Cabin Reflections

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“Penelope remembers having read that of all the liquids and fluids produced by the human body – sweat, semen, vaginal fluid, saliva – tears are the only one without any trace of DNA… Impossible to identify someone from their tears, we’re all identical when we weep despite the many different reasons we have for weeping, something like that.  Unlike unhappiness, tears don’t set us apart, they make us the same.”

Rodrigo Fresan, “The Invented Part”

Last week I spent with my four offspring at a cabin on the Pikes Peak Massif in Colorado.  Mostly I register grief and loss in my experience of living… but interestingly enough, the first entry of my vacation journal begins with the simple sentence “I’m happy.”  Unqualified, that’s it – myself + my offspring + a rich world reeking of “no service” and untellable beauty… “I’m happy.”  Here are some notes I made throughout the week:

Simple things innerheard during cabin stay:

The stars: “We can’t tell the difference: between light or dark, death or what remains.”

The streams: “Where have we come from, where are we going? / Where we have come from, where we are going.”

Growing things (grass, moss, wildflowers, mushrooms, wild berries, etc…): “Not yet, not yet.  Who knows?”

The rocks, the boulders: “Once upon a time.  Now.”

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The mountain(s): “Maybe.  May Be.”

The cabin:  “Us.  Here.  We.  With.  Hold.”

Phrases of my children:

  • “It’s good to live this way once in awhile.”
  • “Why do we leave here, ever?  I never want to.  What is have to?”
  • “Dad, everything here is your ‘favorite‘.

And me:

  • “Nothing is like this.  Nothing… Belonging, I belong.  Time changes, it’s different here.  As if there isn’t.  THIS PLACE IS ‘BEAUTY’ TO ME.  THIS PLACE IS WORTH MY LIFE.”
  • on climbing: “I’m a dad: we ALL make it, or none of us really do.”
  • on love: “If I say ‘I love you’ – please don’t hear it as worship, as inordinate.  In love we see the ‘too much‘ of the other – that which is always beyond our own reach, the ‘too much’ in each of us we struggle with, and seem to be unable to assimilate or observe in mirrors of our own.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons the conundrum we call ‘love’ exists?

Addresses to my children and loved ones:

  • To T: “Always beware of logic – our fabricated things.  What we may wish toward but doesn’t make matter.”
  • To A: “Recall.  There are differences.  Beware.  There are openings for more life.”
  • To I: “You have it.  You carry your own water.  Your own dreams.  Your own beginnings.”
  • To O: “Heroes also may shrink you, diminish, contain.  You are deeply your own.”
  • To H: “Never mind.  I am not the one who can conquer it in you.  I believe someone will.”
  • To ?: “I love you.  Like literature: the possible of life.  Impossible.”

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Thank you mountains, rocks, growing things, streams….

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Learning-With, Working In-Between

I found the following paper when cleaning up our dining room table to prepare for dinner:

Ida_Blog

What I learn from the inscriptions of my freshly teenaged/screenaged daughter is this:  POWERFUL WRITING CAN BE ABOUT ANYTHING.  Which inspires me, and supports a potent hunch I’ve been harboring over recent years and studies: that writing that works on or in us, that gnaws at us, strikes or challenges us, perhaps even changes or ‘enlightens’ us, nourishes or crushes us (as the human species we happen to be – capable of participating, communicating, coordinating variously fabricated scales of signification from the organismal, cell-based to communal (‘personal,’ ‘social,’ ‘political’-based) tends to be concocted up out from textures and materials of authentic self-report and confusion or lack [wonder? – our ability to ‘put-into-question’?].

That we make effort, perhaps progress, are sustained or contained, constrained or extended by core curiosity (query, investigation, inquiry, desire) around perceived conundrums, or LACK.

“This in-between feeling”: self-report (authentic within constrained conventions, perception, culture) + confusion, curiosity, a questioning, experimentation, conundrum = an access to the uncertain, the open, the unknown.

“If it is true that there is (in the Chinese language) a written character that means both ‘man’ and ‘two,’ it is easy to recognize in man he who is always himself and the other, the happy duality of dialogue and the possibility of communication. But it is less easy, more important perhaps, to think ‘man,’ that is to say, also ‘two,’ as separation that lacks unity, the leap from 0 to duality, the 1 thus giving itself as the forbidden, the between-the-two [l’entre-deux]”

– Maurice Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond

 

Human scientists, when they’re ‘successful,’ or ‘good’ combine observation / passion / desire / perception (experiment + experience) as authentic self-reports in a conventionalized constraint PLUS putting the conundrum or confusion (joining-with beyond-certainty) into question… open… ‘What Is…?’ ‘What If…?’ WHAT MIGHT MY HUNCHES, TROUBLES, EXPERIENCE, SENSES, DESIRES indicate?  Anything?  No-thing?

The litterateur, artist, therapist, musician – what COM-PELS us (pushes us forward-with-world, with-being) seems to be a kind and variation, repetition and difference of this experience + experiment – attempt at authentic self-report wedded to curiosity/wonder/or the putting-into-question of it.

Some empty set.

So Cantor’s infinity.  Einstein’s relativity.  Godel and undecidability.  Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger’s existentialism or phenomenology, Wittgenstein’s language and forms of life, Beckett, Joyce, Blanchot, Wallace proliferating or desiccating sentences – all seem to be appropriately tied, threaded and submerged in Experience + Lack, Perception + Desire, what we do not, perhaps can not, know.

When William James delivers a cumulative, culminative authentic and conventionalized self-report, a curious address called “Is Life Worth Living?”, or Socrates-Augustine-Leibniz-Nietzsche-Shakespeare-Kierkegaard [substitute names at will – Dante, Darwin, Dostoevsky, Proust, Sartre, Peirce, Melville, Dickens…] inquire “Why is there something rather than nothing?” or “Why is there anything at all?”… Why this!? We’re hovering about a lack – of understanding, apparent meaning, dissatisfaction, perhaps frustration, an emptiness, a hole in things we’re troubling, questioning.

‘Scientists,’ ‘psychologists,’ ‘poets,’ ‘lovers,’ ‘activists,’ ‘parents,’ and ‘priests’ are all pushed forward in these questions… core-conundrums, felt-vacuums, hitches, indications of LACK.

Resulting in remarkable attempts at authentic self-report coupled to curiosity / questioning / doubt.

Inquiry is effort.

In-between: knowing/experiencing and unknowing/confusion – experience and experiment.

“The center…[does] not hold”

Lacks.

We are not-yet-one (self-sufficient) and less-than-two (self and other).  Not an observer or experiencer without something observed/experienced.  Not a language or emotion without a group or felt-with or in-relation-to.  Not a happening without a happening-in, a happening-here, a happening-to.  Not a sound without a hearing.  A cell without surround, a border and environment.  No self without an other and all incomplete, undecidable, in flux and underdetermined.

ALWAYS IN-BETWEEN AND UNCERTAIN

An adolescent is able to capture and confess this…that alone tells me nothing together might do.

No “what if?” without something to work with.  No awareness without awareness-of.

And so “I,” her progenitor-father, study NOTHING.  The “what if nots?”  Incomprehensible, inexistent, perhaps inconceivable questions… indeterminable, indecipherable, perhaps unexperiencable and irrational.

At breakfast we speak of it.  Curiously, we authentically self-report our wonder, confusion and conundrums – our LACK – of understanding, of method, of language, of expression, experience… our limitations we might call ‘impossibility…’

That nothing is only possible when nothing is NOT.  That if we are able in relation to nothing… ‘we’ can not be there, or ‘be’ at all.  Nothing not even itself, not even an absence… to speak or think of it is to rush it away…

These are things I learn from my children – that our questions go unanswered, are (perhaps) unanswerable, that attempting authentic reportage (communicating) experience coupled to wonder, and putting-it-to-question, with humility, then, in doubt… perhaps drives our systems, our logics, our literatures, arts, sciences, and love… LACK that we do not know, can not (perhaps) know, are participants-at-scale – finite and fragile – and have our limits, open and undecided…

Without which…nothing?

Thank you dear children.

I am comforted almost to imagine you might be driven on…

…by your lack, your honest confusion, unsettledness, and authenticity.

Funny enough, the following short piece arrived in my email the same day…

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Laramie, still

Teton-Range

Marc hasn’t approached such things in a very long time, having left ranches for cities decades ago.  He’s never perceived his father this way – a sodden, curled lump, a heavy heap of human – laying not far from a dissolving and evaporating campsite.  Still.

Alias ponders “still as stasis or persistence or both/and?” in his notebook in his study.  “Most often I use ‘still’ with some indication of both – stubborn, persistent, continual, unmoving – obstacles.”

Son standing over his father.  Father, fallen, humped, underfoot of son.  A stubborn statue, status, state.  Something resilient, resolute, apparently ineradicable and permanent – as far as permanence goes.

“Sons stumped by their fathers.  Fathers blocking their sons.” Alias wrote as Lucy re-entered their provisional home (what “home” is not?).

Laramie lay still, sopping, weighing more than any many should, it seemed to Marc.  Now fathering the labor of his unfortunate offspring, hovering over it/him like a bent tree, not quite as strong, but still stuck and rooted.

“The child is father to the man…still,” Alias jotted, telling Lucy that he’s stuck in the awful muddling middle of things, still wanting several things to be possible at once, believing they ought appropriately have right to be – including (but not limited to) both of their happinesses and satisfaction… fulfillments… but unable to see quite how, and for some strange reason thinking acutely of Laramie, wondering about him today – where he is and how – and all of their good, promising, talented grown children, and why they all increasingly feel alone, distant, farther from one another with age, in spite or in direct conflict with his feeling of the relative, mandatory, even necessary import and significance of these very few – very few consistent, momentous, continual and crucial relations – one another, their some sort of shared offspring or circumstanced charges, numbered friends, one another… handful of humans they ‘trust’ ‘still’ – and the vagaried ambiguity of all of these terms.

Marc stares:  his father: a persistent stasis: there, still.  His mother.  What now?  Himself?  His wife, sister, the children?  And there… here… Laramie Paul Backstagger… still.  Present.  Here.  Present.  Still.

Lucy, in annoyed concern – Alias inebriated, anxious, composing, fantastical, undone – suggests they simply call Anna or Marc, Maribel or Laramie his own self, and check in if he’s so concerned, so (“apparently”) troubled and unsettled about them.  But Alias, of course, of matter-of-course, of persistent stubborn stasis, replies, sighing: “Whatever.  I’m overwhelmed.  Over-reacting, under-developed, undone… Forget about it.  Sorry.  How was your walk – your outsiding?”

Marc prods the body with his boot.  His father weighs too much.  Too heavy.  Too absent.  Too still.  Sensei had startled his mother Maribel, returning to the ranch stables alone.  Who startled his sister Anna, startling Marc via telephone, still.  And now here, miles from anywhere, hating, prodding, regretting, wishing this sodden, sullen lump of heavy matter wasn’t his lifeless father, Laramie, his mother’s errant husband, his sister’s rugged hero, the persistent stasis of his dad.

Tension reigns, still.  Vitality.  Forces working upon and with forces.  Matter and space and energy and time, perhaps.  At the very least a conflicted Alias in tangled tango with his beloved antagonist Lucy, unaware, intuitive, confused and undone, while Marc is shoving his inert father, Maribel quivers, Anna waits, and Lucy huffs down the hall.  Life keeps pressing on and stopping, still.

from Archives – Family: A Fiction

wandering through my own writings, and stumbling on things that surprise me.  This seems (to me) to be some of the best writing I’ve ever done, something I can’t imagine being able to do, something I’m not sure I ever did – the bewilderments – something I can’t imagine doing again.  Thought I’d share…I wonder who/what I might be.

Family

Family: A Fiction – NW Filbert (2012?)

Interconnection and Autonomy

a personal note

I have long disliked and had an intense aversion to telephone calls.  Like televisions transmitting in shared or public spaces, they present inescapable interruption and intrusion.  One could be in thought, repose, intimacy, conversation, activity — in fact, whatever one is about when one is not on the telephone – and then suddenly must react to a demand.  A call.  But WHO is calling?  WHY?  Why now?  When my attention is demanded through interruption or intrusion, my body anticipates emergency.

Disembodied conversation shifts the burden of dialogue to the voice.  Therefore the natural indicators for “I’m thinking…” or “give me a moment,” nods, smiles, frowns or gestures that flow in face-to-face interaction, offering wholistic responses, are all pressured onto the mind and voice – forcing incessant reports and the trickiness and difficulty of translating bodily experience into language.  I require time to listen, consider, and respond.  Movement.  Silence.  Whether it’s a simple invitation, business matter, question or request – it always emerges as demand on the telephone.  Respond to this NOW.  (public or shared-space televisions – SEE this NOW).  You cannot escape, select, regulate or direct such importunities.

Global Communication Technologies, – our networks, internetworks and their myriad machines and devices – have provided some enormous benefits toward expanding our social lives outside of limited demographics and cultures, opening realms of activities and artifacts, information and resources that in any other time-period we may never have known about or encountered.  As these technologies proliferate into internets of thingsubiquitous (or pervasive / invasive) computing, and manifest the inherently linked realities of our world…simultaneously providing ambient findability (all of these terms and phrases as easily interpreted as violence or intrusion as well as opportunities or boon).

I’ve long preferred face-to-face interaction (in spare doses, they are taxing & rewarding) and textual communications (obviously, but also texting, emails, postal correspondence), because in the F2F we are offered and allowed appropriate cues to follow and respond to one another, and in textual discourse we are allowed the time and distance to craft and dictate our translations of experience, messaging intentions, and terminological tones.

Of late, however, I have noted a convergence of Call-Anxiety and Pervasive-Communications.  And am wondering about our levels of autonomy (if there even is such a thing for the human) or self-direction, any amount of governance we might preserve over our lives and activities and choices in a world populated with linked devices?

How much of our days – work time, supposedly “personal”/private time, play time, labor time, interpersonal time, family time, meal-times, chore-times, reading times, creative times, necessity times, and so on…- are steered and directed, controlled and dictated by the consistent, persistent, pervasive and invasive thoroughfare of MESSAGES from OUTSIDE?  If we consult our devices upon waking – how often are that day’s events passively designed around what we receive?  If we respond to text vibrations / updates / posts / SMS or IMs / emails – how much are they eroding self-governance and discipline or choice and instead simply ANNOUNCING (demanding?) direction and response?

How many swerves do we make in our causeways of living by our over-saturation with “friends,” our communicative reach far beyond our communities, our global information system versus our local work offices or families or few (actual) friends?  There have been plenty of studies from nearly every field of inquiry reporting that our safe or thrivable social capacities are quite limited – most studies indicate humans do best in consistent contact with 30 or less others.  Proffering sufficient opportunities to know, understand, interact and relate.  Yet any given Facebooker or tweeter or snappy-chatter may have exponentially larger engagements nearly every minute of their lives.

How different would my relationships with co-workers,  children, family, friends, BE if we weren’t including thousands of others in remote places, professional connections throughout the world, images and language and emotional reports and happenstances flooding like telephone calls and tele-visions and noise into our domains, habitats, domiciles, studies?  What might i NOT buy if it weren’t so easy?  How differently might I know books, movies, music, animals, persons – if they weren’t in virtually infinite supply?Do we preserve moments of choice and connection, safe from Call-demands or Pervasive/Invasive-communication-technologies?  Or do we simply escape or take breaks from time to time?  Going for a walk or having a dinner, camping, hiking or traveling once in a while without our devices?  What would it be like to lose them?  What would we know?  What kinds of knowing would we produce?  What sorts of makings?   What might be drawn or composed, felt or engaged, seen or heard if we were DISconnected to the hive of activity and input? How might we relate to those around us?  Where might we go?  Who might we be?

Well, that’s what I’m thinking about.  Pondering.  Wondering.  Queries of value and quality and meaning.  Stress-levels, anxiety, physical wear of being “on alert,” alarm, reactive, responsive to ubiquitous “Calls.”  Demands.  Invasions.

What if we saved intrusions for emergencies?  Took time to send only specific, relational-oriented, relevant and appropriate information to one another?  Thought critically?  Reflected?  Looked, touched, listened, and managed more wholistic presence with our immediate surrounds?

I don’t know.  I’m just wondering.

[The lucky piece for us at present is that, like pulling the phone line from the wall, our technologies are remarkably easy to dismantle and turn OFF, should we CHOOSE to]

The ’45: Considering Complexities – On Plasticity of Identity

floyd merrell diagram

On Plasticity: Being Ourselves, Able to be Ourselves

 

My birthday recurred.  Post-40 in a thriving family of 6, there are not many days deemed “special” that end up being about oneself as the father, caretaker, partner, provider, no matter how small the scope of the surround.  Soccer games and music lessons; feeding times and laundering; all keep going on – birthday or no.  The exhaustion continuous activity and felt responsibility breeds seems to increase in proportion to the numbers signifying one’s years upon earth.

But there are flourishes and touchings – like small miracles – proffered patience, generosity and deference gifted one’s way as the children mature.  I received momentously considered and thoughtfully creative presents and offerings from my brood, including the effort of travel (a 5-hour drive for a 3-hour meal), some self-deferrals of wants and demands for a day, shared and repurposed objects and much love and affection.

In the midst of which my brother-in-law texted: “And what have YOU done for YOU today?”

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Isn’t nearly everything we do for ourselves in some way? I thought.  Caring for those we love, providing for their needs and responding to their living feeds our hope that we might be valuable partners and parents.  Enabling others’ satisfactions or play, achievements or events provides a goodness and gladness to our sense of identity.  WHAT DO I (or would I) WANT?  [If things revolved around ME? – What would I select for MYSELF, my TIME, my ACTIVITIES, were my surround and environment conducive, supportive, adaptive and compliant – attuned to MY wishes and feelings, desires and preferences – as its Center and Hub?]

This engendered heavy pause.  Followed by weeping.  Since my youth I’ve pleased people.  Especially those I crave being pleasing to.  Ever considering: if I find them, serve them, fuel them, tend to their whims and their moods and their wants and don’t fail them – they’ll have NO REASON not to accept and acknowledge me, enjoy and delight in me…perhaps even come to NEED and to LOVE me!

Still most of these persons have come and then gone – not needing an enthusiastic audience-of-me, my support systems or enthralled amour, cooking skills, cab driving, housekeeping, therapeutic attunement, nursing or cock…so much as an “Other,” I suppose.  An other alike with mixed needs, wants and cares, fears, doubts and preferences…uncertainties.

WHAT WOULD I WANT?

Being malleable, self-deprecating, at-your-service and adaptive in order to eventuate my longed-for (but not fully realized) purposes of belonging, chosenness, appreciation, acceptance and love, predisposed me to the Phenomena of Plasticity.

That organisms jostle and interact, adjust, emerge, revise and alter in accord with their environments and one another toward an imagined maximum survivability came as no surprise to me.

That my brain and body bend and twist, reconfigure and rework themselves toward perceived pleasures, building likewise to avoid potentially death-dealing pains, forms an accurate metaphor of my experience.

Do this, try to be that, retrain the brain, assimilate languages, nuances, behaviors and tastes, become parent and scholar, musician and lover, friend and coworker to an enormous variety of persons, places, and things (or situations).

Sounds desirable!  After all, we’re fascinated and entangled in networks and viruses, Renaissance-personages and extensive applications and sites – world seems participatory, fluid, collaborative and self-responsive – play-doh, silly putty, plastics, rubber and earth.  Water, air, flesh and fire.  Living would seem to be a plastic rather than static affair – examine a corpse! (and observed long enough, even then we’re not done and prove pliable and transforming).

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Yet for me came a hitch as I pondered all this.  A lifetime spent adapting, responding and recursiving change for results that never quite arrive in a reality where even those chances will cease…

WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOURSELF?

When the question is put to me:  “What is it, right now, you prefer?” it turns out, among many acknowledgedly diverse and contradictorily complex cognitive-affective responses – I USUALLY KNOW WHAT I’D PREFER.  Very few options taste best to me in any given moment, and their range and scope are slim!

And then there’s the fact that I feel great admiration towards those who speak their mind and express their desires in a direct manner!  They still may compromise and adapt, but both adults and children who proclaim what they feel and want, prefer or need, ever impress me.  I (on the other hand) tend to try constantly to guess and anticipate what those around me prefer or desire before asking into my own – as if to say – if there’s room or time after all of you…I’d sure like to…but by then I’m too tired.

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So how plastic are we?  How multiple, really?  Since age 7 or 8, 12 or 15, my core desires have been pretty consistent:  Read.  Write.  Love.  Sex.  Explore.  Make.  At any given moment, regardless of conditions or surround, regardless of the options even, my litany of WHAT I WOULD DO FOR MYSELF usually boils down to this brief list.  In addition to which, I usually have a good idea of who, where, what, when, and sometimes how I’d go about each of the same – if conditions, environment and possibilities were dependent on ME.

I’ve definite tastes and predilections, ways I like to feel in what venues, activity-biases and condition proclivities (even though those nearest me often say they’d never know it by my choices).

Maybe the Phenomenon of Plasticity hypothesis runneling its now-scientific way through the cosmos and further than cells is a living CAPACITY but not necessarily a QUALITY?  Accident not essence?  Perhaps plasticity suits the powers-that-be, our politico-socio-cultural nowthen (STEM disciplines, Markets, Politics & Capital, Networks & Technologies) that would love for us adapt and adjust, go-along and “flow” as if its “natural,” “observable” and “scientific fact”?  (At the moment).

I’m not disputing it’s COOL – our abilities to change and flex, evolve and habituate, refashion and conform – and indeed it’s often necessary for our survival – but there’s a gap, hesitation, incompleteness to the story.  It doesn’t “FIT” to experience, or only partially so.  Something’s being assumed underneath.

And what is that?  Why have I preferred preferring others to my own, yet not ceased having my own all these years?

How would I be if I believed ALL were equally plastic?  That it wasn’t my job to adjust to everyone, remake to everything around me, instead insisting upon their/its relative capacity to reshape and orient to me as well?

WHAT WOULD I WANT if I could “be myself” (express my consistent biases and longings, behaviors and thought-trajectories, mood-palette and drives) in environments in which I was enabled/able to be/do so?  A surround that exercised the capacity of plasticity in relation to ME?

NOT EITHER/OR

Granted, some do, (those that stick around or don’t realize a choice) and in varying degrees, but I seldomly bank on that and announce or convey myself…usually I hedge against abandonment or rejection – fear of pains winning out over hopes of pleasure.

That’s “natural” too, the disciplines say – but there are so many counter-examples: ones who openly state their “I would prefer not tos” or “I would prefers…”  What have they got on me in this plasticized universe?

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There’s expression:  I prefer finding questions.  Ferreting unknowns.

FOR myself – there, I’ve done it.  At least once today.

09.22.2015

The Living Dead: a Reflection

“Dad, are you living or dead..ing?” son asks at dinner (aged 9).

Characteristic pause…”Well, both,” I reply.

sad skeleton

How could it be otherwise?  I’ve stayed the course, exercised my body, prepared a meal, feeling fine, alone, aware…and comes the call:  “Living or dead..ing?”  Parental response – stop.  [Why is he asking?  What is he thinking?  How is he feeling?  Bodily signs?   Follow the language – “living or dead…dead..ing…dying.”  What is called for here?]  He thinks the living dead a lot,  so I respond directly:  “Well, both, and how could it be otherwise?  I couldn’t very well be dying if I wasn’t alive, no?  And the process of dying is constructed of living, yes?  So it’s all in one moment I s’pose.”

We move on.

But I don’t.  Not so much.  It’s a good question.

It reminds me why I’m a philosopher, a poet.  Why we tend toward the same, differently.  We watch for the shared, the communal in our experience, anywhere.  We work the same queries.  In a living ruled by science, by probabilities and hypothetical cause, by vague notions of what-might-happen-next given conditions and dynamically complex systems…philosophers, poets and artists tend to seek out what’s certain – what is nevertheless the case: we feel, we think, we live, we die, a world is there – the details change with the order of the day.  Or night.  The language or discipline.  The methods or culture, practice or beliefs.  Depending on the questions.  Who’s asking and how.

We happen – become – and unhappen.

Because my dad, almost 80, evinces this.  Because I’ll be half-90 in 48 hours.  What I asked for is called Cosmic Pessimism, which says something.  I happen…vary…and stop happening that way.  How that occurs, what and who and when and why change nearly as quickly as we do.  Should I say, what we think or believe occurs?  Rationalization of experience.

Reminds me of this, of the action of writing.

I still can’t do it “live.”  Can’t inscribe it as a “post” or a “tweet” or a “message.”  I’ve got to get some static.  IN-scribe is a physical act of scratching, digging, carving in clay.  ON-scribing is more what we do – laying down ink, pounding down letters, playing with light.  Writing with materials like paper and ink relatively makes something stay put for awhile.  So we can revise.  Perhaps that’s all Rilke meant – give yourself the opportunity to edit, erase, respond to your action before you present it.  Is revision revivification?  Stay something, pause.  Apply yourself to your living and choose an occurrence.  Does this wrinkle the union of living and dying?

At work I’m struggling with teaching the methods of multi-disciplinary research.  How to template a strategy of awareness to potentially everything?  We’re living and dying and attempting to know, understand, RATIONALIZE something about that.  Literally ANYthing applies, or may nourish, correct, influence or direct that essential inquiry (and DOES!).  How does one know where to look?  How does one know how to live it?  How does one know what one needs?  To synthesize rationalizations from multiple fields and methods and practices.  To compare all the answers or theories or thoughts?  To differentiate results and observations coming from various humans and schools and materials and tools and contexts and set-ups and the myriad messiness of living/dying organisms in relations beyond our control?

“You must revise your life” (Rainer Maria Rilke).

Revising your dying.  Is it possible to live moments in such a way that they outstrip the correlative dying?  To live more than die?  Once in awhile?  I think we have experiences, moments, in which we feel more alive than in others.  “Are you living or dead…ing” he asks.  Well, waking into a maze to traverse every day – cleaning and feeding and playing the roles (father, lover, employee, friend, son, writer, scholar, blogger, house-owner, house-keeper, cook, playmate, librarian, instructor, male, man, person, reader, and so on), shopping and feeding and listening and nourishing and working and running to tire – feels a bit more like “dead…ing.”  But there are moments!  Times.  “Events,” we call them (I guess).  Twistings and turnings and something like gathered occurrences, Being + Well-Being, Whitehead might say.  A more spectacular death I suppose.  Perhaps elevated experiences of living just heighten the jouissance of death?

I don’t know.

We happen – become/unbecome – and unhappen.

The marks left from that – our inscriptions, palimpsests and paths.  Veined.  Seared-in.  Scored.  In some cases, welded – some cases cancelled, erased, blotted out.  Living-dead…ing.  Vice versa?

To edit, revise, pause – is it possible?  What did he mean?  What might it mean?    Curving back doesn’t alter the time.  Going over is still going forth.  We wend and wind and whirl and reveal we are living and dying.

For (every?) New Year

Greetings all.  I realize something now.  I realize (today), I realize, sitting in the sun of a Winter in Kansas, on my porch, in a rocker, alone, a side-effect, a remnant, remainder, myself… I realize that I have long dreamt of leaving some legacy, of making some mark, of contributing to the world – the natural world – the world as made up of plants, animals, landscapes, elements, humans… the world dizzied with combinations of atoms and molecules… and yet… and yet… I realize it was all about love – all about being realized by being loved, and realizing meaning in loving – NOT leaving a literary legacy, NOT producing interesting and intriguing offspring, NOT making art or language or objects that would outlast me – NO, no, no…  Simply recognizing that I exist, existed, am existing in the world of another, and that the world exists, existed, will exist for me – by my affection and attention to its nuances, details, and differences – its specificity of my attention, attraction and resolve:  LOVE.

I found this entry in an old journal, a blue oversized Moleskine soft-covered journal, and found (years later) that it still seemed to speak for me… but as I typed and edited it I realized that it has been outdone, realized, accomplished, in the FACT of BEING LOVED and BEING ENABLED TO LOVE… and so all the hopes remain, all the purposes and visions, all the projected communications and connections… but in a context rearranged, reapportioned, reinvented – that of MEANING derived from LOVING and being LOVED.  Thanks to my vibrant partner and accomplice, inspiration and reward – for taking the grave gravity of production and transforming it into action… the pinched acuity of competition and accomplishment into offshoot, accumulation and extraneous luxury – that the hopes, dreams and ideas / ideals of a human existence might be translated into freedom, grace, and potential benefit or gift – possibility rather than necessity; offering rather than identity; potentiality rather than desperation – a giving in distinction from a grasping : so I might still possess similar hoping without the fear and trembling, without a sense of pointlessness, without a perception of failure.  LOVING – intricate maneuvers of helping and healing, intimate operations of interaction and reciprocation, finely detailed activities of acceptance and reception – the sigh, the breath, the pulse of BEING… change me.  Change and change and change me.  As a parent, a man, a partner, a person.  Thank you dear love – a wonder, a woman, an incredible human – a person: full and becoming, so generous, so tender, so affirmative and kind, so rich and creative, inventive and becoming, so new – I love you.  The world is different now.  Its meaning, its point, its aim, its occasion.

This old and rediscovered writing has distinct meaning… because you, and life, and love, and… an evolving and differentiated “I.”

Jacobsen - thought series

I am using the blue notebook with a blue pen to complement.  Why?  Because you asked.  You said “everyone wants to know.”

In other words, if it’s going to count for what matters, it has got to be specific and special – set apart, somehow more final, more complete.  I’ll use it for the whole – for photos, drawings and more – all the blue notebook in blue ink – for you.  Because apparently, “everyone wants to know.”

Mom and dad ask in their roundabout, passive-regressive surreptitiously accusatory way, as is their fashion – kindly and quiet, ever with a look of care and concern, yet secretly shouting their “what is wrong with you!?” “What is wrong with US, that you…” and on and on and blah blah blah…

My memory isn’t like that the first five years of life…that I pretend to remember.  But all is mostly smells and sounds and light from there.  Trees and grass and dirt, how brightness gleamed and glanced and filtered through, with times of wind and rain.

Not that you care… I’m fairly certain that’s not what is being asked for, not by you, by my sibling, children, or lifetime of “friends” and “family” – whoever, wherever they’ve become.

You’re the livewire – and perhaps the children – perhaps they will want to know, at some point, perhaps not.  Perhaps everyone’s already figured my story – diagnosed and prescribed me.  Perhaps.

Be that as it may, I’ve thought long and hard, reviewing what I thought I knew, how I felt I felt, what it seems I’ve seen, and so on, and decided, for you, for you, really, and maybe a little of a bit for myself (curiously) and a percentage for my kids should they ever seek to know or wonder, or have need of psychological freedom, or give a shit about who or why… I decided to use this damned blue notebook with matching pen and try to learn just what I think about it all, mostly because, as you put it, “everyone wants to know” – (and WHO might this “everyone” be?).

Should I start with the hands, the head, or the heart?  I suppose the limbs and loins will come into play as well – god knows the guts and the goiter.

I remember an opening.  A time I was touched, in the rain, and my suddenly skin, my obvious self-enclosure – as opening, margin, and veil – a fabric of me, and a screen.

I wanted to make a difference, you see.  Make something, I don’t know, construct an element everyone could hold on to.  Take in hand, heart and head.  Keep or repeat as needed.  Something like that.  I knew I wouldn’t last, none of this, none of anything.  “The center cannot hold” sort of deal.

I ought not begin there.  They’re all wound up together like knots – the head looking down, arms wrapped around, concealing and revealing the heart, the guts, the loins and moving limbs.  I can’t take a one without other, thinking and feeling about it, my actions, ideas, and sensations all.

Perhaps I’ll pretend.  (Just what you’ve all loved so well about me – to discover pretense – how I’ve molded myself to imagined desires).  I’ll pretend I’m an aged man seated on a stiff wooden chair, children / grandchildren gathered all about me – a specimen or model – something to be taken apart and examined.  I lift off my shirt and my body is read – questions asked – we all get somewhere in this way.

jacobsen - thought series1

Let’s see – here – along the shoulder – a self-portrait by Egon Schiele (self-tormented asylum brother) and a snake that is eating its tail.  “Le Ouroborous,” I  hack out – “don’t you know it?”  Sign of doctors, ingenuity, medicine and art – creation, destruction intertwined round and round.  Self-devouring while birthing its form as it alters.  The mastication and regurgitation of “I.”

A young one might say “what’s that? – the curlicues and elaborate spiel?”  Garcia Lorca I’d sigh.  Yes.  The grand leaping bugger of light.  He’s yellow and lemons, crickets and birds!  You know the stuff that sends you!  Portal moments of sight or song and ‘wham!’  all the crap pelted into your brain and body get shaken and stirred together like surrealist still life.  Incongruity making sense.  Opposites attracting, no, better – look at your aging mother and I – a juxtaposed spectrum, paradox and carnival!

They say that you wanted to know.

Yes there’s Kafka, Blanchot, Cixous and Lispector.  Jabes and Beckett now seeped in my veins.  Dostoevsky, Bakhtin, Rilke.  Gods and angels, drink and demons all carved in the skin of their names.  Nietzsche and ridiculous happiness.  Wittgenstein and the torment of words, of meanings, of none.  I’d be a working inscription, at surface.

The corridors – head, heart and hands.

Are you sure anyone wanted to know?

The sounds of piano?  Coaxing the keys in steady patterns – mimicking rain; or poems – yes, we forget Giacometti’s “Man Falling” – a perpetual stumble on the back of my hand, hoping neither knew what the other was up to.  But they did and they do – I see that now – all parts of same body, stretched with same skin.  Poems as stripped-down sculptures, some essential chants or song – just a gaze or a wisp of caress.  Droppings of blood.  Miracles that something remains after we’re through with our twisting and grasping.

Is this what you wanted?  Does it explain – anything?  I doubt it.  Hardly think so.

Read on.

Here at the ribs.  The cracked and the lumpen.  There was a time.  Times I thought maybe risking and danger – a reach at euphoria – some panicking life – might make one feel much more alive.  How do you think you all got here?  Desperate plungings into the unknown, oh dear ones, like mad scientists messing around in the lab!  The edges of cliffs, clinging to limbs, insecure at wits’ ends, going for broke.

And break we did.

But just look at you fertile seedlings, good eggs.  I never meant to be rough with you all.  To risk what is fragile in you.  Ribs, here – cave and cage for the heart.

I can still breathe you.  Charred and chortled, this was one great pleasure – to know I was breathing, in-spired.  I know you all despised it, and it caused me to smell stale and rotting, but the rush of smoke down this pipe here into the bellows of slimy flesh…that let me know I was taking it in, not an automaton or senseless machine – no, I was hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling – BEING – I could feel it in my ashen lungs.  Sometimes it hurt.  What we ingest.  But it really goes in and visibly comes out – everything – for good or ill.  I needed to know it tangibly.

Why? you ask, why?

Look at the cranium stooped and weighed down.  That sucker was a burden of liquid fire.  All curled over like that the entirety of my life – looking in, at, in.  What’s there?  How does it work?  For “whom”?  When?  Is there even a why?  Examining, dreaming, recording and imagining – listen – say it back, say it forth, combine and copulate, shake it and stir – use that heavy weight, whirr whirr chrrr and whirr.  Profile the shape of some jagged question mark, dotted where the heart must be.

And look at it now, nearly buried into the chest.  It happens.  Weather-systems, signsponge, it all will run its course.  It once was aimed upwards and outwards, into fantasies, hopes and abstractions, and for years I kept it aimed straight ahead – horizontal, seeking directions – but slowly and surely its drug down toward the heart, pulsing muscle, plug for the cords.  Everything up and away, everything out there or behind, it’s all happening here – in the mix, filtering through, circulating the circuitry of head, heart and hands – latching up or breaking down in the system.

What was it you wanted to know?  Limbs and loins, head and heart, I’m acknowledging and exposing, affording view – I’m aware description does not explain a thing – the wonderful views of science still unable to explain…

The waste gets processed below, legs running away now knobby and stiff.  But there, clinging in its corner like a core – my erratic, agitated, beating beast.  Entire web of inexplicable drives and energy, fears and misery, desires and dread – my heart.  Does this explain it?  Does this explain anything?  What anyone wanted to know?

Gasping there like the mouth of a landed fish, pulsing purplish like an aroused member – my heart.  If I poke and coax it, tear at it or wring it onto this blue notebook in blued blood – will it explain?

Here, whomever, look.  Here it lies, cheats, and steals.  Here it gives and it aches and breaks.  Here it prolongs and stops itself short.  Pulpy mass of living meat – humana – the am therefore am.  Take it, read it, test it – heal it if you wish or can.  I’m open.

Is this what you wanted?

What everyone wanted to know?

Black Blizzard

Subject to Change

Mail carrier logo

I am become a Rural Carrier Associate for the U.S. Postal Service.

I pursued employment with the USPS thinking it might provide some security of longevity, tradition (over 200 years of continuous service, public benefit, innovation and survival), government benefits and programs…a service and income that might meet the needs my children and I have developed for something like stability and sustenance.

I was wrong about most of those things.

I’m almost guaranteed one day of work a week (or whenever the regular carrier is unable to work) – no benefits, guaranteed abuse and damage to our one essential family vehicle, grave limitations on supplemental work (not supposed to seek employment with anyone that is a client of USPS – in other words, anyone that purchases postage – greatly delimiting the options / NOR taking any work between the hours of 6 AM and 6 PM when I might be needed to fill in) – and, a grand service NOT supported or secured by the US Government since 1970 (no tax dollars toward USPS!).

On the other hand.  It clearly satisfies core ethics and values I have carried through my entire life and its pursuits –  Meaning.  Relationships.  Communication.  Tangible Information.  The Betweens:

Music.  Poetry.  Religion.  Philosophy.  Psychology.  Bookselling (bibliotherapy).  Marriages.  Research and reference.  Parenting.  Writing.  Anthropology.  Semiotics.  Neuroscience.  Embodiment.  Systems Theory.  Language.  Ekphrasis.  Communications.  Information Science…

what (it seems) has fueled them all has been a passion, fascination, curiosity and intense desire to search into, understand, sense

HOW HUMAN BEINGS MAKE AND SHARE MEANING

            NOW:  I’m a tangible link in the chain.  A node or circuit in the web of transmission.

 

Divorce summons, a lover’s plaint, news of a long-lost classmate or childhood friend, money for a meal, Christmas gifts for grandchildren, links between parents and children, carrier of bills and obligations that alter our lives – invitations to weddings, announcements of deaths, retirements, coupons and births, biological specimens and literary manuscripts, art works, seeds, music, books, clothes and toys…

from here to there, there to here

how often I have rushed to the mailbox,

how often I have posted letters,

how often the holding of a living personal document has made a difference in my life…

 

These are what I think of as I dig through bins, collocate numbers, sort and file, casing mail, and rattle and drag my way through any weather, mood or condition to securely, confidentially and certainly deliver the mail…

In a great meanwhile…

…after three years working from home like a dream – researching, academics, creative writing and art-making; love with a tremendous spouse, and a generous and flexible availability to my amazing children…

it is now turning into months of spouse-lessness, unemployment, harried by survival efforts, sustenance, hours upon hours of therapy, grief, anger, puzzlement, bewilderment, and wonder…

CHANGE

A sustained period of invaluable interactions and dad-ness will be swallowed up bouncing wash-boarded gravelly roads placing packages and envelopes in sturdy boxes of farms.  Fighting for moments with children, opportunities to claim that I am here for them.  To study.  To write.  To read or rest or be…to grocery and launder, housekeep, to play.

Relocating yet again a sense of home.

            For our part – four kiddos, their mothers (and their partner/spouses) and I (and mine) – we have survived, adapted, adjusted and altered much in the past two decades.  Time/little time, retail/academia/schlepping/poverty/art – proven resilient, pliable, innovative, possible – committed or interdependent on one another and have formed and become, ached and angered, wept and worried, laughed and lost, suffered and rejoiced and survived and thrived…

continued…(“I can’t go on.  I’ll go on.”)

and we’re a pretty wonderful, remarkable, heart-stopping, difficult bunch!

 

A biological, literate, artistic, psychological, cultural, spiritual, relational, musical, playful, emotional, terrified, successful, wounded, smart, creative, clinical, authentic, unusual, “awkward,” bunch of “weirdies” (kids’ favorite terms)

and I hope and I trust

SURE OF ONE ANOTHER

…ever subject to change…

but together.

USPS logo

A Division of Subjects

Simple HouseI am looking at my wife’s face for significance.  Scrutinizing her as if MY meaning might come from there.  The eyes and motion of my children, our puppies, the touching between them.  I gaze, ravenously, melancholy, nostalgically, as if some sort of synching provided reason.

Observing, begging input for desired effect.

Words on a page in front of me.  The sounds of the heat switching on and swishing (or swooshing) through an anatomy of ducts.  Rememory.  Fashioning bodied memories forward toward anticipated satisfaction of imagined desires.

Re-membering an already unknown future.  As if to place it onto a pleasure/pain balance and put myself at risk for emotion.  As if I am wanting to feel.  Pleasure OR pain, satiation OR loss, grief or elation.  Simply.  To feel.  And to be able to tell.  To evaluate, process and produce.  Perceive, procure and proceed.

Attend, assemble and assess.  All componented in threes, a perspectival point of either/ors.

In other words – seeking options of experience through this-or-that, barely realizing the gargantuan disturbance of the field in which bi-polars conjoin – the third, the invested participant – “observer.”

I search her eyes – peering her into double bind by my own delimitations.  Reflecting the kids play and laughter – deflecting – by framing-problems that lens my limited views of want and need.

Ravenous, melancholy, natural look of desire for pleasure and dread of pain – dualizing a multi-more intricate kaleidoscope of possible probables.

The implicit intricacies + the avoidance and/or discounting of “one’s own role” (the responsibility, culpability, of our ever-presentness we ever effort to escape) – being participatory.  Being.

And what of the lens?  If I expand the prism, rotate the glass – distort, blur, focus.  How expansive, elastic, extensive are my tools?  How effectual the how I look, the what I look for, the why?

I continue examining her face, and his and his, and his and hers.  Listen for their sounds, their movements, borrowing moods from the connections I make, perceive, feel…asking now to fill out my arrival…more aware of many roles that depend on distant stories…now arising…participant…into now

as it happens, it occurs…

simple house drawings

BE.  HOME.  NOW.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

2013-2014