Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Someone remarked astutely that of all the aspects of our environment the one that remains most difficult to manage and yet most omnipresent everywhere, is other people.  One solution is the privatization of intimacy in a biological act of sex, about as intimate as it is possible to get to another person and dynamically efficacious on the spectrum of trust and safety in the best of circumstances.  When it is "cold," it can be demonic.  Playing on the sense of danger, risk, and possibility is enormously alive in these circumstances.

But also, group life introduces issues of conformity, status domination, group emotional melding, and the ways of doing things that we call culture.  Again, if it is cold, it is a cult, a hanging mob, a terrorist organization.

"Following trauma, an individual may shift from being optimistic, socially engaged, and emotionally resilient to being withdrawn, lacking purpose, and having difficulties feeling safe in the presence of others. These changes in behavior and psychological well-being reflect a disruption in how the brain regulates bodily functions through the autonomic nervous system. When the autonomic nervous system shifts into a state of defense, individuals experience hypervigilence for danger, intrusive sensations, body numbness, digestion problems (including irritable bowel), changes in appetite, disrupted sleep, sexual difficulties, fibromyalgia, and problems establishing and maintaining relationships."


Stephen Porges speaks of a neural platform for social interaction.  I think he is talking about a "worldview" that has been learned from one's experience and closest others, creating systems in the brain, circuits of thought and feeling that guide one through life.  Executive and physiological platforms that aren't working will prevent access to the thought processes one needs right then.

A "religious conviction," or belonging to a group that sustains a world view of like-minded people, is a way of coping with the need for safety that will keep one's "platform" or "worldview" working.  As one person put it, belonging to a community means you can risk venturing into fearful places because even if you are put under enough stress to shatter your "worldview," the community will remember who you are and remind you.  For some people, books can become a community of sorts.  Sometimes they are combined with live people or correspondence.  Care is necessary, because a community can present too many and too confusing ideas as well as becoming invested in control.

Porges' theorizing has focused on listening in terms of sound processing as language, but his ideas included a "window of communication" to coin a term for our presentation to each other of the "third" myelinated autonomic nerve connection directly from the brain to the face, controlling the speaking organs, breathing, heartbeat and gut -- which demonstrate the expression of emotion or feeling.  These communications carry listening and speaking, and their print derivations which are reading and writing.  But Porges did not develop systems for thinking about the experience of empathy which are somehow related.

Empathy as a concept is constantly corrupted by a 19th century system of thought based on pathos or compassion, which is being aware of the life and emotions of other beings, but not participating in them.  I mean, we do not feel sorry for the man living in a doorway and therefore join him -- rather we begin economic reforms that will make that necessity end.  It is a strong motivator of progressive laws and actions, which are characteristic of that century.  Going along with the pathos is the rational understanding that if we make life more fair and equitable for the least of us, it will improve the lives of everyone.  (This insight seems to have escaped many of us.)

When this philosophy of sentiment began to be indulgent and a venue of control, the reaction against it diminished it to pity and a source of superiority.  The entire mood of the polity turned to cold, hard, "brain" views of the world.  This was defended as "real" and effective, a source of the amazing technology that made us so greedy for more wealth.  It justified the murder of thousands and thousands of competitors as "efficiency," a euthanasia, "good death," though not for those who died.

Empathy is the ability to "become" the other person.  The most objective evidence is that of the person who sits on a couch and watches someone do something physically arduous: athletics, dancing, climbing.  Sensitive technical awareness operated by others will register that the muscles of the person doing nothing faintly echo what the active person is doing.  In fact, that's part of the pleasure of watching something like fencing, acrobatics, dance, games.  The phenomenon can be powerful enough that watching "tennis" can cause the watcher afterwards to have increased skill almost as much as practice.  So what is the result of constantly watching depictions of violence, esp. war?  Is it different from depictions of sex?  If the latter is porn, what is the former?  Which is worse, denial and elimination of such things. or struggling to understand?

For children, who are exposed to trauma or other things they have no neural platform to process, such social interaction will pull that intensity into their worldview, distorting it, and therefore stunting their ability to trust either sentiment or empathy, both of them classical and deeply human ways of handling catastrophe.  If there is an intimate and somehow trusted person, they may be able to rebuild but only with resistance.

What Porges brings up, but then leaves, is the conviction that when people share their worlds in conversation of one kind or another, we become able to understand far more, our neural platform is broader and more adaptable.  We can work together, eventually building amazing inventions.  He feels this is the jump that was made when humans first became able to talk and listen with understanding and to progress together.


Monday, September 16, 2019


When I first became enamoured with Unitarian Universalism. part of its charm was two ministers who were friends.  Alan Deale in Portland and Peter Raible in Seattle.  Both were PK's -- preacher's kids -- but nothing like the corrupt and debased children of Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell.  Evangelical rabble-rousers are not connected to congregations, a body of agreeing people who support and guide their minister, certifying his or her value.  These UU leaders had firsthand knowledge of congregations.  The two PK's grew up in congregations, which some people say is like growing up in a small town, and knew both their dark and protective sides.  

They had little use for the passionate emotions of a Big Daddy in the sky, having eaten breakfast with him for their entire childhood. In 1975 they had discovered Organizational Design and incorporated it into a Leadership School.  It was congregation-based, which is a bit of a necessity in a church based on congregational polity and no dogma.  (This means that their system of organizing is self-contained, not beholden to a larger denomination, but neither does it require a certain set of beliefs.)  In time any effective minister can persuade most of the people to think his or her way, but the power remains in the pew.

Unless the minister were "enthusiastic," that is, inspired by his or her own transcendent mysterious-seeming direct contact with . . . "something". Those who can feel it say it is electrifying, totally different from ordinary life, powerfully convincing.  Yet scientists say they can make people feel this exciting state with a bit of magnetic stimulation to certain parts of the brain.  (In the 20th century there was a great fascination with electrifying parts of the brain, either to feel God or to become more sane.)  Also, certain drugs or brain afflictions can evoke the same experience.  This suggests illusion.

It is ironically logical to believe there is something more than humans can know.  Any humble realist understands that there is far, far, far more "out there" that any human brain or even collaboration can grasp.  Perhaps more than in any other era our technologies have revealed more vast, eternal, infinite entities and processes than any human has ever had to wrestle with before, from the tiny molecules of cells to the terrifying endless stretch of time and space; from the mystery of who we are to the disconcerting knowledge that there were all these others, disappeared hominins.  So is something reaching down to us, in to us, or are we reaching out and up to find something?

More practically, from a minister's point of view, is it possible to call the Holy Spirit?  It seems clear that carefully designed liturgy, beautifully expressed words and music, a setting both grand and safe, can set the people vibrating and weeping.  What is that?  How does one do it?  Not to be obnoxious, but I have done it.  Or seemed to.  But in my experience the congregation did not enable or protect such experiences but rather ground them down and threw them out as distractions.  As a minister, at least, calling the Holy Spirit was like being a whore, triggering an addictive response that cannot be personally felt.  If I valued even closely thinking about anything like a Holy Spirit, it was necessary to be solitary.  Not even talk about it much.  To analyze it is in the face of peril, possibly destroying access.

Maybe what seemed like the landing of the Holy Spirit in the middle of a play, a symphony, an art museum, a long view across a deep mountain valley, was just a burst of emotion.  Nothing to do with the Mysterium Tremendum.  Once an organization begins to build on what seems miraculous and calls itself "religious" while trying to keep everyone from disssenting, we have entered the field of "organized" religion and all its justifications for bad behavior like war or oppression.  Soon members will be criticizing each other for not genuflecting properly, not paying enough tithe, or trying to make indulgent parents of their minister or God.  They exasperated even Jesus.

Congregations have their uses.  Denominations can be a way to keep people more or less on the same page and have an impact on the even larger culture.  But there is something that sweeps invisibly through our lives, a set of convictions, perceptions, morality, and aesthetic choices without thinking why.  Why did our country, supposed to be built on honor and compassion, suddenly turn to murderous greed, and then defend it?  Is it because the old system of values was based on a primitive notion of the world which smashed in the face of new knowledge?  Is it because since God is dead of evaporation, we can do anything and don't care?  Is it because individuals can do things that are monstrous and yet are never struck by lightning for it?

Can a sea change like this -- except positive -- be started by a new thrilling spiritual experience that seizes everyone with the inspiration to reform?  Or must these be person-contained perceptions of something that most never know is possible, a felt revelation of empowerment?

Every time I preached about this kind of moment, people came around afterwards to tell me they had felt this, maybe multiple times, but didn't really know what it was, what it meant.  They thought it was better to tell no one for fear of being mocked.  When I brought up the subject, even in seminary, it was turned aside.  People said it was blissful to have warm, safe times and a great satisfaction to rest after achieving something important, but it didn't mean there was another plane of existence that somehow reached through to us.  Others told about a chimp regarding in awe a mighty waterfall, and said it was evidence that even animals could be spiritual, so how could it be a human privilege?

Since Descartes we've wrestled with an imaginary split between logical rationality and the empathic sharing of felt meaning.  Perhaps we've let the first method overwhelm the second.  After all, greed and rejecting transfiguration are sensible ways to survive in a confounding world.  Take care of yourself and your own.  Ignore the rest.  Very possible.  People do it all the time.

In the end both my PK heroes have died -- of old age rather than lightning -- but not before being betrayed by this impulse in order to get status and expensive toys, to use relationships outside social rules, and to turn away from both congregation and denomination.  They didn't seem to suffer.  Neither ever confided that they had felt the Mysterium Fascinans and Tremendum.  Would it have made a difference?

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Brett Chapman is an "Indian" attorney in Tulsa who specializes in Defense at this point in his career.  He's also on Twitter and posts about indigenous people.  I'm reacting to his recent post about Julia Wades in the Water, a Blackfeet woman famous for being the first NA female police officer in US, working with her husband who was also a policeman.  She's quite well-known and often wore ceremonial clothes to be alongside her husband, greeting big shots from back east.

Julia's period, the first decades of the 19th century, was recorded by photographers and artists because they still remembered the ways of their grandparents in the days of the treaties and first reservations, but were capable of operating in the "modern" world of the time.  At major events they presented the Old World, but then went on with daily business after the celebrities were gone.  The photos of the private daily lives of the rez people were not popular and unseen until recently when people like Paul Seesequasis began to collect them.  Even Adolph Hungry Wolf, whose amazing collection of photos in his four Good Medicine set of books, stuck mostly to posed images.  The general idea was that the old Blackfeet culture was disappearing and should be recorded, but that once the tribal people were assimilated, they were no longer interesting.

When I came in 1961, Julia and her cohort were pretty much gone.  "Old" Jim Whitecalf was still around.   "Young" Jim Whitecalf was my age, early twenties.  Both are dead now.  I'm prompted by Chapman's tweet to look at Google.

This is a quite grand and near lifesize portrait by Winold Reiss.

"Julia Wades in the Water of the Blackfeet was the first Native  American woman police officer in the U.S. and served her people on the reservation in Montana for three decades from her first shift in 1905 until the 1930s. She was very strong and respected by all."

"They accomplished so much in their life,  she and my grandpa Wades.  we have pictures, my other cousin has pictures of them where they meet with Harry Truman," said Salois Solway, her granddaughter."   (Intriguingly, the name  Solway implies relatives who were Metis.)

"She said Wades In The Water inspired her to study law and she served as a  tribal judge, because it was simply in her blood. Wades in the Water and her husband also took pictures with tourists and camped in Glacier National  Park."

"Julia Wades in the Water was a member of  the Blackfeet Nation and became the first American Indian policewoman shortly after the turn of the 20th century. She served at the Blackfeet Agency in Montana for 25 years until her retirement in the 1930s." 

"Julia Wades in Water served her community managing the detention facility and assisting with female suspects. She sustained many warm friendships among the Blackfeet and the non-Native people of northern Montana.  This pioneering law enforcement woman was deeply invested in maintaining the values and safety of their community, and Blackfeet of that era remember all her contributions "


This link is from the diary of John C. Carter, who was a lawyer and a Brigadier General in the Confederate army.  He made a trip through the West in 1932.  The document is a PDF that won't let me edit out sentences, but it's more than just interesting to read as a whole anyway.  The white government officials and the elite of the tribe acted in unity to welcome and impress visitors.  Bob Scriver was 18 in this year and probably played his cornet in the Blackfeet Brass Band.  When he became its director, a white beaded buckskin suit was made for him and most people may not have realized he was white.  

It was a very "bourgeoisie" time, just tipping into the Depression, and people valued brass bands, travel to exotic places, conformity to politeness and social ceremonies, and a kind of patronage of "foreign" peoples that today is seen as condescending and even racist.  Forrest Stone was the agency head at this time.  He must have had a big house because his other guests included Major General Hugh L. Scott, who was making a major effort to record signtalk.  (There is a vid, very serious at first and dissolving into funny stories later) and he took imprints of the participant's feet which were cast in bronze and are still in front of the Museum of the Plains Indian.  The sculptor Voisin may have helped with this.  Other guests were the tall red-headed F.C. Campbell, who was arguably the most successful of previous Indian agents, and his daughter.

A lunch of sandwiches and iced tea is held, and then the guests go to the rodeo which still exists, much improved, at the fairgrounds.  Carter speaks of the adjacent campgrounds, so it must be Indian Days.  The plan is to leave the rodeo early in order to go to Heart Butte for a Medicine Lodge sponsored by Tom Horn.  The host drives a "Ford V8" just like the one Carter has at home.  Oliver Sanderville has been asked to speak in sign language and he goes on and on.  "Old" Jim Whitecalf dares Scott to ride a bucking bronc and says he will also ride one.

When the folks return from Heart Butte, they go to the lodge of Wades in the Water on the Indian Days campground.  Carter says that Julia speaks "some" English.  She is warm and helpful.  Charlie Russell has recently died and a female white sculptor, "Mrs. Lincoln", is there to take photos to use for making a memorial.   Her behavior was rude. She did not accept guidance about her behavior and offended all the Blackfeet but they pretended they didn't notice. The whites present tried to control her but couldn't.  

The leading tribal people mentioned were still powerful in the Sixties.  This preservation of on-the-spot observations is something like the fine portraits of Winold Reese, about the same time except not quite so formal.  It hints at a dimension of reservation life that isn't known to most of the art and novel aficionados, mostly white, who buy what they think of as authentic.  The depictions are dramatic and usually feature peak moments that are quite different from the police work of Julia Wades-in-the Water which was mostly managing prisoners, esp. women, at the station.  Jail was real, Julia was real police, and people still spoke real Blackfeet.  No one with good connections was in jail for long, but propriety covered up a lot of suffering that visiting whites never saw.  

Much of what we think of as "authentic anthropology" as collected by whites comes from the memories of these twentieth century folks about their grandparents.  Both Charlie Russsell and James Willard Schultz never saw what they used in their work, but gathered it from these people.  Today a "library account" will be what the early 20th century Blackfeet reported.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


When Columbus and his men -- animals came but no women -- reached the land in the Americas, both the people watching them arrive and the men on the ships were not sure whether they were looking at other human beings.  Nine months later they knew they were at least the same species, because the definition of "species" (19th century definition) was that the mammals were fertile together -- they could have babies.  Half and half, but not very different.  

Some of the crew had been to Africa, so they knew that was possible.  Though skin color varied a bit, the real difference was not physical but cultural.  Later on, farther up the coast, two leaders -- one from each side -- tried an experiment.  Each sent his son to live with the other kind of people -- one being Euro and the other being indigenous -- while growing up.  

They weren't very sophisticated about culture, didn't know what was physically inherited and what was learned, so they assumed that the boys would acquire two cultures and be very powerful.  As it turned out, they were mentally and emotionally like the people they grew up with, though they had no word for that, and didn't want to go back to their own people.  Anyway, the white boy knew how to hunt, fish, and dance, but the indigenous boy could read and spend money.  Each had skills useless for the people he was born to.

The tribes on the East Coast witnessed the dissension between French and English immigrants and the growing determination of the Euros who had come to America to run their own country.  Unfortunately, this new country was so Euro it didn't consider the indigenous people.  Nevertheless, tribal folks know how to take sides and they fought on several, depending on personal allegiances to friends and neighbors.  This led to mixing.

The incessant fighting as well as climate and food disasters in Europe sent waves of desperate people to the new country.  They had learned to be relentlessly focused on their own survival and pushed everything else out of their way.  This wave of white people -- often with red hair -- were stigmatized by the Euros already present.  The situation was parallel to today's various mass migrating movements but different in other ways.  The Irish, for instance, were famous for drinking and brawling.  Central American families are not.

Every time more penniless people arrived from the East, everyone already in place tried to push back the indigenous people to make more room.  Some of the latter seemed to assimilate, esp. among the French, until the tribal people had been pushed into Oklahoma, designated Indian land, where the Cherokee and others tried to create towns with houses, newspapers and churches just like Euros.  But pretty soon the new Americans took it back.  

The third "card" had been Africans who were brought in as slaves and forced to develop the American resources:  sugar and silver in the south, cotton and livestock in the north.  They became themselves a resource without their permission.

The fourth "card" was Asian, also escaping from war and famine, workers before warriors, a human resource not quite enslaved.  They built the railroads that finally cleared the prairies of Indians and Buffaloes, bringing in the homesteaders to carve up the land.  Reservations for the remaining indigenous people began to be established for these prairie hunters and warriors about 1850.

It was beginning to be necessary to think about who they were, since they were impoverished once their sustenance was removed.  As a political force, sentimental people back East would not allow them to be simply shot or starved for long, though some of that happened.  Finally the reservations were supplemented with treaties and commodities, which were sometimes little more than pantomime.

In those days knowledge about human bodies was limited, but there was a fixation on blood, esp. after the Civil War, and much traditional thought about generations and inheritance, since that's how wealth was managed.  The theory developed that a human was like a jar of blood and that it could be varied by inheritance.  In fact, blood cells have no nuclei and so can NOT carry the physical inheritance of a person, which is in the nuclei's DNA.  People didn't know that, so they talked in terms of dripping ink into milk and other metaphors of fluids.

They understood inheritance and that's how the idea developed that everyone who was there at first contact was a certain kind of tribal person but would change if they interbred with a different kind of person.  Everything was based on "provenance" which is the line of descent from one person to the next, which was carefully recorded by the church and government among Euros but not among Tribals, who sent kids with whatever parents needed them and could take care of them.

If a provenance were between, say, a tribal woman and a white man, then the child was assumed to be half-and-half, like mixing two fluids.  But DNA does NOT work like that.  It is like a coiled zipper that comes apart and then zips up with the other person's half to create someone new.  The child is not like either parent, but carries the embodiment of the two merged.  No one knew this at the time, so a great deal of effort was devoted to making long lists of who was entitled to commodities or allotments.  These were the original first generation whose descendants would be qualified, in spite of the lists including a few French trappers and even a Polynesian ship crew member or two.

This policy of making provenance inheritance become the practicality of "blood" was very faulty, but blood is romantic and to help with the idea, raw fractions were called "quantum," which sounded more scientific.  As DNA studies grew more sophisticated, they pretended to be the same thing, but they were not.

Now that modern research can inspect the DNA of hominins from millennia ago, we find even more surprising revelations.  Maybe hundreds of kinds of hominins, rough drafts of humans (maybe we ourselves are rough drafts!) and some were close enough to being the same species to leave DNA traces of half/half children.  Many Euros have Neanderthal DNA in them.  Most Asians have instead DNA from the Naledi.  The Original Americans, the indigenous, have Naledi DNA but not Neanderthal.  

If an indigenous person has DNA that shows Naledi formulas -- dexterity, self-control, patience -- then they have probably inherited from the original indigenous people or from Asia.  Euros with a bit of Neanderthal blood might be more belligerent, red-headed, and intent on dominating.  But these are just guesses, a difference, say, like that between a MAC operating system and a Microsoft operating system.  They do the same thing, but there are many small differences.

I'm tempted to say that Obama had Naledi DNA and Trump has Neanderthal DNA.  But we have a lot more to figure out.

Friday, September 13, 2019


Many people base their identities, esp. when they are dependent on the world as they knew it growing up, on the land as it shaped culture and even the DNA of the inhabitants.  This was more reliable when people stayed in one place so there was little interference from people who know a different land.  Nothing changed very quickly, so what one's great-grandpa told the youngsters stayed true.  Then they could talk about race.  But there were always stories about a land that sank beneath the sea, like Atlantis.

It has been one of the great hardships and scary confusions that big important people talked about a land "bridge" between Siberia and Alaska.  Politicians capitalized on of fear of Others and guilt about the Euros invading America, pushing back and infecting and murdering the people who were already there.  They pictured a line of early people in single file "invading" America by marching across a narrow "bridge."

In reaction, the indigenous people of the Americas declared that they were ALWAYS in America, sprang up mysteriously already shaped into tribes right where they are.  This defied the historical written records of the last few centuries when they were displaced from the east coast, died in pandemics, turned against each other, and tried to find safety on reservations.

Today talking about the Bering Land Bridge will get you into an hysterical fight about something that happened ten thousand years ago.  Among the onslaught of new information that has upended what we thought we knew, is the slow realization that we were all wrong.  There was no "land bridge."  It was a low country, quite broad and stable for a long time until the melting of the polar caps made sea level rise enough to submerge the whole area, something like Bangladesh today.  It's called Berengia and people lived there for thousands of years.

In fact, around the world all the lowlands began to act like Atlantis, the legendary country that sank beneath the sea.  The lowlands that once connected the British Isles, recent enough to have been recorded, were called "Doggerland".  The English channel was not a channel then, any more than Berengia was a land bridge.  This is a map of Doggerland, made from evidence found in new technology.

More recently, another lost land, not quite Atlantis, has been found under the Mediterranean Sea,  It existed 140 million years, before there were people there, but nevertheless named "Greater Adria."  Later it got shoved beneath southern Europe—was broken up and pushed deep under Europe where pieces are submerged in magma, "earth hell."

"Geologists have reconstructed, time slice by time slice, a nearly quarter-of-a-billion-year-long history of a vanished landmass that now lies submerged, not beneath an ocean somewhere, but largely below southern Europe.
The researchers’ analysis represents “a huge amount of work,” says Laurent Jolivet, a geologist at Sorbonne University in Paris who was not involved in the new study. Although the tectonic history of the landmass has been generally known for a few decades, he says, “[T]he amount of detail in the team’s systematic time-lapse reconstruction is unprecedented.”

"The only visible remnants of the continent—known as Greater Adria—are limestones and other rocks found in the mountain ranges of southern Europe. Scientists believe these rocks started out as marine sediments and were later scraped off the landmass’s surface and lifted up through the collision of tectonic plates. Yet the size, shape, and history of the original landmass—much of which lay beneath shallow tropical seas for millions of years—have been tough to reconstruct."

“The Mediterranean region is quite simply a geological mess,” he says. 'Everything is curved, broken, and stacked.' In the new study, van Hinsbergen and his colleagues spent more than 10 years collecting information about the ages of rock samples thought to be from Greater Adria, as well as the direction of any magnetic fields trapped in them. That let the researchers identify not just when, but where, the rocks were formed."

It turns out the variations in the height of the ocean caused by melting, as we are seeing before our faces on photos and TV graphs, have profound impacts on everything else.  When the sea level was relatively low, as it was before, the early evidence was found of the peopling of the Americas by boatsmen riding the Japanese gyring current that carries SE Asia debris from monsoons to the coast of South America.  Estimates are arrival about 60,000 years ago.  Some of the evidence is what might be called "sailor's knots" made by a people with that technology.

"Other researchers who use seismic waves to generate computerized tomography–like images of structures deep within Earth have created an “atlas of the underworld”—a graveyard of slabs of crust that have sunk into the mantle. This research shows that portions of Greater Adria now lie as much as 1500 kilometers below our planet’s surface."


Losing beneath the oceans whole near-continents, the more recent with established dwellings, and miles of seacoast where today's wealthy people love to live, is only part of the consequences.  The persisting and present continents guide the currents that flow among them, which affects the echoing streams of air above.  The changes of temperature at our poles affect forces like the jet stream that push our climates across the land, but also submerging something like the Panama isthmus will make a new path for the giant sea currents.  

The existence of human beings is due to the major part of their beings as culture rather than more rigid flesh-embedded responses.  But it means change.  At the least the preservation of Manhattan will mean a sea-wall around the island.  But on the global scale the climate and seasons will change drastically, causing droughts as well as flooding.  Many populations will not survive as nations.

It's not just the mistaken notion of the Bering Straits being a "land bridge" that is too old-fashioned to persist, but also the idea that humans, with our relatively short lives, can keep on believing what the new scientific technologies are teaching us enough to cope with them.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


The young man was pretty much a standard suburban twerp growing up near NYC, carefully protected as an only child by his sturdy Germanic parents.  He showed a bit of promise as a writer and they hoped he'd be recognized and famous, though he didn't have a lot of ambition.  As a sort of compromise he signed up for Columbia School of Journalism, rather intrigued by old movies about reporters with their hat brims turned up.  He bought a little notebook to write down facts.  He was named for one of the Apostles but I don't remember which one.  Let's say Mark.

One professor of journalism specialized in books about places where there were all men and they were tough.  Rodeos, prisons, logging camps, and long- distance truckers.  He preferred them to be in another country but always came back to his professor job at Columbia.  Once in a while he wrote reviews of the many books by reservation indigenous men, highly praising them in hopes of being invited to their homes.  He himself was married but it was easy to see that it was a cover.  He assumed it was also that for the other men he liked because he thought they were like him.

When Luke walked in the door to his office, he had no trouble recognizing a kindred spirit.  Pretty soon they were found out and the professor quietly lost his tenure.  Luke also left but the professor had an idea that he thought would bring them both some money and more respect.  He put Luke onto the case.

The facts were that the professor had highly praised an "American Indian" writer, very fashionable at the time, but that man had shunned his personal advances.  He wanted Luke to go after the reservation man and blacken his name.  Then he left for a mining work camp of men in Africa.  He didn't expect to work, but to write about them and maybe form relationships.

Luke realized that though he could get by on the East Coast, mostly because he was so bland that no one ever remembered him, he would find more opportunity on the West Coast where life was more glamourous.  He went to LA and attached himself to a group.  They helped him to fit in by guiding him to a more innovative barber and giving him some of their unwanted clothes.  When his parents paid his way home for the holidays, they were shocked by his appearance, but if that was the way to success they could hardly object.

When he visited his old professor, that man was charmed and they went out to dinner at a notorious place and took in a show before going back to the professor's small new apartment, necessary because his wife had divorced him.  He was a bit short on money, but they mapped out ways Luke could research this offending writer.  They didn't hint that he was gay because that's what they were and people might realize that they were projecting.  So they thought of claiming he had a ghost writer, that he was on drugs, and other things like that.  Since his folks didn't object, Luke lay on the sofa and called up long distance to ask many gossip columnists and other chatty folks to see what he could find out about this Bent Arrow guy.  His folks were impressed that he knew so many people to call.

When he went back to California, he discovered that his group had become fascinated by a different Amerian Indian writer who wanted to make a movie and could get the money for it through trusts and NGO's which all loved Indians, partly because so many rich women were on their boards.  They figured they'd go to fame with him.  He wasn't Johnny Depp but he was the next best thing, a guy who got rich on a perfume called "Odious."  He realized that if he attacked "Bent Arrow" it would get a whole lot of publicity.

He was right.  It worked.  He couldn't get a proper book deal, so he settled for an article in an alternative newspaper.  It was much praised as a real and raw story about a man who cheated to escape being Indian.  The professor was very proud of Luke.  After padding his Vita a bit, he had managed to get a job in a small progressive SW community college close enough to LA for Luke to visit now and then.  It was a good thing because his travel books about male communities weren't selling very well.

When photos of the two men, one older and one young, appeared here and there, no one suspected their relationship was anything more than teacher/pupil.  But the story didn't get Luke any other journalism jobs.  The actor who wasn't Johnny Depp turned out to have no talent but an addiction that used up all the money.  There had never been a decent script anyway and neither the professor nor Luke was up to the task of writing one.

Over the subsequent years the two of them became more rolypoly due to alcohol, but no one minded.  No one took them seriously.  

Bent Arrow went back to his real name which was Aloysious Smith and wrote five more books.  None was on the best seller list but they were widely read and much praised.  He was offered professor jobs, but always declined because of wanting to go home and write another book.  He wrote about the wind, the grass, horses, and freedom.  Those are what he knew.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Over the years I've often written about my co-writer, a man to whom I owe much.  I will risk talking about him again though it will sound narcissistic.  Strangely, we have a lot in common though much of my writing about him has been to note his brilliant and achieving side in the context of the boy lives he has changed while his own writing emphasizes darkness, secrecy, and stigma.  Even failure and death.  The truth must be somewhere in between, but it is nothing like what the public assumes.  Anyway, it was a construct meant to destroy him while enriching his attackers.  It's time to push back in spite of the possibility of old attacks being renewed.

His protection of boys has been moving constantly through a vast system of underground protectors, survivors and patrons who understand his goals. He has never taken much of anything for himself, which is so foreign to persecutors that they never figure it out.  For the boys themselves he has meant release from self-attack, freedom to love, social consciousness that supports other needy people, and help in the struggle to survive one of the most deadly and insidious diseases to afflict the planet.  He feels alone and represents himself as alone, but in truth many are with him, not least the boys who have become men instead of dying.

My tactic has been opposite: staying in one well-loved low-cost place, the highest education I could manage, celibate solitude in the interest of thinking, and always seeking, helped by the Internet but always guarded.  My paternal grandmother grew up near where this man spent his first eight years in a tightly knit farm family near a river where he became a champion swimmer, boater, and fisherman.  Then he was in a place changing after WWII into an industrial machine, much affected by Eisenhower's determination to build a continent-wide system of highways.  In some ways the internet is a world-wide echo of that industrial automobile culture of continental travel in a private way, except the internet is planetary.  

My co-writer has confined himself mostly to a segment of the culture defined by stigma -- boys pushed out of families and reduced to selling their last possesions, their own bodies.  What little safety they had was due to being hidden.  Therefore it was mostly covert but present in culture through academia, literature, and politics over millennia.  It has become various, even opposing one part to another, but always present.  Some are extreme and other parts have been drawn into public life.  But as the secrecy that stigma enforced has recently pulled back, it becomes more dangerous.  Some people cling to old ways and become furious.

My own interests have converged on the newest knowledge about ourselves and the universe.  I easily left the rigid Christian assumptions of the immigrants to the Old Northwest around Lake Michigan and accepted the ideas of the indigenous people, particularly in Montana.  I dared to read everything, even what I had to chase for meaning by using Google or a geology dictionary.  I haven't tried to become prominent or popular.  This has relieved me from distractions.  Sex was unknown territory at first.

Sexworkers, whatever their private orientations, deal with people of all kinds and are themselves keepers of secrets.  They have always been distributed on a spectrum from desperate and passive street walkers to the most elite and expensive weavers of dreams, secret consorts of kings.  Their clients, gender-inclusive just like the providers, include cops, priests, legislators, military and royalty.  In lowest regard are those who treat youngsters as consumable -- abused and even killed-- only objects to be used.  In highest regard -- and this has always been true -- are those who develop true partnerships in a complex world.  Some sexworkers have been castrated, eunuchs.  Some may not be either male nor female but on a continuum between.  

The worst tricks are those who become so alarmed by surprise that they try to kill.  Some tricks conflate sex with violence and punish their sexworkers with beatings and other abuse.  This is one source of the stigma, along with the necessary evasion of government control.  My co-writer knows all about these things because he's survived them.

Print, when developed into literature with meaning, notes all of this and hopes to find the meaning or at least experience. The next step is the beauty, terror and meaningfulness of reading it.  Like poetry.  And after that comes the visionary video, abstract as a painting, full of passion and puzzlement.

Writing can be more invasive than psychotherapy, more diagnostic than a blood test, more subtly damaging than infection or inflammation.  To be seized by writing in its most extreme forms is far different than composing rhymed couplets on Valentine's Day.  The rhetoric can be far from pretty, and the sentiments can praise death.  If I wrote like that, I wouldn't let you see it, but my co-writer would.  It's a long tradition, esp. in cultures full of war, suppression, and money as entitlement.  Like ours.  Some dare to paint it or morph it into music.   Some say a wound is a speaking mouth.

My co-writer has also been a publisher of magazines and books, some of them tender and scientific stories, if not exactly mainstream.  He knows about the price of paper and how to "lunch" with power brokers who wear shoes of great price, spike heels which they kick off when they are back at their desks.  Publishing is not like a girlie movie where Jo Alcott or Anne with an E take their ribbon-tied stack of manuscript to a grumpy old man who transforms their lives by publishing their first effort.  It's all swaps and deals and maybe seduction.  Hard-core stuff.

Striving to see life clearly, without prejudice or advantage, depending on modest living and openness for protection, and loving people I've only met in print has worked.  But it would have been a curse without knowing this other writer.  I'm a danger to him, but maybe it's worth the risk.