Friday, January 28, 2011

25 Years

I was home from school that day and remember the Challenger explosion as something so unlooked-for, so unhoped-for, it painted the world in a new light.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Which would you rather lose, vision or sound? That's a question, not a threat, by the way.

I'd have to go with sound. While pondering this question on various perambulations, I realized a preference for vision as beneficiary of the Sense of a Lifetime Award. The auditorium of sound all around us is vital and juvenating, absolutely, but if I couldn't see words, it would leave me a hollow shell. A wreck of a man. A useless twit in sunglasses. Words are life and I'd keep my eyes at the cost of my ears, if it ever came down to it. Some kind of Van Gogh syndrome, I suppose.

All of this thinking out loud is predicated on the loss of hearing, as opposed to being born without it. I'd retain my memory of the sound of music. I might even remember The Sound of Music, seen once as a wee sprout. It's a remote possibility, but not impossible. Working at an Alaska cannery years ago, it amazed me how many movies I recalled on long shifts of mind shattering tedium. We were as good as deaf in the roar and tumult of massive machines. Sometimes unbidden an entire movie would reel through my head, sharp and clear as if it were being projected on a screen. I still needed to see to perform repetitive tasks, simultaneously reviewing the large catalog of a dyed-in-the-cotton cinephile. It spared my mind from otherwise maddening ravages of the job.

I can hear morning gridlock outside as I type, rough ambience. Yes plays on the stereo. Doors open and shut throughout the house, boards creaking as people move from room to room. Blessed sensorium.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK: I've Been to the Mountaintop

The first half of Dr Martin Luther King's rousing final speech:

Second half:

Monday, January 10, 2011

His Zen Thing, Man

The itinerant 90's. I carried with me, from state to state, nation to nation, a copy of the Tao Te Ching. In hindsight it wasn't necessary, it was really one passage that hit home every time:
The Tao is like a bellows:
It is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
The more you talk of it, the less you understand.
Hold on to the center.
I take these words to heart, and consider them with the Gospel of John the finest examples of spiritual wisdom produced by our race. Because I'm qualified to make such assertions. Back off.

Something else on which I'm an authority, and I think readers will agree, is TRON. The main character in both films knows a little something about spiritual wisdom.

Zen hacker Kevin Flynn is unique in the annals of science fiction. Nowhere else can you find a guy so actively indifferent to his circumstances. Zapped into the computer? No problem. Improvise a solution and don't sweat the small stuff.

Trapped in the computer for twenty years? Pfft. Catch up on yoga. Grow a beard and wear white Zen-appropriate robes. Do the Yoda thing, man. Don't play by the so-called rules of the game and remove your self from the equation.

Of course, any resemblance to Jeff Lebowski is pure coincidence. Played by the same actor, true, but Jeff Bridges has played many kinds of dudes and Kevin Flynn just happens to be the top of the pig pile.

I went through my dude phases. I'm not an actor, in the theatrical sense. Usual stuff people do, stumbling around trying to grab onto something, anything that makes sense. Even came up with a word for myself: idiosyncretic. A funky portmanteau, I know. What do you expect from a blog called zeitheist? This is where language comes to be mangled. Like Stephen Hawking's theory of black holes, where information is sucked in and spit out in a state of violent rearrangement. That's this blog all over.

Idiosyncretic is what today people think of as the mashup, in spiritual rather than musical terms. Silly word, representative of piling up wisdom from every corner of every belief system you get your hands on. Sooner or later that pile starts to make sense and you realize that you own it. Takes some dude phases (and phrases) to do it, but you get there.


Flynn takes it all in stride. Whatever misfortune falls his way, he goes with the flow. Chips are down, he leaps to do the right thing. "You're messing with my Zen thing, man," but he goes to it. Things calm down. Flynn goes back to meditating, to "knock on the sky and listen to the sound." Not many sci-fi heroes talk like that.

Knock on the sky and listen to the sound. Probably sounds like a pile of mixed-up something. That's what is so weird about Kevin Flynn: he's not trying to tell you what you want to hear, not like every other hero you encounter. How many of them talk in such a way it makes you think?

How many people talk like that?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

For The Birds

This first month of the new decade is going to be an exercise in disarray. I say this with confidence. Moving out of the house where you've lived for years is a big deal, it means organizing and compartmentalizing the wide range of items that have collected in the corners, in the closet and under the bed. Lots of things to purge, while the priceless value of others will be renewed. For all I know there may be folks who enjoy this activity. In my mind it's strictly for the birds.

Curious phrase and apropos, That's shit for birds is old army slang. Somebody in 1944 observed birds pecking at horse droppings, road apples if you will, and saw how it represented all that's meaningless and irrelevant in the world. I can get behind that, not only in the symbolic sense but literally as well. Look at some of the crap that has ended up in my possession over the last six years and it might well have come from a horse's ass.

The pile of old shirts, for instance, growing in the dusty corner of my closet for who knows how long. The very definition of irrelevant. Yesterday's fashion whim is tomorrow's landfill.

I like birds. I felt bad last week when that flock of blackbirds fell dead from the Arkansas sky. One thousand of them, perished in an instant, plummeting to the ground like the world's biggest, blackest feather pillow. Explanations as to why so dramatic a synchronized death plunge took place on new year's eve will never satisfy the awestruck among us. If Voldemort suddenly appeared and felled them with a blast of Hogwartian halitosis, that might come close to making us feel like it really happened. Reality, however, is not quite so, shall we say, stimulating.

Splashed by lightning or felled by a fusillade of hail, theories abound as to what croaked the sorry flock. The leading theory is that being too close to fireworks startled the blackbirds to their mortal demise. Takes the fun out of the whole idea, doesn't it? Explosions in the sky have never been more deadly.

It isn't my intent to keel over on account of fireworks. To the contrary, that's what I'm migrating toward. It's the time of year to head for spring climates. I'm like the cat in the window. For those who missed my post, Petula Clark sings poignantly of the cat in the window with a tear in its eye. The poor kitty is birdwatching and sad it can't fly. I know how it feels. Then again, it doesn't have to move out in a few weeks. Chin up, tabby: sitting in the window is a luxury.

The move comes at a time when I've spent too much time gazing out the window. I'm looking to have a more complete, more fully rounded experience. Living at Zoo Station has been fine. I'll remember it as the house where I worked harder at writing than anywhere else I've ever lived. That's a decent springboard for vaulting into the next phase. Just as the smoky peat of single malt whiskey doesn't come to life in the senses with quite as fulfilling a round wholeness as it does when accented by pipe tobacco or a Dunhill Red, this house has delivered a fair share of flavor but without total fulfillment. I can't very well spend the rest of my days at the window with a tear in my eye, can I?

As if I had anything to cry about. Consecutive to the aviary apocalypse, I was at home recalling the happy old year. It was a Friday night and the imminent new decade hours away hastened my sentimental thoughts. Fireworks over the city punctuated good memories, simultaneously obliterating them and clearing the sky for new ones.