There Is More to Life Than Being Right – (notes on not writing #2)

Everyone wants to be right and it’s the most important thing in the world. It feels exciting and invigorating. But this hardly resonates.

To be right, has a temporary glow… but also, to be right… sucks. It sucks the life out of everything. The way we are treating it now. It’s rigid and, the way we’re treating it now, unintelligent.

To be right has become the most banal aspect of contemporary existence.

Writing is more difficult than ever. And also easier. Because of the culture of RIGHT.

It’s enough to make you feel done with language, with writing. To give up everything. To just give up. Because to write, to use your words – this involves taking a position. Do I need to be right, to write? Because there is more to life than being the one who is right.

We’re dealing with an actual and deliberate detachment from reality. Because as much as we propose to speak truth, truth is not only what we are speaking at any given time. We’d like to believe that it is, but truth changes as quickly as we figure it out.

What is truth? You can’t only be right and also have the truth. It’s impossible. Truth is filtered through the material world, but it can not be caught by you. Truth is a phenomenon created by the sum total of an infinite multitude of ideas and perspectives. Truth is a multitude.

And this is why we need poetry.

Poetry calls us to remind ourselves how foolish we are in being so right. In pretending to have all the answers. In our righteousness against the assholes.

Because there is no right answer in poetry. There is no “figuring it out” once and for all. No one single truth or perspective. And there isn’t supposed to be. Because this would not be possible, and it would not even reflect all that art is capable of – nor all that we are capable of. Art can understand us even beyond ourselves, because art is perspicacious. Because art is a universe, within universes. Because art reflects reality as this complex multitude beyond one single ego — one single ego whose tragic flaws art is also sure to reveal, so that nobody can be a God (but perhaps, merely part of the god we envision).

The “one single ego” of the artist or the writer – that’s just a personality. The artist, or one who creates, serves as a medium for an aspect of truth. Like all beings — except that the artist occupies oneself with this phenomenon specifically. But this doesn’t mean that the artist is supposed to be right either. To be so right and so perfect, even so irrefutable — that would be the creation, ultimately, of something stagnant. And what would be the point of that? To end ourselves?

…What is the actual end game of RIGHT?

We don’t need to be right, much as we act as if. And artists don’t need to be right to create, nor writers – especially not to write poetry which neither needs nor strives to be right — it just needs to show. And this is why we won’t give up. Craft will continue to excel at creating more questions, than answers. There’s people out there who really wish we would, just give it up. We all know them. And we can’t help but disappoint them. Truly. And this is okay. In fact whatever we do, it will disappoint someone. And that’s marvelous.

This is the reason it is worth it to keep going. Not to make more points. Not to be more right than they are. But to imagine. All of what is possible. And in doing so, we will not please all. If we existed only to please, then nothing original would ever get made or done. Because so often, what is original begins by embodying what is not-right.

And as for the whole? Not just the artists. The “everyone”? There is the idea that if we compromised on everything so readily, then nothing would ever change. And we could not dare to hope for a better world.

But this does not mean we are the god of intelligence. Is our opinion seriously, honestly, the highest intelligence possible? Does our opinion represent the highest world order? Please.

We’ll do better, in today’s climate, to celebrate how wrong we can be.





Notes in a Time of Not Writing, #1

There’s so many things to say, so much to catch up on. I don’t know where to begin or end, so I’ll start somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the middle of a bath on a Saturday night at the end of March or beginning of April.

Water. I love it. All water. The mesmerizing and meditative quality of water. An implied unknown in its depths. The movement, the sound of it, its independent ever-changing form that can’t be shaped or molded, and the overwhelming mystery and vastness of its quantities. Creating patterns while resisting routine. Possibility is the word that comes to mind. When I look into it. Possibility. One place to another, never stagnant.

It calms and it stirs me up. I drag my fingers through it and watch the rings of light flicker across the surface, feel the movement on my knees and legs.

If only we could accept ideas – accept each other – accept unexpected circumstances – as much as we can accept water simply for what it is. This

independent and ever-changing form. That can’t be shaped or molded

beyond what it is doing momentarily.

Water responds but can’t be entirely controlled. No rigid and tired principles and values to cling to. If only we could better accept ourselves the way we accept water.

And experience more freedom. And the paradise before us here on earth. Embracing us. All of us. No it is not stupid to have this thought. It is absolutely not stupid. And

it is not even for you or me to decide

what is stupid. And I don’t even care what you are against. That’s tired. I want to know what you are for.

I start with this excerpt, this particular piece, from the mess of words I wrote for months and didn’t post, because I had the kind of writer’s block that tells you so many lies.

Writing reflects the mysteries of life and consciousness. I can’t tell you what makes me feel so timid and afraid inside one minute, and so bold and carefree the next.

I, too, have been afraid to express the total fullness of life.

And I admire this element, water, that most reminds me what living is. Is to change. Art is this thing that has to embrace a state of allowing. Total and complete. Allowing is really the state of creativity, of touching creation.

But original creation encounters resistance from pre-existing, established entities. Which in some historical sense matters, but in an absolute sense means absolutely nothing.

I consider the fears and the insecurities and the haunted dreams. I consider the histories and the responsibilites and the rebellions and the failures.

And I gather all these thoughts in my hand, with all the feelings attached to them, every single feeling, and I open my hand over the river, and I lean and bend my mouth toward them, I inhale and bend toward the light with all these thoughts, toward the water’s direction, and I blow.



The problem with poetry in “America” #2


Part of the beauty of words is their definitions. But poetry understands definition to be a light thing. Lightness. An inexact art. Yet also a very precise art. But art requires flexibility, mutability, permeability, transformation. Art requires the flowering of unexpressed potentials.

Poetry is obviously the art of words. But because words are also useful, because they are also practical, because we associate them with a function, a very necessary and functional part of life, we want to understand them. We must understand them. We must, essentially, conquer them. Force ourselves upon them.

Poetry can not be forced upon. Poetry will always resist conquering. Not necessarily on purpose, but by nature. Meaning can be beautiful or it can be tyrannical. Poetry resists tyranny.

This is the problem with poetry. “America” does not like to think that there is anything that can not be conquered. Poetry is an unacceptable defeat.

Where we do not win, we reject.

Swiftly, immediately.



The problem with poetry in “America,” is its strength


There’s no real problem with words. Words are not the problem. It’s the meaning we assign to them. The values we assign to them. What we decide they’re worthy of. What we decide they’re used for. That’s the trouble.

Words are not inherently stupid. It’s opinions. Opinions can be so cheap.

Poetry isn’t cheap.

And we love cheap. We treasure the truly cheap. That’s the problem with poetry.

Poetry captures the invaluable. All that is invaluable.

All you could not hope to capture.





Tell Every Story


It’s not the job of artists to create only uplifting or lighthearted work that makes everybody feel good. That can be part of the job. But the primary job is to tell the truth. Some kind of aspect of the truth. Sometimes the truth is something joyful, elating, comical, optimistic, inspirational. But the truth can also be brutal. Life can be incredibly brutal sometimes. And the worst of it, is when we are made to feel that our less palatable reactions to such brutalities should be any different than what they are.

There is a time and a place to look on the bright side. Or to “act as if.” But the artist is mirroring. Reflecting all of it. Not just the one artist, but all artists. Art is just consciousness. And its patterns. And we will never be done with that. Consciousness is always evolving. Sometimes art needs to show us what we already have and know, cast in a new light. Sometimes it needs to show us what we can’t see. What we would rather ignore. Art can show up for that. It won’t always make the artist look good. It won’t always make the artist look for that moment “enlightened,” at least not in the mainstream understanding of that word. But this is the whole point of art — to bring things to light. To expand what is seen. Whether that is dark, playful, ironic, simple, etc. But art is not here simply to make us feel better. Nor does art need to act like a winner. Art doesn’t need to project a million dollar smile.

To assert that some emotions and experiences are worthy of attention but disregard or insult the existence of others is to fail to recognize the total abundance of all that is, the total fullness of life. So it’s not about just telling people what they want to hear, or only showing them what they want to see. It’s not about what we think should be said or done to “make the world a better place” in the common understanding. It’s about getting all of it down, whatever is speaking to us, and be willing to be that honest. Because what makes the world is a better place is also when honesty and integrity are valued and expressed and held. The result of honesty and integrity should not be to run. It should be to come closer.

A world that just only agrees with you all the time, that’s a world in which no one grows. That would be a very stale world, a world in which we stagnate. Art is capable of appreciating all of it. What we cherish, and what pains us.

Hackneyed optimism and hope — trite, dismissive, insincere, and even inappropriate as they often are — help no one.





Life Support III

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At a certain point, there’s only so much that can be done.

I’m far from the first one to think that our situation now should be no surprise. We’ve been recklessly asphyxiating, mowing, crowding, disrespecting, neglecting, destroying the planet for generations.  Now nature is taking over.  Science could never move as fast.  Nature is in charge.

Nobody IRL wants to be the one to say it, or even think it.  What fools we are.  How self-important we have been as humans.  The unchecked egocentrism comes now to this. Of course, it is our moral and ethical duty to provide people with the best chance that they can have at survival.  We sacrifice for the sake of one another.  We value lives.

Why then does our true primary source of life, our environment, the earth, get left out of the equation so often in our daily political and economic consciousness?  This has been a permanent conflict of interest.  Our growing population and extended life spans, without any truly impactful or sustained attempt to mitigate its burden on our environment, the earth from which we are largely alienated.  Nature becomes something to visit and vacation, rather than to take as part of ourselves.

As much as we see and value ourselves, our society, our culture, we must too turn an eye towards this earth as our real and ultimate life support.

Now each one of us, any one of us, could die.  We experience this die-off just as whole swaths of species have died at our inattention, our neglect.  Few want to recognize how we ourselves have created so many of our disasters.  It’s easy to get busy and look the other way.

We must learn more reverence for that which is old, which has already come before us, and in this case, the one true elder.  We must care for it, above and beyond our own self-interests.  Nobody wants to say these things out loud, not me either.  How uncomfortable we are with nature doing the job that it does, to the extent we must do whatever it takes to regain control over it.  How uncomfortable we are as a culture with death, dying, aging, changing — not just in this instance but with the natural cycle of life, as we rebel more and more against these inconvenient truths.

Which brings us to the most difficult question of all. Are we even responsible enough, to extend our own lives? And what exactly would be the point, if we can not even breathe the air, drink the water, draw nutrition from soil, or exist without intermittent unprecedented calamities anymore?

Who wants to sit down and take the time, a long time, to regard nature with the respect it deserves?  Because ultimately we are not in charge.  The river is in charge, the glaciers are in charge, the ocean is in charge, the mountain is in charge, microorganisms are in charge.  Everything is different now as we can not pretend that’s not true.

We can not ignore another kind of science – climate science, environmental science.  So I don’t really want to hear them talk about science, until they’re ready to talk about that.

March 23, 2020 – March 31, 2020
(links added)


(Lockdown Journals Part VII, FINAL THOUGHT, II)

Intermissions For Thought Police (Lockdown Journals I, II)


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The 2,700 words of lockdown/pandemic journals written between May and Dec 2020 and posted here, are removed because I don’t want them here anymore. Except for this piece of it. I’ll be reposting the rest somewhere else. Plz contact if interested.

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Part II

GRANDMA

Friends can be like family, but it is also not quite the same thing.  I find myself thinking about my mother, and other people’s mothers.  I know the multitude of reasons why I didn’t have a family of my own, which is why I have this lifestyle now.  To begin with, my childhood family story is a bit of a riot.  I still turned out ok, but harboring such a story has its consequences, that take a long time to escape.

I have two wonderful grandmothers who are still alive today so I’m very lucky in that way.  When I was a teenager I think, a younger teenager, I remember visiting one of my  grandmothers.  I walked in to the big kitchen and felt nervous being there.  She said, “Would you like a tuna sandwich, honey?” Her voice so calm and tone so sweet but I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know if I was hungry.  I probably was but couldn’t be sure.  I didn’t want to disappoint her.  I didn’t want to make her make me the sandwich, but maybe she wanted me to eat it.  I didn’t know.

“Ok.”  I agreed to the sandwich.  So I sat down on the long polished wood bench at the gigantic kitchen table made of the same polished wood and I stared at the colorful woven oval placemats and felt awkward.  The dining room table was even larger than this one and it had its very own room.  The silverware solid, heavy, shiny.  When she set down the clear plastic plate with the swirly designs popping from its surface in front of me, something about the experience felt alien.  I think I was supposed to feel comforted.  The sandwich looked cute on the plate.  Fluffy.   Carefully centered.  Placed so as to avoid crushing the bread or patting down the mini peaks and valleys of tuna salad, so that the whole thing puffed up and out a little.  Grandma knew how to make it special.  How to make something so simple look like it had a personality.  I stared at it, and I didn’t understand something but I wasn’t sure what.  I ate it amid a mixture of odd and uncomfortable feelings.  I ate it; even though I am not so wild about lots of mayonnaise, tuna was still a favorite.

I wasn’t feeling that great though.  I think I was supposed to feel at home.  But I didn’t.  I felt bad.  The adult word for that feeling is guilty.  Grandma was doing all this, for me.  Grandma works so hard all the time, for everyone.  But I didn’t know that I deserved to be cared for.  I actually did not know.

She’d have to do the dishes, I thought, so maybe I should do them instead.  But there are a lot of dishes over there, from some other meal.  Should I do all of those?  I do not know what to do as I sit eating my sandwich.  I want to be a good kid.  But I am tired, so tired.  So tired.

Grandma’s beds so poofy like white and beige clouds I don’t know what will happen if I try to sleep in one, would I sink in too much and feel weird.  Anyway, nobody should be sleeping right now.  I shouldn’t fall asleep on the couch.  I shouldn’t be rude.

There is a concept of what family is “supposed to be” like, in a general sense of at least meeting and maintaining a certain standard.   If your concept of family is warped by tragedy, your concept of love may also be warped for a while.  For a while, but not necessarily forever.   Old wounds can heal.  Other people teach us things beyond the scope of the original family.

Ideas start changing, shifting, and feelings also.  Occasionally in leaps.  You might’ve managed essentially alone for a very long time, in the same way you’d always done because you did not know any different.  Until you do not want it to be that way anymore.  And know that it doesn’t have to be, and it won’t be.  Change might be too scary to welcome without a fight, but it finds you anyway because that is what is supposed to happen.  Especially if that’s exactly what you aim for.

I do not blame my mother, with whom I grew up, for the flaws she found impossible to overcome.  The alcohol, the violence, the homelessness, the intermittent chaos.  While she is accountable for certain things, I do not blame her for anything I could not do now, either, as the present is what I am accountable for.  I was the oldest child and things were harder to hide from me.  I do not know what it is like to be my mother.  Despite everything, she did give me gifts for which I am grateful, most of them unintended gifts.  Just because someone does not know how to love properly, or “normally,” does not necessarily mean that they don’t love.  Just because we do not get what we want from someone, does not mean that we should look down on them, nail them to the cross.  Even when it feels needed, it’s probably not even worth it.

Writing and reflecting about Grandma, her house, her homemaking, I realize I feel a different emotion than the way this whole situation has made me feel, even a different emotion than the way I used to feel during some of our visits.  Comforted. 

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Everyone is dealing with this crisis in their own way.  Some people want to be alone.  But we have to keep in mind that others need us too.

We must keep in mind that it is one thing to say to someone that you are there, but it is another thing to actually be there.

It is also another thing to genuinely want to be there, but truly not be able to.  And this is really felt, or not felt.

Who is present?

Who is listening to us?

Who is holding us dear, in a crisis?

And who are we holding dear?  I recall some wise words Dad had shared.  He said, “Somebody told me once.  You know what, man?  If you want a friend, BE a friend.”

Connection is probably more important than ever, and we probably ought to insist on it above and beyond all else in whatever way we can accomplish it.  Even as I too struggle to live up to my own ideals.

May 16 – May 17, 2020

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