Everything’s Gone Green

Green HatAfter interviews I’d often be so wound up I’d hop in a cab on Market Street and tell the driver to take me to the far side of Golden Gate park where he would drop me off and I’d walk back to my truck parked back down town.  The wandering walk sometimes takes several hours, and I often return after sunset.  I watch the city age over years.

I exit the park and start up the curved sidewalk that leads to the MacDonald’s marking the entrance to Haight.  Today my back sizzles with stripes of pain wrapping testicles and toes.  I walk as fast as I can.  I approach the Anarchist Bookstore and enter after ignoring it since my first and only visit more than 15 years ago.

It looks the same.  A grey slim man with a sparse beard is busy under a pair of headphones.  I walk past him and pick up a book containing line drawings of female reproductive anatomy in the form of a coloring book.  I’m amused, and I put it back to reach for another that claims to be one that kids should have but would never be allowed.  It contains drawings of monsters and unicorns having sex.  I drop it back on the shelf with a thwack and turn to see if the man behind the counter is disengaged enough to help me.  He’s still busy.

The desire to consume language is overwhelming.  I do not enjoy wasting my time with words that do not matter.

I wait for his focus to break so that I might get a pure unmolested-by-bother answer.

He removes his headphones while I’m browsing the store’s most insincere and humorous magazines.  I approach the counter.  He smiles and asks how he might help me.  I explain how painful events have answered many questions but left me with a new interest:  I want to go back to the beginning and use my new eyes.

He nods and smiles.  And says:

‘I see.’

I follow him five or six feet to the bookshelf beside us.

‘This.’

‘Thank you.’

I do not look at the book.  I pull out my money to pay.  He returns to his position behind the cash register and smiles.

‘How long have you been here?’

‘Seventeen years or so.’

‘Do you own this place?’

He laughs out of the side of his face.  I asked the wrong question.

‘It’s a collective.  We all help out.’

I smile and grab my change.

‘Thank you for your help.’

I exit the bookstore and turn right toward lower Haight.

Very far from pursuing the natural order from the lower to the higher, from the inferior to the superior, and from the relatively simple to the more complex; instead of wisely and rationally accompanying the progressive and real movement from the world called inorganic to the world organic, vegetables, animal, and then distinctively human-from chemical matter or chemical being to living matter or living being, and from living being to thinking being-the idealists, obsessed, blinded, and pushed on by the divine phantom which they have inherited from theology, take precisely the opposite course.

They go from the higher to the lower, from the superior to the inferior, from the complex to the simple. They begin with God, either as a person or as divine substance or idea, and the first step that they take is a terrible fall from the sublime heights of the eternal ideal into the mire of the material world; from absolute perfection into absolute imperfection; from thought to being, or rather, from supreme being to nothing. When, how, and why the divine being, eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect, probably weary of himself, decided upon this desperate salto mortale is something which no idealist, no theologian, no metaphysician, no poet, has ever been able to understand himself or explain to the profane. All religions, past and present, and all the systems of transcendental philosophy hinge on this unique and iniquitous mystery.1 Holy men, inspired lawgivers, prophets, messiahs, have searched it for life, and found only torment and death. Like the ancient sphinx, it has devoured them, because they could not explain it. Great philosophers from Heraclitus and Plato down to Descartes, Spinoza: Leibnitz, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, not to mention the Indian philosophers, have written heaps of volumes and built systems as ingenious as sublime, in which they have said by the way many beautiful and grand things and discovered immortal truths, but they have left this mystery, the principal object of their transcendental investigations, as unfathomable as before. The gigantic efforts of the most Wonderful geniuses that the world has known, and who, one after another, for at least thirty centuries, have undertaken anew this labor of Sisyphus, have resulted only in rendering this mystery still more incomprehensible. Is it to be hoped that it will be unveiled to us by the routine speculations of some pedantic disciple of an artificially warmed-over metaphysics at a time when all living and serious spirits have abandoned that ambiguous science born of a compromise-historically explicable no doubt-between the unreason of faith and sound scientific reason?

It is evident that this terrible mystery is inexplicable-that is, absurd, because only the absurd admits of no explanation. It is evident that whoever finds it essential to his happiness and life must renounce his reason, and return, if he can, to naive, blind, stupid faith, to repeat with Tertullianus and all sincere believers these words, which sum up the very quintessence of theology: Credo quia absurdum. Then all discussion ceases, and nothing remains but the triumphant stupidity of faith. But immediately there arises another question: How comes an intelligent and well-informed man ever to feel the need of believing in this mystery?

MB. God and the State.

Llano Estacado

Galaxie PuffMorning 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 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?

Torch

TorchWhen 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.

Orbiter View

Orbiter ViewAged 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.

 

 

Triggers

Farm Irrigators
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.