“. . . Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.”

A very thin place.

A very thin place.

Seeing the natural world and understanding how it fits together (either as the random result of the Big Bang or as the handiwork of a god) and having the experience of “otherness” or “oneness,” or of the “numinous,” or of “eternity,” or some such mystical comprehension is not my style. My mystical experiences are infrequent, and they are often (like so those of so many other people) dependent on nature or the cosmos or some such grandiosity. I write about them fairly often—sometimes even in public—and when I do, they are usually tied in with some experience of nature. Most often they are connected somehow to my being at the edge of the ocean.

(The hyperlinks to other of my writings more or less on the subject are not for my reader, but for me to have them all together. That may be annoying to anyone trying to read this, but I have to do it.)

The natural world and I have a “come here/stay away” relationship. I have had some remarkable experiences in nature.

The truth is, I have to admit, that my obsession with talking about “mystical” or “religious” or “spiritual” experiences is something of a smokescreen for my inability to believe in God. One might ask how I can write all of this stuff more-or-less about God (at least the numinous or inexplicable) and say I don’t believe in God.

Two daily “meditations” arrive in my e-mail. I subscribed to them, hoping they would help me focus my thinking for the day. One is hardly ever helpful. The other occasionally presents an idea that arrests my attention.

One of those came today.

There is in me something mysterious that nothing is able to grasp, something that no thought or feeling can help me know. It appears only when I am not caught in the web of my thoughts and emotions. It is the unknown, which cannot be grasped with what I know. (Jeanne Matignon de Salzman, 1889 – 1990)

Madame de Salzman, I found in Wikipedia (don’t tell my students), was a musician, a dancer, and a disciple of G. I. Gurdjieff. All I know of him is that he was an “influential spiritual teacher.” Forty years ago when I was in graduate school trying to find my way in the world and rejecting almost everything anyone said, an older man with whom I had just had a “fling” gave me a copy of Gurdjieff’s most famous book, Meetings with Remarkable Men, and I promptly gave to a library book sale. I have come across mention of Gurdjieff many times since then but have never bothered to investigate his work.

Can this be a thin place?

Can this be a thin place?

Many times throughout my life someone—a plethora of someones—has presented me with a book, with an idea, with a “retreat,” with a spiritual course of some sort to help me on my—my what? my spiritual quest? Is that what I’m writing about? The most helpful notion I’ve received was years ago when Sue Mansfield, rest in peace, from the church I still consider my “home church,” Christ Church (Episcopal) in Ontario, CA, said, “You don’t have to believe; you just have to believe that we believe.”

If my Holy Week cold is less obtrusive tonight than it is right now, I will attend the Maundy Thursday Service at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal) Church, of which I am a member. For about two years I have not been to a service except those for which I have substituted at the organ. I’m not 100% certain why I will attend tonight, except that some inner voice is telling me I need to. It’s a lovely service with foot-washing and stripping of the altar in preparation for Good Friday. I like the name—Maundy Thursday. It’s one of those churchy mysteries—Maundy is probably from the Latin mandatum, “commandment” from the injunction Jesus gave at his “last supper,” the new commandment that they love one another.

I’ve never been able to bring together in my mind those words and the experience I had on the beach near Port Orford, Oregon, a few years back.

As I walked in the edge of the ocean, the ocean began to extend itself out to the horizon. I know, I know, you will say that it already did. That’s what oceans do. But the ocean unfolded itself, rolled itself back as I watched. The undulation of the surf was exactly the necessary disruption of the view. The motion was not, as surf had always seemed before, an unending series of discreet waves crashing offshore a few yards and the foamy edges washing up around my ankles. The ocean was all one. . .

Something about the ocean that day, something about the box work formations of Wind Cave in South Dakota, something about the service for Maundy Thursday at St. Michael (at any church that “performs” that liturgy with a certain “style”) is a “thin place” for me.

A thin place is anywhere our hearts are opened. They are places where the boundary between the two levels becomes very soft, porous, permeable. Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts and we behold (the “ahaah of The Divine”)….all around us and in us (Borg, Marcus. The Heart of Christianity. New York: HarperOne, 2004). I didn’t discover Borg’s language on my own. My friend Lee suggested I read Borg.

I’m not certain, but I think what I struggle with is the thin places. Daily.

The thinnest place for me

The thinnest place for me

There is in me something mysterious that nothing is able to grasp.

I don’t know about God. I don’t accept the theological/religious language I will hear tonight and on Sunday. But I know the space between me and that something mysterious will be very, very thin—as it has been on the beach in Oregon and deep under ground in South Dakota. And the space is thinnest when I love. Someone. Anyone, I think.

“A Noiseless Patient Spider,” by Walt Whitman
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

“. . . Street urchins make more than me. Water tastes funny without cups. . .”

"Flowers," by Joe Brainard

“Flowers,” by Joe Brainard

Michael Rohrer is a poet. A published poet. A respected poet. A poet whose poetry I happen to like. And not only because he is gay.

I’ve been reminded by a couple of friends lately the stated purpose of this blog (as opposed to my serious blog, Sumnonrabidus—my pidgin Latin for “I am not crazy”—which has been around for a long time) is to write “a light-hearted look at my experience of getting old” (see “about” above).

See “about” above.
See above about.

(I think if I were a poet, I could make something quite lovely out of “about above.” Say it over and over and see what happens to your tongue and your mind.)

I’m pretty sure I don’t “get” Michael Rohrer’s poem, “Jangling” completely. Starting with the problem that poetry.org says it was written by Rohrer and Joshua Beckman. I wonder if they are simply two poets who put poems in the same book and then say they both wrote all of them or they work together on writing poems (which doesn’t seem fair somehow) or if they are lovers/partners/married and Rohrer thinks he has to put Beckman’s name on his work, too (I hope he’s not that “co-dependent”). Rohrer is also a blogger whose work I read quite often.

“Jangling,” by Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman
Money cannot find me.
I try to be reasonable but money is horridly banal.
Money, blow and blow is what I think about you.
Street urchins make more than me.
Water tastes funny without cups.
How far will I go?
Jingle jingle jingle.
Despite holes that compromise living rooms, friends visit.
Money money and more holes to look into.
You are dangerously close to falling.
The money said nothing.
The neighbors called up to us, “Your whole system sounds cockeyed!”
They suck the life from each other and we pay the bill.
Money always whispers,
“You pathetic humans don’t know my true name.”
I know my own name.
It is something exaggeratedly French.

Chaos? by Joe Brainard

Chaos? by Joe Brainard

 

So I like the first line. “Money cannot find me.” It’s true. Whatever I do, money seems to slip right by me without even noticing I’m there. “Well,” you’re probably saying, “anyone who writes so disparagingly about capitalism shouldn’t care whether money finds him or not, so stop being hypocritical.” You’d be right in saying that. I think capitalism (at least as it’s played out these days) is gross. Terrible. Unspiritual. And designed to keep the poor at the same level of poverty they’re at while making the rich richer by the day. Alice Walton, don’t you see, needs the money. I’ve been to Crystal Bridges. I’ve seen what too much money can do to a person. (That’s a cheap shot because I actually loved Crystal Bridges and can’t wait to go back. Oh, yes. Alice paid for it. The whole thing. Doesn’t absolve her for anything, but it’s a great place.)

Joe Brainard isn’t one of my favorite poets—because he wasn’t really a poet. But “I’d walk a mile for” an exhibition of his art (you get that reference only if you remember when cigarettes were advertised on TV).

I think Joe must have been my kind of guy, and I must get back to Ron Padgett’s memoir of him. I don’t mean he was my kind of guy because he was gay or because, if he were still alive, he’d be about my age. No, I can tell by the picture of his studio he and I had something in common. He obviously was inspired somewhat by living in (immediate physical) chaos. I, on the other hand, just live in immediate physical chaos. He was a successful gay artist. I am a gay dilettante, not quite successful at anything.

Here’s the deal. “Street urchins make more than me.”

And that bothers me a little. It’s a conundrum. I think our national religion of capitalism is inhumane and (I hate to use the word because I don’t want anyone to say it about me—especially about my being gay) sinful. But here I am about to retire (in less than a month), and I’m not sure how I’m going to continue to pay the rent until—when? like my father until I’m 97?—I die.

I try to be reasonable but money is horridly banal.
Money, blow and blow is what I think about you
.

So on the one hand there’s this gay poet (or these two working in tandem?) writing cleverly about money. And then there’s the really clever gay artist writing about “life.” And I think he’s got it about right. I don’t know when he wrote, “I suspect that each of us is going to wake up some morning to suddenly find ourselves old men (or women) without knowing how we got that way. Wondering where it all went.” Was it before or after he learned he was dying of AIDS?

And I think he’s got it just about right here, too. “We are all a bit fucked up, and here lies the problem. To try and get rid of the fucked up parts, so we can just relax and be ourselves.”

Money, AIDS, poetry, art for Matthew and Joe.

And for me, so much more stuff I can’t even begin to list it. But I want “To try and get rid of the fucked up parts” so I can just relax and be myself. I don’t know how to do that yet. Never have. But if I figure out the paying the rent part, I’ll keep you posted on how I learn to relax and be myself.

There. Is that “a light-hearted look at my experience of getting old?” It’s about as close as I can get, most likely.

“Life,” by Joe Brainard

When I stop and think about what it’s all about I do come up with some answers, but they don’t help very much.

       I think it is safe to say that life is pretty mysterious. And hard.

       Life is short. I know that much. That life is short. And that it’s important to keep reminding oneself of it. That life is short. Just because it is. I suspect that each of us is going to wake up some morning to suddenly find ourselves old men (or women) without knowing how we got that way. Wondering where it all went. Regretting all the things we didn’t do. So I think that the sooner we realize that life is short the better off we are.

       Now, to get down to the basics. There are 24 hours a day. There is you and there are other people. The idea is to fill these 24 hours as best one can. With love and fun. Or things that are interesting. Or what have you. Other people are most important. Art is rewarding. Books and movies are good fillers, and the most reliable.

       Now you know that life is not so simple as I am making it sound. We are all a bit fucked up, and here lies the problem. To try and get rid of the fucked up parts, so we can just relax and be ourselves. For what time we have left.

More flowers by Joe Brainard

More flowers by Joe Brainard

 

 

“. . . I long for scenes where man has never trod . . .”

Not everything in its place

Not everything in its place

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) and J.S. Bach (1685-1750) were contemporaneous. Let’s see how many connections I can make. Pope, a shriveled little man with a bone disease that prevented his growing up to five feet, wrote his Essay on Man in 1734. J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was first performed in 1734 (one chorus of which will be my funeral someday—not performed at my funeral, but be my funeral, it and only it, no speaking, no liturgy, only Fallt mit Danken).

It’s difficult—especially for someone who has studied music rather than poetry most of his life—to decipher which of Pope’s poems are serious and which are satire.

In 1725 Alexander Pope published an edition of the complete works of Shakespeare, edited and “corrected” to reflect British “enlightenment” thinking. Tom Stoppard was born in 1937 and wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1966. I was Rosencrantz in a production of R&G in 1972.

One might ask what connection 1725 has with 1734 and what connection either of them has with 1937, 1966, or 1972.

None, obviously. I’m trying to get from point A to point B logically, and I’m grasping at straws for connections.

Connections are supposed to be made. Things are supposed to be tidy. The new set of glassware for my kitchen is supposed to be in the cupboard and the old unmatched glasses for sale at the Genesis Thrift Store behind the barber shop where I intended to get a haircut last Saturday.

What a piece of work is man

What a piece of work is man

Tom Stoppard knows how to make connections. In R&G Hamlet delivers his “What a piece of work is man” soliloquy (Hamlet, Act II, scene ii) to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who are dead but flitting around trying to get Hamlet to come to his senses and kill his mother. (You’ll notice there’s a gay double entendre between Hamlet and Rosencrantz at the end of the soliloquy.)

In 1967 Galt MacDermot’s Hair was all the rage with its version of the soliloquy—almost a connection with R&G, but not quite (they were on Broadway at the same time). I saw the Los Angeles production in 1969, right after I was asked to withdraw as a student at the School of Theology in Claremont because, through A Series of Unfortunate Events (Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snickett, 1999), they had discovered I am gay, and the Methodists weren’t very forgiving. Things were much different then. Right!

Back to Alexander Pope (see how cleverly I make all of these connections?). His Essay on Man, Epistle II, begins

Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man
.

Know, then, thyself. TV commercials agree, and try to sell you on a way to “take control” of your life. The proper study of mankind is control. And the point of taking control—or, more precisely, giving Charles Schwab control—is so you can Own your tomorrow. What a piece of work is man! how infinite in faculty! in apprehension how like a god, owning our tomorrow!

John Clare (1793-1864) was known as the country bumpkin poet. He celebrated nature and mourned the loss of the natural in human society.

And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys. . .

“Into the nothingness of scorn and noise” is not exactly where Charles Schwab wants me to go.

Today I’m going to a “retirement workshop” at the university. I probably won’t understand any of it. But I need to know how to “own my tomorrow” after the first of July. I know how to live now. What a piece of work is man. The proper study of mankind is man.

Here’s what mankind (or people, or womankind, or whatever) does. People spend about 3/4ths of their time cleaning up after themselves and tidying and arranging to “make the house fair as you are able” (from a Christmas carol saying Love the Guest is on the way). People (at least people I know) live orderly lives with all the loose ends tied up. A place for everything and everything in its place. Every Libby glass, every pair of undershorts, every book, every feeling, every thought. Every thought. Manage those thoughts.

If you have a thought for everything and every thought is in its place, you can “Own your tomorrow.” It all depends on clean towels in the bathroom, never missing an appointment, going to the retirement seminar to learn once again when you must, by law, begin drawing money out of the pittance they call your retirement fund.schwab-big-2-opt

I can’t. I can’t own today, much less, tomorrow. This writing was inspired by yet another friend telling me about yet another “self-help” book I need to get myself organized. It seems to me—because I’m too lazy or too prideful to do menial work, or some other obstreperousness—we spend most of our energy trying to be that piece of work. Trying to be

Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Not keeping all of my dishes washed every day, and not putting the new glasses away in the cupboard, and not dutifully checking my mail every day, and not noticing that my car’s yearly registration has expired, and not keeping up with the Kardashians does not make me either a good person or a bad person.

I don’t long for death—or whatever John Clare hoped for. I’m not sure about his God. But I would like right now, not after I die, right now to be

Untroubling and untroubled where I lie.

If the proper study of mankind is man, I should think mankind is not doing too well on the untroubling and untroubled side of things. We’re all troubled and troubling each other—with tidying up, with

Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by [ourselves] abused, or disabused
.

Hamlet, Act II, scene II, by William Shakespeare (or Alexander Pope, or Tom Stoppard, or Galt MacDermot)
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

“Essay on Man,” Epistle II, by Alexander Pope
Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

“I Am!” by John Clare
I am! yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest—that I loved the best—
Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.

“. . . it is the movement that creates the form. “

A reference librarian at Fondren Library at SMU and I have been known to argue about my contention that, in doing research, students need to learn to be lazy. She says students must learn to be efficient. We both mean that students should keep track of their findings in research so they never have to retrace their steps—never have to look anything up more than once.

it is the movement that delays the form while darkness slows and encumbers

it is the movement that delays the form
while darkness slows and encumbers

Recently I discovered the poetry of Richard Howard (born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1929; professor of Writing at Columbia University in New York). His poem “Like Most Revelations (after Morris Louis)” is copied below.

I am going to drive to Houston this afternoon for an overnight stay to go to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts tomorrow for the exhibition of the paintings of Georges Braque (1881-1963). Braque was a close friend and associate of Picasso. His work was somewhat forgotten in the shadow of his preeminent friend. I learned about him at some time I’ve forgotten, and I’ve seen a couple of his paintings (perhaps the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Or I’ve seen reprints in books. At any rate, I have visual memories of several of his paintings, and I want to see his work. Houston is the only American venue for this exhibition.

Looking online for information about the exhibition, I came across a bunch of stuff about previous exhibitions at the Houston MFA, and from there went looking online for paintings by Louis Morris (American, 1912-1962). I’m not sure why.

It may be that I remembered the poem by Richard Howard. I doubt it although I’ve read the poem several times trying to figure out what it is “about.” At any rate, I located pictures of some of Morris’s work online, and suddenly Howard’s poetry made perfect sense. Ah! Research.

It is the movement that incites the form,
discovered as a downward rapture—yes
. . .

The poem is hardly mysterious at all—the subject matter, at any rate.

Yesterday I went to Target for a bit of shopping. Don’t get squirrelly on me about shopping there. At least I didn’t give Alice Walton any of my money. Target is on my way home from the Landry Fitness Center. I needed cat food, and it’s the only place I can get the medium sized bag I like. I picked up a few “non-perishable” groceries I needed so I wouldn’t have to go to Kroger after I got home.

Georges Braque, Musical Instruments

Georges Braque, Musical Instruments

I was at the register, and the clerk and I chatted. The bill came to $70 and change. I slid my card “quickly” in the reader and entered my PIN. The little screen announced I’d entered the wrong PIN. I tried again, and the register told the clerk it could not complete my transaction. I tried again. Not. So we went to the next register with the same result. I was baffled (and getting more than a little annoyed) because I (for once in my life) had checked my balance online, and I knew my account had plenty of money.

I was thinking out loud what to do. Go home, check the balance, come back? go to the bank, get the cash, and come back? leave and go to Kroger to get cat food and not come back? I was, I suppose, obviously upset—but trying my level best to take the situation in stride. Anyone who knows me knows this is the sort of situation that simply baffles me, and I don’t take with aplomb.

The young woman behind me had her credit card in her hand, and said, “Here, let me do it.” No. I know there’s plenty of money on this card. “But it will be a hassle for you. Let me do it.” She handed her card to the clerk, and the transaction was done before I could protest again. I began crying and saying thank you, and she took my hand and said, “I’m happy to do it. Just pay it forward when you can.”

I’m sure the young woman thought I was a poor old man who suddenly didn’t have money to buy his groceries and was too proud to admit it. I’m sure she would have done the same thing for anyone in my situation.

(I drove straight to the bank and found out my account had plenty of money, but after the second ineffective attempt to enter my PIN, my account was automatically frozen. I am obviously an old(er) man, but I did—and do—have enough money to buy cat food and Grapenuts—by the way, did you know you can buy Peets coffee at Target?)

It is the movement of our lives that creates the form.

The movement of my life is altogether too often upset, and I’m seldom grateful.

The movement of that young woman’s life is to be generous—at least at times. My guess is she has done what she did before and will do it again.

I know I will—again and often—be inefficient or lazy about taking care of myself (I don’t know if I entered the PIN correctly or not, but I know I will be upset over nothing again).

. . . in fact
it is the movement that betrays the form,
baffled in such toils of ease, until
it is the movement that deceives the form,
beguiling our attention
. . .

Baffled in such toils of ease I am apt—no, guaranteed—to deceive the form I want for my life, calm, kind undeceived. I am vexed that I will, even as a old man—never learn to give (give up) [myself] to this mortal process of continuing.

The young woman, whose name I will never know, has already learned. Her graciousness, I am sure, touches the lives of many people—even those who don’t need or deserve, it . . . –yes, it is the movement that delights the form, sustained by its own velocity. 

“Like Most Revelations,” by Richard Howard      

(after Morris Louis)

It is the movement that incites the form,
discovered as a downward rapture–yes,
it is the movement that delights the form,
sustained by its own velocity.  And yet

it is the movement that delays the form
while darkness slows and encumbers; in fact
it is the movement that betrays the form,
baffled in such toils of ease, until

it is the movement that deceives the form,
beguiling our attention–we supposed
it is the movement that achieves the form.
Were we mistaken?  What does it matter if

it is the movement that negates the form?
Even though we give (give up) ourselves
to this mortal process of continuing,
it is the movement that creates the form.

. . . beguiling our attention--we supposed it is the movement that achieves the form.

. . . beguiling our attention–we supposed
it is the movement that achieves the form.

 

“. . . hearty Laugher and name rememberer, Proud me . . .”

Stuart Dischell was born in 1954, which makes him 60. Hardly old enough to be thinking about what he used to be.

My little job as shipping clerk

My little job as shipping clerk

When people say they miss me,
I think how much I miss me too,
Me, the old me, the great me,
Lover of three women in one day,
Modest me, the best me . . .
(1).

Poor guy. Wait nine years and see how much he misses of himself. He won’t remember half his list. In some box of the stuff I’ve kept over the past 45 or 50 years, I have a photo of myself lying on the floor on an oriental rug. My late ex-wife took it to haunt me. I fell asleep drunk. Again. The photo is one of my favorites, not because I remember the rollicking good time but because it’s not possible to tell I’m drunk. I look like a healthy 25-or-so-year-old graduate student.

We had not yet entered the phase of love beads and hair/beard not trimmed for a year and brownies that now would be legal in Colorado. When people from California, Iowa, or Boston or St. Paul Lutheran Church in Farmers Branch, TX, say they miss me, that boyish guy lying on the floor is whom they miss, in my mind. Never mind he was drunk and sans PhD. Or many other accomplishments I’ve learned to value over the years.

Note I did not say the accomplishments were valuable, but that I valued them. Some were of value, but most of less value than I paced on them.

Fortunately, I don’t remember—I assume—much (most?) of what I’ve done that is of real value. If I did, I’d “think of [myself] more highly than [I] ought to think, [rather than to] think with sober judgment,” as frumpy old St. Paul said in Romans 12. I remember–not as “accomplishment” but as simple experience—too much scripture for my own good. My mother quoted that Bible sentence to hold over my head so it would not swell inappropriately. Thanks, Mom.

A bit of sarcasm. I thank her for that in the same way I thank her that whenever someone says “Dr. Knight,” I look over my shoulder to see to whom they are speaking. My PhD still sits uneasy.

Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude;
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a [PhD]

(Shakespeare, William. History of Henry IV, Part II. III.1)

Lest anyone think I think I don’t deserve my PhD, I hasten to say that’s not what I mean. Those three years of seminars, that intense study for qualifying exams, and the 367-page dissertation were my accomplishments, no one else’s, and they are the required hoops through which one jumps to be called “Doctor.” Just as getting old is now my full-time job, so were those hoops between 1974 and 1988. Fourteen years? you ask incredulously.

Helping people live by testing their blood

Helping people live by testing their blood

I wish I knew the name of the Dean of the Graduate College at the University of Iowa in 1987—and if he is still alive. I’d like to say “thank you” to him F2F. By the time I was ready to take my qualifying exams, I had been away from the program physically—I was in Massachusetts by then—and chronologically—it had been more than the seven years allowed to finish after residency without taking many seminars again.  The Dean allowed me to finish—to write my dissertation and defend it—because I told him I’d finally sobered up, and several people—including the Rector of the church where I directed the music—wrote letters of support. I did the work, but my PhD is something as a gift.

I don’t remember if I’ve written about that before. After all, this is the 633rd posting I’ve made in my two blogs since September, 2009 (about one every other day). I read those earlier postings now and think, “Who wrote this?” Not because they are such bad (or good) writing, but because I can’t believe I ever knew or thought most of what’s in them.

This morning at 4:30 when I got up, a small group of men were down in the street finishing a job they began yesterday. Apparently repairing a water main leak or some such heavy, unpleasant (and thankless) work. Last night water gysered from the hole they had dug in the street for quite awhile. When I looked out this morning, the gushing had stopped and the hole was nearly filled. In the time I’ve been writing they have finished the job and taken away the machinery.

I wonder if those workmen will bring their grandchildren to this corner and say, “This is where I helped keep the water supply of Dallas flowing on March 1, 2014.”

I’m not someone who flails about talking about the value of good hard work. I’ll leave that to Bill Maher (whose job hardly keeps Dallas—or any other city—in running water). However, I know that my little jobs as shipping clerk at the (now disappeared!) Kaiser Steel plant in Fontana, CA, and as a night shift technician in a lab at L.A. County Hospital, while I hated them at the time, are an important part of “Me, the old me, the great me.” Not the kinds of things Stuart Dishell calls up from his memory. I’ve had plenty of those, too. (Three men, however, not three women, and never handsome and hirsute In soccer shoes and shorts.)

Those jobs, as clearly as my PhD studies, are my preparation for being a

Fellow trembler to the future,
Thin air gawker, apprehender
Of the frameless door.

I’m nine years closer to the “frameless door” than Dishell. Who, by the way, also has a graduate degree from the University of Iowa.

Days of Me,” by Stuart Dischell

When people say they miss me,
I think how much I miss me too,
Me, the old me, the great me,
Lover of three women in one day,
Modest me, the best me, friend
To waiters and bartenders, hearty
Laugher and name rememberer,
Proud me, handsome and hirsute
In soccer shoes and shorts
On the ball fields behind MIT,
Strong me in a weightbelt at the gym,
Mutual sweat dripper in and out
Of the sauna, furtive observer
Of the coeducated and scantily clad,
Speedy me, cyclist of rivers,
Goose and peregrine falcon
Counter, all season venturer,
Chatterer-up of corner cops,
Groundskeepers, mothers with strollers,
Outwitter of panhandlers and bill
Collectors, avoider of levies, excises,
Me in a taxi in the rain,
Pressing my luck all the way home.

That’s me at the dice table, baby,
Betting come, little Joe, and yo,
Blowing the coals, laying thunder,
My foot on top a fifty dollar chip
Some drunk spilled on the floor,
Dishonest me, evener of scores,
Eager accepter of the extra change,
Hotel towel pilferer, coffee spoon
Lifter, fervent retailer of others’
Humor, blackhearted gossiper,
Poisoner at the well, dweller
In unsavory detail, delighted sayer
Of the vulgar, off course belier
Of the true me, empiric builder
Newly haircutted, stickerer-up
For pals, jam unpriser, medic
To the self-inflicted, attorney
To the self-indicted, petty accountant
And keeper of the double books,
Great divider of the universe
And all its forms of existence
Into its relationship to me,
Fellow trembler to the future,
Thin air gawker, apprehender
Of the frameless door.

A hard night's work

A hard night’s work


“. . . alone with the deep alone, a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.”

In the winter of 1989 I made a retreat at Holy Cross Monastery, in West Park, New York (from the Second Day of Christmas through the day after Feast of the Epiphany). A “vocational retreat,” living at the monastery and participating in the activities of the brothers (including washing dishes) in order to discover whether or not I was suited to the monastic life.

A calling to pray?

A calling to pray?

I returned to Massachusetts for the spring semester at Bunker Hill Community College and waited impatiently for the letter from the Novice Master welcoming me to my life as a monk. I knew that, as a mystic, I belonged in the monastery. In addition, the monastery needed an organist.

Finally the letter came from Brother Robert saying the monks did not believe I had a vocation for the religious life.

I was crushed.

I knew I had (have) a vocation for the religious life. I am a mystic, after all. When I told my AA group I’d received the letter and was trying to cope with rejection, one of the old timers told me I should be proud because, “You’re the only person I’ve ever known who received a message from God in a letter.” I didn’t care if she did work in Gov. Dukakis’s inner circle. She had no right to joke about my life (and death).

(I haven’t broken her anonymity. I don’t remember her name, and Dukakis hasn’t been governor since he ran for President. Think how different our history could have been. George H. W. Bush might never have been President, and George W. Bush would not have had a vendetta against Saddam Hussein for trying to assassinate his father. Who knows how much war would have been avoided?)

The monks said they thought my vocation was for teaching, not meditating, and that I needed to use my gift of playing the organ far more than I would be able to in the monastery.

I consider myself a mystic to this day.

But almost everyone with Temporal Lobe seizures considers themselves mystics.

Mysticism and me. And the great mystery of my inability to share the strength and resolve with which people “believe” in their religion.

I waver about believing in God. Most days I don’t. And then I experience something that makes me wonder. And wonder about the wonder. I’ve written about these experiences before:

As I walked [on the beach at Port Orford, Oregon] the ocean began to extend itself out to the horizon . . .  unfolded itself, rolled itself back as I watched. The undulation of the surf . . . was not, as surf had always seemed before, an unending series of discreet waves crashing offshore a few yards and the foamy edges washing up around my ankles. . . The ocean was all one. I knew the same molecules were pulsating together to make the waves, and the waves were conjoined with . . . the earth in one unbroken moving, life-filled, mass . . . including  . . . my own body, and my mind somehow made up of the elemental universe undulating as far as I could see. . .  the reality of the one water covering the face of the deep . .

This is the continuing mental/spiritual conflict of my life—of everyone’s life who is honest, I think. What is the meaning of our death? How do some people’s implacable religious fanaticism (think of President Museveni of Uganda and his American mentor, Doug Coe of “The Family.” See note below) and my enervated agnosticism exist in the same world? Is our experience of the mystery of existence the same? I answered the question for myself in my writing of November 15, 2009.

Gays must not pray.

Uganda Parliament: Gays must not pray.

And I weep this morning again for the joy I knew then and in the sorrow to know that one day I will simply be a part of the reality—not with a consciousness to love it and be sustained by it, but part only of the elemental structure.

I have grown in four years. I no longer sorrow at being simply a part of the reality. I sorrow at the knowledge my consciousness of it will end. Edward Hirsch describes that mystery better than I.

I’m Going to Start Living like a Mystic,” by Edward Hirsch 

Today I am pulling on a green wool sweater
and walking across the park in a dusky snowfall.

The trees stand like twenty-seven prophets in a field,
each a station in a pilgrimage—silent, pondering.

Blue flakes of light falling across their bodies
are the ciphers of a secret, an occultation.

I will examine their leaves as pages in a text
and consider the bookish pigeons, students of winter.

I will kneel on the track of a vanquished squirrel
and stare into a blank pond for the figure of Sophia.

I shall begin scouring the sky for signs
as if my whole future were constellated upon it.

I will walk home alone with the deep alone,
a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.

— (Hirsch, Edward. Lay Back the Darkness. New York: Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. 2003.)

. . . the reality of the one water covering the face of the deep . . .

. . . the reality of the one water covering the face of the deep . . .

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Can one be a mystic and not believe in a God (or the gods)? Is a mystical view of the world a choice or—horrors!—merely a function of seizures in the temporal lobe? Does religion have anything to do with mystical experience or is it the antithesis of mystical experience?

I’m not sure why I’ve provided links to three of my other writings about mysticism. Because I can’t avoid it. I keep “walk[ing] home alone with the deep alone a disciple of shadows, in praise [or in search] of the mysteries.” It would make much more sense if I were religious or spiritual or sensitive or artistic or brilliant. But I’m not. So I don’t know what to make of all of this. Perhaps the Holy Cross brothers were right.
______________________
“The Family is largely responsible for the medieval anti-gay laws just passed in Uganda. President Museveni of Uganda. . . spends time and “sits down for counsel”[with Doug Coe] . . . [Coe is] the leader of The Family . . . the same man who believes that ruthless dictators such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao mirror Jesus’ central message on power. . . [The Family] comprising a number of influential congressmen, senators and other people in strategic positions, works secretively to promote its political, economic and religious ideas. . .  in the United States and across the world. . . One of The Family’s central ideas . . .  is that Jesus Christ’s message was not about love, mercy, justice or forgiveness. Rather, it was about power. The group says that Jesus didn’t come to take sides, he came to take over. (“Museveni, Bahati, named in US ‘cult’.” The Observer. Observer.ug. Wednesday, 25 November 2009. Web.)
Please note this is not the British Observer. You can read a more sympathetic interview with Coe here. If you’re a Christian, make up your own mind if you think he speaks for you, or if you are an American think if you want his power influencing our government.

“. . . Before that dread apocalypse of soul.”

I may have decided in the past few days (a decision that sneaked up on me) the only way to happiness is to be a recluse. Wandering around bumping into all of you folks is too complicated. The moment I decide so-and-so is likeable enough and generous enough of spirit to trust with intimate details of my life, I discover they really don’t want to be bothered.

". . . as the thunder-roll Breaks its own cloud, . . "

“. . . as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud, . . “

And, truth be known, I don’t want to bother with theirs. I want companionship, perhaps even love and sex, but I know what a bother all of that is and how much autonomy any two people have to forfeit for a modicum of closeness.

We all, I am convinced, have the same freakish intuition that whatever pleasure we obtain from being with others—especially with those who try to project their relational willingness with charm and honesty even though we know it’s a ruse—is both vaporous and dangerous.  The danger is not only psychological and/or spiritual. It’s actually physical, too. We can’t get through 24 hours without running into someone literally, making some kind of unintentional physical contact, at best bothersome and at worst (I hear it happens) deadly (especially with cars).

As Ogden Nash observed, “One would be in less danger from the wiles of the stranger if one’s own kin and kith were more fun to be with.” All sorts and conditions of men people manage to invade my space without regard for my feelings. And I theirs.

I used to pray for “all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them” (“Prayers and Thanksgivings.” Book of Common Prayer Online). I think it’s probably still a good idea to pray, if one prays at all, for all sorts and conditions of men people (the 1928 Prayer Book, published 37 years before Helen Gurley Brown took over Cosmopolitan and made the business of relationships absolutelly impossible).

But while people (I’m sure) want to invade my space, I have been known to do idiotic things when I’ve wanted to drag someone into my space—if not my life. I want my dirty socks on the floor in that pile, thank you—and I don’t give a damn if disorder like that makes your skin crawl (but I’ll pick them up for you). And I do wish you’d realize the noise generated by the stuff you watch incessantly on your big-screen TV is driving me to distraction (but, by all means, watch that football game if you like).

I’m tired of this (almost constant) sensation that you and you and you are ripping me apart and taking whatever it is of me you want without so much as a “by your leave.” Or worse, ignoring me altogether.

If a student had written all the above and I were grading it, I’d write devastating (amusing although the student would not get the joke) remarks about “voice” and “style.” Stilted and inauthentic.  I’d tell her to be direct and honest. “Hey, all you people who want me to think you love—or even like—me, stop mucking up my world for no reason. Stop invading my space and giving me nothing in return.” If that’s what the student meant.

I can’t figure out how to say what I need to say—mostly to tell myself—about the distress relationships cause me. I can’t figure out how to write about that unassuaged pain and at the same time give some indication I realize we’re all in the same boat—AND none of us can figure out how to say so. It is an absolute necessity of human existence. This pain of relatedness.

My opening sentence is not quite true. “I may have decided in the past few days (a decision that sneaked up on me) the only way to be happy is to be a recluse.”

The only way to happiness?

The only way to happiness?

Anyone who knows me knows I clearly do not believe that reclusivity (I know, it’s not in the Oxford Dictionary yet, but it will be!) would make me happy. But it couldn’t be more difficult than the uncomfortable and (more often than not) isolational patterns of my life as it is now.

Back in the day, we sophisticated moderns learned to reject almost-out-of-hand the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861). She was a religio/ philosophical lightweight of a Romantic Victorian poet whose work scarcely deserved serious study. Where I learned her sonnet, “The Soul’s Expression,” I have no idea.

“The Soul’s Expression,” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

With stammering lips and insufficient sound
I strive and struggle to deliver right
That music of my nature, day and night
With dream and thought and feeling interwound
And only answering all the senses round
With octaves of a mystic depth and height
Which step out grandly to the infinite
From the dark edges of the sensual ground.

This song of soul I struggle to outbear
Through portals of the sense, sublime and whole,
And utter all myself into the air:
But if I did it,—as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud, my flesh would perish there,
Before that dread apocalypse of soul.

“This song of soul I struggle to outbear,” and I “struggle to. . .utter all myself into the air.” But, like Browning, I know that if I did, my self would be shattered as lightning and thunder shatter the clouds that produce them.

“With stammering lips and insufficient sound /I strive and struggle to deliver right/ That music of my nature,” but I know it’s impossible. I can’t communicate the impossibility of not feeling alone. My soul’s expression is as futile as Browning’s. I have no idea what her soul needed to express. I abscond with her words because I don’t have an expression of my own.

Professor M_____ at the University of Redlands 50 years ago said, in Shakespeare class, all poetry is about “kissin’ or killin’.” I think even with family, friends, and—God forbid—a lover, if I managed to “utter all myself into the air,” I would “perish there.” The struggle to stay connected, for me, is all there is. Struggle. Because at all times I feel so unfathomably alone. Even in the midst of friendship and love.

Not a religio/ philosophical lightweight of a Romantic Victorian poet

Not a religio/ philosophical lightweight of a Romantic Victorian poet

I didn’t have time to write anything this morning, and that makes me crazy!

Frantic. That’s a fairly apt description.

Steampunk, anyone?

Steampunk, anyone?

I have to leave home in an hour. My paper grading is finished. I am more or less ready for class. We are going to discuss how Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story “The Body Snatcher” does not fit Flannery O’Connor’s definition of the “grotesque.” Hint: O’Connor says everything in a grotesque story could possibly happen. The writer of the grotesque, however, leans away from the “probable.” That is, it’s possible Parker’s tractor could explode when he isn’t paying attention and runs head-on into a tree, but it’s not probable—especially that his burning shoes would go flying off him in order to complete the image of the voice from the burning bush, “Take off your shoes; this is holy ground.” No one these days writes anything nearly as bizarre as O’Connor did.

Stevenson had to rely on the “other-worldly” to make his story grotesque. The corpse of an old lady turns into the corpse of a young man whom the body snatchers knew and whose body was dismembered and dissected by a medical school class. Right. Nowhere nearly as grotesque as Sarah Ruth beating Parker nearly senseless because he doesn’t get her Christianism.

So, you see, I’m ready to lead the discussion in my classes. I’m actually going to have them pair-up and write a debate on the question, “Stevenson’s story follows O’Connor’s definition of the grotesque.”

By the way, how much Steampunk literature do you know? Just thought I’d ask my (obviously erudite and educated readers). There. That’s O’Connoresque. The writer of the grotesque will leave strange gaps and skips in the narrative that most writers would fill in. Is this a short story, an essay, a frantic bit of hypergraphia? Doesn’t matter. What logic did I leave out (skip) in getting from a debate about Stevenson and O’Connor to Steampunk, the definition of which most of my readers don’t know (gap).

I’ve been writing something that I think can only be called a Steampunk short story, but I don’t think I can ever finish it. And a poem with the image of the water-faucet in my bathroom as a stainless steel bird. That’s how far from the probable my thinking is today.

I’m just glad I’m not Peyton Manning this morning.

Joanie loves Chachi (and her box is clean)

Joanie loves Chachi (and her box is clean)

His frenzy (the noun form of frantic if you write it correctly) must be worse than mine. He’s lost the prerogative of deciding whether or not his opponent should die in the gladiatorial ring. That’s not so bad, of course except that his opponent won the right to decide that about him. I suppose that’s a bit ghoulish for what actually happened yesterday. The only real physical disaster ensuing from the “game” is most likely a concussion or two. But who’s keeping track of the senile old (at 45) former football players running around? All that will happen to me as a result of my frantic morning is that eventually it’s possible (not probable, thank you Flannery) that I could end up in Zale Lipshy’s mental health unit because no one wants me to be out on the streets when I’m in the middle of a rapid cycling mode. Which I guess I am because the cat litter boxes are already scooped out, my lunch is packed, the papers I needed to read are read, and I’ve got a plan for my day which will probably not be followed (followed by whom? I’d ask a student who wrote that passive sentence; does your clause have a subject?).

I just now started to put the coffee grounds in the cone without the filter and caught myself just in the nick of time (how does time have a “nick,” anyway?), and that was because I was pouring the milk (Silk) onto my Grapenuts at the same time because I have to eat something before I take my meds so I won’t be dizzy all day. And all of that interrupted by running into the bedroom (well, the sleeping area—this is, after all, a loft, and I have no “rooms” per se) to see if I really should have done laundry yesterday instead of waiting around to hear Renee Fleming sing the national anthem (at least she sang only the official notes, even if she stretched the rhythm a bit here and there). And, no, I don’t have a shirt to wear.

And all of that frenzy/franticness is the result of my waking up about an hour later than usual and not having enough time to write anything before I have to go to class. And that will leave me about crazy all day long. At least these days I can immediately look back on the last hour and remember what I’ve been doing. I’ll bet there’s hardly a person alive (there’s no person alive) who has ever seen me at the top of the cycle. You, if you know me in real life and not just here in cyberspace (does anyone know anyone in real life anymore or is it all cyber? are you a cyberanyone to me?) probably would be a little surprised to see me running around like this wishing I had time to write something.

So now it’s too late, and I have nothing written although I had a lot I wanted to say about the Super Bowl and about the fact that I’m going to hear Bernadette Peters live on Thursday night, and I’m reading Joe by Ron Padgett, and lots of other things. But now I have to find something to wear and try to make myself presentable.

My public awaits.

I wonder what SMU students think when I come into the class room feeling this way. No more coffee for you, bud.

Not a thing to wear

Not a thing to wear

“. . . a comet’s nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks. . . “

Pulling the covers up around my shoulders as I got into bed, I said to Chachi the cat, “I don’t want to be alone when I die; that’s all.”

That followed an evening of particular awareness of and grieving over my aloneness. Aloneness in both a physical sense—in this moment home alone—and in, shall I say (even though it seems pretentious), a metaphysical sense.

Every 100,000 years

Every 100,000 years

Metaphysics. noun
“branch of speculation which deals with the first causes of things,”
from Medieval Latin
metaphysica . . . from Greek ta meta ta physika
“the (works) after the Physics,” title of the 13 treatises . . . on physics
and natural sciences in Aristotle’s writings. . .  misinterpreted by
Latin writers as meaning “the science of what is beyond the physical”
(“metaphysics.”
Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, ed. 2001-2014. Web.)

If I use the word, I’m sure to misuse it. Because I don’t know what it means. Is it philosophy? theology? psychology? some new-age mixture of the three? One example of the uncertainty of its meaning is that the people who have codified their ideas in the 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know? have preempted the word to mean an association with “channeling,” that is, speaking for a dead person who whispers truth to the channeler, and the channeler teaches these truths to the rest of us on the dead person’s behalf.

This film features students of JZ Knight of “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment” in Oregon. Knight channels the teachings of the 35,000-year-old Ramtha the Enlightened One (from an ancient city in what is now Jordan). Who am I to decide whether she’s is bogus or teaching the truth? I mention the (far out-of-the-mainstream) use by “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment” of the word “metaphysics” only as an example of the possible corruption of a word (an idea?) This “channeling” seems to me to be an attempt to short-circuit the universal experience, the ultimate human experience of being alone when we die.

Dying is the last and greatest undertaking of our lives, and we do it alone.

I’m not trying to be profound. And if you find that statement depressing or jump to the conclusion I’m depressed, you will probably miss my point (of which I am not at the moment certain—I write to discover what I’m thinking, remember).

The belief someone from 35,000 years ago can speak to someone alive today obviously presupposes some kind of “life after death.”

Last night I wrote to a friend,

I know how to be alone. I know all about solitude. But simply to want someone to talk to, even to hug–I’ve touched one person today—I put my arm around [a friend’s] shoulders for 5 seconds in my office—is not pathological. It is not pathological to grieve my isolation. And it’s not pathological that I don’t have a clue how to find someone that I want to be with, rather than simply calling up someone I know in a desperate attempt not to be alone. This probably is pathological: I don’t want to be alone, but I feel uncomfortable and out of place with anyone and everyone I know. This is probably bipolar rapid cycling. Or some shit like that. But I’m too old to be this miserable. [Note: “rapid cycling” because the night before I was seemed quite happy.]

“So,” you say, “this is not ‘depression?’”

OK, have it your way.

To channel or not to channel, that is the question.

To channel or not to channel, that is the question.

And you’re probably thinking, “Someone ought to call Dr. Bret, the Gerontological Psychiatrist at UTD Southwestern Medical School who prescribes his meds and with whom he does regular (somewhat—because he forgets appointments) ‘talk therapy.’ Surely anyone who’s thinking and talking and writing about dying alone and being in grief over his loneliness is depressed and needs counseling if not hospitalization. This can’t be healthy or simply speculation. He needs help.”

On the other hand, let’s posit this is a “metaphysical” (speculation which deals with the first causes of things) rant.

. . . In 1996, we saw the [the comet] Hyakutake through binoculars . . .
Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—.
. .

Many (I suspect most) of my friends maintain some belief that includes their being around in some form somewhere the next time human beings on Planet Earth will be able to see Comet Hyakutake’s tail. By that time, human beings from Planet Earth may well possess the ability to meet the comet in space. Who knows?

When my late partner was on his hospital death bed, I spent virtually 24 hours a day with him for his last three days. The hospital brought in a “Lazy-boy” for me. About 72 hours before he died, he opened his eyes and said, “Water?” I moistened his lips—he could not swallow. That was the last communication we had, and I’m almost certain I was the last person he saw before he died.

That moment gave me a responsibility I carry until I die. And an invaluable gift.

This can’t be a “metaphysical” rant because that word itself exists in our language through an error of interpretation (see etymology above) from its first use until, for example, its use by JZ Knight. (Barnes and Noble’s online catalogue has 152 pages of book titles using the word.)

I’m not writing about “the science of what is beyond the physical.” I’m writing completely about the physical. Dying itself will be the last solitary physical act. Whether it happens now or the next time Hyakutake makes its rounds to Planet Earth’s skies, “no matter, ardor is here.”

I said, “I do not want to die alone.” And saying so makes my life whole. I need to give to someone else the fragment of reality Jerry gave me. Ardor (“heat of passion or desire,” from Latin ardorem “a flame, fire, burning, heat”) is here.

“Comet Hyakutake,” by Arthur Sze (b. 1950, New York City)

Comet Hyakutake’s tail stretches for 360 million miles—

in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—

the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—

in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—

first silence, then reverberating sound—

our touch reverberates and makes a blossoming track—

a comet’s nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks—

two thousand miles away, you box up books and, in two days, will step through the

        invisible rays of an airport scanner—

we write on invisible pages in an invisible book with invisible ink—

in nature’s infinite book, we read a few pages—

in the sky, we read the ion tracks from the orchard—

the apple orchard where blossoms unfold, where we unfold—

budding, the child who writes, “the puzzle comes to life”—

elated, puzzled, shocked, dismayed, confident, loving: minutes to an hour—

a minute, a pinhole lens through which light passes—

Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—

no matter, ardor is here—

and to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole—

Not to be lone

Not to be lone

Old white male seeks old male (or female)

    A certain inability to sort.A certain inability to sort.

       If I needed to write a personal ad (where? match.com? eharmony? one of those gay hook-up sites?), how would it read?
(Do I need to say I’m having a little fun?)

Old white male in Dallas, TX, seeks old male (or female) for intimate relationship.

in·ti·mate
adjective

1.      associated in close personal relations: an intimate friend.
2.      characterized by or involving warm friendship or a personally close or familiar association or feeling: an intimate greeting. very private;
3.      closely personal: one’s intimate affairs.

(Probably not female although marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, so we know miracles do happen.)

Me:

Old (69) and quite possibly getting older (if genetics have anything to do with it). Living alone and used to say I like it that way, but I’m not so sure any more. Average height, somewhat overweight, mainly gray hair, brown eyes, have had no “work” done and it shows.

Bookish (at least in theory), musician (also in theory—pun intended); about to retire from long but non-illustrious career as college and university professor (music and English); former church musician (50 years); so politically liberal it’ll probably scare you (if communism weren’t in such ill repute—and hadn’t always been instituted by megalomaniacs—I’d probably be a communist except there is no culture outside Scandinavia that is egalitarian enough to make it work, and I hate winter). I don’t hate the super wealthy—I think of them the way the Catholics and Southern Baptists think of faggots, that is, a clever 21st-century judgmental version of the disingenuous “love the sinner but hate the sin”—but in the most general sense of human compassion I love them; however, I don’t like sniveling little self-centered, mean spirited anti-social people who are as poor as I am, so why should I love the super-rich when I loathe—absolutely loathe—their accumulated wealth?

But it’s none of my business that the super-rich have all that money while I wonder if I will end up a ward of the county when I’m 90 (or much sooner—next year?) because I have no money left. They can’t help it that we live in a society that believes with all its deluded little heart that capitalism is a good idea—that Jesus of Nazareth was somehow issuing a command not simply making an observation, when he said, “The poor you shall have always with you,” because even in his day there were a few super-rich and everyone else suffered. In fact, I feel sorrier for the super-rich than for the street people down in the Main Street Garden. At least the street people know what is truly important for a human being—finding the next meal. Alice Walton and Thomas Perkins have never experienced reality. They have no idea what either hunting or gathering is all about. (I lived once “paycheck-to-paycheck” and can tell you it’s no fun.)

Well, I certainly got side-tracked, didn’t I. That’s to be expected because part of being me is also having Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, one symptom of which is an inability to concentrate which looks ever so much like ADHD to the untrained observer. And I also suffer from get a kick out of living with Bipolar II disorder. All of those things together give me a unique inability never to get anything done, to be totally unable to sort and organize, to be over-emotional and live in a world of dissociation. Which is better than being so rich I don’t have to think about anything. I’d rather be depressed and confused than totally out of touch with the realities of the life of Homo sapiens.

You:

A few famous people manage 70-year-old attractiveness

A few famous people manage 70-year-old attractiveness

Physically at least attractive if not a knockout. I know that’s difficult at 69, but I know a couple of people like that. Of course, they’re boring narcissists, so watch out. A few famous people manage 70-year-old attractiveness. Whether or not you are capable of a sexual relationship is entirely a matter of chance. One of those things like having a Fluellen cupcake after dinner: nothing could be better, but it certainly isn’t necessary. Your mind has to be as interesting as your body.

You must be able and willing to talk about your terror of death (even if you believe in heaven and hell—which might be a deal breaker, anyway). You have to be honest. And if I bring up the subject, you have to be willing to talk about it either in the most academic way quoting the Early Church Fathers or Socrates or Frederick Buechner or in the most visceral way quoting Shakespeare or Madonna or someone who knows more about dying than you and I do. On the days I want to tell someone I’m afraid of dying and nearly immobilized by the thought of not “being” (human or otherwise), you must not freak out about it, but be willing for us to comfort and challenge each other.

You have to be willing to experience as many new and different things as I am. I have no idea what ballet is all about, for example. But if you want to go to La Bayadère, I’ll go with you, if you’ll see La Soif et la faim with me.

You must like Harbor Sweets. You must be interested in early twentieth-century gay fiction. You must have a few trips to strange lands and foreign peoples left in you (my choice or yours).

You must be, if not in agreement with or willing to be active in, at least able to hear about and not be upset by some out-of-the-mainstream political ideas (and activities not proscribed by age). You must not be frightened by my membership in some pretty radical organizations.

Even a politician can be a hottie.

Even a politician can be a hottie.

Of course, your main characteristic is that you can read all of this and have fun getting to know me and not think this is TMI or too weird.
A little fun, except for the second paragraph of “You.” That’s dead serious (no pun intended).

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