Over the Atlantic

I apologize in advance and beggar your patience regarding the length of the following post.  It is not often that I have over 10 hours straight of anonymity and limited distractions to read, study and write.  I spent yesterday and last night flying from Wichita to London for a week-long course examining over 10 specialty libraries there.  For the course I must keep a diary online, and while not about “library business” per se, this is about the journey…

de botton - heathrow

Over the Atlantic

I have no idea what time it is.  I have been airborne for perhaps four hours, having left Houston around 7:35 PM after an hour of mechanical fix-its, preceded by departure from Wichita at 3:36 PM earlier this same afternoon.  We seem to be flying fast enough that my electronics are scrambled and I haven’t worn a wristwatch since high school.  I’ve been lucky enough to have booked onto an half-full flight, allowing me the pleasure and benefit of a two-seated section all to myself.  Almost a work-cubby – two tray tables stacked with books and an empty seat for sundry supplies.

At all times I pursue readings that might deepen and expand both my abstract and subjective life – I’m certain that could be stated better – perhaps that challenge and enhance my lived experience.  Most honestly: that cause me to think, help me make sense, prompt change and give me pleasure.  Writings that move me, would be another way of saying it.  In the cabin I have arranged Focusing by Eugene Gendlin, Elegy Owed by Bob Hicok, Impenetrable Screen of Purest Sky and Wonderful Investigations by Dan Beachy-Quick, Light Everywhere – Cees Nooteboom, Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thing by Rick Hanson, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, and Art as Therapy with  A Week at the Airport by Alain de Botton.  Which could be explained in so many ways.

Traveling internationally, one is limited for selection – in fact it’s by far the most difficult portion of packing – which books will I need – not knowing how the movement and context will affect me?  So I choose:

  • fresh books by authors that have earned my confidence (my top choice for this trip was Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus –  missed in the mail by a day);
  • books that I know meet my needs on departure (many my third or fourth reading); and
  • books I long to swim in but rarely have time with the insistent daily needs and benefits of home. 

Whenever I’m struggling with depression, I reach for Wallace and books of wisdom – on staying present, taking steps, coping skills, the breath and body.  Reality therapy, as it were.  Poetry helps as well, with its attention to detail and sensual triggers.  Books that remind me that I’m alive, regardless of  felt experiences or circumstance.

I will finish A Week at the Airport on this flight, I’m almost there – or maybe I won’t, saving the “Arrivals” chapter for that moment in my journey.  It is the account of de Botton’s stint as writer-in-residence at London’s Heathrow Airport (my immediate destination), and in his inimitable and typical fashion – exposing those human universals embedded in the familiar, or overlooked, or hardly spoken.  What he asks from other writers, he provides (and I quote): “I was looking for the sort of books in which a genial voice expresses emotions that the reader has long felt but never before really understood; those that convey the secret, everyday things that society at large prefers to leave unsaid; those that make one feel somehow less alone and strange.”  Maybe that is my true criteria – “those that make one feel somehow less alone and strange” – for the books I end up digesting do just that.

Here are some of the portions I have highlighted:

Departures

  • “Entry into the vast space of the departures hall heralded the opportunity, characteristic in the transport nodes of the modern world, to observe people with discretion, to forget oneself in a sea of otherness and to let the imagination loose on the limitless supply of fragmentary stories provided by the eye and ear…to sense viscerally, rather than just grasp intellectually, the vastness and diversity of humanity”
  • on the parting of lovers: “We might have been ready to offer sympathy, but in actuality there were stronger reasons to want to congratulate her for having such a powerful motive to feel sad.  We should have envied her for having located someone without whom she so firmly felt she could not survive, beyond the gate let alone in a bare student bedroom in a suburb of Rio.  If she had been able to view her situation from a sufficient distance, she might have been able to recognize this as one of the high points in her life.”  – (I know this feeling and need this distance)
  • on taking ourselves with us:  “There is a painful contrast between the enormous objective projects that we set in train, at incalculable financial and environmental cost – the construction of terminals, of runways and of wide-bodied aircraft – and the subjective psychological knots that undermine their use.  How quickly all the advantages of technological civilization are wiped out by a domestic squabble.  At the beginning of human history, as we struggled to light fires and to chisel fallen trees into rudimentary canoes, who could have predicted that long after we had managed to send men to the moon and aeroplanes to Australasia, we would still have such trouble knowing how to tolerate ourselves, forgive our loved ones, and apologize for our tantrums?”
  • on unfamiliar workspaces:  “Objectively good places to work rarely end up being so; in their faultlessness, quiet and well-equipped studies have a habit of rendering the fear of failure overwhelming.  Original thoughts are like shy animals.  We sometimes have to look the other way – towards a busy street or terminal – before they run out of their burrows.” 

Airside

  • “Despite the many achievements of aeronautical engineers over the last few decades, the period before boarding an aircraft is still statistically more likely to be the prelude to a catastrophe than a quiet day in front of the television at home.  It therefore tends to raise questions about how we might best spend the last moments before our disintegration, in what frame of mind we might wish to fall back down to earth…”
  • Or, as a “Terminal Priest” expressed to him: “The thought of death should usher us towards whatever happens to matter most to us; it should lend us the courage to pursue the way of life we value in our hearts.” 

need I go on?

Yet on I fly…listening to and “Gustavo” from the new Sun Kil Moon album Benji on repeat; performing breathing exercises while silently repeating blessings on those I love to the quivering thrum of this airborne albatross; catching glimpses of “Before Midnight” on face-sized screens where perhaps mirrors should be; and reading and reading and reading and trying to conceive…

stories imagined and rejected

in which the yachtsman drowns

in a remembered winter

and exists as a poem,

.

but the last thought is of

her, the woman who disappeared,

who everything was about, the yachtsman, the bay,

the poet.  The air it all breathed

is the loftiest fabrication, a life

possible now it’s no longer

possible.

-from Cees Nooteboom’s poem penobscot

and worrying about “how modest and static a thing a book would always be next to the chaotic, living entity that was a terminal,” our relationships, our lives.

14 February 2014

The Howl and The Whisper

Howling is a buried feat

epigenetic

leaking everywhere

Howling is done with the body

in terror

 a raging fear

imagine the reddened and purpling frame

a six-month-old baby left

naked on a hardwood floor

arching back

jerking tremors

piercing wail

flailing, throttling, choking at air

it will not stop

it is vulnerable.

Say the father rushes it

say he scoops it into his arms

whispers and cradles

The infant fits in the fathers’ large hands

held close to his cheek

ear-brushed lips

the father coos

infant trembling revolts

feeling its death

the father rocks it gently

kisses its skin

sniffing the child

while the infant howls.

He says “leave it to me.  Everything will be alright”

on repeat

says “I know we are vulnerable”

as the shuddering

comes to cease.

Let the infant howl

raise it up

bring it near

hold it close

that is all.

I, an infant’s father.

note:

I have had many incidents of late in which I howl at the dreaded prospect of losing my wife (to others, to distance, to death, to herself).  These have come out slantwise:  as anger or jealousy, criticism and challenge.  It is physiological.

A therapist recently suggested some alternate meanings.  When my body convulses in paranoia and terror, what might its messaging be?  Might it be saying that something or someone is terribly important to me, as significant as my own life and that I might well feel utterly helpless at that vulnerability?  He suggested that my body is indeed feeling real-life threat…and that the left side of my brain whooshes in hoping to rescue (“SuperMeaningMan”) to concoct a story to match, to account for the tremors and heartbeat and anxious breaths.  Things like: “I must not be good enough for her.  She must be cheating.  See how she dresses?  See how she is tired when she looks at me?  See how she keeps leaving the house?” and so on, or any number of scenarios…

When in possible fact I’m a flailing infant desperate for assurance and comfort, for a tender voice near.  Which made a world of sense.

He said:  supply it.

This is part of that work.

N Filbert

ALL MIXED UP

Mark Kozelek

Swarm. Absorb. (the words, pt. 2)

Swarm.  Absorb.

 

metaphor:  the entire discography of Mark Kozelek (+ Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters) / each version of Max Richter’s “Haunted Ocean” on dizzying random repeat – this is the setting:  atmosphere.  environment.  “context.”

metaphor:  the Kansas sky in storm

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            metaphor:  dealing with Ache.  (“being human”)

metaphor:  “Control without Hierarchy” by Deborah M. Gordon…on some page in a book called Swarm by Lucas Felzmann:

A flock of birds turning in the sky is doing something that people don’t know how to do: moving together, beautifully, without a leader or choreographer.  It’s a spectacular version of the collective behavior that goes on everywhere, in groups of animals and among cells within our bodies…Life in all its forms is messy, surprising, and complicated.  It’s difficult to imagine how any social group could be organized without any hierarchy.  We are used to hierarchy as the principle that organizes human institutions.  Think of companies, armies, governments, orchestras, schools, and clubs – without any person directing another, or having more power than another.  Although we are so accustomed to hierarchy that we think of it as necessary, it is rare in nature.”

think of language.

            what is scattered widely or uniquely ubiquitous – call it “swarm.”

“I”…lost.

I know I cannot gather to a grown pillar of I-ness, something you might recognize, could “identify.”

I know I cannot be where I am as long as “time” and “space” function effectively in my frames of reference…

I spread.

I swarm.

“I-swarm”

(the “human” world-situation)

            Leaving that aside.

How might one (dependent on two or more in order to, well, in order to simply “be”)

how might that one (singular mark – “/”) handle (manage? survive?) “its” Ache?

“To be or not to be, that IS the question”

(o wise god)

            So I split…up…

I canvas the sky, the context, the landscape, the sitz im leben, in fragments.

I approach, engage, invade the world like shot scattered from the anguished burst of a wombgun.

I-particle.

I-swarm.

Absorb.

from “Swarm” by Lukas Felzmann

            Seminal-syllable words resound –

Let their pulse reverberate your bodies like hymns

God.  Void.  I.  You.  Song.  Life.  Death.  Love.  Real.  Being. (Not).

and so on…

all with no definition…

IS.  IT.  THIS.

nowhere near

where we mean to be.

Absorb.

Swarm.

from Swarm by Lukas Felzmann

            In this situation then,

of too much

of grave luck

(all that hope and final destitution)

I swarm.  I absorb.

I decenter.  I explode.

I desist in pretense

in sense

I spread.

One mark….thousands of pixels….without hierarchy

(a swarm of cells)

(a flock of birds)

(a fish in school)

I swarm.

I absorb.

[ – I love you – ]

 -for my wife

Ideas of Home

Hello everyone!  For whatever reason (I’m not always a bigger believer in a source for reason!), a few days ago between cargo-ing children to and fro from all the places they must be S. Carey’s song “We Fell” came through my stereo and the weather was Spring-ish cool and the air was nice and I was overwhelmed with feelings, I guess you’d call them, (sentiments?) of being home.  As I pulled in the drive the light struck the deteriorating garage and trampoline movingly, and I took a few shots that matched my feeling.  Then throughout the past days I’ve just been letting those feelings/sentiments/ideas swirl about in my head thinking they’d find an organization they wanted.  They didn’t.  So today I’m just going to post the notes I jotted down the way they tangled and fumbled out of me…In my mind they go with S. Carey’s song and always Mark Kozelek’s tunes (his music often is my home)…

oh, here are the lyrics to “We Fell”

The consonance of drone

And love sounds its own

Your arms wrapped around home

All the in-betweens

Lay so blue beside me

We fell

More than skin and bones

No we’re not alone

We fell

Like stones

Between

S. Carey

And here follow my photos and ramblings:

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Ideas of Home

(click to read text)

THANK YOU!

Some goods to get you through

Kozelek cover image

“Coincidences depend not so much on desire as on the density of existence”

-Arkadii Dragomoshchenko-

“The full meaning of the adage Humanum est errare, we have never woken up to”

-Charles Sanders Peirce-

“Act your heart.  There’s nothing else”

“The world is where we fling it”

Theodore Roethke-

“To live in the world but outside of existing conceptions of it”

Wallace Stevens-

“Action painting – action writing – the process is the same, with emphasis less on the finished product than on the author’s process of creation”

-Jerome Klinkowitz-

a personal p.s.: I love the poetic world of Mr. Scott Krieger, and the music of Mark Kozelek (ahhhh)

“The poet feels abundantly the poetry of everything”

-Wallace Stevens-

(for Scott)