Wednesday, September 30, 2020


There has always been a stream of rhetoric that depends on passion, indignation, emotion.  This is the secret answer that the reporters and columnists keep searching for when they ask:  “Why do Trump’s faithful stay with him?”  It’s not that those folks are enraged and desperate, which many of them are, but that they admire and believe in this acceptance of emotion and even violence as more “truthful” and therefore more valid than logic or data, which have to be taught.  That's why some think Trump won last night's "debate."

This is also the key to formal academic and presumably government distaste for emotion, the reason it has been pushed out and denied for centuries -- until recently it has been coming back in through understanding of how the body works.  It is this persistent 30% to 40% whose allegiance is to arousal by confrontation who vote for Trump.  To them Biden is irrelevant, not intense enough to notice.

When I was at animal control we constantly dealt with people who sponsored dog fights and cock fights.  They are very hard to suppress.  Human cage fights are popular in Great Falls now and boxing has always attracted a crowd, sometimes including sophisticated people.  A few years ago the Great Falls Tribune published an exposé of men in Cut Bank who were organizing fights between bare-knuckled boys in back alleys for the purpose of betting.  Some people live for the hockey nights in Canada that break out into a brawl.

When I was with Bob Scriver in the Sixties, we bought a bronze by an “Animalier” named Antoine Barye.  It was a jaguar killing an alligator, beautifully cast and patined, of a genre very popular at the time it was made.  Various assortments of top predators were locked in mortal combat.  Or an antelope is taken by a lion.  These were tabletop bronzes in all the nice houses, much like the depictions of conflict between "Indians" and cavalry that are still popular.

If you google for video fights between animals, you’ll see a lot of them.  Some are staged on purpose and others were “wild” and considered a privilege to record for viewing.

There’s something in mammals that loves not just violence but conflict, a form of relationship that is pre-human.  In Shakespeare’s time it was bulls versus dogs or bears versus dogs.  Of course, we all know about the gladiators in Rome fighting each other and lions.  We pretend distaste but only among a certain class of people.  Others glory in "Braveheart" or the various ".007 " tortures.

What was happening in Cleveland last night was not a debate but a pit fight.  Or at least that’s what Trump thought he was doing.  As Mandy Patinkin put it, the event was “bestial.”  Not on Biden’s side but on Trump’s. 

We pay well to watch rodeo bull-riding in which a human is matched against a bull with the odds on the side of the bull and the human in possibly mortal danger.  We consider it bravery to get on the animal aggravated by a flank strap with bells.  A rodeo bull requires a team to manage it, feed it, and so on.  Trump admires bulls.  Blind, enraged, unstable power people are the same.  They can be useful to those willing to corral them.  Trump sees himself as an overwhelming bull.  He does not feel he's managed.

An opponent for a bull, the equivalent of a bull fighter but in a debate, could take a lesson from the Spanish context: the cape and the sword.  The cape to taunt and deceive the animal’s charges and the sword finally slipped between its ribs to end the conflict.  It might be possible to interpret the mildness of the moderator as a version of giving Trump enough rope to hang himself, flirting the cape ever faster to see if he would blow up completely.  Give the people something to see.

Long ago, when I was doing public relations for animal control, I was taught that if a question was something I couldn’t or didn’t want to answer, I should simply answer a different question even if it were not asked.  That’s one technique.  Kellyanne Conway was a skilled user.  If you've watched any nice female PBS interviewer ask questions of a suited Trumpist or bleached publicist on the WH lawn, you've already seen the technique of talking-over, repeating, evading the topic, being indignant at the very subject.  Even Nancy Pelosi does it.

If you google “emotional confrontation” you will find a host of advice about how to avoid conflict — nothing about its skillful use to unify people which exists.  Ministers have a saying about sermons:  “Argument weak here — pound the pulpit.”  Several denominations depend on the passionate assertion of what is meant to be true, particularly what an elitist might consider vulgar and low-class, like the fiery declarations of outraged preachers.

This failure to recognize passion but then to suppress arousal has crippled our thought, prompted us to evade and deny.  The “boys” do not see us as “proud” but as weak.  How do we counter that without becoming monsters?  The same handicap intrudes to keep the “cool” people from recognizing the depth of pain and loss in others.  In fact, not really believing that “others” are humanly vulnerable.  Just pitiable.

Trump is accused of being a sadist, enjoying pain in others.  This seems obvious.  He is also a pornographer of violence enjoying the elimination of others, which is different from ever being in a fight, having to withstand damage to himself.  And he is a fantasist who believes that smearing fake tan on his face and spraying down an epic comb-over looks like anything except what it is.  Merely being booed in a ball game makes him flee weeping.

He cannot be contained by rebukes or refuted with evidence or guided by rules.  He has exceeded even the passionate rhetoric of fundamentalist preachers or tirades in public places by self-appointed prophets.  He doesn’t understand the artful technique of building up to a point, but operates at full-speed right through and will probably go on to incoherent and violent excess as soon as the vestiges of  onlookers are gone.  It’s a comfort to know he is constantly guarded.

Now I’m going to spend some time thinking of how to “handle” such a person until he can be sent down the chute to the corral.  But what about the circle of bull-shitters around him?  We can't go back to the suppression and denial of pretending they aren't there.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


Borgen is the Danish equivalent of the White House.  Sort of.  It is the government center, nicknamed “the Castle”, a massive square building in the midst of the most startling of modern architectural extravaganzas.  This show, on Netflix for 3 series with a 4th one just offstage, is about a highly idealistic and appealing Prime Minister in the complex Danish system of multi-parties and interests.

Bent, Brigitte, and Kasper

This Danish drama series follows the intricate and complicated lives of the politicians, media spinners and reporters who feed off their triumphs and failures . . .  In the first episode, Denmark is preparing for parliamentary elections and Birgitte Nyborg, facing her first election as party leader, decides at the last minute to head in her own direction.”  (IMDB)

It is relevant to me in particular because being over-idealistic is one of my main character flaws and life-problems.  The only context where I don’t get into trouble — I thought — was sitting here writing.  But there is no escape.  That’s not comforting, but I appreciate all the insight I can get.

Brigitte, the main protagonist, is named for the playwright’s mother.  The actress is Sidse Babette Knudsen, one of the most appealing ever.  I suspect that the Prime Minister’s young son, Magnus is an echo of his own childhood.  This is NOT like “House of Cards,”  but not all the characters are faultless and a few are rotten at the core — at least misled in life.  In the beginning the set-up is a perfect family: almost unreal house-husband, teen daughter and small boy.  Then the husband leaves and soon finds a replacement female partner.  The teen girl tries so hard to please everyone, following her mother’s example, that she becomes emotionally paralyzed.  It is this crisis that causes Brigitte to choose her daughter over her government.  Now we see the cost of conflicting demands.

Of course, this is the plot of the book of Job, so it’s not surprising that one bad thing after another finally ends up being resolved and restored.  Kids grow up.  People find new partners.  There’s more to life than being the Prime Minister.  It’s the trip, the storyline, that holds us.

The second plotline is another younger woman, played by Birgitte Hjort Sorensen.  This TV journalist is on the trail of news, believing in disclosure and feeling it is her charge to find out everything.  She is paired with a character played by Pilou Asbeac who has been so damaged by childhood sexual abuse from his father that he hides, lies, spins, and sometimes slips into terrifying rage.  The young woman wants a child but also wants to continue working which means she must delegate the most important early years to others.  The man is deeply afraid of becoming a father.  When he does, he loves the child but the mother is now in a category that excludes sex.

The real father figure, Bent, is played by Lars Knutson.  He’s not a genetic father to the Prime Minister, but a wise veteran politician, the kind of person we would hope would be there and active.  There’s also a wise older woman, a feminist, played by Benedikte Hansen.  If I’d been a writer on that team, I’d have expanded her part considerably.  It’s remarkable that these very fine actors are not known or used in the US.

Even more remarkable is watching this while keeping up with the tale unraveling in the US.  Even in a small progressive country like Denmark the issues are nearly overwhelming.  When they are complicated by health issues or romantic entanglements, the results are not good, but even when things are going well, the country still has major issues to answer.  

Even sexual questions are hard to address.  One of the most moving episodes is about Brigitte trying to address the plight of female prostitutes and trafficking, separate issues, when she is so stupid about the reality.  (No male prostitutes were included.  Gay issues were not connected and anyway were just assumed to be normal.)

Our attitudes are shaped by our experience and — even diluted into fiction over years — they have impact.  When they are as thoughtfully shaped by appealing characters, as in “Borgen,” stories are a force for good.  At least IMHO.  We’ve had so many played-out tales of bad people so appealing that we like them and identify with them, that I fear our standards have become corrupt.

The problem is not just one of deteriorated character and evil goals, but also the continuing problem of means versus ends.  When people are driven by the conviction that they are right, it’s a temptation to cut corners. 

There is no street violence in this series and I see how it confuses Americans who are obsessed with avoiding violence, esp. if it involves the loss of property.  The other force that’s neglected is that of limited resources.  Our earth-derived raw materials are hitting scarcity.  This most obviously affects the oil industry.  The tricky part is that in spite of efforts to confine us to traditional resources like fossil fuels, people are escaping to electric cars and solar panels.  But there is no alternative to water.

In the scrambling we still can’t grasp that without dependable electricity, there are no computers.  Without the huge energy network across the continent, there is no electricity.  Changing climate means interrupted electricity while need rises.  Electronic controls mean “hackability.”

Borgen” — once the romantic subplots are gone — is praiseworthy from one point of view which is that every  idealistic person hits a problem per “episode” from the redhead with the bouncing bosom who sells out Brigitte because she doesn’t have perfect success, to the board member who infantilizes the media for the sake of ratings, to the interruptions from health issues like heart attacks and cancer.  The message is that no one is invincible, even the most pure-hearted.

If series four is put on the air, we’ll see how far the writers manage to reach.  In it Brigitte is expected to be a foreign minister, which brings up globalization and the reconciling of cultures.  Denmark is a small white relatively homogenous country, much easier.  Whether the show is put on the air will also depend on where the US is after the election.  The series is both reassuring — in that we can still see an example of what a country could be like — and terrifying when we look away to ourselves.

Monday, September 28, 2020


For a while my monitors have shown that Russia and China were reading this blog.  Now it suddenly shows they are not. ???

Between the time that media and governmental people know things and the time when they can be confirmed enough to be released, there is a period when those "in the know" drop clues.  That's where we are.  We've been in this gap a lot when there are hints, but no proof.  Comey kept telling us that's where he was.

Over the weekend the new cases of Covid-19 in this county doubled from 4 to 8.  This doesn't show up on rez records that I know of, but does on Pondera County.

The part of the Blackfeet rez that is in Pondera County is the location of the irrigation complex, a major source of profit.  Likewise, the part of the rez that used to be rez, is in Glacier County.  It's the location of many oil wells.  The separations and overlaps of jurisdictions were political, of course, rather than rational.

The attack raccoons on the White House lawn are funny but their behavior is atypical, meaning they could be rabid.  If they bite someone, that person must have shots unless the specific animal can be caught, quarantined, and usually sacrificed to look for rabies in its brain.  They're cute animals but a big male raccoon can take down a dog.

The LIEAP program for low income seniors sent a man to look over my situation.  Luckily, he likes cats.  He thinks he can fit a gas wall furnace into the wall of my kitchen, which would work well.  No need for gas piping in my crawl space at all.


“The Social Dilemma” is a film on Netflix that is the cyber equivalent of the revelations about our financial robbery by international criminal corporations.  Both were there all the time, people can estimate a time-line, and the consequences are devastating.

The idea at the core is that by managing huge data banks created by social media, operators can control how we think and what we do.  This is certainly true.  I feel a little arrogant about it because I’m so atypical that I fall off the curves at every turn.  My “worst” characteristic is that I’m not “like” but that probably means that I still fall into some silo or other.

The thing that thwarts the categories is that they come from a certain kind of culture:  
Middle class
College educated
Super rational
Other-directed but ironically narcissistic
White Brit class assumptions about meritocracy 
or Asian conformity?

In the past I’ve begged my relatives and the churches I know to leave Facebook.  They look worried but don’t do it.  They say,  “But my family . . .”  When I try to explain the concerns in this film, they can’t get it.  Everyone they know uses Facebook.  Anyway, their use of the computer has moved from the tabletop console and has merged with smart phones — a necessity if your basic group is spread around. They depend on them in the most elemental way. 

I signed up for Medium because Blogger was morphing in an uncomfortably unfriendly way.  My use of the computer is based on writing and self-publishing, plus a bit of research.  I object to all the groups and apps that talk about doing something but never do it.  Medium promised to pay if you were read by many.  But you cannot be paid if you are on landline — only if you have a mobile phone.

I call it the “insectification” of humans, but I could refer to as becoming "borgs" which is more grandiose and has a media reference, which techies like.  Insects are standardized and communicating through shared and probably genetically based understanding of a varied world.  They are at the mercy of their environment as the collapse of bee hives show.

Actual government has little to do with it since I see that most of the old white legislators can’t operate even a tabletop antique like mine.  Many don’t carry laptops because that’s for aides.  They have no idea how the internet or apps work.  No need.  They have no interest in any realm except how to stay in office and how to secure power.

I did get interested in “A Billion Wicked Thoughts”, the data-mining that revealed what people found to be attractive pornography, because it was so unexpected, esp. to an old white vanilla female like me.  I’ll never be able to think of octopi the same way again!  Our solution to the pandemic depends on data mining, as does so much medical research.

In fact, the evil consequences of social media on kids, pushing the suicide rates higher and so on, are only perceptible through data mining, collected through computers.  But they don’t work on the atypical, and whole categories of people are not this kind of typical.  No insect or computer can shingle a roof or fix plumbing.  You Tube can help you out, and those vids are social media in a sense, but they are unique, independent, and personally made.  A little rough.

The best possible pushback to this domination by little rectangles of exotic metals with a screen or an ear bud is strong sensory connection to the world through more senses than sight and sound.  More than brain, besides the physiological response to watching action, the body registering movement, smell, surfaces (haptic), taste, balance, and on and on.  Some things just can’t be cyberized.

One of the most crucial foundation damages for humans is that for the most part the reciprocal sharing of a created space is distorted.  “The emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational that regulates energy and information flow within and among us” -- which is one way to define a human -- is replaced by a machine-and-algorithmic determined system that has no senses.  With no senses, it has no experience of the world.

This may work pretty well for urban people interfacing with transportation, sales and distribution systems, advertising — but it leaves out far too much of life.  It mechanizes humans instead of the other way around.  It limits awareness and therefore concepts.

So many a film or series I watch depends for its plot on smart phones and computer indicators.  The cell phones are never out of their hands or pockets.   The model is so stylish.  Crucial decisions depend on them.  They show just where you are, how to get at you.  They overhear your conversations and record all phone calls.  In the course of solving criminal problems, they reveal personal relationships that are then damaged by the lack of privacy.

Everything from the refrigerator to the Bonneville Dam powerplant is regulated and monitored by computers, meaning that a foreign hacker can turn off the electricity as effectively as a hurricane could.  Right now we’re obsessed with the possibility of them changing vote counts without considering how their clever persuasions of whole silos of thinkers can affect a vote.

But the algorithm makers are hampered by having to think inside the silos invented by a monoculture.  The wild card can evade them.  We can leave the pack, abandon meritocracy, just go a different way.  For lack of detectability, many have already escaped, gone “off the grid” and technology has made it possible to generate one’s own energy from sun or wind.

The reward system of attention management is pretty much power and sex, but notice that the people in this film go right away to touting auto-generation of chemicals, talking about dopamine as though they really understood the pathways a hormone might take.  The younger people in this film are more likely to be into math than literature and therefore think they have basic stories of the world that are not ambiguous and conditional the way people really are.  "I had no choice," they say.

These folks probably had achieving parents who weren’t consistently with them even in the earliest years when they were left in child care centers with a dozen or more other kids.  They are not used to creating the liminal space between two actual people sitting together and merging with each other.  I’ve always remembered Sylvia Ashton-Warner remarking that American children are raised by big dogs and television.  No wonder when it comes to times of divorce it is the dog that both people want so badly.  

This imposed particulization of society will be pretty revealing.  Already it has proven in detail money laundering on a planetary scale and the ineptitude of our legislators.  I suspect that some people will discover they don’t like their children very much, and others will discover for the first time that they love these developing people they never paid attention to in the past.

Sunday, September 27, 2020


A week ago Saturday someone was banging on my door very hard but I wove the noise right into my dreams and only later realized it was real.  I apologize to whomever might have really needed me to answer.  I learned that consciousness doesn't always want to rise to the surface.

At Animal Control if people wouldn't answer their door, we called them on the phone.  We are conditioned to answer the phone.

No sooner did I ask for the gas meter to be shut off than the busy algorithm sent me this.

This month marks the anniversaries of two of the nation’s worst gas explosions: #MerrimackValley & #SanBruno. Between them, 9 people were killed, 75+ were injured, and thousands had to evacuate. And just last month it happened again in Baltimore, MD. We need to #MakeGasHistory

There is no gas in this house at the moment but I intend a gas wall heater soon.  It will not be in the crawl space.

I'll add that the estate of the frozen man, who died in his trailer with no heat while sitting in his easy chair, has evidently been settled.  The property is being renovated.  It's an old Texaco station once operated by the husband of my step-daughter who was a year older than me.  This is the sort of thing small towns notice and discuss.  Abolishing gas is never on the agenda.


Continuing with what I learned taking theatre classes at NU 57-61, I remind us that the approach was Method, meaning inhabiting the character we portrayed by finding the equivalent in ourselves, both what our minds and our bodies were doing.  The next step was understanding the mental logic and structure of the play, even how it came from the time, place, and experience of the playwright.  

After that, we went to Malvina Hoffman’s “Hall of Man” at the Field Museum of Natural History, chose a character from the “races” portrayed from all points of the planet, and tried our Method by assuming the stance of the statue and researching the anthropology of the person’s place.

When I returned to school at the U of Chicago 78-82, I was extending that technique to include “comparative religion”— a formal field of study. I went to researching the place and person of philosophers and theologians — what they thought was the meaning of human life and why.  From the less scholarly context at Meadville/Lombard, came questions about how people handle all these things.  

One persistent question was whether the Holy Spirit could be called, as epiphanies are stunning but happen by surprise.  One subject I’ve been pursuing is exactly that.  It seems clear that these intense moments that change lives appear in every culture but are felt in the being of individuals.  What is it that happens?  Some think it is an organic brain state and claim they can induce it with magnetism or electrical waves or drugs.  But maybe that’s not it.  It’s perceived but unaccounted for, like the ability to sense the Holy in the Eliade sense.  He claimed that even standing at a point of transition as humble as a doorway can feel holy, which is one of the sources of the idea of the “liminal” or threshold.

It was not until I retired in 1999 that I began to read the science that has exploded our world.  My resulting mysterium tremendum et fascinans is shared by many and pre-existed modern culture by a few millennia at least.  But it has never been this overwhelming.  The elegant increase in our finely detailed knowledge of the world reveals that we’re destroying it and, in turn, it is destroying us.  

My response to the problem is to admit we are participants in the world — not controllers of it — and to admit the human Rule of Law, but also the dominant Rule of Nature.  We are as we are built in and by the time and place we occupy, connected to everything else, dead or alive, past present or future.  It seems to respond to a time and place but to happen in us, not just our brain but our whole self. 

Then I come to a definition of a human being that Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine claims was developed twenty years ago by a meeting of 40 scientists working across disciplines to define the mind.  This is what they agreed upon as the nature of a human:  “the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.”

This definition relates to the ideas that people are gathering under the heading “embodiment” as our entire bodies are a perceiving and responding point, some ways conscious and others not.  But also it puts the emphasis on relationship as a reality “between” the actual and the perceiver.  I proposed this in terms of a play or a sermon existing not in the speaker or the audience, but as a thing of the moment between the two.  Siegel uses the idea that a shoreline exists between the sea and the beach.  Either one alone is not a shore.  And it is not static.

These virtual concepts with their potential for guiding — even controlling — our lives are processes, always moving and changing.  They are better described grammatically in the participle mode — ing or ed — than in our subject-verb-object way of thinking about phenomena.

Then Siegel throws me a real curve:  mathematics.  To me it’s a black box.  I’ll just quote the paragraph:
“In math, complex systems are self-organizing, and Siegel believes this idea is the foundation of mental health.  (Certainly it is basis of the self-organization of the universe.)  Again borrowing from the mathematics, optimal self-organization is flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized and stable.  This means that without optimal self-organization, you arrive at either chaos or rigidity. . .”

When I googled, it appears that Siegel has gone on to develop a mental health franchise that doesn’t interest me.  Enough with the genius systems already.  I did those in the Seventies.  Franchises are often rigid.

Dr. Matt Kreinheder has another franchise, but he remarks helpfully, “Siegel realized the mind meets the mathematical definition of a complex system in that it’s open (can influence things outside itself), chaos capable (which simply means it’s roughly randomly distributed), and non-linear (which means a small input leads to large and difficult to predict result).”  (His well-being franchise is interested in the mystic.  I avoid woo-woo stuff.)

He says, In anthropology and sociology it is easy to see how mind is something that would move not just in us but also between us. This consensus pulls science out of the aforementioned 400-year-old reductionistic rut.

Its important to understand that the post-rational views are not suggesting that the mind is not in the brain, its just that its not only in the brain. All good developmental models of understanding systems create a “transcend and include” framework to inclusively incorporate what has come before and avoid the “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” that can so often happen as new theories are posited. . .”  I agree with this.  I’m conscious of the “400-year-old reductionist rut.”  It has brought us where we are.

The provable actuality that the planet “rings like a bell” and that waves of cosmic space energy wash over us and through us, that we struggle to overcome our inheritance as mammals without rejecting it, that the teeny bacterial genomes in our guts can change our functioning, and that our existence as the last of maybe a hundred hominin “rough drafts”, doesn’t seem any more preposterous than the beliefs of the big institutional religions we know.  

Humans will always reach out for the mysterium tremendum et fascinans  but cannot know everything — just how to dance with it, trying to hear the music.  I'm listening.  Perhaps I am swaying.

Saturday, September 26, 2020


The most recent of the workmen who have come to save me was the “Smilin’ Lineman” who came with his amazing bucket truck to trim back the tree that was entangling three wires: the telephone, the cable TV, and the electricity.  I don’t need the cable TV — it’s left from previous people — but power blinks turned off my computer and made lights flicker.  High winds were expected but I hadn’t been paying attention to how high the trees had grown, but I was right to call the “Mom” who responds to emergencies.  

The awkward part is that when the lineman got the call he was almost through with his shift and nearly home in Choteau when he had to turn around and come back.  I called it in right after lunch, but it took a while to get through the passalongs.

“Smilin’ Lineman”, as is his affectionate nickname, has nearly reached retirement so he’s a little older than the infrastructure contractors who’ve been here since the roofer discovered the vents for gas were decayed beyond safety.  The tree had no relationship to that — just happened at the same time.  For many years no one besides me had been in this house except the UPS man who brings the catfood.  (Except yesterday it was Fed Ex with a woman driver — they must work together somehow.)  Now I hear their voices as they do their jobs under the floor.

The lineman was from the High Line and old enough to remember Bob Scriver so we swapped stories a bit.  He told about an English teacher he had long ago who assigned them to write a poem.  He was proud of his, but she gave him a D minus.  He checked with a buddy who got a D plus.  Then he showed the poem to his mom, a nurse.  

She said, “This is a perfectly good poem!”  and went to the teacher.  

The teacher said blithely, “Oh, I just gave all the boys D’s.  I don’t like boys.”  She didn’t stay long after that.  This nonsense is deep in our culture.

The other workmen have been a bit younger and when I meet them they begin to mention their mothers, who would be about my age, in order to get a bead on how to relate.  It works out well though I’m nobody’s mother unless you count cats.

I have been impressed with these men.  I remarked to several that their jobs require major strength and math plotting, so were probably not suitable for women.  The youngest man bristled a bit.  He and his partner had just lifted a 400 pound water heater through a hole in the floor but he said,  “I’ve known a few women who could do it.”  

“Smilin’” said he was a “Choteau boy,” so I responded that I was a “Browning girl,” and that’s why I wanted to spend my old age here on the East Slope.  We named a lot of people but there was not much overlap.  He taught me what he was doing while he did it, because that’s the way men here do.  I’d never seen the inside of an electricity meter before.  Luckily, I knew where most things in this house were.  The Sixties taught me a lot while I was helping with the studio and foundry, but some of these things hadn’t been invented yet.

Todd Ahern and Marvin Johnson from Ahern Electric were yesterday’s water heater team and Todd called this morning to make sure all was well.  These are the kind of men that should have been running the country instead of the Loophole Lawyers who infest the government on behalf of international crime.  But these men are busy with real problems — overwhelmed really — keeping we ordinary people sheltered, warm, and rolling safely.  

I also salute the women working from a base to keep track of where people are and what they are doing.  The work is often dangerous and the demand is so high that they can’t go slow.  Dispatchers are part of the team.  Both Northwestern Energy men, gas and electricity, responded competently and on time, even when it was aggravating.

My effort to go for the “meta” and “primal”  — which is the reason for my solitude of reading and writing — means that I never know what’s happening in a practical sense because I don’t read the daily paper or listen to the local radio and TV.  Some of it, filtered through young journalists and old editors, is unreliable anyway.  It’s the tradesmen who know the truth and caucus about it.

Yesterday I saw the sheriff’s truck with the Longhorn emblem on the side stopped in the street with neighbors, contractors, standing talking through the window.  Stan was there — he’s the man who went past my house, saw I was working on the yard and basically restored the whole front yard to decency.  He used to be a canal-rider — you might remember the post — and maintains the “Little Libraries” at Folklore Coffee and the campground.

So I just joined them.  For some men this would be uncomfortable because they would have to stop cussing, but these men never use curses.  They have very strong rules about behavior, like doing one’s best, keeping one’s word, paying one’s bills.  If they were not like this, they would soon be out of business in a small town where reputations count more than advertising.  They are trained people, some of them with four-year degrees and many years of experience.  

Years ago a fuel truck missed the turn by the library and tipped over.  Corky was watching from the motel across the street and ran over to help the driver.  The door was jammed so he grabbed the top of the window glass — it was slightly open — and simply broke it out.  The driver had been stunned.  Deputies soon arrived and it became clear that potential for an explosion could wipe out the town.  The firefighters responded and people were sent door to door to evacuate us to the campground by the lake.  People took their pets along.

By the end of the day everything was sorted and restored — no damage except to the truck — but I was impressed by the quick thinking, the inclusion and resourcefulness, and willingness of people to take action.  If this had been nationally present in the beginning of the pandemic, today would be different.

We delegate too much to unknown others.  We question and balk and ignore.  Newcomers aren’t willing to be volunteer firemen or EMT responders or election workers.  Their cry is “that’s what we pay others to do.”  They don’t know that communities are co-ops because we are all in this together.  The better we are as individuals the better for all of us.  It’s not a matter of gender, it’s basic morality.

The illegal chicken next door is announcing her daily egg. Continuing high wind is tearing at everything but not affecting my electrical supply, thanks to the Smilin’ Lineman.  The three kittens I called “the Buttons” just came stampeding in from getting windblown.  Inky, Fuzzy, and Spotty are ready for lunch.  Don’t panic.  Some things never change.


Almost suppertime and the wind seems as strong as yesterday.  The sky is blue but a storm shelf stands over the Rockies.  Usually that means rain but it's not in the forecast.  Today I finally closed the windows.

When I looked at my blog comments this morning I found a problem that's no one's fault but a consequence of history and social division.  I had written that I kept a card file for a long time in which each card was the obit of someone, an obit published in the GF Tribune.  But I don't take the Trib anymore and I suspect they charge to print them now, so I stopped and gave the card file to the Blackfeet Community College because there is always a lot of family information.  I wrote about this.

I don't print anonymous comments, which this one was.  It was a murder accusation.  I am neither a journalist nor a law enforcement officer, but I cannot include such things in my blog.  I have no way to find facts and the Rule of Law requires official processing.

The trouble is cultural and I can address that.  In the Anglo/Euro context someone accused might be validated by a "grand jury" or by a prosecutor.  Then the facts are pursued in a court of law with a jury of peers.  This is not foolproof but faulty in a number of ways.  I'm not a lawyer, but one can see that "prosecutors" can be diverted, "juries" might not be composed of peers, and so on.

In the pre-domination days when bands of a hundred or so people knew each other, traveled together, and set their own standards, justice came from discussion and consensus among those people.  Offenders were generally ejected.  Some were subject to family revenge.  This system runs against the prevailing law in the US and could pervert it, sabotage it.

I am aware that injustice uses the confusion of the rez.  People are left unsettled and angry. The lawless laugh.  Families protect their own.  But now the tribe includes lawyers who can use the system to get closer to unity.  Probably the days of FBI jurisdiction should end. They are outsiders.

I'm not part of that.  All I can do -- because I am old -- is remember the past for whatever use it is now.  I'm not trying to interfere nor intervene.  I'm just recounting.

As a reminder, in any case I will not append anonymous comments.

When I went to get into my electric bed last night, all the cats preceded me and formed a kind of feline pancake, entwined together in the warm lullaby hammock of the night.  When I pushed them over, still entwined, they went on gently snoring their song of dark.  It had been hard work monitoring all the workmen.

Friday, September 25, 2020


This material below was linked via Twitter, a post by a Montana journalist who values the writer named Anne Helen Peterson  It’s interesting and valid but doesn’t seem to realize that it is about only ONE culture, that of the mainline white denominations that belong to the LEARNED culture.  That is, who expect college degrees from themselves and their clergy.  It’s not surprising that the author is describing the culture of Missoula, a self-conscious university town.

In America we have two streams of clergy, one of which is this kind of trained pastor and the other is the “inspired” minister authorized by God and by the community or congregation that he or she serves.  No education at all is required.  This culture came out of Protestantism when the church separated from the state and insisted on a direct relationship to God without institutional interpretation, though it kept the Bible and the congregation.

For a decade I served the Unitarian Universalist Association which is open to ideas both secular and religious, several kinds of religious and even anti-religious or anarchical notions — but anchored in principles revered by academics.  There is no UU church in Valier.  

My next door neighbor is a Southern Baptist church where the pastor is not religiously educated but acting according to the Bible on 19th century terms, sometimes more Old Testament than Gospel.  We are tolerant except for the cottonwood tree growing on the line between our two lots.  He wants it to conform to them; I want to conform to the tree’s nature.  

About Culture Study: The name “Culture Study” is a modification of “Cultural Studies,” a term used to describe an academic field — and general posture — towards the culture that surrounds us. ... Politics can be culture, celebrity can be culture, tourism and feminism and consumerism and work practices — all culture.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Burnout is a symptom of working within contemporary, largely unregulated capitalism — and religious organizations, whether they want to or not, operate within that system. Not because they’re money-making enterprises (apart from the celebrity pastor cool Christian franchise cases in which they most certainly are) but because they have to function within society created by that system. When the cost of schooling goes up, and student debt goes up along with it, so too does the amount of student debt (many) pastors have to take on. When health care costs go up for everyone, they can also become too much for a congregation to bear for its leader.

Many religious leaders are working 21st century jobs with 20th century skills. We’re still getting trained and formed for a version of church/life that doesn’t exist anymore.

The savior complex is rampant in this field, and there’s almost no counter-narrative to that way of doing this work. 

If I were to describe a profession to you where 59% of the members don't have family health insurance, where the average student loan debt is $54k, where 25% are currently thinking of probably wouldn't guess I was talking about pastors

(This is the midweek edition of Culture Study — the newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen.)


I didn’t leave the ministry because I burned out.  I left because my personal “culture” shifted.  Not my “material” culture.  Some of my furniture was bought by my parents when they first married.  Some of my books belonged to my grandparents.  This is a very humble house — rather chilly at the moment since I had to remove my gas water heater and furnace because their venting failed.  Remedies are in the works but the pandemic’s blows to material culture mean a major shrinkage of manufacturing and even more delay with shipping.  

This shortfall of material culture is a kind of hubris, really, a bit of the pride-in-poverty that used to be part of being religious.  Is there such a thing as “spiritual culture”?  Of course, there is.

So I left congregational ministry but not high principles that serve others some way.  I call myself, when necessary, a “public intellectual” because I’m not “religious” in any cultural terms.  In fact, I turn away from the idea of “religion” as an outmoded term stuffed with cultural conceits.  The revelations of science have demanded a new understanding, a new kind of direct relationship to the world and what is holy.  And now it includes again the whole body instead of the worship of the brain.

I recognize and once participated in Peterson’s culture.  I witness the tension with ministry.  I finally paid off my seminary tuition loan with part of my mother’s estate.  The pastor who used to serve the Lutheran church across the street was a young man who explained to me before he left that he wanted a wife and family, but this village was so small that there were no viable bridal prospects.  He went to a bigger place.  The Methodist minister who was here when I came was older, but he yearned for a place with really good coffee.  It just came fifteen years too late.  (Not Starbucks,  but “Folklore”)  Coffee communion is cross-cultural.

So what is it like to be an unmoored and independent minister?  I write the equivalent of a sermon a day every day — 1,000 words which is about as much as I can compose and revise in a morning.  But I think about the subject and do a bit of research all the time — I don’t do anything else but domestic maintenance and not much of that.  Instead of delivering audibly, I publish through my blog.  I was a manuscript preacher.

Rather than staying in the context of the 20th century culture, I am way out there on the front edge of the 21st century in a way not possible through books or even journals.  My readers are worldwide and vary day by day in number from a few hundred to a few thousand.  This is the internet access to a global idea of “congregation.”  There’s no money in it.  I live on SSI and a small pension.

The Catholics, Methodists and Lutherans preserve the idea of hierarchy, discipline monitored by more superior, non-congregational sources.  Hierarchy is a cultural value and vulnerable to corruption through power, but at the other end of the spectrum is careening emotional group insanity and we see that on television.  Koolaide communion.  Jonestown happened while I was in seminary.

The circumstances have prevented in-the-flesh congregations with their sitting together, their group singing, their potlucks, their hand-shaking.  That’s clear, but we haven’t been aware of a new demand for a change in the nature of ministry.  Because this is still a culture based on materialism and profit that defines the church as a business. 

In terms of “religious” material culture symbols, mine are “found”:  small bones and fossils and an old porcelain doorknob that gleamed at me from the wreckage of a destroyed house.  Survival symbols.  What else counts?  My thinking has expanded far beyond humans.  I’m about the bears, bees and trees and how they all fit together.  The new conditions changing our culture still let me tell you about that.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


This YA novel that I’ve rolled around in my head for twenty years would be called “Prairie Gladiators,” which was partly inspired by the shot in the movie “Gladiator” (2000) — which was then recent — showing the home-loving warrior trailing his hand through fields of wheat.  But also because the phrase of ignorant whites for Native Americans was “Prairie N — r“, not because they were enslaved but because to the ignorant what counts is the responding emotion when a word is used.  None of them had any awareness of history nor regard for racism.

I never heard any of the boys in this problematic small town high school class use that phrase.  In fact, they weren’t much prone to cuss.  They were more into the obstinate defiant mode with an overlay of self-righteousness.  They enjoyed opposition and knew that no teacher or even administration could really control them, the same way delinquents believe they are too young to be severely punished.  Most of them had parents who had no better success controlling them and some had parents who really didn’t care.

What they didn’t understand was that administrators are political and will throw teachers under the bus to please the politics of townspeople who don’t have kids but want winning teams.  I evaded the boys by joining them — listening and trying to figure out their issues — but there was no way to evade the girls.  One of them was the granddaughter of the man who originally hired me in Browning in 1961.  This is a story full of irony.

There were two other English teachers.  One was really a biology teacher who kept the peace by buying a box of donuts every morning.  The other one had to get a past English teacher to help her correct her grammar worksheets — she had majored in French literary theory.  

The past English teacher had confronted the rebels, saying he would flunk them, so the administration created a business computer class and redefined that teacher to be the business teacher only.  The boys never took those classes.  A non-athletic student was already working with Cisco.  When he had been teaching English, this teacher emphasized Dostoeyevskian writing, which attracted the best students.  They tended to despair of the world, but have done well since.  They had strong families.

The boys themselves were far more assorted than one might have thought.  One was a handsome arrogant citizen of Ireland who rose one day, declared the class far below his standards, and walked out.  The administration transferred him to another class but not long after that the young man was notified he had inherited land in Ireland and left to claim it.  I have always respected Irish education with its high standards imposed by the Catholic priesthood.  They had no trouble maintaining suffocating control.

A young woman with a lawyer father occasionally dropped advice for me.  One boy, unusually big and very funny, was somehow protected.  His classmates never gave him any trouble.  The girl said it was because his father was part of a notorious motorcycle gang they feared and told me the father’s name.  He was a boy I had taught in Browning many years earlier — he rode a horse then.  He was not mild and obedient but I liked him.  I laughed and laughed.

At one point I decided that the problem was that the boys had hearing damage and scheduled tests for us all.  I was the only one who had some loss.  Not much— just high frequencies.  

One troublemaker sat in the back of the room and every day asked to be excused to go to help the coach.  I always let him go, which puzzled him.  He was looking forward to a confrontation because he had a powerful father he assumed would eventually take me down.  He wasn’t likely to learn much in class.

Two boys had divorced mothers but were affected very different ways.  One was desperate to succeed at sports to  achieve prosperity for his mother and himself.  He was a descendent of Natawista, a Blackfeet woman who was wife of Culbertson, an early developer of Montana as a steamboat captain.  As his translator, in summer Natawista plied the Missouri with him and in winter she wore a red silk dress at their estate in St. Louis.  The great-great grandson was only vaguely aware of this since it would not help him get an athletic scholarship to a good school.

The other boy sat in the front.  He was intelligent and handsome with Latin blood.  His mother was very pretty and stylish but my daughter-advisor said I wouldn’t really understand him until I met his father.  The son was only a faint reproduction of that striking and potent man.  She was right.  It was only too late that I realized that the boy had been sexualized and burdened with anxiety.  It was the end of my employment.  

In the on-going class attempt to throw me off balance, the boy sitting behind him leapt up and declared, “X is jiggling his balls in class and I want to know what you’re going to do about it.”  I put the offending boy on detention.  At that point I didn’t know that another boy worked in the principal's office and was intercepting all the detention referrals so no administrator knew his long history of difficulties.  Also, it didn’t mean much to me that detention prevented him from playing in a crucial ball game.  

The superintendent came to argue me out of the punishment.  At first he was diplomatic, but then suddenly he “broke” and screamed at me for endangering his job.  The boys HAD to win this game and they needed this particular youth.  I quit.  The principal was very pleased.

The boys were mystified.  They had grown fond of me but had no concept of who I really was or that anyone unlike the people they already knew could have any separate identity at all.  I was not real, just interesting, which was a accomplishment in itself.  Finally the team did not “go to state.”  The coach retired.

There were other sub-stories.  The librarian who always had a coffee mug in his hand which he offered to let me taste to prove it wasn’t spiked.  The boy who lost his temper at a tournament and smashed a trophy display case in what might have been “roid rage.” 

The “English teachers” soon moved on to other schools and more fitting jobs.  The principal was given an award to increase her prestige so she could also move.  The superintendent left.  One evening a mother who had been more observant than I expected, called me up to say,  “They’re all gone.  Our high school is a happy place once more.