Morning workouts bring cracked dust trails and seldom used railroad tracks. The California Sun is nowhere near as hot as the one over the New Mexico desert where I roamed aged 12. Yet, it’s just hot enough to peel back layers of memories revealing the most pleasant sensations of my early rides to the college where I’d double-booked classes only to capture lab time with the mainframe. What’s missing now are the oil pits, wind-blown plumes of invisible petroleum stink, and the web of caliche roads which seem to hold the Llano Estacado to the Earth. In boiling heat I plotted back country pumpjack routes ending near the southwest quadrant of the road circumscribing NMJC. Summer weekdays I made the trip on an old ten-speed carving frustrating ruts when the hardpan failed. I suppose I was motivated by the same obsession I see in my own children today: Machine time. Still, I see no similar adventure in their own lives–solo quests over treacherous lands–and it saddens me. And today, every small avoidance on my trail run triggers instincts to instruct them as to what to watch for, what to avoid, the geology, and the observation of the toil of others, but my children aren’t there. Their absence begs the question: What have we wrought? A question repeating in my mind, but the words are not my own. While science and society progresses, we haven’t made any significant strides in our own nature. We’re still viciously vying for wants; corruption has no obvious face, and it is everywhere; the workplace is just a facade behind which hides a nature no different from ranchborne butchery; and cooled offices and retina displays have only changed the face of our routines. Beneath the thin veneer of our professions exists the same grunting club armed primate waiting to bash in your head for a few corporate kudos. How to prepare them?
after gathering surface samples Officer Jolene Manipulates the transnoumenal plasma plotting our course to next star system–altering reality with the touch of a small, sensitive hand.
Recent US Supreme Court news has focused on DOMA; however, there’s another case which intrigues me more: Salinas v Texas. Here’s the holding:
When petitioner had not yet been placed in custody or received Miranda warnings, and voluntarily responded to some questions by police about a murder, the prosecution’s use of his silence in response to another question as evidence of his guilty at trial did not violate the Fifth Amendment because petitioner failed to expressly invoke his privilege not to incriminate himself in response to the officer’s question.
Specifically, police informally asked questions to a suspect; pre-Miranda; suspect answered most; when presented with a question that might incriminate him, he remained silent. His silent pause was used against him in court as evidence of his guilt.
Language–the means, mode, and act of communication, syntax and grammar, verbal or otherwise–is on stage here. Before this year, I’d never attempted a critical, circumspect investigation into language and its role in forming society and, more important, reality. In my pursuit of tying specific words to concepts as I understand them (something most important to me over the past two years), I’ve learned to appreciate the role language plays in all things human. I’ve found many discrepancies in my notions of definition and meaning by practicing pause when considering important values I hold. For example, I value integrity as a defining characteristic. I often shape my world-view around what I would do in a particular situation to maximize a positive outcome for myself and for all. But, what does integrity mean to another person? This is a problem. Since I’m not The Other, there’s no way for me to ever, ever know we absolutely agree on, well, anything at all.
In work, language and the act of communicating is perilous. We’re constantly misinterpreting. Text messages, chats, and emails amplify the problem. I’ve heard: “I messaged So-and-So over thirty minutes ago, why haven’t they responded? Did I make them angry somehow?” Silence can be scary, and it’s never clear what it means. This court case and outcome I find astounding because no reasonable way to interpret the silence of Salinas. In this case, a man’s life was at stake.
More troubling is that the existence of rights is tied to an act of language. Our Supreme Court confirmed Salinas should have exercised his right, and only then would his silence be inadmissible. With the conjuring of a right by his use of language it would have created the reality keeping him out of jail. Yet Salinas’ silence was instead used as a determining factor of his guilt. All this time I’ve acted as if rights are intrinsic. You have them, or you don’t. No magic spells required. I’ve obviously misunderstood Miranda as a safety net for the uninformed: The police must tell you your rights just to make sure you know them so they can’t coerce you to incriminate yourself. Instead, you do not have the right to remain silent without incriminating yourself until the police have informed you of your rights and you have used a form of language to exercise those rights. I believe this is a mistake and a marked indicator of our flawed society.
This issue indicates the power and provides clear evidence of the important role language plays in defining what and who we are. Every day I talk to dozens of people, and many of those conversations happen in a closed room, in a one-on-one setting as it’s part of my job. I listen, and I do whatever I can to help them, even if it is trivial. After countless hours of conversations with hundreds in this setting, I’ve become exceptionally aware, I believe, of the Otherness of the person in the room. I routinely and clearly see the barriers to communication: Distance, hesitation, fear, doubt, distrust, confusion, cultural issues, and just plain frustration in trying to convey an idea. You see the patterns enough, they become obvious. Today, it’s difficult to avoid acute self-awareness during these conversations. I’m constantly reminded there’s another person in the room with their own world-view, their own values, their own concerns, and it’s all wrapped in the period of time they’ve existed. Now, once at the front of my thoughts, the mechanics of identifying and addressing the concerns of the Other become automatic.
I think this takes a huge amount of practice, and I suspect most people never have such an opportunity. I think I’m probably lucky to be in this position; however, I can’t overstate how difficult it can be to always reach a positive outcome–and maintain that integrity I value. Language deficiencies leave room for misinterpretations that may prohibit outcomes perceived as my maintaining integrity, no matter what I do.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, considers the recanting of a person’s religion a human right legally protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
The Committee observes that the freedom to ‘have or to adopt’ a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views [...] Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.
In some countries apostasy from the religion supported by the state is explicitly forbidden. This is largely the case in some states where Islam is the state religion; conversion to Islam is encouraged, conversion from Islam penalised.
- Iran – illegal (death penalty)
- Egypt – illegal (3 years’ imprisonment)
- Pakistan – illegal (death penalty since 2007)
- United Arab Emirates – illegal (3 years’ imprisonment, flogging)
- Somalia – illegal (death penalty)
- Afghanistan – illegal (death penalty, although the U.S. and other coalition members have put pressure that has prevented recent executions)
- Saudi Arabia – illegal (death penalty, although there have been no recently reported executions)
- Sudan – illegal (death penalty, although there have only been recent reports of torture, and not of execution)
- Qatar – illegal (death penalty)
- Yemen – illegal (death penalty)
- Malaysia – illegal in five of 13 states (fine, imprisonment, and flogging)
- Mauritania – illegal (death penalty if still apostate after 3 days)
- Morocco – illegal to proselytise conversion (15 years’ imprisonment)
- Jordan – possibly illegal (fine, jail, child custody loss, marriage annulment) although officials claim otherwise, convictions are recorded for apostasy
- Oman – legal in criminal code, but according to the family code, a father can lose custody of his child
The only way to get out of a mirror-maze is to close your eyes and hold out your hands. To write this allegedly ultimate story is a form of artistic fill in the blank, or an artistic form of the same. [jb, 111]
For the first time in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself. [c ts 122-123]
All these creatures spend their time explaining, realizing happily that they agree with each other. In Heaven’s name, why is it so important to think the same things all together? [s n 8] I am beginning to believe that nothing can ever be proved. These are honest hypotheses which take the facts into account but I sense so definitely that they come from me, and that they are simply a way to unify my own knowledge. Slow, lazy, sulky, the facts adapt themselves to the rigor of the order I wish to give them. I have the feeling of doing a work of pure imagination. [s n 13]
When the water touched my brow and Adam’s sin left me, I contrived by strain like defecation to bring tears into my eyes–but felt nothing. There was some simple radical difference; I hoped it was genius, feared it was madness, I devoted myself to amiability and inconspicuousness. I was seized by the terrifying transports I’d thought to find in toolshed, in communion-cup. The grass was alive! The town, the river, myself, were not imaginary; time roared in my ears like wind; the world was going on! James Joyce once wrote. I’m going to scream.
When we die there are two things we can leave behind us: genes and memes. We were built as gene machines, created to pass on our genes. But that aspect of us will be forgotten in three generations. Your child, even your grandchild may bear a resemblance to you, perhaps in facial features, in a talent for music, in the colour of her hair. But as each generation passes, the contribution of your genes is halved. It does not take long to reach negligible proportions. Our genes may be immortal but the collection of genes that is any one of us is bound to crumble away… We should not seek immortality in reproduction.
But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea, compose a tune, invent a sparking plug, write a poem it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool.
– Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. 199.
I behave as if I’m carrying forward for my children. It’s what I’m to do and what I’m to fail to do. Just pick up and show them how to go forward.
I had two dreams about [my father] after he died. I dont remember the first one all that well but it was about meetin him in town somewheres and he give me some money and I think I lost it. But the second one it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin through the mountains of a night. Goin through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothin. He just rode on past and he had this blanket wrapped around him and he had his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up.
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
I called my father today to make sure he was still alive as I hadn’t heard from him in a couple of months. I checked for news of him in his small town and turned up a photo of a fresh looking grave stone stamped with his name, located in the town where he was born on the other side of the country. Subtitled “Loving Son.” His name is extremely rare, so it’s possible the grave contains a son of his I don’t know about. Maybe he doesn’t know about either. Not entirely surprising as I also found a marriage record for him and a woman who is not my mother dated just a couple of years before I was born. He has at least two other sons I’ve never met, and I’m not sure how many times he’s been married.
He answers the phone and says he was just busy getting a new shoulder. Got one side fixed up, a new knee, a hip, and time to move on to the other. He ends with I can’t wait to get better. I guess that’s some kind of moving on.
Aged 14 and midnight I hover outside a downtown bar in Tulsa Oklahoma. I’m with a coven of Christians hell bent on conversion of the drunken damned and debaucherous. I’m terrified and sweaty, yearning for the church van to return. I’m nowhere near committed to the mission of the witnessers who seem far beyond eager to plant some spiritual seed. Even at this age I’m too skeptical and logical to lie to myself and worse, to those who exit the neon lit door of the bar I’ve been assigned. What Jesus approach should a kid like me use when a beautiful whiskey laden girl, falling out of her clothes, steps out of the hand dirt stained door of the thumping club only to find me there with a floppy leather bible in hand?
I stutter of course. And she laughs. She walks around me. Yes, this really happened.
This was the mid ’80s. I’d arrived there with the core prayer group from Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Center, a pentecostal church emitting a high energy beam of charismatic nonsense. Here’s the interesting part: I was part of Pastor Carlton Pearson’s ministry. Pearson’s church grew to over 6,000 in the ’90s. He was made a bishop. He made piles of money. However, now, he’s been declared a heretic. As far as I can tell, he’s lost his faith, or the original version of it that includes the concept of Hell.
Every once in a while, back when I watched TV, before his heresy, I’d see him wrapped in gold suits on the Trinity Broadcasting Network as I flipped past the channel. He was rich and disgusting. From what I hear, that’s all gone now.
Now I realize I was just orbiting their planet of belief. Watching the activity from the skies. I couldn’t connect with them or their faith. Back then I was caught in a painful, soul sucking vacuum hose of fear, not just of Hell, but also of the political climate of the ’80s. The Cold War and the rhetoric of Reagan had me terrified of nuclear war. For years, due to charismatic churches, our government, and news media, I feared being beheaded while trapped in the Tribulation because I missed the rapture or toasting in the silent blinding white light of World War 3. So full of fear.
It’s quieter and happier up here in rational space.
Quantum foam (also referred to as space time foam) is a concept in quantum mechanics devised by John Wheeler in 1955. The foam is supposed to be conceptualized as the foundation of the fabric of the universe.
Additionally, quantum foam can be used as a qualitative description of subatomic space time turbulence at extremely small distances (on the order of the Planck length). At such small scales of time and space, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle allows energy to briefly decay into particles and antiparticles and then annihilate without violating physical conservation laws. As the scale of time and space being discussed shrinks, the energy of the virtual particles increases. According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, energy curves space time. This suggests that—at sufficiently small scales—the energy of these fluctuations would be large enough to cause significant departures from the smooth space time seen at larger scales, giving space time a “foamy” character.
With an incomplete theory of quantum gravity, it is impossible to be certain what space time would look like at these small scales, because existing theories of gravity do not give accurate predictions in that regime. Therefore, any of the developing theories of quantum gravity may improve our understanding of quantum foam as they are tested. However, observations of radiation from nearby quasars by Floyd Stecker of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have placed strong experimental limits on the possible violations of Einstein’s special theory of relativity implied by the existence of quantum foam. Thus experimental evidence so far has given a range of values in which scientists can test for quantum foam.
The fabric of space time is a mess of probabilities out of which everything you know and love takes the form of a wave through time. You are not who–or what–you think you are:
Studies at the Oak Ridge Atomic Research Center have revealed that about 98 percent of all the atoms in a human body are replaced every year. You get a new suit of skin every month and a new liver every six weeks. The lining of your stomach lasts only five days before it’s replaced. Even your bones are not the solid, stable, concrete-like things you might have thought them to be: They are undergoing constant change. The bones you have today are different from the bones you had a year ago. Experts in this area of research have concluded that there is a complete, 100 percent turnover of atoms in the body at least every five years. In other words, not one single atom present in your body today was there five years ago.
Thinking back to my post on Triggers, how is it a fragrance from a flower shop takes me back to the frigid room I played in as a child, if I’ve literally been replaced several times over?
THE DANCE Is it OK for Isaac to be outside? Those hawks are circling around. They're just doing their dance. They do that every night. She says. Oh. OK. He says. The panic sets in occasionally Of the mortality of it all. Mary Karr has me now. I see she's full of the shit That hurts most. And, that's OK, too. Just like those hawks circling around. They do that every night.
Here we see Officer Chas giving a helping hand to Officer Jolene after they volunteered to continue searching for more instances of silicon based life forms on Kepler 46f. In the background the rest of the team rocket to rendezvous with Sicore Orbiter.
It’s clear Jolene trusts Chas to help her over the crater pocked crust of Kepler 46f and it’s 40% greater gravity, taking a toll on her smaller form. Big brother takes no chances and is always eager to guarantee her safety.
Hopes: Trust vs. Mistrust (Oral-sensory, Birth-2 years)
- Existential Question: Can I Trust the World?
The first stage of Erik Erikson’s theory centers around the infant’s basic needs being met by the parents and this interaction leading to trust or mistrust. Trust as defined by Erikson is “an essential truthfulness of others as well as a fundamental sense of one’s own trustworthiness.” The infant depends on the parents, especially the mother, for sustenance and comfort. The child’s relative understanding of world and society come from the parents and their interaction with the child. If the parents expose the child to warmth, regularity, and dependable affection, the infant’s view of the world will be one of trust. Should the parents fail to provide a secure environment and to meet the child’s basic needs a sense of mistrust will result. Development of mistrust can lead to feelings of frustration, suspicion, withdrawal, and a lack of confidence.
According to Erik Erikson, the major developmental task in infancy is to learn whether or not other people, especially primary caregivers, regularly satisfy basic needs. If caregivers are consistent sources of food, comfort, and affection, an infant learns trust- that others are dependable and reliable. If they are neglectful, or perhaps even abusive, the infant instead learns mistrust- that the world is in an undependable, unpredictable, and possibly a dangerous place. While negative, having some experience with mistrust allows the infant to gain an understanding of what constitutes dangerous situations later in life.
Definition of trust
- 1 firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something: relations have to be built on trust they have been able to win the trust of the others
- 2 acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation: I used only primary sources, taking nothing on trust
- 3 the state of being responsible for someone or something:a man in a position of trust
- 4 a person or duty for which one has responsibility: rulership is a trust from God
Trust is actually a synonym for faith:
noun. confidence – faith – credit – reliance – belief
verb. believe – confide – rely – credit – hope – entrust
And from the OED on faith:
Definition of faith
- 1 complete trust or confidence in someone or something: this restores one’s faith in politicians
- 2 strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof: bereaved people who have shown supreme faith
- 3 a particular religion: the Christian faith
- 4 a strongly held belief: men with strong political faiths
Trust is religion.
Roughly eight billion years ago a star exploded, casting into space the iron its engine produced, continuing the seeding of the cosmos with one of the basic ingredients required for life.
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe (from Latin: ferrum) and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element (by mass) forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth’s outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth’s crust. Iron’s very common presence in rocky planets like Earth is due to its abundant production as a result of fusion in high-mass stars, where the production of nickel-56 (which decays to the most common isotope of iron) is the last nuclear fusion reaction that is exothermic. This causes radioactive nickel to become the last element to be produced before collapse of a supernova leads to the explosive events that scatter this precursorradionuclide of iron abundantly into space.
Iron is the essential element in hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen to burn nutrients that power life in vertebrates.
Hemoglobin (pron.:/hiːməˈɡloʊbɪn/; also spelledhaemoglobin and abbreviated Hb or Hgb) is the iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein in the red blood cells of all vertebrates (with the exception of the fish family Channichthyidae) as well as the tissues of some invertebrates. Hemoglobin in the blood carries oxygen from the respiratory organs (lungs or gills) to the rest of the body (i.e. the tissues) where it releases the oxygen to burn nutrients to provide energy to power the functions of the organism, and collects the resultant carbon dioxide to bring it back to the respiratory organs to be dispensed from the organism.
Vertebrates are a form of life on Earth that began 525 million years ago, and here we see a photograph of two vertebrates: A dirty blonde primate nursing her infant daughter, absorbing the 4 million year old view of the Sierra mountains, while sitting on a 1,200 year old volcano.
This moment of rest and observation lasted about twenty minutes.
On my morning run there’s a spot that smells of a cotton field, triggering an intense memory of harvesting cotton on the King Ranch my summer years in high school. Other major associations that have hit me lately: Moth balls and a visit to Wichita Falls in Kindergarten; Plowed weeds and a stint cleaning rotten grain from a massive silo (hell on earth); Pesticides and getting bitched out by a crop duster for running over his hose (which he ran across the road) used to mix his chemicals; brake fluid and the failure of a hydraulic fitting while attaching a disk plow. And, I can’t walk by a flower shop without remembering all the time I spent in my parent’s own flower shop, mostly playing in the fridge room. What a great smell.
[NOTICE: I'm writing this in bed with a fever. I claim no responsibility for what I write.]
I’m interested in artists who hand me their work on the street, who scare people, whose work is confusing and contradictory, and especially those who redefine our notions of art. Art works, in and of themselves, are objects, but, for me, it’s my response to those works that makes them art.
Jolene Charging To Battle the Glandelinian Overlords
The photo above reminded me of a conversation which took place about 15 years ago between myself and my friend Jerry. I’d just met him (we’re still good friends, but don’t talk as much as we should) . He loved to show me that my definitions, at that time, of social limits, cool, and status quo were all absurd. He was right, too. I had no idea what I was talking about. I still don’t, and that’s what he taught me. I’m always wrong as there’s always someone out there redefining normal and pushing the limits of what is acceptable. Plus, Jerry was one of those people. He’s not happy unless he’s redefining reality. I find this fascinating and laudable. The conversation started when I noticed he was carrying around some prints that didn’t quite make sense to me. They were drawings of little girls with penises in some kind of fantasy world. Having just met him, I was afraid to ask (which is a weird concept to me now as I’m a totally different person, today I’d just tear into a conversation with just about anyone).
After a week or so, he was still carrying them around. I asked. He explained they were the work of Henry Darger. He also explained how Darger was a misunderstood artist who was institutionalized early in life and people generally misinterpreted his art as a form of pedophilia. Turns out, Darger was autistic, abused as a child, and his art was an expression of his desire to protect children. He was harmless. He was also, quite possibly, one of the greatest artists who’s work is classified as outsider art.
The term outsider art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut (French: [aʁ bʁyt], “raw art” or “rough art”), a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by those on the outsides of the established art scene such as insane-asylum inmates and children.
While Dubuffet’s term is quite specific, the English term “outsider art” is often applied more broadly, to include certain self-taught or naïve art makers who were never institutionalized. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work is discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.
Darger grew on me over those 15 years. I studied him whenever I saw something that reminded me of his work. I find I keep going back to it for some reason.
Henry Joseph Darger, Jr. (/ˈdɑrdʒər/; ca. April 12, 1892 – April 13, 1973) was a reclusive American writer and artist who worked as a custodian in Chicago, Illinois. He has become famous for his posthumously-discovered 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story. Darger’s work has become one of the most celebrated examples of outsider art.
I like that he created his work in total solitude. I don’t know why I find that appealing. I like that he unknowingly challenged the definition of art. This led me to ask the question: What is art?
“Someone dumped a pile of elephant shit in a museum and called it art. I must live in art. I’m surrounded by shit all day.” — Stephanie Sicore when questioned about the work of Damien Hirst.
I remember when Hirst, Saatchi, and the Young British Artists made a stir back in the ’90s. What I didn’t notice was the Stuckists who responded to Saatchi, conceptual art, and Duchamp. They published several manifestos about the definition of art. To me their argument boils down to: Art is only painting with the product displayed in non-museum settings, without all the ego. I don’t think art can be restricted to such a narrow definition. To do so would be to make a subjective value judgement of the response one has to any work presented as art. While I do not appreciate the work of Hirst (if you can call it his work because he usually isn’t the one actually doing the work), I believe I have no right to say something is or isn’t art.
Who am I to define what is normal, acceptable, or appropriate for another’s response in observation? Who am I to question the value placed on response by another? These are things I simply cannot control. I’d rather relish the diversity and permit my own value response by taking the time to observe whenever I can.