Tangents

When people die suddenly in numbers and the reports start coming in, they always count the bodies as ‘lost souls’ but nobody really knows who or what up and took off, or how or where. There are beliefs about such matters, and they are codified in considerable detail. We are corralled into a struggling span of life with just enough awareness to get suspicious about the bigger picture and start crafting explanations.

A body with the life gone out of it begs a certain question. Convinced that everything has to have a location we consign the absentees to heavens and hells, based on our own prejudices. It’s the best we can do without actually knowing what is going on. Sometimes we allow that the souls stick around out of confusion, broken heartedness, or vengeful hankerings. We like this idea because it suggests maybe you don’t have to actually go and you can stick around in some form, maybe even harass some prick who richly deserves it.

It’s a fun game this speculation. We do that more as children because it has the mark of serious business and when we are young we look ever ahead to being older. Then we grow up and settle for one answer or another that seems to comfort that nagging doubt that so intrigued us as youngsters.

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I recently had an oracle tell me that I had in a previous life worked as a carpenter for the Romans, making crosses for their executions. I listened intently as she went into some detail. How I wound up in this meeting is a long story, but I can assure you it was not paid fortune telling session.

The Romans were busy in those days quelling insurrections and what not, and I had plenty of work. I was occasionally drafted into their horrid processions as cross bearer for the poor wretches who had been too whipped and torn to lug their own tree trunk. There’s a special indignity to that part, like digging your own grave.

So I served in that capacity too, though all I wanted was to shape wood. I had no choice, there’s no bargaining with authoritarians. The condemned would limp behind me as I marched along, quietly thinking about ways to make cross timber less weighty. The Romans liked the cross bar fat and heavy. Cruelty seems to serve some purpose when you witness it like that first hand. The grizzled spectacle drew crowds. They reviled me as the rightful representative of the prisoner and cursed me, spat at me.

Naturally, when I first learned of this incarnation of myself I rushed to the conclusion that I was the Messiah. Silly egotistical bugger that I am. Sometimes I think we never really grow up, we just suppress our childishness to the extent it interferes with all the serious things need doing.

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Once, when the Buddha had taken birth in one of the hot hell realms, he and another fellow were tasked with moving loads up the side of a steep, fiery mountain. His mate became exhausted and was repeatedly whipped by the cruel attendants so Buddha decided to carry his load for him. This inkling of kindness infuriated these brutes so much that they went mad and beat him to death right on the spot.

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It is early in the AM, Thanksgiving Day, 2020. I remind myself that gratitude is itself a kind of happiness, and that there is always something or someone you can identify that is completely worthy of gratitude. Even though the world is a ball of shit. That’s quite something, isn’t it? Happiness at your fingertips and all you need do is change your mind.

We really should, however, end this charade of pardoning a ceremonial turkey as we mindlessly slaughter a billion others. An honest tradition would have the president chop off its head. Why do we lie to ourselves like this?

Uncle Remus

Really, really swell arrangement of Zappa’s Uncle Remus for solo piano. Even if you don’t know the piece, I think you’ll abide in it. A rich engagement with a honky-tonk periphery and God’s Own Blues double parked in front of your favorite hardware store.

Carson and Ekeko

My unit here is within a larger private complex where the owner has a fondness for the Peruvian hairless breeds. Ruby, Raio, and Ekeko have full run of the property much of the time and Ekeko is fond of napping on my doorstep. Carson is not allowed out, but keeps an eye on things.

The name Ekeko is borrowed from the pre-Columbian civilization god of abundance and prosperity who lives on in the folklore of Peru and Bolivia. The hairless breeds from this region are of a very old line. It was odd the first time I touched one of them and felt skin instead of fur. Raio and Ekeko are both fond of me, Ruby is working on it.

Ekeko is depicted as a stout figure laden with valuables, often smoking a cigarette.

Full Metal Jacqueline

This illusion in which we had dwelled for so long suddenly had a hole smack in the middle of it, revealing what appeared to be another establishment of illusion on the other side. The rough hewn opening hovered before us, its edges glowing like fog caught in high beams. Totally daft. Must be the drugs, I thought. Jackie took the cigar from her mouth and spit a fleck of tobacco to the side. “What kind of Lewis Carroll horseshit is this?”

So she saw it too. Dang. Like my mama used to say, “tripping is as tripping does.” Jackie was an orphan and regarded my parental references with disdain. The reality appearing through the portal looked daunting, but I have always felt that doors were an inducement to forward motion.

I considered for a moment that if William Blake had used windows instead of doors in his famous line, then Huxley’s book would have been called The Windows of Perception, and Jim Morrison would have called his band The Windows, and Microsoft would have had to fork over a tidy sum to his estate for licensing. What a tangled web. Jackie caught my eye just then and said, “whatever you’re thinking about just forget it.” She knew me pretty well.

Grumbling, she grabbed her beat up old Telecaster and made for the opening. “Are you coming or not,” she said, cigar smoke fuming from her nostrils. Reluctantly I followed, hoping that the folks on the other side shared our fondness for dope, raves and thrash metal.

Photo-composite, metal objects and flower.

The Nocturnal Habits of Daylight

Light, upon young skin
I noticed you by the grace of it
and the rays of it glancing off
of everything you touched.

Radiance beyond
the duality of particle and wave
we, spinning and wobbling
like fresh formed planets
in a steady stream of it.

But the Sun of these better days
had yet to rise:

It was dark the hour we met
and that poor Sun probably burns
knowing now that I had seen you first
and by its own light
that it had carelessly loaned
to the Moon that night.
No hearts were harmed, or even moved for that matter, in the making of this love poem.

A Scattering of Light

Clouds break up the monotonous blue expanse above and the light, illuminating it all down to the last wispy puff, has yet to deal with the billions of serrated leaf edges awaiting its arrival down here in the thick of nature, whose every quality owes much to humanity’s rare neglect.

Did not see many birds on my walk yesterday. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are here for the winter and I caught sight of a Tennessee Warbler. Early morning light makes the myriad details of a Texas prairie erupt in a festival for the eyes. I walked the trails in silence, slipping my mask back up over my nose when I encountered other people.

I did see and photograph a mute Mockingbird contemplating something relating to life as birds would have it. She sat still for it, which is the only way I can grab a bird portrait at distance. (Idea for a camera feature: button that emits a silent signal heard only by wildlife that says, “stay still for a moment, it’s important.”)

Mocking-Bird                         
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Then from a neighboring thicket
    the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,
Swinging aloft on a willow spray
    that hung o’er the water,
Shook from his little throat
    such floods of delirious music,
That the whole air and the woods
    and the waves seemed silent to listen. 
Plaintive at first were the tones
    and sad: then soaring to madness
Seemed they to follow or guide
    the revel of frenzied Bacchantes.
Single notes were then heard,
    in sorrowful, low lamentation;
Till, having gathered them all,
    he flung them abroad in derision,
As when, after a storm, a gust of wind
    through the tree-tops
Shakes down the rattling rain
    in a crystal shower on the branches.

Bothered a little by some lower back pain, I cut my walk short and was soon racing along on Houston’s 610 Loop, in sync with the speeding hordes, light scattering off of pavement and chrome bumpers, and nature somehow accommodating it all. I feel like a voyeur, sneaking peeks at the beauty of the world from a little hiding spot not quite in it.

Zen Curious

The archer's faulted for its lack
Subgenius craves it—calls it slack

Potter shaping mound of clay
Seeks wabi-sabi, so they say

Outnumbered by the many foe
Kung Fu's the only way to go

The Koan reaches eager ears
Throws a wrench into the gears

Like pyramids, real power now
Though no one knows exactly how

An author knows this very well:
Slipped in the title, book will sell

That certain something thought of when
You don't know what to call it: Zen

Just for fun, search “Zen and the Art of” and see all the various suggestions offered by your search engine. (I recommend DuckDuckGo as a privacy oriented search alternative to the big guys. I do not use Google anymore.) Turns out that Robert Pirsig was riffing on another book’s title when he published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: which was Zen in the Art of Archery, by German philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel, published in 1948.

Kyūdō: Bows are called Yumi (, lit. “Bow“)

Something striking to me about Western culture is that it’s thoroughly grounded in materialist orthodoxy but is endlessly fascinated with the ‘Mysteries of the East’ like Zen and martial arts. Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Kung Fu.

Four Seasons Total Satisfaction

The election results are now clear
And loser, you're out on your ear
We wish you the best
Just kidding, we jest
Now choke on this summons, you hear?

I am embarrassed by my own ill will here, but damn I’m tired and I don’t feel well. What should be a joyful win for decency is soiled by the fact that we are still a country with 70 million MAGAs who are not going anywhere. Who will be the next fascist fuck these grousing lack-wits glom onto? He’ll be a smart one next time, none of this keystone cop coup d’etat bullshit. He’ll have a major political party behind him again too, just like his predecessor.

Am I wrong? Please tell me I am wrong.