Tuesday, June 20, 2017

an open letter to believers

Dear faithful,
I'm curious...you're comfortable with the thought that a god would send one of its children to Earth just once in the thousands of years of recorded history? Just once, and no more? Isn't it more consistent to propose that god might ALWAYS have one of its children on Earth, to perform miracles of goodness and explain life to everyone? I mean okay, god is mysterious, but intentionally so? God wants to make it HARD for us to believe, rather than easy? What would god possibly get out of that? What's the holy upside? Why set up a system that screens out people inclined toward logic and fairness? To appear once, preaching and miracling up a storm, then disappear completely...that doesn't strike you as random, even sadistic?
I'm curious, just curious.
I'm trying not to pick on christians specifically, but taoists and jews aren't claiming the U.S.A. as their very own.
And do you ever wonder whether god sent any of its children BEFORE recorded history? Maybe jesus was the 144th Earth child of god. A neanderthal child of god, perhaps? Do your minds not work that way?
I'm also trying to wrap my head around what christians mean, when they claim that this is a christian nation. Are they claiming that we as a nation act in a "christian" manner? At a glance, that's beyond preposterous. Jesus preached non-violence, radical sharing, and inclusiveness. As a country, we have always used violence to further our wealth and power, and also as a primary means of conflict resolution. And sharing? Jesus said "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise". It doesn't get more unequivocal...yet here we are, long the richest country on the planet, yet we have always chosen to allow the most abject poverty among our brothers, sisters, and babies. And inclusiveness? There was a time when we manifested that..."give me your tired, your poor"...but our selfishness has long since kicked that sentiment to the curb. So what exactly is it that christians are talking about? It's clearly not our behavior, so is it nothing more than the fact that a majority of americans believe in some kind of god, and a majority of those believers are christian (at least in name)? Our founding fathers, almost none of whom were christian, created rules of governance that couldn't have been more clear about not wanting religion within 20,000 miles of national decision-making.
So are christians just making a power grab? I can't find any other reasonable interpretation...yet to seek earthly power rather than spiritual rectitude only underscores the notion that these people are anything but "christian". Unless you want to chuck the New Testament - then, by the barbarically savage and punitive standards of the Old Testament, we are indeed "christian".
Or i suppose rather, we're jewish.
Hava nagila,
wrob

Friday, June 16, 2017

unstill waters

I arrived in California for the first time this week, and attended a roger waters concert almost immediately. Both events were steeped in surreality - roger's music has permeated my life, but i never imagined i'd hear him live. In terms of impactful lyrics, there's lennon and waters...and nobody else, really.
His time in Pink Floyd is the heart of his legacy - his solo work has been brilliant, but not nearly so transformative or transcendent. In a hopefully pardonable oversimplification on both sides, he was the spirit of Floyd, but his bandmates were the sound. When he left he struggled to recapture the balance between word and melody. Yet for all the genius of DARK SIDE, THE WALL, WISH YOU WERE HERE, ANIMALS, and MEDDLE, if i could have only one roger album, it would be his solo masterpiece AMUSED TO DEATH. The lyrics are more cutting and immediate than anything Floyd offered. It's searing, eviscerating, and melodically fantastic. Beyond that, were i about to be dumped on a desert island and could grab only Floyd or roger's solo work...i might take the solo box.
I spent the thirty-six hours leading up to the concert immersing myself in his new album, IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT? A twenty-five year buildup of delayed gratification might swamp anything, and perhaps this one will wear better with time, but it feels...average. Better than HITCHHIKING, and on par with KAOS and FINAL CUT (though lacking the one or two standout tracks that grace those works), it delivers a dark edge but breaks no new ground.
Roger has hinted that this tour, "Us & Them", is probably his last. The concert promised to focus on Floyd songs, and as i took my seat in the arena, i realized this meant that i might not hear any of my favorites...but told myself that if i heard just one of four tracks ("Three Wishes", "It's a Miracle", "Towers of Faith", or "...Crazy Diamond"), i'd be happy. As the encore arrived, i still held out a slim hope for "Miracle"...but the double-bang of "Dark Side" and "Comfortably Numb" was no consolation prize. Nor was the show itself. Roger and the band were exquisite. "The Great Gig in the Sky" offered entrancing variations on clare torry's vocals, and after intermission, the show ascended to another level. As a suite of songs from ANIMALS began and a replica of the Battersea power station descended over the arena, cinematic images of global devastation, poverty, and trump flowed over the crowd...it culminated in "Money", and was breathtaking in its anger and outrage. I myself might have chosen to avoid the donald angle (giving a narcissist any attention, positive or negative, is generally the wrong choice), but roger left nothing unsaid, and i love him for it. The political theme of the show was RESIST...a message not lost on the crowd (though i should add, that anyone rich enough to afford this show isn't likely to be on the front lines of the revolution...a sad paradox almost certainly not lost on roger). If this is his swan song, he can walk away with no regrets, knowing he gave us a much-needed voice of protest, unrest, and hope. His songs touched the masses, and his lyrics fed the brilliant.
DREAM SET LIST
-One of These Days
-Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
-Us and Them
-Three Wishes
-Picture That
-Have a Cigar
-What God Wants
-To Kill the Child
-Echoes
(intermission)
-Time
-Towers of Faith
-Comfortably Numb
-Hey You
-Shine On You Crazy Diamond
-Knockin' on Heaven's Door
-Each Small Candle
-The Tide is Turning
*encore*
-It's a Miracle
-The Final Cut

Monday, June 12, 2017

titles 2

Writings only available in performance, the last batch of scribblings from those floridaze...
-Four Girlfriends
-Hobo Song
-Smone Soup
-The Three Nanny Goats Gruff
-Life Among the Death-deniers
-The Turtle and the Bunny
-The Ugly Cygnet
-Rubber Cuddle
-Resensitization
-Lost Planet

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

farewell FMB

(or, bye-bye Booze Beach)

And another chapter comes to a close.
Or not...i've been trying to dis-indoctrinate myself from seeing this life in terms of some kind of personal mythology, whereby the maintenance and creation (or even self-destruction) of that narrative inhibits us from actually being alive in the moment.
But yes, another home is about to become part of my past, as i head for San Francisco (a city, and for that matter state, where i've never been). This will be the first time i've moved to a new home with no support system waiting. I'll have a brother ninety minutes away, but otherwise i'll be a stranger in a strange land. I don't have my residence lined up yet (know anyone in the city by the bay who has a room for a non-materialist, semi-flatulent free spirit??), but i'll have a week or two housesittting in Davis to get that arranged.
I've been told all my life that i was made for CA...progressive and so laid back i won't be perturbed by mudslides, fires, or San Andreas hi-jinks. Of course, the Yellowstone supervolcano may also be due for an eruption that would wipe out the western U.S., which would merit one hell of a "gnarly". But with coastal wind conditions, San Fran might get only a half-inch of ash, unlike the 1-3 feet that would fall inland...so i've got that goin' for me.
Have i enjoyed my time here? I came to find peace, warmth, and healing after a decade in the cold, hard city, plus a spiritual journey that had disabled my emotional walls...and healing i found. Falling coconuts to open, beautiful storms and sunsets, more nudity than city life provides, and lush plants to tend (i bemoan the coming drop in upkeep for the greenery at my home - it's taken me all this time to get the whole thing beautified: candle-wood, frangipani, poinciana, passion vine, devil's trumpets, bridal tree, corn tree, and others i can't even name).
I came to take my baby steps in the public speaking of my own writings, and that's been a resounding success. Even more surprisingly, i've been able to delight any audience, from the young and hip to the old and cranky (or even fundamentalist!). My repertoire is honed, and it's time for a metropolitan, progressive pond in which to play.
Personally however, it's been more disaster than delight. The friend i came for above all, the one i thought of first whenever i wanted to share something i'd written, someone i'd cultivated for fifteen years and had hoped was ready for a friendship that would show the world how to do it, flickered out in a sociopathic, hurtful haze (Did i live here twice as long as planned partly to give her time to sort through her demons, and know i would still be here? Sure.). Number two on my friend list didn't bloom either. And my mother hasn't dealt well with her fear and control issues - she pretty much kicked me in the stomach every time i saw her these first few years. The one play i acted in was a horror show, with unexplained loathing for me emanating from my co-star. My romantic life was almost non-existent, and might have been better had nothing happened at all...one almost-lover came laden with post-traumatic issues, and focused so much unbalanced hatred at me that i feared for my life. I had one work client descend into bipolar depression - i should have left her, but was perhaps her only regular human contact, so in return for my amazing work and friendship i let myself be kicked in the face with paranoia, obsessiveness, and cruelty for many months. Another client transferred all her stress onto me...i tried to disentangle myself but she wouldn't let go, and i stayed with her because i thought i might be able to help her confront her control issues, or at least give her a little of the physical caring she had lived without for so long.
In many ways, i need to recover from my recovery.
On the plus side, my two aunts were a source of joy, and i had many clients who were a delight. The personal connections i made through my public speaking were breathtakingly humbling. My housemate chris was a rock, always there with support and the type of joyful irreverence that feeds my spirit. My other housemate irene has been descending into dementia these four years, but can still be a delight. I tried to get her out of the house once a day while she was still living at home, and i considered remaining here until she died. But her death has dragged on for over a year, and she doesn't want me to put my life on hold. So the other day, i had to say goodbye to her forever. So hard. My two closest physical companions, sarah and hank the rescue pit bulls, are away on a trip that has taken far longer than expected, and i won't even get to say goodbye. So sad.
Yet even in this broken, unfeeling world, and with my own flirtations with clinical depression, my creativity has persevered. I've written continually...essays, poems, and new versions of every classic fairy tale. Last month i recorded ten of my songs with a dear, dear friend. My little thoreau's cabin on this canal has been an unfailing sanctuary.
I love you all.
See you in San Fran.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Stumbling on Happiness"

-by daniel gilbert
2005
A charming book, that proposes a definitive completion to the endlessly iterated (and eternally debunked) proposition that "humans are the only animals that BLANK". Every time we've tried to finish that sentence (make tools, have culture, use drugs...), our puffed-up arrogance has eventually gone pfffffffffft. But now, NOW, gilbert finally has the correct sentence (or not...perhaps our compulsive need to finish that sentence merely reveals a pathological need to justify our behavior or expunge our murderer's guilt). For what it's worth, gilbert tells us that humans are the only animal that projects its own existence into the future, and thus we're the only creature constantly making decisions based on what we THINK will make us happy years or decades from now. He explores our biology, and our singularly enormous frontal brain lobe. He then illuminates the aspects of human psychology that make us so horribly bad at our aforementioned happiness-projections...namely, that our capacity for self-delusion in the service of ego seems almost limitless, and that we also never stop making the mistake of basing our future state of mind on the limits of our current state of mind. We're also profoundly geared toward needing a good self-image...and to that end, we subconsciously let the truth be damned! We always report a high level of happiness with conditions we're STUCK with (a marriage, a bought car, a circumcision), but are more truthful with ourselves about conditions we can jettison easily (a girlfriend/boyfriend, a leased/rented car, a piercing). For example, we always pay lip service to the notion that parenthood is a source of profoundest joy, when in-depth studies reveal that parental happiness takes a universal dive after children are born, never to return to original levels until the kids have left the nest. Gilbert's main thrust, advice-wise, is to urge us to trust the advice of others who have greater experience. Time and again, studies show that method to be more reliable than our own guesses...yet (surprise?), we seem profoundly resistant to such advice.
A fascinating book, and a wonderful read. In this day and age, it always seems that the psychological profession is farthest behind the curve, relative to the speed with which the other sciences teach us new things about human nature. Thank you for restoring my faith a bit, daniel.