, satisfying every past helper?  What can go wrong with the attempt?  I'm asking.

Monday, January 29, 2018


Skulls and rosy flesh.

When I began this blog, I didn’t know Tim BarrusWe became acquainted via email in the spring of 2007.  Since that time I’ve often blogged about him and we wrote a book about Tim’s years in Paris with Cinematheque.  We wrote alternating chapters, calledOrpheus at the Windows of the Catacombs” which proved to be too painful for the boys who were in the story.  Too many deaths, including that of “Navajo,” Tim’s dog. We withdrew it.  No one wanted to publish it anyway.  They weren’t shocked, they just didn’t know how to market it.  Books are not about writing -- they are about sales.  So I only continue to blog, though I self-publish at 

Tim and I are not communicating now, which means I’m making my own decisions about writing.  This is a list of all the posts about him on prairiemary, some of which were originally approved by Tim, including the ones that include his writing.  Since they don’t show up on Google or any other webcrawlers that I know about, I’m listing them here.  I think the time for confidentiality in this instance is over.  We never had a contract, we never shook hands (we were never in the same place), and there was no money.

Society is changing radically.  The HIV virus that hit the San Francisco community in the Eighties and killed a whole culture -- many of them Tim’s friends and lovers -- is no longer an outlier problem for stigmatized people.  It is a world-wide pandemic with huge political and economic consequences.  

Sex trafficking of children (both genders), is interacting with hunger, and exceeding the coping capacity of even zillionaire Bill Gates.  HIV-AIDS is a part of our world even in remote places where “there are no gays.”  (Homosexuality is present in as many as ten percent of all mammals.  Anyway, HIV is not about sex.)  More intimate than flu, HIV is more deadly because it is so expensive to maintain health -- there’s no end to it.  There is no cure except maybe bone marrow transplants, enormously expensive and dependent on a tiny cohort of HIV-resistant donors who must be genetically matched.  It’s just more research -- not a cure.

It’s not just the expense of HIV meds, but the necessary self-discipline of staying on a strict regime, reporting to invasive clinics regularly, surviving a list of unpleasant side-effects, and wondering what will happen if the increasingly tenuous privacy rules don’t work anymore.   We are about to find out what will happen when funding for meds is ended.  HIV is a vulnerability disease: it paints a big target on your back for co-infections, trauma, systemic debility, and politics.  

Tim has handled his own HIV-AIDS at great cost in several dimensions.  He knows more about the meds than most docs.  Avascular Necrosis, bone death, tortures him.  There is no cure or even any amelioration for bone death except joint replacement, extremely expensive and temporary (ten years or so).  I thought (and I think he believed) that Tim would have been killed by AIDS by now, but instead it is the extraordinary pain of Avascular Necrosis that puts him at risk for suicide.  What saves him is enormous courage and grit.  He refuses opioids, knowing that he was once a user and therefore always hooked.

The boys keep him alive.  He will not do anything that will put the boys at risk -- well, more at risk than they are already.  None cares about sex stuff anymore, except to stop being a human vector for HIV.  Everything is about staying alive.  The boys don’t always realize how powerful they are when it comes to Tim.

Art keeps them all alive.  Art pushes them up against the universe.  All arts.  Video art.  Photography.  Dance.  THEIR worldview: dark, scrambled, disturbing, defiant and fecund.  You can buy the photos online.  You can see the videos at  Current sale at

The dwindling number of my posts is not related to a lessening of caring about Tim and the boys.  Moving the program to the USA has meant much less safety and therefore less disclosure.  The American culture approves of violence to suppress the same sexuality that sells perfume and jeans.  Unless you're dark-skinned.  

Dates and Titles for Posts mentioning Tim Barrus on

6-22-08 The Boy and his Dog Are Sleeping
8-16-08 Penny Dreadful Native American Literary Evaluations
8-20-08 What is Native American Literature?
9-1-08` Djordji’s War
10-3-08 Beloved Community or Saving Remnant
10-29-08 Forces at Play in Native Literature
10-30-08 Books as Wicked
11-6-08 Alexie, Barrus and Louis
11-7-08 Trust Wikipedia?  HAHAHAHAHA
11-15-08 Native American Literature Renaissance
11-16-08 Me ‘N Barrus
11-22-80 “Hearts of Men”
11-24-80 Writers: Beetles or Jaquars
11-25-08 Indian Trouble: a Double Chapter
11-26-08 In a Word: Revenge
11-27-08 Reservation Life
11-29-08 Native Literature Identity Politics
11-30-08 Kickstart: The Hostage
12-1-08 I Can’t Believe it
12-16-08 Kickstart Begins
12-21-08 Boyz in the Night
12-24-08 The Turning Moment
12-27-08 Some Dance to Remember
12-28-08 Old Lady in Montana
12-29-08 Shooting Down Lovers
12-31-08 Tristesse: Hope in the Dark

1-14-09 Time and Terrain
1-18-09 Let It Be a Dance We Do
1-26-09 Enabling Tim
1-30-09 My Brother, My Lover
4-6-09 Au Courant
5-12-09 So Tim Barrus is Nasdijj -- Get Over It
5-26-09 Crossing a Threshold
6-2-09 City Streets Can Be Catacombs
6-3-09 Scary Mary
6-4-09 Politics of Identity and Resentment
6-7-09 Keep Them Dogies Movin’
6-8-09 for Qi Lin
6-11-09 Let Me Ask You This
8-13-09 Capote and Us
8-14-09 Trickster Goes for the Joints
8-15-09 Trickster and Shaman
8-26-09 Coyote Was Going Along
9-8-09 Trickster Notes from Lewis Hyde
9-23-09 Bildungsroman?  Kleinsterroman?
10-2-09 Gad Vooks
10-3-09 NPR, Nasdijj, Jackie Leyden, and Zebo Boozer
11-21-09 Ben Yagoda; the Egg and I
12-26-09 De-Hoaxing Timothy R. Fox, Ph.D.

1-15-10 Tim Barrus: a Guest Post about Publishing
5-7-10 Tim Barrus
6-7-10 Robert Sapolsky Explains Tim and I
6-11-10 Boys with AIDS
6-17-10 Who Reads This Blog?
6-29-10 Am I Me or Am I You?
7-1-10 A Sample from “Orpheus Pressed Up Against the Windows of the Catacombs”
7-10-10  The Author’s Motivation
7-19-10 Paradigms and Human Systems: A Dialogue
7-26-10 First You Have to Think of It
8-10-10 Light in August
8-15-10 Reading Modern Poetry Explained
8-17-10 Immersion without Publishing
8-24-10 “On This Shore of Catapulting Time”
8-26-10 “Land Bare Under Burning Sands”
8-29-10 Tim Barrus FELL
9-12-10 For a Boy Called Flare Who is in Mortal Combat with HIV
9-14-10 Surviving the Holocene
9-17-10 Strange Collaborations
9-25-10 The Struggle to Understand
10-3-10 Indian Summer in Sandburg Country
10-10-10 What Books Are Now
10-18-10 Barrus & Scriver
10-19-10 Tim Barrus: Poet Maudit
10-22-10 The Two; Le-Too; Deutorology
11-1-10 “Then Let the Wind Die Down”
11-7-10 Tim Barrus Fights AIDS
11-27-10 The Shared Trajectory into an Explosion:  Barrus & Scriver
12-4-10 Shall We Call it Rapting?  (Not Rapping, Not Rafting)
12-5-10 Curating Tim Barrus
12-6-10 “My Brother, My Lover,” First Draft Novel
12-9-10 “Ulteriority” in “Anywhere, Anywhere”
12-30-10 Tim Barrus

1-19-11 No Choice But to Write
2-4-11 Chris, Queens, and Wikipedia -- Oh, and Barrus
2-13-11 Book as Dance
2-15-11 Catabatic Nights
3-1-11 Naked Young Men
3-21-11 Tim Barrus Creates “Tristan’s Moon”
8-22-11 End of Story

4-28-12 Video Art by Young Males
6-5-12 Cinematheque Goes for the Throat
6-29-12 Tim Barrus and Cinematheque

5-9-13 Art by Boys

5-19-13 The Way 

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Bombing of the Murtah Building which had day care on the first floor.

The law of unintended consequences is Exhibit A for the premise that no one knows everything.  Something will ALWAYS happen that the perp didn’t expect, couldn’t see, hadn’t a clue about, didn’t know there was anything out there to know.

I just watched the Netflix streaming “Oklahoma City”.  I wonder how it will affect people beyond just making money.  Will right wingers feel vindication and shed a tear for a gangly bullied kid called “Noodles” whom the army taught to kill?  Or will people who love babies want to kill MacVeigh all over again?  Or will some kid out there now, being bullied with a nickname based on his appearance, vow to follow up on the directions for making a bomb?

My selfish tiny reaction is a memory of the next week after the explosion when I was working on the first floor of the Portlandia Building and a Ryder U-Haul truck parked just outside the plate-glass windows ten feet from my desk for a couple of hours.  I talked to my boss, who said I was fantasizing.  I guess I was.

What MacVeigh got out of the bombing, even after getting the death sentence, was that it meant he was more powerful than anyone, the government or anyone else.  He simply shut out the knowledge of the dead babies.  Or how it would make people hate his cause even more.

For too long I’ve been following the nation’s current CSI project of getting a grip on the President.  There are currently 270 sealed indictments— probably more of them to come.  People are speculating how many of them contain evidence that is keeping Republican legislators from enforcing the laws that protect the government from collusion, corruption, profiteering, and treason.

One consequence has been my growing awareness of valuing the “meta” level of thought.  Not “higher” or “lower” but the embedded assumptions that trigger unexpected consequences.  Like the “pill” removing the restraint that was the fear of unwanted pregnancy.  And then the later development of DNA that could identify both unintended fathers and intended rapists.  

Awareness of the growing detail and grip of DNA analysis has not really increased enough for people to realize that it can NOT tell a person which “tribe” they belong to because all the tribes are flexible and inclusive with no sharp edges, but they CAN tell whose child you are.  Or aren’t.  Recently there was a case of three beautiful female triplets who took the same DNA test and got conflicting — or at least contrasting— results from what was presumed to be identical DNA. I suspect that if every white supremacist who wanted to join these far right groups had to take a DNA test, he would discover he had a variously colored past.  In fact, those who make the loudest noises about their purity possibly doth protest too much.  I mean, did Hitler look Aryan to you?

The unintended consequence of Trump’s presidency has been exactly the kind of close scrutiny that he cannot withstand.  His limited grasp of what it is to be a president — which is different from a tyrant — did not include the revealing of his criminal schemes, quite apart from the mistaken instructions from Uncle Putin.  He did not know that there would be an attendant at his bedroom door, that his bedding would be stripped by a maid, that he could no longer throw his dirty clothes on the floor because someone’s job was to properly handle them.  Ears everywhere, eyes sideways, comb-over analyzed, no escape.  Melania much harder to bully and impossible to strike.  Every MacDonald’s cheeseburger recorded somewhere.  (Even THEY might be poisoned.)

Then there’s the case of the Repubs protecting their oligarchiness, their entitlement, which they believe is the source of their money which is their proof of entitlement.  A little circular as arguments go, but whatever works.  What is unexpected is that this triggers just the right time to reconsider the whole question of what money really is.  The invention of cybermoney, the breaching of national monetary systems, the laundering of money by trying to convert it to some permanent value like real estate— all this has made us wonder whether in our efforts to escape from George III’s taxation injustice, we’ve overlooked something.  

Like, for instance, money is only bookkeeping.  Even clever Manafort was in that handwritten black ledger, unsafely locked up.  (Probably no Native Americans will draw horseback warriors in it anytime soon.  I’ve been intrigued by Blackfeet ledger art because some of it is recent enough for me to recognize the people’s names because I knew them.)

“This paper provides a theory of money, whose value depends on the functioning of the intermediary sector, and a unified framework for analyzing the interaction between price and financial stability.”  I don’t understand this stuff yet, but the claim is that it means a government CANNOT run of out of money and that cutting Social Security and Medicare has nothing at all to do with taxation amounts, but only will the willingness of the budgeteers to allocate the amounts.  It’s simply a value statement and not a cap or limitation.  

This was not the realization that the Repubs wanted us to have.  In fact, they themselves can’t figure this out.  (There is no intelligence or dementia test required to be a legislator — not even charisma, which is lucky for some of these funny-looking people.)  It’s a money allocation value statement when someone is elected.

Trump hasn’t grasped that he is not the captain of the Spaceship Enterprise who orders “Make it so.”  But neither have the elected leaders realized that neither can THEY order the citizens to obey.  This planet may be a spaceship, but we are not just crew, since we are in a democracy.  if we were crew we could be ordered to stop releasing methane, to stop shooting elephants, to stop having children we don’t want.

And children are the most unintended consequence of all, not just the intention of having them, but also the intentions of how they should be.  China is just now realizing the unintended consequence of aborting all those little girls — which is now a lot of restless single men.  But what in the US is going to be the consequence of throwing teenaged boys out of broken families?  Especially when they find each other and decide to make a different world — not with bombs, but with visions.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Since I moved back to the high prairie to think, read and write, my understanding of the world has completely transformed.  Both hopeful and daunting, the main changes can be listed (temporarily, because to me a “list” is something that is written down so it can be changed).  They include the following ideas, which you may find difficult. :

1.  Everything is a process.  We are now told that even our memories, our identities, our daily experiences, are interactions and only permanent because that is the way we think of them.  My efforts to stay the same “me”, resisting all efforts to control and change me, are futile.  This is not at all the same thing as surrender to what acts on me or changes within me.  It is more like conversion away from still photos to video, or from painting to music.  It accepts the dimension of time and finds persistence and stability in themes and rhythms.  

2.  Because it is all a process, new things constantly emerge both outside and inside us, both good and bad, both perceived and denied.  The advantage to recognizing process is being alert and able to adjust, though humans have a biological/mammalian drive to keep everything the same.  The fact that we CAN adjust to newly emerged things like climate change or the invention of the Internet, means that we persist, which is one way we define success.

3.  Too often our definition of success is personal and not social.  Consider HIV-AIDS, an emergent factor on both levels.  Here are three TED talks that review the topic in case you’ve never heard of it.

4.  Membranes — divisions, dividing points, boundaries — develop as ways of controlling process.  Some are permeable (screens on windows), some are very stubborn (the blood barrier to the brain), some are negotiable (the legal boundaries of property), and some are very tiny.  There are two membranes I think about quite a bit:  one is the skin, which separates the organism from the environment; the other is the cell wall, which acts like a one-celled organism within the environment of the body.  Since we can’t see cells, most of us are unaware of the system of gates and docks in the wall of a cell that keep out some molecules while admitting oxygen and nutrients.

5.  Consciousness.  What we are aware that we are perceiving, what we could perceive if we adjusted our filtering mechanisms (gates and ports of our awareness membrane, which is a source of identity), and what happens to keep us alive through nearly automatic constant adjustments that work in loops or pendulums, varying between too much and too little in a process called “homeostasis”— mostly it all goes along by itself.  Most of our consciousness is devoted to the conversation with what is around us, outside.

6.  Emergent disruption of homeostatic balance by new influences recur, maybe in the molecular nuclear codes that were the source of our creation when the two sides of the chromosomes were zipped together at conception.  A virus is a membrane-crossing, emergent — or rather intrusive — code that gets into the body, then into the cell, in order to “eat” it by making the cell into itself.  The most major driver of life-process in the universe is our consuming each of other.

7.  Raising understanding of what would in earlier times have been a mysterious failing of the body’s processes, we consciously set out to restore homeostasis, either by adding compensation (insulin) or by disrupting the code (anti-retrovirals).  Maybe by acts and manipulations.

8.  Society is like a body.  It has its membranes and cycles.  By now the humans of the planet are involved in a kind of global homeostasis of families and societies.  We speak of the internet as “viral”, crossing membranes between countries, cultures, generations, and economic status.  Coinciding with this surge of interpenetrating information and narrative are experimental attempts to restore homeostasis either by suppressing anything new or by adding compensations.

9.  One compensation is narrative and another is music.  Economics involves transaction, crossing the culture membranes that come out of the development of different places and times that respond to unique ecological conditions.

10.  Education can both create and destroy social membranes.  Ideas are like nuclear code, directing the life of the individual cell.  But that may mean that cells must be separated by membranes to protect them from each other.

That’s enough stuff to reflect on.  What prompts this list is social separations that have surprised me, rather painfully.  My oldest playmate — pushed a bit by my reactions — revealed that she had no mental picture of my life beyond the point of my marriage.  She considered the “breakdown” of the divorce a failure on my part.  In fact, she thinks my whole life since has been failure to cope, selfishness, and self-indulgence, marked by failure to risk participation.

Her romanticization of marriage (she’s Catholic) began with her opinion that the actual wedding was “beautiful.”  She didn’t know that my bridesmaid, the groom’s daughter, had just found out she was dying of cancer.  She didn’t know that the church prevented our musician, a bagpiper, from entering the sanctuary because a bagpipe is “heathen” music.  She didn’t know that my contempt for my father was barely tolerated for the sake of my mother.  She didn’t know that the groom, twice my age, married me because “i would be good for his career” and that conventional love had nothing to do with it.  (Nor lust neither.)  Admitting these things -- even if known -- would have been brushed aside by her, never getting through her “membrane.”  It’s not her fault.  It’s a membrane that has saved her.

There’s another example.  My cousin, trying to mend what he felt (realistically) was a divide between us, offered two “sympathies” for my life, things he thought he shared with me.  One as the conviction that mountains are beautiful and the other was an interest in the Unitarian denomination.  (He is an engineer — null-religion.)  To bridge this gap, he sent me a check, which I rejected.  He does not know how much I feel that making scenery into some kind of Hallmark totem causes a denial of the complexity and gravity of geology and it’s impact on human life, nor is he aware of my “loss of habitat” by the change of a once-relevant religious home, and my turning away from the idea of institutional congregations altogether.  If I tried to explain it, his eyes would glaze over.  (By now yours probably are as well.)

Education has separated me from others, and anyway that’s what the post-modern philosophies have meant to do, rip holes in the status quo.  Foucault, Derrida, and all those guys are basically punking authority.  Which needed it.  It’s incomplete work, as signed by the persistence of stigma, the freedom of street law to “not be so nice” anymore, and our willingness to let money buy our standards of governance — not just elect an empty president but also to motivate an entire political party to simply keep their hands in their pockets, fondling their dark money as though they were their genitals.  This is why they try to displace all the arguments over to sex, which they think is their entitlement.

HIV-AIDS is not about sex.  It’s about money.