Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Every parent's worst nightmare

Literally . . . I went to bed with Aidan, since I was so wiped out from the night before. I dreamt that I was walking with Aidan through some kind of national park, near a large, swift river. I pointed out one point in the river; I think I was telling Aidan that it wasn't real, that they had modified it there or something. And then Aidan wanders close to the edge, and then he walks right out onto a rock ledge that is inexplicably not fenced of like the rest . . . and he just jumps right into the water. He disappears in the water. I scream and run up the edge and look down . . . and I don't see him. I look down-river and don't see him. I think about calling 911 and realize it would be too late if I don't pull him out now. And I can't see him. I think about diving in after him and realize that might be foolish, that I too could get swept away or swept under and not find him. I jump across the other side, holding onto the rocks, with each new handhold looking for Aidan. I see ever-so-vaguely his blue coat, but I can't be sure. Finally, holding onto the rock I push my face into the water, and unexpectedly Aidan is right there. I can't see him put I feel him, almost as if someone is handing him right to me. As I pull him from the water, wondering if I'm too late, I wake up.

I haven't had dreams like that since Aidan was a little baby. But this was by far the most realistic. Looking back on it, I think I did everything correctly, but it just chills me to the bone that your child can be there one minute and be gone the next.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Eckhart Tolle & Language

I've just started listening to the latest Eckhart Tolle book, "A New World." I've been a big fan of Tolle, who is one of the few spiritual teachers these days who puts off some real heat. Only Nisargadatta can compare for simplicity and directness.

He's talking a lot about language, and identification with language (and therefore thought) as the basis of the individual ego. I think his assertion is basically true: we get obsessively involved in thinking until we forget that the thinking is not the reality, and that waking up necessarily means dis-identifying from thought and the labels of language.

However, something that hasn't come up (yet) in the book is the fact that language itself is (I believe) a mechanism for dis-identification. Before the human species had language, we were completely identified with our bodies and our emotions. The only thing that mattered was hunger, fear, sex . . . the needs of the body were the only reality. Once language evolved, we were capable of abstract thought, and freed somewhat from the notion that we were just the body.

I think this is important to recognize, because too often people recognize the illusory nature of thought, and rather than transcend thought by identifying with awareness, they regress into practices that focus on physical sensation and immediate physical reality. I don't think we can solve the problems of the species by becoming thoughtless animals again. But to listen to many of the Zen and Vipassana teachers, you'd think that that was the only goal.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Depressed . . . or just tired?

I have found, of late, that it is absolutely impossible for me to differentiate depression from physical lack of sleep. Sometimes I'll get up at what seems like an early-but-not-too-early hour, having gone to bed a little earlier the night before, and I'll sit at my desk, and I will not have the faintest desire to do anything. Anything I think of to do -- work, write, read, balance the checkbook -- seem equally gray and lifeless. I might spend a few minutes in that state, thinking that this is it, I've finally hit the mid-life crisis and life will be forever joyless. Then I remember, and I go back to bed for an hour or so, and when I get it up it's a different picture.

David Wilcox had a song about this subject: "It's physiological, in a logical disguise -- you're just down inside yourself." I suppose the converse is true -- those times when life seems good and all is well, it might just be the coffee talking.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bearer of Bad Tidings, Part II

Well, we thought we were being so enlightened and generous, telling that woman that she was nuts to be marketing her book. But after Janet talked with her on the phone, I remembered a powerful lesson: you don't necessarily need a good product in order to hustle sales. The woman had already lined up bunches of book signings at big-box bookstores, and even hit upon some less rule-conscious LLL chapters to let her come to the meeting to plug her book.

My opinion of her book has not changed. It still sucks. The artwork is still bad and the story (if you could call it that) completely unremarkable. But I have a much higher regard for her.

Monday, February 06, 2006

12-ounce snake oil

We don't expose our kids (5 years and 2 years) to any TV, excepting the Kentucky Derby and maybe the very occasional basketball game. We knew from the beginning that staring at screens is bad for anyone under two, and the Waldorf School the kids go to is very much against all media for school-aged kids. So when it came time for the Super Bowl, I had to reluctantly let it go, at least until the kids went to sleep. I wouldn't mind if my son saw football -- it has acceptable levels of violence, appropriate channeled into a socially acceptable medium. It's the commercialization that scares me. But, being an American who has to partake in the last collective experience of our nation, I had to at least go online and see the commercials.

Which brings me to my real question: what the heck is going on with "energy drinks"? I had seen them around, and I thought, "Well, I suppose it's just some mild commercial hyperbole, all this stuff about giving you energy and what-not, but no one really takes it seriously." Now it's suddenly become a whole category of beverage, with (literally) Super Bowl-sized marketing budgets. And I'm asking myself, "When did everybody suddenly believe there was a magic elixir that would instantly give you more energy, drive and masculinity?" This is freakin' snake oil, and now it's mainstream snake oil.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Today Janet was working at a workshop by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, who had just published a book entitled, "Sleepless in America". Ironically, I can't sleep tonight.

It could be the long nap in the afternoon, or too much caffeine after we got the kids to bed. But I think I have to blame Six Feet Under.

We've been watching the show (entirely on DVD) for the last few years, and I've enjoyed the show immensely for it's ability to tell the truth. But just lately, it seems to be remarkably good at troubling my psyche enough to keep me awake. I guess it shouldn't come as any surprise, since most of the show is about the characters descending into self-destructive messes and somehow emerging out the other side. But something has been different lately, and I'm not sure what it is.

If I had to guess, I would say that the show is still managing to tell the negative truth -- the awfulness of death, betrayal, misunderstanding, loneliness, etc. -- without getting the positive truth the way it used to. Before, I would get to the end of the show and think: well, life really sucks sometimes, but life is prevailing and something important and real has been accomplished. Now I just get the to end of the episode and think: man, life really sucks for these people.

What's really getting to me is this continual theme of families getting torn apart. All this stuff of Rico's family getting blown to bits by an affair (we're watching the fourth season right now), and the ugly, ugly aftermath of it, just makes me sick to my stomach. I am so identified with the characters that I feel like I'm the own losing my family, and that is literally unthinkable to me.

It's all still worth watching, or I wouldn't go back for more . . . but man, it's a rough ride right now.