Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Strings can be ties that hold us together but not fiercely. More like a symbol of an ongoing inclination to touch when not (according to physics) touching. Further research is needed. Doesn't get funding like thinking about tiny bits of matter, probably doesn't need it.
Physics folk wonder what is the smaller bit that everything is made of. Maybe it's strings, say the string theory gang. A true understanding of what strings are in this context would be available only to math smart physics bright people.

The math around string theory is beautiful and fascinating to those who can understand it.

However, it keeps being not proven by external reality. The physics game in the past has been the theory needs to be proved by real things.

String theory fans say, just wait; proof will come.

Unfans of string theory say, it's taking too long; you are, though enjoying yourselves, wasting your time.

At least the string theory folk aren't dreaming up new weapons.

Maybe the universe is saying in its way that the breakthrough that physicists of the tiny made to create atomic and nuclear weapons wasn't a great move. So the universe has sent some of them off to a corner to do something that they enjoy that doesn't touch the real world. In terms of the common good, not touching beats the touch of death.
Rain forecast tomorrow for the North Bay. O frabjous day. I don't live in the North Bay.

I didn't get til I left the North Bay that it rains more there. More in quantity and more horizontally, which is felt by the carless. And the area isn't uniformly obsessive about workable sidewalks. Splish, splash.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The clock jumps us an hour deeper into dark at the end of the day, so it's time for thoughts that are not flood-lit but felt as movements.
Many people listening and not having inside themselves ideas of what they are listening for. Quieter and quieter. . .

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Purple fake cobwebs for Halloween all over the green bushes on either side of the steps up to the house.

Purple and green looked great. Do they always look great together or just when the green is living?

On the edge of the steps going up, a pumpkin, then a potted plant with yellow flowers blooming, a pumpkin, yellow flowers, pumpkin up to the door.

A friend of mine, for her the point of walks in town is to see what people are doing with their houses. Not so much paint jobs as what's setting in the window, what's in the yard, how do the curtains look from outside.

She grew up in wartime Europe. She's good at setting up a situation for pleasant times, fast and directly, and then having the pleasant times go on as long as they want. She likes to see how she could walk home and make home better now.

Wars I've been around for are proposed in terms of generosity. No one says let's spend billions to shatter someone's pots and plants and kids.
The child walking up out of the BART station slightly behind his mother marched on the sidewalk for about five steps, continuing the motion involved in walking upstairs.

Then he skipped for a few steps.

Then he walked the shape of two curves back and forth like an elongated S

Then he started walking as most adults walk, pacing a straight line down the sidewalk.

All in about ninety seconds.
Four girls walking down the road and somehow I'm instantly "Oh, God, what are white people going to do to these girls." Four and African-American and girls, like the people killed by a bomb left in a Birmingham, Alabama, church.

It wasn't exactly like that. It was one, in this case, and it was administrative, in Breena Clarke's novel "River, Cross My Heart."

They were walking to swim in the Potomac, where they were forbidden to swim. The Potomac was physically and spiritually treacherous. They were supposed to swim in the canal.

They swam in the Potomac and one of them, the youngest, drowned. She and her older sister lived catty-corner across the street from a "public" swimming pool that they couldn't use because they were African-American.

The older sister loved to swim. One of those things where she found the rest of herself. Being lost in swimming was maybe one reason she didn't notice when her little sister, a quiet kid, plopped from watching to being in the water and drowning.

I spent the book, which starts with the drowning, trying to make this child not die.

Like Reconstruction wasn't ended in a messy presidential election, so the South and DC weren't segregated in the 1950's because that had already been dealt with.

The family of the girl who died had come to D.C. from further South for a better life, which, till the child died, they got.

The girls who went swimming in the Potomac were three in their early teens and a little under fiver, who was supposed to be watched by her sister. The little one drowned when her sister didn't watch for just a minute. The sister dived for her again and again. The other girls found an adult who was able to bring up the body.

In the South, where they came from, it was usual for an older daughter to take care of a younger child a lot of the time. That wasn't usual in D.C. If all the young women had been doing it the South way, there might have been another young child to notice when the young child who drowned went in the water.

Or if they'd all been doing it the D.C. way, no young children would be with them.

On the other hand, maybe the Potomac wanted somebody that day and that wouldn't have made a difference. The author doesn't say that, but the feeling of what she says about the river leaves room for that.

The answer was to not swim in the Potomac, to swim in a swimming pool with a lifeguard like that one right across the street.

In the book, the older sister, basically a good kid, after the drowning breaks into the swimming pool building, trying in a way to change past history. In a way, she is also anticipating future history, since it's not that long till people will be demonstrating in the daytime to open such pools to all the people. A teenage doing a right thing in a way unlikely to work for herself or others.

Five sense plus more is life.

After her sister drowns, the older sister is pulled by two mores.

She sees her sister haint in water, in the boiling water on the stove in her home for example.

The haint is nothing like her placid, quiet sister. It is mad and mad and you come too.

The haint is insane with anger and invites the older sister to do something self-destructive. Would going mad be enough or would she also have to kill herself? Someone who swims as much as she could arrange her own drowning, consciously or unconsciously.

The other more than five senses thing is how much she loves swimming, and that's what saves her.

For her swimming is a thing that connects her to the great big universe in a deep joy way and she stays with it.


History shifts, partly because of the death of a little kid in the river who lived a 60 second walk from a swimming pool, partly because black people have been pushing all the time. Lack of visible demonstrations doesn't mean lack of pushing.

The older sister ends up inside the building she broke into in the daytime, running a race in front of people who love her and in front of people who feel that this particular teenager winning the race would profoundly diminish them. They're mad and mad.

During the race she meets the haint, swims through the haint, swims through the hate and is herself again, only more, because she's at the age where people are more every day.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

If. . .it's not just a sports team thing where my team wins. It's people's lives.

Noam Chomsky has this thing he says about how things can look good and feel easy in the middle of the empire. But out there on the edges, great harm can be done to individuals by what seem like small moves at the center.

So, he says, all activism to slow down the badness of empire at the center is good. Is an obligation. Is a matter of people's lives far from the center.

Henry David Thoreau piece that is usually called "Civil Disobedience" was called by him "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience." Which I'm not doing now. However, the least I can do is root for this outcome where my team might win in a bigger way, that my team, in office do some big good, especially for people with little natural power.
Being in a non-stop, round the world solo sailing race gives a person time to think, and to be thought.

Bernarc Moitessier was ahead in the Golden Globe, an England-to-England round the world alone yacht race. He was at the bottom of the Atlantic. He just needed to turn up toward England and probably win.

He used a slingshot to send a note to the deck of a passer freighter to say that he had stopped racing.

He kept sailing. He sailed to the Pacific and sailed among islands there for seven more months, but he stopped racing.

He had had a strong idea come to him that he needed to work on having fruit trees planted in public parks. Public shared land had to be used to grew the food and beauty combination that is a fruit tree.

That idea hasn't exactly swept the world, and yet. . .

I couldn't remember his name and did a web search for "round the world solo sailing race fruit trees" and there he was.

The story lasts. The story may eventually have more effects in terms of fruit trees than it's having right now. With or without trees in public parks, it says you can moved to winning at a very well-defined story like a race, to moving in the great mushy world and trying to make a new kind of story real.

Friday, October 27, 2006

In my mind, I took away the "no" on the sign and got a better poem: "Stopping anytime."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Amy Tan was working for her Ph.D in linguistics and also working at a pizza place in Danville where she lived.

Also working at the pizza place were her husband Lou and their roommate Dan.

They had at work scary encounters with gang members.

Dan began to have a feeling he was going to get killed. He moved to Berkeley, and Lou and Amy were going to move to the same building soon.

The first night Dan was in his new place Amy and Lou stayed there. The second night they were at home in Danville. Dan was killed, brutally, by people who had nothing to do with the Danville gangs, who probably specialized in robbing people who had just moved, and who were vicious.

The two guys who did it were caught. Amy Tan testified at their trial. They were found guilty.

Amy Tan also started right after Dan's death to get very pleasant dreams which were messages from Dan. Like he was right there, only calmer than in life. Filled with wisdom. Speaking in nature metaphors which Amy Tan both saw in 3-D and understood.

He was saying from death what he had said in life. She should use her linguistics training to help people who really needed help.

She dropped out of the Ph.D program and interviewed for a job counseling people whose kids were born with brain problems and physical problems that made it hard for them to speak, to be understood, to understand speech, or all of those.


She was both over-qualified and underqualified for this job, since she'd been pointing herself in an academic direction. She told the interviewer the whole story, the murder, the dreams, the work her friend knew, alive and dead, that she should do. She got the job.

She writes that nothing could have been better preparation for her current work, which is being a novelist. She writes about this life changing sequence in her non-fiction book, "The Opposite of Fate."

In working with parents to find what would be possible for their child with language, in working with parents for them to accept and work toward what we be possible, she heard many stories, many samples of the kinds of stories there are out there in the big world beyond campus and theories.

After her beautiful advice dreams from Dan stopped, she had another kind of dream about Dan. In these dreams, he had lived through the crime ("which is what I wanted, right?") but he brain was really hurt. He couldn't function intellectually anything like he'd be able to before. He knew. He hated it.

He stayed in his apartment, drank, and said bitter things. (But of course that's not what happened. He died of the crime.)

Amy Tan's novels are intense, I think when I'm reading them. When I read this non-fiction story, I though about a TV show I saw once about the painter Cezanne.

When Cezanne was alive and painting, people thought he was amazing revolutionary, recording things in a whole new way, mind-boggling. Other painters found that he made more things possible for them, if they could connect with his stuff at all.

In the TV show, they showed a painting Cezanne had done of some hills in France that blew everyone's mind. They faded slowly from the painting to the actual hill in France currently, and they seemed exactly the same.

Cezanne was accurate. People weren't seeing hills really, but seeing some idea of hills and some of what their eyes brought it. He saw both accurately and his way.

In expanded accuracy there is hope.

Amy Tan's books are intense because her life is intense. Her life is intense partly because she notices what's up along as many dimensions as are available, which is several. She doesn't need signed permission from Ph.D. kind of folks to know what she knows. She can play that game and she knows it's something, but not everything.

One of Amy Tan's novels is called "The Hundred Thousand Secret Senses." In Amy Tan's books, there is a lot to know, and many ways to know it.
I met a woman who was the head of the Bay Area branch of a big non-profit. She was good at it. Believed in the cause, made events happen, went for little changes now and big changes eventually both.

One time she told me, in passing, that sometimes she got what seemed to her a good idea but she figured if it was a good idea somebody would have already acted on it. So if it seemed good but wasn't visibly happening that she knew of, she figured it was really not a good idea, and she did nothing about it.

That was painful to here. She had experience in doing the things that make ideas real. She knew that you can decide there will be an event that never happened before on December 1 or whenever, talk it up, print flyers, interest people and then there's an event.

That's why ideas went after her. But she wouldn't listen
In Amy Tan's novel "The Hundred Thousand Secret Senses," one of the characters grows up in China and moves to San Francisco, where her father lives. She works in a Chinese restaurant for a month before she understands that what they are serving is supposed to be Chinese food.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday morning, the period of time after Saturday night, and I saw a beer bottle standing next to a tree at the edge of the sidewalk.

Brown beer bottle, brown tree trunk, I thought. If this were my neighborhood, I'd pick it up, I thought. I counted. I was three and a half blocks from the block where I lived, which seemed to be today's definition of my neighborhood.

Picked up the bottle, took it a block to the trash can with recyclying thingy on top. Put it there.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Be still, and be yes.

Friday, October 20, 2006

One approach to thinking God is on your side is, "I am working for God so I must do excellent work." Another is, "God is working for me, and if I cut corners, God will cover for me."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Things are good. I'm learning to live in that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I read a book about a ranch called Rest and Be Thankful, which was also the name of the book. It was a guest ranch. City people came and found bits of themselves they'd lost track of by being around nature, living slowly, doing things they hadn't done before, and resting.

I can't remember specifically what happened in the plot of that book, which was probably a romance. But if I think of the title, I go to that place, the place of resting and being thankful. So for me that book is a major work of art.

I was thinking of it because I heard a man say on his phone in downtown San Francisco, "I just order my thank you stationary in bulk." Good idea. Accurate.

Voltaire's book "Candide" is over-the-top cynical, which is not to say it's wrong. Voltaire lived around comfortable people who seriously said that everything is good in this, the best of all possible worlds.

So Voltaire sends Candide, who was taught that idea by his tutor, on a world tour of human cruelty and natural disasters. Candide suspects maybe his tutor was missing something.

But even as Candide goes from one horrible thing to another, human made or naturally occuring, Voltaire, of all people, gets, like a Oscar Hammerstein II character, "caught like a dope by a thing called hope." Candide finds a good society in South America. They aren't mean to each other. Someone asks if they believe in God and what is clearly the voice of Voltaire says, "Of course, they believe in God. They aren't so insensitve to gratitude that they don't believe in God."

So in mid-list of what's bad about the world, Voltaire says that gratitude is a natural condition. I love days when I know that. I get saner and breathe bigger.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The insight of the Bauhaus movement in architecture and design is strip the details. The insight of the hippie movement in living is add more details. Many people who grew up to be hippies were schooled in schools influenced by Bauhaus, rectangular boxes, no detail.

Then when they could choose they chose peasant skirts with busy patterns, paisley, madras, tie die with somewhat randomly chosen details.

And LSD, which for some people at some times, makes the details fall open and unfold seen before turns out to be wrong because insufficiently detailed.

Even now on Haight Street, a street for women to by clothes on, the clothes sold are heavier on details than the clothes in the general culture. Haight Street is not the best place to seek solid blues and blacks oft worn by women with power, by women with more power than women usually had in the hippie days.

Two storefronts devoted to one store of openly junky, plastic jewelry filled with silly overdone details. Many old clothes stores with clothes from times when clothes for women were less solid in their presentation and had more details. Store after store years later help women look not like a Bauhaus simplified building but like a Victorian house with many wooden details that the Victorians would have painted white or light grey that people in hippie times started to paint many colors. A woman shopping for clothes on Haight Street can get a look like that, which she probably won't were to her job as a judge.
It's like "Anna Karenina" is the parts she left out of "Pride and Prejudice." Jane Austen worked with a limited range and knew she did.

Mrs. Bennett has little in common with Mr. Bennett, and why should she? Men and women lived very different lives, and marriages were about money.

So Mr. Bennett made wry comments which Mrs. Bennett didn't necessarily get because she was not, in Mr. Bennett's terms, very smart.

In "Anna Karenina," marriage about money between people with wildly different ways of thinking leads to more than wry comments. It leads to adultery and suicide. Jane Austen didn't get into that. A hyper-controlled society leads to, sometimes, a hyper-loss of control, but that wasn't Jane Austen's chosen department.

Tolstoy, who wrote "Anna Karenina" also wrote a book (the name of which I can't remember right now) that was presented as a novel but was more like an enraged essay.

The man in the book, talking and talking to strangers on a train, says that they, the respectable people are part of a system where women are raised in utter ignorance of sex and of how men live. Men are encouraged to live hearty sex lives with not respectable women and then marry one of these deeply ignorant women. The women are used, respectable and not respectable. The men can easily carry diseases between them.

It is like that book is the part he left out of Anna Kareninina.
I love NASA when it takes pictures of the neighbors.

It's time to go take picture of Mercury again, the planet closest to the sun. Humans have only sent a camera to Mercury once, in 1974. We're due,

Doing the camera bit is so much cheaper than so many things. Cheaper than going to war on our local planet under our feet. Cheaper than recreating the soggy warm air environment we human primates can live in

Camera/computers are happy without the soggy air. They send back data to be easily transformed into pictures for happy scientists at, for example, the Jet Propulsion Lab, JPL, which is close to where I live. When JPL folk take a break and walk outside their work building into the clement climate of Northern California, this is a very cheap experience. Doesn't cost the tax payers anything, unlike the outside the workspace experience of spacecraft that have to be built to keep humans alive, who also have to have clothes that can keep them alive.

It is so much cheaper to leave the humans in Northern California to cheer the pictures and think about them than to expend huge cleverness on keeping them alive where it's hard to keep them alive.

We the people keep sending cameras to Mars, to land, to fly by. We've sent camera's to Mars to take pictures lots more than once. Mars is the next planet over. Mars is a place people have dreamed of there being other kinds of life.

Mars is named after the god of war.

Mercury is named after the messenger of the gods.

We know how to go to war. I think we're missing some other kinds of messages, and it's time to visit Mercury again.

--information about the Mercury mission from the book "Universe: The Solar System" by Roger A. Freedman and William Kaufman III [and NASA--all those photos]

Monday, October 16, 2006

Once I figure out what I'm trying to do is impossible, I relax. Because

1. Maybe it really is forever and for sure impossible and not my calling and therefore I can stop trying.


2. Maybe it is impossible at present and yet part of my calling to go for.

That means I will procede to have a go at the impossible. I will try many things. I will try to remember to try many kinds of things. Paint the barn green to find the hard to find well because while painting the barn green I remember that mushy place I messed up my shoe in once, that messy place, that wet place.

I will try many things, and I will look bad. Looking silly is built into trying for the impossible. As is failing. So no need to fear looking like a fool or failing, since they are built it.

Have at it. Do my multi-directioned best while knowing I can't know what would be best in this hopeless and rich circumstance.

Of course, (1.) giving up can sometimes be even better than (2.) trying oddly and variously. Giving may mean that years later, between one step and the other, there it is, shining and obvious, how to do what used to be, til that moment, impossible.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Open-hearted, do nothing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

When I am making noises that sound just like "chortle" and "hah!", I am not operating from my higher self.

However, as a soundtrack for the reading of the news, they make a restful change from the long, despairing sigh.
In a way, the not-wealthy men on the street who roam the behavior range from obnoxious to scary are speaking for the not-wealthy men on the street who say nothing and have faces set in despair. I forgot to save the world. Well, I didn't really forget. I don't know how.
The first person said, "To do this, you have to be very fierce. You aren't fierce enough. You can't do it."

The second person said, "I can redesign the set-up so fierceness isn't necessary."

The first person growled.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.

And nothing
happens! Nothing. . .Silence. . .Waves. . .

--Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and we are standing now, quietly, in the new life?"

--Juan Ramon Jimenez, "Oceans," translation by Robert Bly

I am lucky that on a particular day I was walking past the free book box in front of the used book store and all that was in the box was two manuals for old software and the book I found this poem in "Wedding Readings," selected with an introduction by Eleanor Munro. I thought, "Easy poem, corny." Easy to read yes, corny, no. Luck strikes again. It is an excellent anthology of literature about being in an intense relationship. Because of what it's being sold as, all the selections are short, but most could be thought about for some time. Some selections would be great any wedding, some I can't imagine anyone reading at their wedding because they're too heavy for that , but all would help anyone on the relationship path. Munro's "Wedding Readings" is a model of how to do a job. It's better than it needs to be.
San Francisco City Hall has two rows of flag poles going forth from either side of its entrance perpendicularly. The flag poles start across the street from City Hall, but visually, they create the possibility of a fluttering entryway. They carry different sets of flags on different days.

Today they are waving the flags from American history. There are stars and stripes with different numbers of stars. There are flags from before the Stars and Stipes were made, when revolution was brewing. Someone who knew how to sew from being a housewife or a sailor would sit down at home and whip up a flag.

Sometimes it was the Tree of Liberty flag. White field, green simplified outline of tree--a pine tree or rounded leaf tree as the maker preferred (as the maker saw out the window?) The words under the tree: "An Appeal to Heaven."

I had seen flag as a tiny rectangle printed in a book. It wasn't until I saw it waving in the wind in the midst of many government buildings, not too far from the Asian Art Museum with many objects from the continent that has routine prayers flags that I got it.

It is up there in the wind, appealing to heaven as it flies partway to heaven. And now, as a copy flies amid hundreds of government workers and hundreds of poor people, which is what the Civic Center holds, it keeps praying. Help us do good. Help us do better.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


And then there's radio. National Public Radio does well on big elections. It's the same information more calmly. They don't think they have to call stuff a nanosecond before the other guys, and they do report when any big news source calls stuff. You get the call without the tension of the competition oozing out of the screen. Radio also lets me be in the room I am in fact in while I aborb the information.

And then there's PBS and watching Gwen Ifyl be authoritative and cheerful, which I enjoy. And watching the PBS guys be authoritative and very very serious, which I can tolerate. Actually, I'm kind of fond of the very serious Lehrer. And I'm rooting for Gwen Ifyl to have the political skills that combine with the historical moment and her large talent to make her Lehrer's successor. Go, Gwen Ifyl, go.

And then there's the regular broadcast networks, which I never watch for news (or hardly anything) except for stuff like elections. There has been, finally, a generational shift. I would see people I haven't seen before who are substantially under a million years old. That would be different.

In her novel "Jane Eyre," Charlotte Bronte makes good use of the letters d and v. Jane, who narrates the novel, writes at one point about how she was thinking that by this time tomorrow the big plot event would have (d.v.) happened. She slips d. v. right into the sentence in parentheses) which is the author playing fair, because the big event doesn't happen.

It stands for "deo volente" which is Latin for God willing. It is almost month til the votes are counted on election night. I think I might like the outcome (d.v.) more than I have liked national election outcomes of late. Maybe not. I think the initials of the Latin for "God knows" would be d. s. If the Lord is willing and the creek don't rise politics might get better. My idea of better might in fact be better. These things could happen.

I'm thinking about election night and when I smile, I'm trying to smile humbly.
Walking down one hill and looking way over there at another hill going up, I wondered, "That which the sun is rising behind--is that more San Francisco, or a cloud?" For three or four minutes, the edge of the fog bank looked like trees and houses, looked like the edge of residential San Francisco looks against the sky.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

She isn't giving money to the Democrats because she doesn't have hope for herself.

She has given the Democrats money through good times and bad, but not now.

She has noticed always that her life is relatively cushy, that others have much less, that it isn't fair.

To blunt the unfairness and raw harshness of the set-up, Democratic politicians are flawed instruments and what we have. She noticed that, too.

Now she's stuck in her own gloom inside herself in her relatively cushy life.

It's the kind of gloom that physical comfort doesn't help.

It seems to stretch endlessly ahead. Without hope that she will someday feel better, she can't have hope for anyone about anything. The Democrats get from her no dough.
It freaks me out that I freak out. I think I'm supposed to be concerned about the world and also impervious to it.
I don't know what I'm doing right now, which is good.

This makes me a sucker for distractions that don't matter. If something floats by that doesn't matter but I think I understand it, I am drawn to pay attention to it to have that "I get it" feeling.

Currently, my best path is staying with what matters, not understanding and being open-hearted.
Bluegrass music can be like a medieval illuminated manuscript--a lot of intense feeling and skill in a small space. The capital R on a page that has a whole town living inside its top.

There was a three day bluegrass festival over the weekend. On Tuesday morning, a very good bluegrass banjo player is playing "Knocking on Heaven's Door" in the Civic Center BART Station.

He is playing only the part that goes with the words "Knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door."

Over and over again he plays it with lots of notes, waterfalls of notes inserted into the tune. The waterfalls remind me of Bach and so do the tiny variations he makes in the waterfalls of notes as he plays once again, "Knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door" as people hurry off to another day working in a government office or small business, as people walk more slowly through another day of being poor and sober and not too housed, or poor and drunk and not too housed. He keeps playing.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I have been assigned to ask of you the sun and moon and stars.
Think big. Think low. There is so much ground to stand on. Stand there.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A good thing about having had my 15 minutes of fame in 1991 and 1992 is that I am very open to being exactly as well known as is necessary for my writing to do its job, and no more famous than that.

My last jury duty I was actually in the jury selection process, the thing where they start with every single seat in the court room filled, and I was sick. I didn't seem sick, and I had the walking flu.

In a place that crowded, I had to hold it together and not get into any exploration of how sick I actually was. I lived for the breaks.

At each break, I scurried to the jury break room and sipped a few more sips on the Coke I had tucked away there, all I was capable of ingesting, breathed, and looked out the great big window.

Sometimes, while trying to feel sorry for myself, though I didn't really have the focus for extended self-pity, I was very thankful that my fifteen minutes of fame were long gone.

It's the nature of jury duty that one's name is read at least once a day at roll call.

If I had had this jury duty at the height of my short fame, I would have been sitting there nursing my coat and holding even the thought of nausea at bay, and some wonderful person, probably a woman older than me, would have come up and said in warm voice, things like, "Are you the one that wrote. . .", "My daughters just loves. . .", and "It means so much to me."

And I would have wanted to tell her to leave me alone.

I wouldn't have done that. I would have been nice.

Fame for me was having the same eight conversations over and over again. Always positive about me, but the nature of who I am is that having the same 8 conversations over and over is grating.

I couldn't have the ninth conversation that would mean the most to me because I had, as an actual human, so little in common with many who liked that one piece of my work. A genius at turning fame into something real could have somehow taken the bit of actual connection and built and expanded it in a way that I couldn't. I wasn't that genius, and I could only be polite.

In 1985 I wrote a piece that went something like this, (though not exactly like this--I'm working from memory and haven't memorized it.)

"Anything we do randomly and senselessly creates more things like itself and turns reality into itself. Senseless violence creates more of itself until vengence and fear lead us to a world where everyone is dead for no reason.

"But violence isn't the only thing that is senseless until it makes its own sense. Anything you value, do it randomly. It will make itself be more, senseless.

"Scrawl it on the wall:


"I want to practice positive vandalism--break in the rundown school and paint the classrooms bright colors overnight, slip money into the old lady's purse in the struggling part of town."

That was printed, along with a lot of other little short bits, in 1985 "The Whole Earth Review," an aging hippy, liberal, ecology kind of magazine I had worked for and still wrote for, and among whose readers I had fans.

It was an instant hit in that small group, and continued to circulate in the granola set with much approval until 1991. In 1991, it was mainstreamed by Adair Lara, who then wrote a column for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Her daughter's teacher circulated the saying with the addition of the word "Practice" at the beginning: Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

She asked in her column who wrote it, and I called her and she interviewed me. She wrote a column about it and me in the Chronicle and in Glamour magazine.

The Glamour piece did it. America came at me, heart in hand, telling me I was great.

I was so not in the mood for that.

The Glamour piece by Adair Lara appeared in the December 1991 issue, December touchingness and generosity.

1991 had started with my country bombing and then invading on the ground Iraq.

On TV, this war appeared to be popular and injury free.

It felt differently to me.

I was privileged, and I knew other people with similar experiences, to feel this war in a very visceral way. A perfectly nice woman I was acquainted with asked me on the street in late January 1991 how I was. I said, "People are dying in my body. They aren't dying on TV, so they're dying in my body."

Sitting at a restaurant in the Castro, looking at the wooden table and listening to Patsy Cline sing "I Fall to Pieces." I often felt, and I do mean felt not thought, that this war was so bad that it was like we were attacking the glue that holds everything together. That everything was, in fact, in danger of falling to pieces in a basic way because we were bombing the heart of the world.

I don't know if that war was worse. Maybe there's always some people in any war who have the mixed blessing of feeling it accurately.

Not that I felt it totally accurately or could, but the people who were dying and hurting were somehow in me in a way that I haven't felt before or since.

My country, as I write, is attacking Iraq again and for longer, and that is different for me, a news experience, something happening over there. Since I couldn't stand to watch any news, I didn't know then, like I know now, where Basra is, exactly, but I felt the death and hurt in a very accurate way.

So that's January, February, March. No widespread Internet, no alternate news on a big scale, lots of apparent enthusiasm for the war. So in December of that same year, that very mainstream America which allegedly loved the war came at me to tell me I was great and random kindness was great.

I wasn't in the mood. I had been given the selling out insurance policy. But of course I had to be kind to kind individuals who came up to me, didn't I, to live the value.

I also wanted to expand the discussion, and that, for me, was almost impossible. They didn't care what I thought about that war or see what that had to do with it.
Is a bell a musical instrument or a signal? Beauty and infornation and loud clarity--I like bells

Friday, October 06, 2006

Love makes live a much better deal.
Awake again, and the world again is there to move about in and hear. A gift that can't be lived up to. The adventure of trying is wild even when I'm absent-mindedly pseudo-bored.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

On the partly clear morning after night rain, the asphalt gleams light blue and looks like it would be happy to fly away.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Being intelligent is different than playing gotcha.

Playing gotcha is only between me and whoever I want to put down. It only engages a small part of me and them.

Being intelligent can touch the roiling, rolling, growing, fertile mass that is reality.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Edith Pargeter invented a sub-genre, medieval mysteries, when she wrote her Brother Cadfael series. Now she isn't writing new Brother Cadfael mysteries because she died. Several other people are writing medieval mysteries, which never used to happen.

She wrote the Cadfael books and some modern mysteries as Ellis Peters, and many other books under her birth name, Edith Pargeter.

It would have been excellent if she could have created a sub-genre in which a river was a character. She often, in her books, pushed in that direction.

She had a strong relationship with the Severn, a river in England near Wales. It plays a part in many Cadfael mysteries. Objects are thrown into the river and then found, helping to show who the real murderer is. Bodies are swept away and then found by Madog, the man Cadfael knows who knows all about the river and what its currents do, where bodies are likely to go.

She wrote a book, another kind of book, in which the Severn comes even closer to being a character. It was an Edith Pargeter book which sort of fit into the woman in peril genre, except that is a genre repugnant to Edith Pargeter. She is fascinated by men being brave and smart. But she wrote this book which could pass for woman in peril, where the Severn was a big player. If river-as-character was a genre, this one would be close.

It's set around a archeological dig in England, right next to the Severn.

England was part of the Roman Empire for 400 years. There are many Roman remains and this site is finding some of them

Security at the site isn't great, barely exists. Roman digs are not a big deal. On the other hand, some stuff that might be found at such a site would be very valuable to some collectors.

So the unsecure site creates a situation in which it would be possible for an unofficial digger to find something valuable and sell it.

Or someone digging could create a fake and plant it and find it to help their academic reputation.

Bad things are indeed afoot at the site to the extent that someone on the track of the bad things is in peril of being buried alive in the site--the bad guys have trapped him and split.

(The person in peril is a guy, not the woman who is the main character who the author is not too interested in.)

There's a storm and the Severn gets wilder. It rips its banks wider, and rips open the site in a way that says the life of the man in peril and exposes the fraud.

This book is interesting and uneven. The Severn is vivid and powerful to a much greater extent than any human. The part about the Severn, the descriptions of it at various times of day, the description of it doing justice, are worth reading the book for.

The Cadfael book, "An Excellent Mystery," lives up to its gutsy name. As it draws to a close, Cadfael is presented with what looks to him like an insoluable problem. He is, of course, a professional prayer, and he prays even more and harder than usual.

The Severn solves the probem with fierce and elegant kindness, and leaves Cadfael to present the solution in a way people in general can accept. Which he does.

Some people are very taken with parts of reality that aren't human. Expressing that in art is good, because those of us not drawn to that can get a sample of what it's like. And people who are drawn to that can feel less lonely.

Edith Pargeter liked connectedness. The twenty books of the Brother Cadfael series are continuous in time, one begins where the other stops. That isn't evident if you read just one, and isn't a problem. But what is happening is we are going through seasons and years with Cadfael.

There is an awful civil war going on and on, and Cadfael does what he can and has a pretty good time.

The civil war actually happened in England in the 1200's. Ellis Peters has the history exactly right, every time she touches general history.

The second book is centered around an atrocity. King Stephen the leader of one side of the civil war, the side Cadfael lives in the middle of, kills 92 prisoners. By the standards of that time, that is a horrible thing to do.

Knights, the officer class, did not even die all that much in battle because the usual thing was to capture them and collect ransom. Their families or the political entities they ran would come up with money.

These prisoners were of that class and were killed by the king's order, in cold blood, because he was ticked, for a while. That is part of the historical King Stephen's character. He got mad and did bad things he was later sorry for, but they were already done.

No one could do anything about these 92 ill-killed prisoners. (Prisoners actually killed in history.)

But in the made up part of the book, not historical but in the context of history, Cadfael goes with a woman to help her look among the corpses for her brother. While he is doing that, he notices there are 93 corpses. The name of this Cadfael book is "One Corpse Too Many."

Does is matter, in a civil war, with towns being burned, the rules of warfare violated, does it matter that somebody snuck another corpse into the king's corpse pile in hopes of getting away with murder?

It matters to Cadfael, and he makes it matter to the sheriff. Later in the series the sheriff is Cadfael's friend Huge who likes following the evidence because it's the right thing to do and it's interesting. At this point the sheriff is a man not obsessed with niceties, so Cadfael has to push him to care about the extra corpse. He does push him successfully.

The sheriff at the beginning of the Cadfael series is a man with a lot to tend to, in a civil war. He is happy to grab the obvious culprit in an obvious crime, but isn't one to worry a lot that the obvious culprit sometimes is not the person who did it.

When Cadfael comes up, in "One Corpse Too Many," with a non-obvious crime, this sheriff doesn't feel like thanking him for his civic participation.

Later, he is killed in the civil war, and Cadfael's buddy Hugh, who has been assistant sheriff, becomes the man. He and Cadfael push each other to be clever and look for evidence and figure it out.

That's all fairly new in Europe at this time. It's like Europe as a whole is slapping itself on the forehead and saying, "Evidence! What a concept!"

Before guilt or innocence was found by calling a lot of character witnesses, by mystical and nasty trials, like trying to drown the accused, and by fights, knightly armored fights between the accuser and the accused in armor with horses and lances, and, after they got off the horses swords.

If the accused lost, he was guilty. If he won, he was innocent. If one of the people in the fight was trained in knightly fighting skills and the other wasn't, things could get ugly. The knight butchers the merchant, so the merchant must have been guilty.

But the Europe is rediscovering codified law, starting with the university at Bologna in Italy. The idea and practice of codified law and with it evidence moves out from the learning center of Italy and eventually reaches the backwater of England. When Cadfael, often working with Hugh, collects evidence and expects the legal system to notice, he's expectomg something that there wouldn't have been a mental or systemic space for a couple of centuries before.

The author doesn't say this transition from struggle and magic and character witnesses to evidence is going on--she doesn't talk like that.

Instead she illustrates it.

Early on in the series, before Hugh is assistant sheriff or sheriff or anything official, he and Cadfael figured out who done it in a particular murder.

The problem is that Hugh has recently met his true love and future wife, and who done it involves him. He's dead, but exposing the whole thing at a trial would give her bad news and besmirch her family name.

So Hugh challenges the living murderer to a judicial fight, to prevent a trial.

He can do that. Both ways of looking at it still exist.

Hugh is smaller than the man he challenges. He's in good shape and motivated by love. Also, by judicial struggle theory, God is on his side.

Hugh wins. That's the last time in that series something like that happens in the legal realm. The world is moving in a different direction.

When Hugh fights a judicial battle with the guilty guy, he is for one thing punishing the guilty guy and for another thing engaged in a coverup of part of the whole story.

Cadfael wants to know what happened and he wants justice done, but he doesn't always think the larger good is served by having everybody know everything.

And in one case, he chooses, on his own, mercy over what would usually be called justice. He knows he did it, he's given Hugh his information, but not his conclusions. Hugh doesn't go after this guy, and Cadfael places himself so the guy can go after him. The guy comes up on Cadfael with a knife to kill him and doesn't. Cadfael doesn't stop him; he stops himself.

So Cadfael says that he will tell the guy his punishment.

Cadfael and the whole series are in England, right next to Wales. Wales is another country then, another language, another culture, not at war with England but not a fan.

Cadfael tell the murderer that he, Cadfael, has decided that the murderer's punishment is to live. To go deep into Wales and start a new life, and make it a good life.

The murderer is tormented about having murdered, and this idea of getting off scot-free seems hard to him. Cadfael says, in essence, "That's the punishment." They have both seen that he is not a habitual murderer, because he didn't murder Cadfael, and Cadfael has decided, all on his own, is the right outcome is for this man to take his torment and guilt and use the energy of that to make a good life. That's looks hard. Punishment is hard.

At one point in the series, Cadfael fakes a miracle in order to insure that the wrong people aren't punished for a crime.

In his time and place, people are very ready to see miracle. We might be under ready to see miracles in our time and place. We might miss them when they are right there.

After Cadfael fakes a miracle, it achieves it's desired end of causing justice and preventing injustice. The fake miracle serves the ego of the person in power in this situation, so he goes for it.

Later in the series, I feel the auther, Peter/Pargeter, makes it up to the spirit of the time she's working in by having there be two read miracle. Right in the middle of a realistic narrative, miracles intrude and are amazing and unnerving, just like miracles would be, like they are.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

In "The Second Jewish Catalog," there is an old idea about the Messiah.

You don't need to judge a particular person to know if the Messiah is here. You don't need to even see the person who might be the Messiah.

If the Messiah is here, we will know in our every day lives, because everything will be better.
Learning to not talk. Not talking leaves more room for reality.