Browsed by
Category: Uncategorized

NYC Journal #26 – A dream

NYC Journal #26 – A dream

Couldn’t say where it began or where it ended.
Will try to recall larger pieces of the swirling techtonics.

But the buzz-rattling and the clank-hammering from down and across the street undo my thoughts.
Clench my heart, make me hate.
I need to leave this place.
I need to go somewhere quiet.
Somewhere without music blasting by every ten minutes and then sometimes, oh, actually that particular blare isn’t a drive-by, it’s going to stay for hours.
The drilling burrows into me, shakes me apart from the inside.
Makes me sick all through.
And then there’s some fan or something that winds forever, a little off in its casing, making a constant (I mean ALWAYS) background whining gyration that floats at the back of every would-be still moment.
In time one begins to feel the constant noises as an assault, an affront on one’s personhood, one begins to feel constantly attacked, belittled, pushed around; sound is forced upon you, the forcers don’t care that it is tearing you down, tightening your shoulders, crushing your love, they shove it down your throat.
In time madness creeps in at all sides like a viscous liquid, perspective evaporates, a thick haze of agitated, dementia-esque confusion fills the space of your shouders-tense face-tense breathe-tense space.
You turn up the white noise machine.
And put the headset earmufflers on.
Those goddamn beeps! From the backing-up trucks.
So loud!
And empty.
And persistent.
It is time to go, but today you can’t.

The dream.
What happened?
The nice part was when you were at the young lady’s house.
Who was she?
The shorter of two Hispanic girls.
Did you know the taller one, and that’s why you were at the shorter’s apartment?
And who was that guy?
About your height (shortish).
Also Hispanic?
Anyway, at first the girl’s white or perhaps yes I think gray with dark lines kitty cat is purring up against your leg as you sit on the faded hardwood floor with one leg folded under you and the other folded up with your kneed near your chin. And before long the cat is crawling over your back, so you are obliged to bend more and more forward and become more and more of a mesa for the kitten, which is rubbing the side of it’s head all the way down your spinal column.
The shorter of the women, who owns the apartment and the cat, says that means it likes you, and she mentions something vaguely scientific that your dreammind didn’t even bother to record, that you can recall your dreammind sort of jumping over, that your dreammind knew it could not coherently provide.
At some point the shorter girl, dressed in poofy denim shorts and a nice soft shiny white blouse, is sitting behind you, straddling you, and so serving as a recliner for you. You’re on the floor, seated somehow at a table, but nothing’s going on at the low coffee table where you’re seated. And the other two people are also around, in the room, and the all three of you are talking. You want to put your hands on her naked legs. But you’re not sure you can. But then you figure, wait!, I’m allowed to sit like this, leaning back into her while she wraps her arms around my chest from behind, so surely! And so you caress her legs, and they are soft but with a little prickly sandpapery stubble. Like she skipped shaving them for a day.
She is short an shapely and it feels like she loves you and you love her.
It’s a relief.
A relief to realize you’re being held and you’re caressing her legs and there’s nothing problematic about any of that, that that is all actually just right for all involved.

The two scenes in like upper Manhattan or the Bronx.
Three scenes.
Because at first there are kids throwing rocks at a garage door, but then a couple towards a street sign on the edge of the sidewalk, so you run out into the pebbly side of the road and run as fast as you can forward, to avoid being hit by a rock.
And then there’s like a big puddle of dirty light-brown water and a wooden plank that’s going soft and bendy that you walk on to get over the puddle. And two young thin black boys. What are they doing? Playing on the steps of an apartment building? But why do the steps run down along the side of the sidewalk instead of going from the side of the sidewalk straight to the apartment building stoop? Well, for one thing, these bare concrete steps are long and they lead more to like a landing than a stoop.
Maybe those two boys are playing around the puddles in the front.
Maybe this is a construction site.
What is it the one says to the other?
Something about somebody who, right after he’d gotten himself together and things were looking up, got shot in the head. For no reason, apparently. The dream supplies you with that detail. It was a random incident, he’d not been the intended target, if there’d even been one, which detail the dream doesn’t provide.
What’s the third one? A kid also on concrete steps. Also a little skinny black boy, 7 or 8 or so. Doing something weird with a big cooking pot and a metal half-dome noodle sieve. What is it? some kind of pretend cooking operation? But what is that stuff in the pot? Skinless green grapes? No, because it is gooier than that. Or is it?
And he too says something about somebody getting shot, and in the same light, matter-of-fact way as the first boy had. Some comment in which the point is somebody getting shot, but that’s also not really the point, the somebody getting shot is too normal and everyday for that to be the point, the somebody being shot underlines some other point the kid’s making, like, as in the first comment: in life, you just never know.

And then the dream you is evolving a theory on government’s inability to monopolize violence and the parallels between the upiquitousness of guns in many areas of NYC and nuclear proliferation. Something to do with how in both cases the state has lost control over the weapons it uses to maintain order. In both cases, there’s a lack of trust in the state to provide order, particularly a safe and fair one. Your dreamself recalls to mind a property manager, fired a year or two ago, back when he wasn’t fired, talking about gun showdowns with his posse and the posses of some kids selling drugs out the basement of one of the newly acquired fixer-upper apartment buildings. Was it true? You don’t know. Also called to dreammind are his talk about how the police don’t care what happens on that block: “Let them kill themselves.” And that string of pithy sayings he once started reeling off, all meant to point out that it’s better to go to jail for carrying a weapon than to end up dead because you can’t defend yourself. Things like: “Better behind bars than underground.” In the dream you are now in Europe, walking on one side of a narrow road with tall gray buildings on either side (no sidewalks), and a tiny little car — something with the rounded hood and wheel-casings of a cartoon-car — drives at you on the other side. And you are saying that the North Korean and etc. regimes must also have such sayings, sayings about how it’s better to face sanctions than to be destroyed.

What is the part in the housing development?
And the scary part with the closing walls?
And the awkward part about the check.
And then there was the proposal about mandating that all buildings have yards.
And another theory. What was this other theory about?

Copyright: AMW

wrong move

wrong move

what did I do wrong?
where did I misstep?
Something’s gone wrong.
Now what?

I need someone to speak with.
But then slides into a hug.
And that slides into marriage.
This is the culture I know.

I’m out of ideas.
This is the way I know.

If you don’t have a wife, then you can’t tell anyone about what’s inside.
If you don’t have somebody, then you don’t have anybody.
You can’t talk.
They don’t want to hear.
Only your wife would be able to listen.
And then only if she was a good one.

Now what?

I can’t locate the place where it went wrong.
There’s something that I didn’t choose.
There’s a cut that I didn’t make.
There’s a wound that was not self-inflicted.

If I had a wife
And it worked for us
then maybe we could speak
about what I know
and what I cannot escape

But if I don’t
then I can only talk to myself
or maybe write blogposts to no one
that’s the system
it’s the one I know

authors: BW/AW

Dead chicken

Dead chicken

One of the chickens is dead.
The black-and-white speckled one.
The two black and one red one seem fine.
They had mostly eaten their old friend.
I dug a little hole for the feet and legs and some wing and breast feathers.
Their water is served in two little red concave plastic cups attached to a big clear rectangular water jug.
Little plastic yellow sticks with knobs at the ends stick out from the container.
If you press against the stick with your finger or beak, water fills the cup.
The cups were fill of dirt and one had twigs also.
But they still seemed to work.
I cleaned them out.
I couldn’t figure out where the chickens’ food was.
I picked some figs and tomatoes and grass and tossed it with a few waterfall-arcs into the coop.
The tiny fat feathered dinosaurs attacked the food frantically; but this is normal, and I noticed no signs of weakness, nor any confusion beyond what is to be expected of pea-brains.
Nor did they seem overly excited by the water dish I brought them.
One of the black ones drank from it a bit with dainty sips and then alert pop-ups that let the water fall down her throat while she blinked her round eyes.
0f course, they quickly knocked the plastic dish over in their mad dash for the figs.

I mowed the lawn with the electric mower.
You have to be careful of the chord and sometimes it falls out of the socket and the machine stops.
You have to be careful of the hoses that irrigate the gardens, and since I err on the side of caution, the hose paths are now marked by six-inch-wide, foot-tall lines of sprouting grasses.
The too-green seemed less buggy than normal this evening and yet I still netted two mosquito bites from unseen assailants.

I have embraced my role as a tourist here on planet earth.

It’s actually kind of relaxing.

I can see that it might be better if I could make myself useful.
But I don’t see what I can do, where I fit in, what I could say or do to reliably improve the lot of this foreign land.
I suppose it could be argued that I am a human among humans and not just a tourist drifting through an unguided tour, but these wiremesh-cooped chickens are also all chickens together, and you see how much sense they make to each other.
There’s also many many cases, documented, and undocumented, where people pitch in and help out, but actually just make things worse.
Not to disparage all attempts at helping.
But just to point out that sometimes less is more.
And that it isn’t always obvious what exactly one’s activities are working, what they will sooner and then later and then even later have wrought.
In the moment you should be gentle and kind and not peck your fellows apart, leaving behind nothing but a rough outline of wings, a couple stringy legs, and two clawed feet. That much we know for sure. Beyond that, our fancy sometimes carries us away, we outstrip our own wisdom and help create and/or exacerbate situations in which the more innocent die while the less innocent become even less innocent.

Copyright: AMW

Chickens and human evil

Chickens and human evil

I read articles about the trouble in Afghanistan.
One says the troop size we had there was small enough that we could’ve stayed indefinitely. (Atlantic)
Another that the troops will just be shuffled to other areas in the region and all we’ve done is lost the ability to maintain order and tamp down extremism in Afghanistan.
Are such statements true?
An op-ed by an Afghan general says that once Trump signed the withdrawal date, the Taliban knew they had won; and that the Afghan’s had been trained to work with US intelligence and air strikes and were ineffectual without them, and the corruption of the Afghan government meant troops often lacked basic supplies; but still they fought on, until they were completely abandoned by their president (who fled the country) and the US (who stuck to the leave date, even as they saw that the Taliban was going to win). (NYT)
I read a piece by Ezra Klein in which he went through several different withdrawal options and the disasters that they might’ve brought with them, concluding that this withdrawal was not great, but it is difficult to know what the right withdrawal was. (NYT)
I read an article by an Afghan trying to get vulnerable Afghan’s out of the country. He spoke of people being beaten and shot by the Taliban as they try to leave, even as the Taliban promises general amnesty. People whisper into the phones as they beg for his help. He and many others are trying, but the situation sounds hopeless for many.

Maybe we should’ve stayed forever.
There is no way to make up for leaving 300,000 Afghan allies in the hands of the Taliban.
Will we get that number down to 200,000?
Or are actually more people at risk than that late-August NYT article estimated?
And can we possibly get all US citizens out?
And their families?
Even from a purely Realpolitik point of view: this is the information age; at least a decent sampling of the terrible things that happen to our stranded allies will probably be known by many.
And that bit of Realpolitiking is besides questions of how our anticlimatic evacuation and the Taliban’s triumphant return / seizure of many US weapons affects our ability to defend ourselves against international terrorism.
Maybe we should’ve never gone in, but once we were in, how could we leave?
So what now?
And how should a nation weight concerns Realpolitik versus concerns of the heart?
Or are there win-wins that wisdom would reveal if we’d open up to wisdom?
And how do large groups — parties, governments, nations, worldbodies, worlds — open up to wisdom together and together find their way towards what is best for everyone?
And now?
In this instance?
I don’t want those who worked with the US and our allies in Afghanistan for a free and open Afghan society to be tortured to death, to have their heads chopped off after they had to watch themselves bleed out after their hands were chopped off.
This is what I am afraid of and what makes me feel like we have failed.
Maybe that won’t happen.
But already you hear of beatings and shootings, and the US military is not yet completely gone.
This is human evil.
It is an avalanche.
Thought evil may sometimes be organized or in some sense orchestrated, in it’s gut, it is crazed, a beserker, a Viking raping and pillaging some small coastal town, burning the hut of a woman who fought a little too successfully against his penis, her throat cut now and her vagina wet with semen and mud. In spots evil is certain it is right and proud, yet deep inside it is panicked, terrified, desperate to win a game it started without realizing that to win it would have to consume everything, dominate everything, destroy everything, become the only thing that ever was and ever will be.

If wisdom is true, and all is one; then evil has reality exactly upside down: it would make some frantic individual impulse, within some individual’s physical and emotional boundaries the One Truth. Well, evil often goes group, goes political, goes wider in some sense, allows and encourages the illusion that the individual subsumed within some group is part of a tidal wave of victorious and in certain moods righteous and in others well sure imperfect but justified and understandable ascendancy, thriving, forward-charging, world-gobbling. Evil, whether it be the tyrannical impulse of an individual or of a people, is always certain that wisdom is wrong: evil claims we are not all one Light, but rather, the One Light is Us, and by possessing the One Light, we have unique rights over Them.

But evil is a thing of degrees. We are none of us fully free of evil or fully contaminated with it.
So how do we push towards the better and away from the worse?
What is the path that brings people together into a true insight and meaningful response to the One Light?
How to avoid the illusion that that’s what we’re up to when we’re really serving individual and group pride, greed, fear, lust, desperation?
That’s a general question.
Any workable answer needs to be applicable to the changing circumstances of individual and group life.

I am staying at a home near a channel through which flows billions of dollars of freight, like all the time. The grass has gotten very green and annoyingly long and mosquito-ridden because August has been so wet. The gardens thrive in their own quiet ways. At the back of the yard, near a tall wooden fence, is a wooden chicken house on wooden stilts, and a little chicken pen covered in octogonal wire mesh.

As per my instructions, I throw table scraps to the chickens. They charge out and cluck and stride and peacock their heads-through-tailfeathers, and peck with mad gusto at bits of fruit, a squished tomato, the butt of a carrot, an egg dish topped with olive oil, and other delicacies. Once I got to close to the mesh with a bit of apple in my fingers and plump speckled hen flapped up into the tiny bit of sky between us, jammed her hard beak through the mesh with a clang and rattle of the structure, grabbed the apple, and flopped down to earth to terrorize it. She would’ve just as happily eaten my finger.

If I were to fall down in the chicken coop unconscious, I think they would eat me.

Chickens are not our friends. They are small and weak, and they do not understand technology, strategy, or most anything except squawking and pecking and gobbling. It is their weaknesses, not any spiritual insight, moral resolve, practical restraint, or anything else that one might reasonably call a “strength” that keeps our pet chickens from devouring us.

Chickens are evil. They are wanton lust. They want only to eat and take it easy. Perhaps if there were a rooster about they’d also like to breed. They would just as soon eat you as look at you. If another chicken dies in the coop, they might very well eat it before the owner notices the death. I’m not talking about starving chickens. I am talking about chickens who being fed daily and are already plump from a life of lazing and gorging. They might protect their chicks from predators. But that’s not enough to call them “not evil”. Terrible criminals often pamper their own children and those friends who consistently please them.

Humans are complicated. They are not good. They are not bad. They are broken. Twisted on the inside, like metal legs and cross-beams that hold up a water tower, but rusted, and collapsed in upon themselves, so torn ends, sharp and curving, stick out at all angles. Who can help them? Chickens are like that too. Chickens are broken on the wheel of their own maniacal hopes and fears. Who can help them? Stupid, petty, greedy little monsters.

But humans thought is wider than chicken thought. Human thought can grow the space to reflect, not just on stratagem and soulless risk-benefit analyses, but also on the One Light.

How do we stop the evil within our thoughts and actions, both individual and shared?
But that’s a trick: It is an evil trick to pretend we can completely stop the evil.
“We are working to bring about salvation, on earth and/or in heaven: that is our blank check, that justifies any possible word or deed we might choose.”
That is an evil trick.
It is perhaps The evil trick.

Is evil — both in chickens and humans — the misapplication of the spiritual impulse — the longing to connect meaningfully as individuals and groups with the One Light –, turning it away from real engagement in insightful, active Love; and towards the illusion that we can possess everything, including the One Light?

But surely chickens have no spiritual impulse. They just want to be safe and comfy while they stuff their stupid beaks.

And yet the longing to be safe and comfy and full to overflowing impels the thoughtful mind/heart/body to seek wisdom. Particularly in social animals, for whom personal thriving is naturally bound up in group thriving. Social animals cannot truly feel like they are fully safe and thriving unless they are part of a community that is safe and thriving, and their relationships within others in that community are satisfying–that is to say, there are good feelings and meaningful connections between them and others.

To the degree an individual gains insight into the truth about their own mind/heart/body, that individual knows that they cannot believe in, care about, or understand their own thoughts and actions except to the degree that they follow their own internal rules for thinking and action. A human must pursue accuracy, honesty, clarity, and competency if they are to have any faith in their own thinking/feeling/acting. But to the degree one is internally accurate, honest, clear, and competent, one is aware that our great longings for safety and thriving are bound up with and even underlie our need to be accurate, honest, clear and competent: we need to be these things so we can know where we really are, and what we really need, and how to fit ourselves within what is really going on so as to move towards more of what we really need and away from what is really destructive to us. And here, as social animals, we also cannot deny our need to have things be truly OK between us and others, and here arises the undeniable need for love and meaningful community. But put that all within a vague desperate longing, for ever more safety, thriving, OKness. And what do you get?

You can work yourself up into communism, or the magic of completely unchecked free markets, an infinite Caliphate, or strong warlordy we-annihilate-them rulers like Putin/Trump/Etc-Rulers-For-Life. That is to say: you can work yourself up into patriotic visions of heaven on earth via the subjugation of everything to some ideal and its power structure. Or up into the certainty that your understanding of God guarantees you eternal salvation and special rights and privileges here on earth.

You can work yourself up into fundamentalist religion, politics, ideology, and etc.

You can work yourself up into hedonism, living for the moment, for that momentary sense of an infinite explosion of safety and thriving that comes from enough pleasure in the right places. At least for a while.

You can work yourself up into rock n roll rebellion. As if drinking and flipping off the authorities was a real stand.

You can work yourself up into so many different things, in the name of so many different names, but always you are chasing infinite safety, thriving, fellowship, OKness.

Of course the quest is doomed to fail.

Except that it isn’t.
Not if there is a Light that Knows what is Best for everyone.
And we humans can relate meaningfully to It.
If Love is Truth and Goodness and Reality, then to the degree we know and follow Love, we join the One Light, which is an infinite expanse of safety, thriving, fellowship, Okness.
That possibility is both the saving grace of human existence, and it’s great complication.
Without it, everything is just atoms, void, and ultimately meaningless (both to the universe and us individuals, who cannot help but know that human meaning requires more than a forced sense of, ‘no, but this is really meaningful!’) and thus ultimately empty existential stands.
But once we accept the possibility that wisdom is Real — and we cannot actually escape it; even existential standers are deep inside submitting to the daydream that their existential stands are somehow eternally valid (humans cannot help it: we long to and cannot avoid trying to become Truly OK; not just seems-like-at-the-moment OK) — then we open ourselves up to our perennial error of disguising our lust for safe/thrive/OK/belong for some notion about how we have real insight into life and how it should be navigated.

So what do we do?

What do I do?

I’ve been writing the same essay to myself for a decade.

It makes no difference.

US Democracy is threatened by the Republican decision to win by changing election laws in ways that reduce Democratic voters.
It is threatened by the threat of another Trump administration: incompetent, corrupt, solidifying power by weakening the ability of other branches of government to check his power, perhaps this time doing more than just floating the idea of being made president for life, perhaps this time succeeding when he makes aid to foreign nations dependent on them smearing his political opponents, perhaps that kind of messiness no longer being useful since now when he calls state election officials and asks them to bend the vote in his favor they say yes, sir, Mr. President, sir, it is my patriotic duty, Mr. President, sir, to serve, Mr. President, Sire, not so much the people of this nation as its glorious and infinite ruler.

People who had believe in our promise of a freer, safer, more humane Afghanistan are dying, and more will probably die, and many may die in cruel and terrible ways.

I have been writing this essay for ten years.

I go around the merry go round on a shiny white unicorn with chipped enamel here and there but basically a pristine beast.

Humans can work meaningfully together by admitting that none of our ideologies mean anything to any of us, except to the degree we think and act accurate, honest, clear, competent, and kind–in ways that make communal living healthy, gentle, and joyfully together. Accepting this fundamental framework leads directly to the shared insight that ideas and especially words about God and Truth and Goodness are not the same as things like God and Truth and Goodness, and that we should all therefore — irregardless of what we may or may not say about such high ideals — submit to an open, fair and transparent process and to human laws enforcing our fundamental shared values of accuracy, honesty, clarity, competency, and kind shared decent resolve.

A liberal, secular government is the opposite of an anti-religious government. It is a government that protects our ability to relate to the True Good in ways that are meaningful to us. Theocracy, communism, fascism, unregulated capitalism: all these grand ideas that ask you to blindly follow some combination of government and ideas: they make it harder to tell oneself and others the truth about one’s honest but human and therefore difficult and uncertain attempts to grow in wisdom, in Goodness, in Godlight.

The more corrupt a state, the harder it is to be both decent and happy; and the easier it is to be indecent and happy. Therefore, the more corrupt a state, the more impossible it is to be both happy and joyful. And most of us are not wise or strong enough — especially in settings were we are afraid for our lives and livelihood and often lack basic necessities, let alone creature comforts — to consistently choose joy (spiritual insight and commitment and the concomitant Love for all) over happiness (feeling safe, and thriving, and loved).

But I’ve written this essay hundreds of times in ten years.

Alone, making no difference to anyone, except a little bit maybe at times to me.

Now what?

If Republican legislatures pass voting laws that successfully limit Democratic turnout, and thus become more and more dependent on fixing elections and less and less dependent on meaningfully responding to the needs and wishes of most American; that undermining of Democracy is largely their fault.

If the Taliban shoves the gonads Afghans into the mouths of those same Afghans, then those individual Taliban members and the group within which they are operating are largely to blame.

Yet in all things, we all share some responsibility, and in close things, we share more. To the degree American Democracy dies, we all lose the ability to meaningfully relate to our fellow citizens about politics. We should fight to preserve it. Every time the Taliban murders an Afghans who’d spoken out against them in the 20 years we stood guard telling them they were safe to speak their minds, we lose a measure of international trust and soul, yes, soul — whatever that may exactly be, we know not, yet still we know it is the most precious possession of any individual or group.

I write these essays to myself. A few pounds and a little cleverness (mostly that of others) keep me from being eaten alive by chickens. Geography allows me to opine about politics without being dismembered and set upon a spike. Democracy will grow stronger or weaker depending on what? I don’t even know. I mean, I have an idea bout how to make it stronger (everyone votes, everyone is educated about the process and the current debates, the government is more open fair honest and transparent, everyone agrees to agree on the fundamental values and not be distracted from our fundamental duty to them, etc), but I don’t know how to navigate this moment so as to actually strengthen democracy here and now.

I write the same essay to myself for ten years. If chickens got bigger and stronger, they’d surge forth, devouring everything in their sight. If US Americans found themselves without any laws or order, many of them would surge forth, taking, killing, raping, maiming. The people that you meet, the people on the street, each day. And the others, well, they’d be much more violent then they currently are, and than they would ever want to be. Or I guess they’d just get killed.

Dear God,

We pray that wisdom prevail in our hearts and minds and in the minds of everyone in the world.
We know we have no enemies except the fear, greed, pride, and hatred within.
But that is much easier to remember when no one is kicking your teeth in, and so we pray for less and less corruption here, there, and everywhere.
So that we can all meet one another as humans.

We pray that Love be Real, and that you show us in what way Love is Real.
And that you guide us so that we can better follow the Love that is Real.

But we do we do?

We may write essays.

And we may pray.

But what do we really do?

What use are we to ourselves or anyone/

Teach us to pray, to meditate, feel, think, and act.
Teach us we pray.

But we’ve been praying, off and on for a long time.

What is our problem?

Is it that we don’t really mean it?
That we don’t really want Goodness and Love to be Real/
Or at least not in any way that might interfere with a leisurely Saturday morning of iced tea and essay writing?

So God, what do we?

Praying doesn’t seem to be enough.
We would to have your Love be Real and to open for real to that Real Love.
That would be a way forward.
That would be a prayer that made a difference.

But still our guts clench.
We turn away.
We don’t want to Know.
We want to be safe in our kitchens with our iced teas and laptops.

Please help us the best that you can given where we are now and what we are now willing to admit and to give.
And please within that little space of our existent wisdom, grow your Light so that we learn to pray for real, to mean it
when we say

make us wise, loving, kind, honest, clear, decent, actually helping ourselves and others live well joyfully sharing in your Light and your game of lights that make this world an illusion where Truth can be glimpsed and to some extent followed and adored for what It is.

Authors: AW/BW
Copyright: AMW

Love Story – 1

Love Story – 1


The scene: A barren field ending in a rocky cliff, the wind howling on all sides. Two men, one 40ish, the other 30ish, sit on wooden chairs with a large flat-topped stone as a table between them. The day is late, but the sun hangs persistent in the purpling sky.

Arther: So this Deepering
Merlon: Something Deeperism.
Arther: Something Deeperism — it’s a religion, but without any God?
Merlon: Something Deeperism is a philosophy and it does not deny or affirm the existence of God.
Arther: And a philosophy is like a religion, but without a God?
Merlon: A philosophy is based on reason; a religion is based on faith.
Arther: So a philosophy is a sort of a science. Like physics, or the Zodiac.
Merlon: The Zodiac is silliness.
Arther: So a philosophy is a sort of science. Like astronomy, or alchemy.
Merlon: Science deals only with what can be both quantified and assessed mathematically, and verified through repeated experiments in the physical world. It abstains from opining about whether or not any of its insights are actually real or actually matter.
Arther: Not philosophy?
Merlon: A philosophy is a system for ordering one’s life. It answers the primary answer’s of a human’s existence: How do I know what is true?, what is true?, what is really going on?, what actually matters?, how can I fit myself into the flow of events in such a way as to bring about what is truly best?, how can I think and act in accordance with what is both truly true and truly good?
Arther: So a philosophy does what a religion does, but without faith?
Merlon: A human can’t avoid faith. No matter what, you will believe some things you cannot establish using reason and observation alone. And philosophy addresses the most fundamental human questions: what is true?, what is good?, what matters? Therefore, a philosophy will accept some principles on faith.
Arther: So a philosophy accepts some things on faith, and it tells you what is true and what is good and how you should live; but a philosophy is not a religion?
Merlon shrugs.
Arther: And just picture, I mean supposing, like imagine a philosophy where I say my position is that, well, gosh, I don’t really know anything for sure, so I’m just going to leave it at that. Wouldn’t that be a philosophy without faith?
Merlon: That would be a philosophy that lies about itself. Not because we can know anything for sure; I don’t suppose we can; but because it is not humanly possible to leave it at that. People believe things. Believing you don’t know things is also believing things–things you cannot establish using reason and observation alone, things you can’t establish one way or another at all.
Arther: And this Something Deeperism–it’s a philosophy?
Merlon: And how!

Merlon takes a sip of tea.
Arther follows suit.

The scene: A hollow wooden boat, as wide as a man is tall, as long as four men are. Rowed by a man on either side, swooshing from side to side in heavy surf that sometimes foams over the weathered sides. In the front two men and two women do no work, but only sit and converse, bracing themselves occasionally from the violent heaves of Poseidon’s mirth.

Bjorn: Stieg?
Stieg: Yeah?
Bjorn: Have you read much of that book I gave you?
Stieg: Oh, well, no, not really. But Grueni has.
Bjorn: Ah yes? Grueni? A woman reader?
Grueni: I find a little time in the evening–Stieg asked me to look at it for him.
Hilde: Stieg is a busy, important, active, commanding man. He has no time for reading.
Bjorn: And so Grueni and Stieg, you’ve been discussing … what Grueni’s been reading?
Stieg: Oh, yes!
Grueni: Definitely.
Stieg: No.
Grueni: Not exactly.
Stieg: But we will!
Grueni: Oh yes! I know that we will. We love talking to each other.
Hilde: Foundation of any loving relationship, eh Bjorn?
Bjorn: Well, I think you’ll find there’s a lot to discuss. The book covers a great deal of ground.
Grueni: Yes, any book that starts with the creation of the universe: Ambitious!
Stieg: Clearly a very ambitious book.
Bjorn: It would be, though, you see, because God wrote it.
Stieg: Odin?!
Grueni: I missed that part.
Stieg: Certainly not one for half-measures, but I’d never thought of him as the literary type.
Bjorn: What if Odin was not so very much like the stories we tell about him?
Stieg: But then Odin wouldn’t be Odin, would he?
Bjorn: He would still be Odin, we’d just be wrong about what Odin is like and what Odin has done.
Grueni starts laughing: I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was just recalling, wasn’t that what–Hrafankel, that was his name, I believe?
Stieg laughs: Oh, yes, he had similar ideas.
Grueni: But he changed his minds when they started flinging rocks at his head.
Stieg: Too late.
They laugh.
Grueni: Just goes to show you–you don’t really know your own head until someone’s throwing a large stone at it.
They laugh.
Bjorn: No! There’s a distinction here. A, I think, important one.
Hilde: A distinction! All I ever wanted was a good provider, a powerful warrior, a virile lover.
Grueni: Someone like Stieg!
Hilde: Such a man!
Stieg: It’s all in the wrist.
Bjorn: What?
Stieg: Providing, fighting, love-making (he flicks his wrist a few time) …
Bjorn: What I’d like to bring to the fore here is that Hrafnkel
Grueni: Oh that was it! Hrafnkel! Bloody mess in the end.
Stieg: Amazing, really, to watch a living breathing person become a pulpy lifeless corpse.
Hilde: Yes, no matter how many times one sees it, always astounding.
Grueni: A type of miracle, really.
Stieg: Yes, I think you could call it that.
Grueni: Praise the Gods!
Bjorn: So Hrafnkel was teaching that Odin was not really God, which of course is a terrible heresy, since without God, without a Truth, without an abiding and guaranteed eternal Goodness governing all and guiding our eternal beings to our eternal rests, well, what do we have, really?, except chaos and lonely, pointless existential stands?
Grueni: I don’t know about all that.
Stieg: The way I remember it, people were mostly just worried that Odin would punish us all if we didn’t avenge his good name.
Hilde: A reasoning that proved true. You’ll recall that we had a successful raid shortly after executing Hrafnkel.
Bjorn: Two of your brothers died in that raid.
Hilde: Thank Odin they gave their wives strong, wild, manly sons to carry on their great legacies!
Bjorn: Anyway, Hrafnkel preached that Odin was not really God, that there was another God. Whereas what I want to suggest we consider is what if Odin is the one and only God, and He actually isn’t really very much like the sagas say He is, but is instead like the God depicted in this book.
Hilde: But this God isn’t named Odin!
Stieg: Not at all! That’s where your theology falls apart, I’m afraid.
Grueni: If Bjorn was stoned to death, who do you think would marry me? I’m still pretty, don’t you think?
Hilde: Oh, yes, pretty!
Stieg: Exceptionally handsome woman. I wouldn’t mind …
Grueni: Oh?
Hilde: A beautiful woman! I am certain that lots of fine single men would gladly offer you a fruitful, stable, reliable union.
Grueni: What about Viglundar?
Stieg: Vigli?
Hilde: Now he’s a little young. But, well, what do you think of Kroka? A mighty man, terrible in battle, good to his friends, ruthless with his foes.
Stieg: Kroka! Now here’s an idea!

Scene: The dusty plain of windy Troy
Hector: The problem nowadays is that everyone wants to make a religion out of politics. You shouldn’t even make a religion out of religion–but politics!?
Achilles: Don’t you fear the censor of the Gods? They themselves enter the fray when city crashes against city and king against king!
Hector: Zeus and the Olympia? Don’t be silly! They’re too blessed and immortal to concern themselves with a few pimples squabbling over a quarter inch of skin.
Odysseus: Don’t heed this idle chatter, Achilles. We’ve both felt the heavy hand of Zeus upon our shoulders and at our rumps, bolstering us gently onward, into the battle where the valiant few burn red hot with the immortal fame of mortals!
Susan: Hector, won’t you take me back home? I miss my parents, my sisters, and the rounded certainty of our white walls of rough-hewn stone.
Achilles: Don’t you like it here with me in my tent, sharing my sweat? Does not the fire of the eternal moment glow bright between us, forging us into a one Light?
Susan: Well, it’s just–I don’t think–I want to be known and won and loved for just me. You’re a great man, supreme in the violence that shakes and moves our fragile world. But I want love, family, a home with someone who is happy to have found me and will give his sweat to me alone.
Achilles: Take her, Hector. Send my apologies and fifty golden coins to her father. I can take no pleasure in the spoils of war that take no pleasure in me.
Odysseus: Achilles! Don’t forget yourself! This is some half-spun wench, daughter and ally of our sworn enemy, rightfully won and claimed on the field of honorable slaughter. And will her pithy laments swerve your purpose as a squall tosses a fishing dinghy to the hither and the thither?
Achilles: No man, and leastwise some woman commands Achilles, who flashes across battle, a lightning bolt loosed by the heavy hand of Zeus Himself! Yet Zeus is Lord of all, and I will heed His command.
Hector: Come with me, Susan. We’ll away from this flickering camp. Zeus, Achilles, is indeed Lord of all, and you are right to heed His command. But Zeus is not the stuff of earthenware legend, nor is he our fantasies about kings and their claims to the baubles by which they measure their grandeur.
Odysseus: These kings. They carry us in wooden ships across the narrow sea, they loose our bronze to slash flesh, purge bowels, shatter bone. And so we fling our haughty youth and sullen old age across the sands around stone-protected Troy. For the sake of a woman of matchless beauty and questionable virtue, one king’s property, another’s stolen daughter, the love and comfort of his tenderest and least useful son.
Hector: I would that we could meet as friends and toast the health of your rash, wild raging king and our older, wiser, lonelier in the wider clarity of his sorrows-acknowledging thought. But I must, for the sake of my family and neighbors known and intertwined since soft-eyed youth, pray that Zeus tear your bodies apart, and litter the salty shores with your headless carcasses.
Achilles: You said the Gods are too blessed and eternal to mettle in our affairs.
Hector: It doesn’t matter what any of us say. What does a man know? Except that they love their wives, their children, and the sunlight twinkling on the shifting waves?
Odysseus: Men know their lives will be short and the God will close their wish-shimmering eyes without enlightening their brash and self-forgetting minds.
Susan: What can we any of us hope for? I’d wish myself a quiet, gentle life of peace and joy for me and the world that holds me and mine. But hope? I hope only that my heart might stay open until the end, that I might know something of Love ere I lose this human form, and its body-bound ardour.
Achilles: Hector, you sport with words, with thoughts, with facts and faiths. As if life were but a dream, no more real or consistent than the shifting, unexplained motions of our sleep-caught souls.
Hector: This life is but a dream.
Susan: But still the Good abides, still It demands our homage, that we bend our hearts and hands to its sacred will. For the Good alone knows who we are, and what is Best for all.
Achilles: Well spoken. Were that I a different kind of great, and we’d found one another fully and in a softer light, without the blood and filth of your kith and kin.
Susan: Perhaps in another life. This one is broken for us.
Hector:We part now. We meet next as outward enemies yet inward friends. For the Light, no God or mortal fashioned It, but It always was and is and shall be an eternal Kind Joy, filling, overfilling and bursting our every moment. Slowly It weaves every Fate, turning every heart towards Itself, where all is One, and All resounds in the wholesome giggle of eternal fellowship.
Odysseus: Kind Joy, all One? What manner of learning guides your tongue, youthful, sun-bronzed Hector?
Achilles: What manner of Love passes but does not bypass human understanding?
Susan: Even an inkling, if clung to with eagle’s talons–even an inkling makes everything OK, makes Joy real and possible.
Achilles: Hold to the Good and we become like a King Midas of the Good instead of the Gold. All we touch becomes Good.
Susan: Goodbye, Achilles.
Achilles: Goodbye, Susan.

Arther: I’m always so lonely. And I feel like we’ve failed. In our grand schemes and mighty victories.
Merlon: Something Deeperism is the general worldview that there is an Absolute Truth and people can have a meaningful relationship to It, just not a literal / one-to-one / definitive type of relationship to It. We can get the gist of the True Good and by keeping to that gist, we can grow deeper and deeper into the wisdom of what is Real–what is Best and how to flow along with what is Best.
Arther: I can’t even want what is Best. I just want to be held and to be safe, to be OK and have a little home, a little family, and for us to be safe, and for us to be OK. I can’t hardly even think. My mouth tastes like metal.
Merlon: A Something Deeperist will not claim that the Absolute Truth can be established with reason alone, or secured through faith alone. Reason alone cannot even prove that reason makes any sense, nor can it demonstrate how reason really relates to what is really going on and what really matters. Even if there were such a thing as literally true ideas and feelings about the Absolute Truth, faith in them would be meaningless without insight into them. But ideas and feelings about the Absolute Truth are finites attempting to relate meaningfully to infinites, they can only point better or worse towards what is beyond them.
Arther: I can’t even want to love everyone. I can’t even want Love to reign for ever and to love-lift us all up into shared joy and shared wisdom. I can’t want anything except to go hide in a nice comfy life with some sweet safe foxy lady friend. I’m afraid that I gave myself over to selfless Love, I would lose out on human safety, thriving, and love.
Marlon: The reasoning of Something Deeperism is that we cannot demonstrate with any intellectual certainty ideas about what is really going on, what really matters, and/or how we should really move; but we are aware that our own thoughts and feelings only make sense to our minds/hearts to the degree that we think and feel aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, kind, and joyful generous gentleness–that we can only care about or even fathom life if there is something like a True Goodness shining through everything and we can relate meaningfully to that True Goodness while staying true to our inborn needs for aware, clear, honest, accurate, kind and joyful generous gentleness. And it is conceivable that there is a Light that only Loves and that we can grow in wisdom in the ancient way: meditate, pray, push more and more for clear, honest, accurate, kind thought and action, stand up straight within oneself and follow the Light that refuses to ever put anyone down or harm anyone or abandon anyone.
Arther: So Something Deeperism is like Pascal’s Wager? If the path of wisdom is empty, nothing matters; and if the path of wisdom is what it promises to be, then following it will make one aware of and in sync of the ultimate eternal Okayness of everything?
Merlon: Well, that’s in there somewhere. Something Deeperism also has a public position. Since none of our religions, philosophies, or worldviews can be meaningful to any of us to the degree we fail to think and act aware, clear, honest, accurate, kind, joyfully sharing, and playfully gentle, we can agree that we do not need to agree on the metaphysical details so much as we need to agree on these foundational thoughts without which none of our metaphysics mean anything to any of us. Further, forcing people to agree about religious, philosophical and/or political dogma just makes people lie to themselves and others about what they really think and feel while distracting us all from our shared task of fighting against dishonesty and corruption in the publicly viewable and thus collectively actionable world.
Arther: The problem I am facing is that I don’t want to be a saint. I don’t want to sacrifice everything to the Light. I want a nice safe successful human life.
Merlon: All the more reason to fight against dishonesty and corruption. Only in settings where honest and forthright action is rewarded can one enjoy both spiritual thriving and normal human happiness.
Arther: Please God, help us find the way forward together.
Merlon: It’s too late. The harpies are loosed, the dead ride ghost steeds and wield silver blades, goblins drop from the trees, giants burst through the mountainsides, vultures gnaw on human hands strewn across the pavement.
Arther: Please God, let gentleness win, let wisdom win, let kind resolve and shared joy win, help us to together think aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, kind, joyful.
Merlon: I am afraid.
Arther: I am afraid.

Scene: In a small wooden house in a village in a forest.

Stieg: I don’t want to live here anymore.
Hilde: But Stieg! This is our home! These are our people!
Stieg: You can’t trust anyone. Humans are evil blades in thin sheaths. Without order imposed by threat of violence, they butcher you, rape your woman, sell your children, take your gold.
Hilde: This is madness, Stieg! You’ve been talking too much to Bjorn. He’s infecting your brave mind with his cowardly one!
Stieg: Neither my strength nor Bjorn’s cleverness can stop the evil.
Hilde: What evil? Don’t the villages we pillage call us evil?
Stieg: It’s too late to make amends. The lifeless eyes stare into the starry sky while cold night airs drop like a heavy fog.
Hilde: This is not like you Stieg! I’m starting to suspect enchantment! You know You are acting very strange.
Stieg: I don’t want to be a person anymore. I no longer believe in the enterprise.
Hilde: Enterprise!? What? Now you’re just rambling.
Stieg: This world, this shared journey, this collaboration by the many to bring God’s dreams to life. All a sham, a bad joke, an evil parade.
Hilde: Is that so? And where will you escape to Stieg? If God dreams this world, then here you are trapped with a sleeping God, and upon death you will meet an awoken God. Where would you run to?
Stieg: A human is an empty husks, built to carry God and be His eyes and hands in this world. Why are we the way we are? A pack of hungry wolves, fighting over a dying elk. Why are we so unlike our purpose?
Hilde: Our purpose! You need to stay away from Bjorn! He’s taken all the shark out of you! Soon you’ll be reading his book on your own!
Stieg: I can’t read. Bjorn thinks his book can help, but I think no ideas and no faith can make us dogs into men. I think the evil is in us and it is here to stay. We twist every idea, every faith, every Truth to the advantage of our hungry bellies. We fail. We fall down. We abandon our posts.
Hilde: Not always! Not every time. You’re dwelling too much on one side of us. You’re losing the larger picture. You’re afraid to face the truth: we are not all good or all bad, and we are called to try to be better, both individually and collectively.
Stieg: Called by what?
Hilde: By God.
Stieg: Odin?
Hilde: Grueni’s not here.
Stieg: Grueni? What does she have to do with anything?

Authors: AW/BW
Copyright: AM Watson

Movie Prelude

Movie Prelude

I didn’t really turn out.
I had enough wisdom to disagree with stupid shit, but not enough wisdom to do anything against it.
Half-ass wisdom.
That’s my problem.
I know enough to see that everyone is full of shit, that they help their family and few friends but otherwise content themselves with some mix of talk and shoulder shrugs.
But I don’t know enough to see who anyone really is.
I know enough to see that lying, cheating, stealing, and hurting others for private gain, perverse kicks, or whatever is all garbage.
But I don’t know enough to improve myself, others, our shared organizations and governments.
I regret dishonesty and corruption where I sense it; but I cannot defeat the lie that acclaims dishonest and corrupt behavior honest and forthright while belittling honest and forthright behavior as dishonest and corrupt.
In short, I smell and abhor evil in myself, in others, in government, everywhere; but I can’t do a damn thing about it.
Except a little bit about myself.
I try not to lie or do mean things.
That’s the most I’ve managed.
And I don’t succeed all the time.
Will I go to heaven or hell when I die?
People like me hope there’s no afterlife.
Not because we want to die when we die, or because we fear eternal damnation.
We hope there’s no afterlife because we can’t think how we would be of any use to God or Goodness or whatever truly Is.
We’re boring spiritual cases.
Our wisdom is half-ass.

Luckily, this story isn’t about me.
Truth be told, I don’t deserve to know it.
I’m not a plucky 1930s newsman in straight brown slacks and a sweat-soaked white button-up, or some other go-getter who went out and got the story.
The story fell onto me.
And had I at any point realized what was happening and how it would change my life, I would’ve just only ever tried to get out of the way.
But paying attention and thinking ahead are not strong suits of mine.
Now the story’s taken place; what’s done is done; if I can claim a virtue it is only this: I want to do right by this story and its characters.

As an undergraduate, I studied pre-law because my parents were lawyers and seemed happy with it and it gave us a nice house and vacations and the right kind of response when you told a classmate what your parents did for their livings.
After college, I traveled.
Europe mostly, and to a lesser extent Asia and South America.
I thought was gathering material.
To write or philosophize or something.
Even when I started the actual law degree, I felt all the time like I was secretly working on some larger, grander project.
Once out in the working world, I soon found that law didn’t agree with me.
I found that actually nothing agreed with me.
It was about that time that my parent’s started their retirement project: A coffee shop, and why don’t I manage it?
I guess it was a way to keep me afloat without out and out giving me money.
It was understood from the beginning that no one cared if the coffee shop turned a profit.
It just shouldn’t completely tank.
And I shouldn’t hit on anyone working there.
It was understood from the beginning that those were the parameters.
A good job, with a surprisingly high salary and benefits package.
Decent hours.
And a decent title–since I could say that I was part owner of this coffee shop.
So I could put that on my dating profile.

That was pretty much how we decided it, never of course speaking it.
In my family, we all pretty much know what we’re all pretty much thinking.

Democracy might well collapse in the US and elsewhere.
Nuclear Armageddon,climate change and wars over increasingly scarce resources like fresh water and arable land–these were very much still on the table, but it was understood that I wasn’t going to do anything about them.
We all agreed that my brother would be a successful lawyer and an effective voice for social change, and that my sister would work within the UN to do what she could to bend the world away from disaster, and that they would both have wholesome family lives, and that I would mind this coffee shop and try to find a girlfriend–but not from within the employees or guests to the coffee shop–because that would make trouble.

After a year, I still hadn’t found a girlfriend, but the rest of the plan was going well.
And I’d been on a few dates.
And I’d brought my drinking down.
And I was only 32, so that was all looking pretty good.

Then she showed up for a glass of iced tea–half black and half green, with a lemon wedge.
It’s painful for me to write that.
Since when she showed up and for a long time afterwards, I wanted more than anything to play the hero to her heroine.
But that’s not the story at all.
The story is in no small part her love story, but not at all mine.

Now I’m 34 and I’m writing this story and I can’t even want a love story with me in it.
Because I’ve met her and known her and wished for her and tried for her and watched her find someone better for her and go with him.
I’ve nothing more to say about love.
It was all used up on someone destined for a better story than she could write with me.

Do you ever get the sense that no one could collaborate on a very compelling love story with you?
That’s how I feel.
Like any love story starring me is half-ass and selfish.
Because it sneaks past life, all the difficulties, all the work, all the beauty.
Because I do, and I’m not gonna stop.

So let me just tell this story.
Then I’ll pray that God either heal whatever it is that is wrong with me, or make me disappear forever.

Do you ever get the sense that you’re sick and broken and no good and just somehow unable to live in a way that is helpful to yourself or anyone else?
I try to do something about it, talk to somebody about it, but it’s like trying to tell someone about a shadow floating through your mind’s eye.
They can’t know what you mean, and you can’t either.
“Unspecified psychological distress.”

And what right do I have to burden people with my emotional hypochondria?
Everyone has little psychological bumps, lumps, bruises, aches, confusions.
They just get out of bed, stretch, and go do their best.
Why moan about asking for special treatment?

Still, between me and you, I’ll tell this story and then I ask God to heal me or make me disappear forever.

To be clear: I’m not asking to die.
I don’t ask for the impossible.
That would be just too too boring.
And I know that nothing and no one dies.
That belongs to my half-ass wisdom.
I know that no one dies, but I don’t know what to do about that.
Just as I know that Truth, and Goodness, and shared Joy are the Way, but I don’t know how to even want to be True and Good, sharing Joy and laughing in the magic Light that shines in and through all things, love-lifting us all up into a gentle, kind, friendly forever.

Author: BW/AW
Editor: AW/BW
Copyright: AMW

How I feel about You

How I feel about You

How I feel about you?


There’s cute, attractive, hot, beautiful,
charming, sweet, lovely, adorable, wonderful

And then there’s you
who makes all that talk
sound like schoolyard taunts

you’re just you
and I just want
to be near to you.

copyright: AMW

wisdom of dogs

wisdom of dogs

They don’t live as long
They can’t learn so many facts
or master so many skills

but they need your love
and they know
what wise people know

It is better to be tamed
The wilds are lonely and boring
And don’t add up to
anything approaching
a safe green walk
in the springtime air
with someone you love

Copyright: AMW

What do you think?

What do you think?

What do you littleminx think?
What would you babydoll call?
Where do you heartsong long?

Am I in the wrong?
Do these lunges best shatter-scatter?
Is this hope no lovesome matter?

Where do we go from here?
Tell me I’m your man
how you want me ever near
and we’ll take us our stand
in panic broad and clear

Pull me to your place
linger let me taste
Lead me down your way
where our love may play
where heart to heart we stay
if that’s how
you want it with me

I call your name
i search your smile
I fall with the rain
spread thick for miles
soaking splashing
covering you
if that’s what
you want with me

copyright: AMW

MGMT – Kids

MGMT – Kids

1) Why misattribute the Nietszche quote to Mark Twain? Because Nietszsche took things too far and would’ve been philosophically and aesthetically more successful if he’d made it clear to himself and his readership that he was just kidding / brainstorming / goofing around with ideas? That is to say, if he’d kept his touch consistently light, like, for example, in this video? Is this the claim?
2) Joanna Newsom ( is the mom
Does it change the meaning of the video once you realize the mom has a child’s voice and whimsy?
3) This is what is it like to be a child?
4) the band’s dog has metal-colored spikes made out of tin foil. 
5) Post-irony = kidding, but contemplatively?
6) The band claims that no child was harmed in the making of this video and posted a making-of video showing the kid being entertained by puppets. Does it matter to the art’s ultimate worht? Would spiritual damage to the child-actor imbed itself into the art and, even if not consciously detectable, diminish the video’s share of eternal Beauty?

Questions by B. Willard
Shrugs by A. Whistletown
Copyright, insofar as it’s worth a mention, AMW