Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Here is my new long-term projects, which I expect to put into practice as soon as it gets a little warmer in our excellent Canadaian icebox. I plan to walk the streets. I plan to seek out quiet or forgotten places: alleys, rooftops, power transfer stations, highway underpasses, tunnels, etc., and I plan to sit there and think. Maybe to meditate. And then everything will float up into the air and revolve around me. No longer will I be just one out of an army of beardos meekly pumping their fists at some ear-bleed-inducing show, no: I will be transmogrified, reaching my inner superhero. And I will go around saving the old and poor and meek, making them realize that a place can be a space if only enough thought is put into it. And I will hop the rooftops, or underpasses, or sewers or what you will, slaying potential Chairman Maos before they hatch from the wicked lizard queen's secret nests under Queen's Park. And I will also palnt functional gardens, making the schools of Theology boil over with wave after wave of squash or wheat advancing mercilessly to suck the calcium out of the limestone walls. I will distribute pamphlets about sexual liberation to children in coffee shops and will organize cell after cell of the upcoming drunken soccer hooligan revolution. I will airdrop into the Gaza Strip and debate Imams for weeks on end until they renounce violence and let the guilty Israeli youth have their revenge. And I will drain the seas and desalinify them, thereby averting the resource wars of the 21st century, or alternately I could sit up in the center for boimolecular research and grow kidneys-plus, whose nephrons could produce urine at an osmolarity of 3000 mOsm, which sounds irrelevant until you realize that such a nephron would allow humans to drink seawater without any adverse consequences. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, trust the expert. Or you could spend 10 minutes doing some research. Your choice. You know what I want you to do.

Where did I get so unrealistic?

Consider: "A young [black] man walks through chest deep floodwater after looting a grocery store in New Orleans... meanwhile two [white] residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans..."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

We (Part II)

We are followers of threads, much like tracers of wires, jiggling their bulk to see what fits where and never quite completing the circuit diagram. And how can we, with so much left unsaid, so many impressions unrecorded, so many dreams fleeting, so many languages unlearned, childhood blemishes still prominent? But we make do. We can spend an entire evening nodding at jazz and saying "yes" on the streets and the crowds are mighty and annoyed but we don't mind. We can be mighty and spontaneous, as big or as small as we like, as understanding but competitive as we want, as smart or as pretend-stupid. We breathe heavy snowfalls and share it with nobody but ourselves in ingroup jargon. We know what's right, it's just that we're paralyzed with semantics because the buildings have never looked so permanent and edifices never so sheer and vertical. They are terrifying yet we have never given up on trying to be across the universe and inside a flower. We try to induce crazy visions: like at the jazz bar where the solo began as spider eggs covering the ceiling, which then hatched and spun webs to ensnare the basist and cocoon the drummer, all the while sparing the trumpet man--for the spiders have quite different plans for him. We are steadily approaching the state of being "uninhibited", shedding the elfin superego and leaving it in rags in the alley, a bottle of brandy for fake warmth, a harmonica for entertainment, and rags for real warmth. We are enamoured of shopping carts: really the idea that one can get so much metal for just a quarter. We gamble, but only with money. How much is a person worth? (And we don't mean an arm or an intestine or a cornea: the whole person.) We will eventually learn a few words of a foreign greeting which will render us labelled and utterly incapable of crossing the generation barrier. We are the grandchildren of modernity whose struggle all the world will soon have to endure. We do not build worlds, but we have no choice. Our lives will reach a swelling chorus, enough to being a tear to the eye, enough to compose a tanka for someone who will be named in initials at a socially appropriate time. Subtlety has woven chains around our walks and talks. Propriety and proprietariness has begun, and all the years of plastic labelled buckets now start to spill over onto people: people become described by words, and we all forget that for some reason we are in love with the Signifier and not the Signified. We try to pull threads of insights together from matchstick scrawls, from graffiti, from books and plays, from conversations, from the mentally ill, from ancient schools of practical philosophy, from exercise regimens, from musical expression, from foods strange and exotic and alleyways containing soup and wine, from bulletin boards stippled with rusty staples, from utility poles similarly covered, from drugs, from walks, from peaceful afternoons where brief rays of sunlight dance off the coffee table, from machines, from personal anecdotes and personal experiments, from drum circles under icicles, from awful dirges perfomed a propos of nothing. What picture is beginning to emerge? The picture of us? Hardly.

Consider: "wallcovering / Map of the World too large / for the space / we trim off everything / south of the Sandwiches."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Wine (Part XI)

At a bar, pounding back shot after shot, not out of fear, but out of some strange exuberance. I am here with complete strangers I met on the subway; complete drunken strangers I decided to come with; complete drunk girls who I told "I'm not looking for sex; I'm looking for a story", and it was true. We wander the streets, sampling bars as we go along. We reach a club. In line we meet a hockey player who refuses to smile and a tiny girl my age who, if I remeber correctly, has already gone through her "starter marriage". I am out of my element; there are myriad strobe lights; people are shouting into each other's ears and the higer frequency registers of my hearing are out of commission. I can feel my pants rattle with the bass. It's bot that I categorically refuse to bust a move, it's that I am somehow unable to impress. And here I was being all uninhibited. There are breasts faling out of what look like high-quality straitjackets. One of the drunk girls went around propositioning girls on my behalf: flattering but at the same time so out of my element. So I leave these people who dropped in so quickly, and they drop out quickly: they will talk to strangers tonight; they will dance and drink and make their element wherever they choose to; they will sleep in parks and dozens of other amused urbanites will encounter them and ignore them; others will put forth a minimum of effort to make them comfortable. What to make of them? Let me say they were a trip; I had them "dug", and I was pleased. Let them live in their lives and in this sentence as well.

But I left. I walk streets; for the first time in a while it is quiet in some ungodly hour, and I am unable to put number to my sense of timelessness; my ears are so muted that it sounds like a particularly lush sowfall: quet. But not serene. This quiet is the quiet of escape; the quet of the sidelines; the hush of anticipation, call it what you will. I am not sure what I am anticipating, but it makes my intestines knotted and has probably halved my food intake. Long-term stress hormones. But what long-term stress am I preparing for? The body is wise, but it is terse and it refuses to engage me in conversation, but it is not inscrutable. The evening that begins with self ends with self. I am beginning to learn how to read the pangs. The direction they shoot in is very significant. Like a facial expression.

Consider: "On really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sakyamuni's Shadow Puppets

As I tend to go off on rants about topics that interest me, and as these topics tend to be varied and scattered, I realize I lose a lot of would-be readers at the first few sentences, quite possibly even at the title. So I will try to follow the Wikipedia model: provide hyperlinks to ideas that many be needlessly obscure or technical, like sakyamuni (or, as some write it, shakyamuni). I hope that dispels some confusion, because I'm prone to sow it. And people should call me on it, because I get too excited too easily.

The title of this post was something that popped out in one of those insane automatic writing sessions that I highly recommend for everyone. In them you should write whatever comes to mind as quickly or as slowly or as awkwardly as you can. If you feel like it, eschew the constraints of grammar: go all impressionist, or replace periods with semicolons or intentionally use the wrong verb tenses; verb nouns and noun verbs freely, because the human linguistic mind is bigger than the artificial constraints of any one language's idiosyncrasies. If you don't already speak another language, playing with the language you have makes you realize this profound truth: sense is not the same as grammar. I strongly believe that after a while automatic writing becomes a "spiritual" experience, in a way very similar to what happens when a trained athlete reaches "flow", or when a musiciam performs a piece they have practiced well, or when someone manages to still their mind even for a little while, as with meditative practice. I say this because I have been in all these situations (except for the trained athlete) and there is a hard-to-describe residuum of similarity between all these brain-states (or, if you like, mind-states; I, for one, put little faith in their distinctness). Vagueness will, as always, have to do. The best way to test what I have written is to try it out yourself.

But I have not even gotten to the original idea that spurned this post: the idea of Sakyamuni's shadow puppets. If you bothered to skim the webpage I linked above, you will no doubt notice there is a lot of metaphysical talk about the Buddha's (that is, Sakyamuni's) supreme enlightenment and how the sun and moon and all the animals stopped, presumably in admiration etc., etc. This, to many, is Buddhism-as-religion, Buddhism-as-doctrine. If you look at the byline to this weblog, you will see that one of the adjectives I chose to use is "buddhist". I did not do this with Buddhism-the-religion in mind, but with what many consider a "weaker" position: buddhism as practical philosophy, a way of reducing anxieties and stresses, a way to produce insight into our own condition and creativity to deal with it. I am not opposed to the idea of enlightenment, but that is a word that gets bandied around a lot, and whenever a word gets thrown around, the profound interdependence of the word on a myriad of other concepts gets thrown out in many minds. I think we have to move in baby steps: if we are to realize that the self-other distinction is an illusion, we need some insight into this "self", this smokescreen of concepts that ties us into suffering and joy. Now, this is a practical path, but it seems lessened somehow, likened to the shadow the magnificent form of the Enlightened One casts on some dreadful wall. But this is, in my opinion, where we must start, unless we want to get overwhelmed. (Someone will, I'm sure, notice some sort of analogy to Plato's Cave, and this is not at all unintentional.) I think in the end Sakyamuni would have liked this comparison, because in my mind he would have been fond of a game, and making shadow puppets to entertain the populace would have been something he'd have liked to do. But this entertainment is not just sntertainment: I remember to me shadow puppets always carried a sense of wonder, a sense that there is something mysterious in all this. And that is exactly how we should approach life; if enlightenment exists, we can't push for it with out head in the metaphysical clouds, or with supplications, or with mantras, or with a sense of progression: we must play, as Sakyamuni surely played.

Consider: "Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts."

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Urban Soup (Part X)

At dinner with international students, I heard a peculiar anecdote, the kind which often reaffirms some faith in humanity, before I realize that these things happen all the time, that these boundary events are not statistically significant and that, sadly, we struggle against chains in vain. (Prove me wrong, kids; prove me wrong!) I am writing about a story of a sojourn to the Native Students' Association social. Two white people arrived and stood around, feeling out of place in the hubbub, when all of a sudden, the crowd parted and the drumming and chanting began. One of the two out-of-place white people noticed something odd: one of the drummers was white. Furthermore, this fellow was known to him from back in Germany. Turns out he had been fascinated with native culture for most of his life, had practiced his drumming and ceremonial chanting in the industrial valleys of Germany before coming here. He was one and accepted. He will be the bald Nordic bodhisattva, speaking up for the greatest genocide known to humanity, a genocide that still continues. I have no doubt about that.

Less glorious, but still something are the back alleys of my neigbourhood. These alleys have been subjected to cliche-fication by every alternative magazine in the city, who so freely set their photo shoots there that one is left wondering whether the actual cool people have all gone off to do something better, the next big thing, like squirrel-hunting or spontaneus flash mob riots. But fuck them. I like these alleys too. Anyone who's bothered to look will see that they are far more honest than the fronts of buildings. Out back we have the dumpsters, the bits of drywall discarded, barrels on their sides, fences falling into disrepair, those wonderful rusted-over fire escapes which bring to mind all the summers I toiled in alleys like this, out of the eyes of genteel society. If it weren't so cold as to deserve the title "fucking cold", I'm sure I'd see the occasional child playing or impromptu barbecue and gathering in the paved-over postage stamps of backyards that you sometimes come across.

Consider: "It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, insects flitting about and worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these forms, so different yet so dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by simple laws. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms, most wonderful, have been, and are being, evolved."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Manic Hyperbole

"I will serenade you to the clarion call of a hundred silver trumpets! I will write long strings of epic quatrains on every inch of toilet paper rolls and will string them over the trees! I will drink the roots of the ground and chase off the squirrels to find the sacred diamond-encrusted nut to bring to you! I will cut off excess meat from my bones to feed to the griffons so they will bear me into the cloud kingdom where the lizard queen will put me through a rigorous program of study and diet unti l have learned the ancient secrets of enlightement: namely that there is no point in pushing the body out of balance with rigorous study programs! I will hold back the reducing valve and will pump whatever comes out into my parieto-occipital cortex, come what may! I will dance tribal and sweaty and will rock the gevernment ministries from their foundations and rebuild the golden old trainyards! I will tower in debates and make the guests of honour cower behind their lecterns with my fangs! I will bring freshly thawed retinas to the blind and drown would-be fundamentalists in vats filled with phosphate-buffered saline, releaasing the lab rats the entire time! Will bounce off the walls until the trash cans and lab benches are all askew and everyone is asking themselves what on Earth is going on!"

Something was unleashed in our protagonist; maybe he is dancing to dance off the years he spent in deep freezers, nose painfully stuck in the crease of some musty book, parchment mites eating his scalp, lumbar muscles experiencing a dull pain; maybe his mischief is to overthrow the laws and customs handed to him by the tradition of old ladies with quilts; maybe he feels bigger than God right now and wants to find that effortless wealthy jackpot. Maybe he is oscillating about his formerly constant mean level of arousal, and nobody will get to see him when the energy has been depleted. Where does he go after the trees have buckled under the weight of his quatrains, or the squirrels have mourned for their hoard, or the lizard queen has gone to sleep, or the government ministies have been rebuilt? What horrible ashes does he scatter to the four winds? Was he too fragile for this world? What was he thinking? Was he spurred by insecurities, by feelings of uncleanliness or by something that happened earlier that day? Was he the witness of a flogged horse? A romantic kerfuffle? An eloquent and passionate invocation to violence from a smiling man behind the lectern?

This is how we do. Story, then commentary. But they are both stories, in their own plotless, plodding ways.

Consider: "Ко вино вечера, воду доручкује. (Who has wine for dinner has water for breakfast.)"

Monday, February 13, 2006


...someone got a panic attack; streetcar wires shorted out; a snowflake made a pedestrian gag; a basket was woven; a commuter brushed his teeth on the highway; friends jammed out a tune in C sharp minor and the sounds of the highway were perfectly on pitch; a lab rat recoiled in horror from a 5 ms acoustic stimulus at 110 dB; children played on a carousel; pigeons scattered, feeling the stress of the passers-by; a homeless man was ignored; a door was slammed; I cooked up all matter of phantasmagoria to use in cautionary tales; a street was jaywalked diagonally; someone lost a little visual acuity because the light of the photocopier was too bright; a man bawled in front of the library while another kicked a Sprite bottle; tendentious philosophical problems were solved; thermostats lost control of cold houses; albums were recorded triumphantly; jade trees cried out for more water; Ceylon spices induced hallucinatory madness; someone cried for being one in a crowd of a thousand and very alone; a sand pile toppled unexpectedly and jammed a conveyor belt; a dozen songs were learned by rote and joyless finger-bashing; the battle of the memes will be lost in one mind--someone will drown in our culture; someone will deliberate whether to buy split-pea soup or broccolli soup; a sixteen-year-old girl met her crush and was disappointed; a shaggy-haired angel composed his unrecordable magnum opus; someone reached the bottom of that third pitcher before the cock crowed thrice; someone held out their hand in the universal debating posture when his interlocutor just wanted to share his feelings; someone's dreadlocks will be cut off; someone's bicycle will break in mid-pedal; an eight-year-old will feel jealous of her olympic hero; many more things will happen, which we must pass over in grave, reverential silence.

Consider: "You ask how I spend my time-- / I nestle against a treetrunk / and listen to autumn winds / in the pines all night and day. // Shantung wine can't get me drunk. / The local poets bore me. / My thoughts remain with you, / like the Wen River, endlessly flowing."

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tales of the Subway (Part II)

Point of order: the other day I made a typo and wrote "evern". I think this word should enter the English language. It would serve as useful shorthand for "ever even", or "even ever". (E.g.: "Gee, I don't think I've evern felt this God you keep talking about"). Consider it.

Now for the body of the exposition. Today I celebrated a friend's birthday, a friend who, I should add, has a penchant for unusual birthday parties. This particular one took place on the subway. There was a crowd of revellers, music, refreshments, food, a few cakes, gifts, confetti, balloons and dancing, all within the space of half a subway car. People kept getting on and off, and a few were curious enough to inquire what we were doing. Refreshments were given to all. A dude spread out on his seat led us in a rousing sixteen-bar blues chord progression. Someone eventually whipped out an accordion to entertain with polonaises and abortive jam sessions in A minor. We inspired a group of Pakistani youth to hoot and holler and jump around on the car to applause and cheers. Djembe-melodica counterpoint followed; confetti guns blew. The car rocked and rolled as it reached the end of the line and promptly turned around. We were cross-crossing the city; we were talking fuirously. We were tyring to introduce everyone to the two Dutch people we had just met a half hour before. We tried to make as much dissonance as humanly allowed. The accordion blasted out every note it could; guitar strings trembled in anaphasic glory; harmonicas blew their filthy tinniness; noismakers crackled and cackled; but the floor remained solid. Old Chinese men talked with bearded hipsters; old bums were pacified; the preachers of Dharma were nowhere to be found; our Pakistani co-revellers clapped their hands to Jewish songs from the old country; there was apple cider for every palate; Sri Lankan pastries chased rice balls and synthetic cake icing. Old lovers were temporarily reuinted on adequate terms. Fake arguments broke out and subsided (I wanted something in D minor but the man in the sunglasses would have none of it); fake subterfuge and skuldugger took over; improvised party games went on for a few minutes.

As I have a tendency to exaggerate, I want to explicitly say that all this is true.

Consider: "The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore so it eats it!"

Saturday, February 11, 2006

38 Questions

What is suffering? Closely related: what is evil? Are the two interrelated? Interdependent? Is one neccessary and/or sufficient for the other? Can we quantify it? Can we evern hope to compare it? Is it a growing experience? Or is it a degrading experience? Is it some aspect of both? Does suffering justify jockeying for victim status? Or does it spur one to sit there and "take it"? Are there occasions where we welcome suffering? Even a little bit? If HIV causes untold suffering, is HIV evil? Or can we justify it by some naturalistic appeal? Does natural mean moral? In other words, does the naturalistic fallacy hold? Are we looking at a levels of analysis problem? Is physical suffering relatively easier to quantify than mental anguish? Are they the same thing? But wouldn't that leave us in a strange amoral monist putty? Or are we looking at the wrong level of analysis? Closely related: where do ethical judgments come from? Are they social intuition? Or are they also raisins embedded in metaphysical jello? Should the weight of ethical judgments be proportional to status? (Of course, it is, but should it be?) Should we just pretend our ethics are absolute? In a world where the pace of change is outstripping human ability to deal with it, isn't that insane? Closely related: how likely are we to actually be able to take control of our minds and their tendencies? Does the iceberg metaphor completely prevent it? Or is the iceberg metaphor more hopeful than that? Has it been implanted in the public consciousness by an ideologically-driven Freud? Does it even make sense to ask the question of whether human nature should be seen in a posisitve or negative light? Are endless barrages of questions just an intellectual hemorrhage? Or are they pointers? Is it justified for me to imply the answers to some of my questions by the context they are found in?

Consider: "It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper."

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Seriously, now, for a second: what the fuck is up with ethics? I don't understand them. Anyone who writes about them just asserts them. Religious leaders assert them like we can see them up on that stage like a table or a chair. Family always try to instill them. Society tries to guilt them into you as if it were Zeus shooting a thunderbolt of superego into your skull. But, seriously, what the fuck? The best explanation of ethics I have heard has been "it's pretty fucking obvious some things would make you a bad person" (you know who you are). That is true, but seems deeply unsatisfactory.

Today I want to explore the "seems" in that last sentence. Because I don't actually doubt the "it's obvious" approach works. I just want to expunge the kind of objections that naturally arise, namely (1) "but, sir, then you're just being hopelessly relativistic", or (2) "this just means you do what you want", or (3) "ethical just means approved by you", which are really saying very closely overlapping things. I suppose is springs from a desre to build ethics like we would build a house or a table or a chair. From solid ingredients arranged in various ways in predictable patterns to yield some phenomenologically unified and meaningful complex. But it's not like that; it's not received wisdom. It's not enlightement. It's not revelation. No book can contain the record of people's kindnesses and failures. Oh, they grive broad strokes and approximations which do fine on a herd-level or military-command level: where you have masses of people with conformity instilled by drills and/or gossip. At the everyday level, one might imagine great ethical heroism disappears, is obscured by the endless drills and routines of driving from place to place and finding something to eat or fretting about what co-workers think of us. But that's not the case. I've tried to espouse this: every crossed street is its own little rock opera; there is a one-act play in every act of waiting for a bus; there is a set of lighting cues every time someone lights up outside the 7/11; there is a choreographic effort every time you try to dodge someone on the street but they go the same way and then you have that awkward series of moments where you are all unsure; there is witty playwrighing going into every rude full-scale joke; there's a buddy novel in every trip to the skating rink with the children. What I am trying to say is the mundane is the monumental portion of our lives where the ethical gets palyed out. It's not sexy to study or report on, but it is where every human being pursues their need to be esteemed and loved, and does the job adequately in most cases. But everyone ignores that. Why? Because it does not lend itself to theory-building, or to tendentious debates over the meaning of meaning, or the earnestness of irony or any other number of essay-season themes. Look at it this way: yo ualready know what to do. I'm here as a midwife. If you don't know what to do, talk to someone. You don't have to take their advice, just crystallize the issue in your head. And make the choice. Objectively, you have no free will. But you feel as if you do, so you do.

Clearly, nothing was proven. Take these thoughts. Pick through them if you want. Throw some away. Do whatever you want. Synthesize them and link them up to whatever you want. Our strength lies in our spiderweb-like networks that bounce from psychology to sociology to history to political science to sports to technology without limit. Maybe one day a reasonable facsimile of the truth will emerge.

Consider: "Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing; only when everything is in place does the door open."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Wine (Part X)

Recent drinks have tumbled through me and left me with hardly a memory that they once inhabited my body. Therefore: no psychosomatic placebo-effect-type amplification of euphoria, no loosening of bonds, no renewed ability to talk to musicians or free the intellectual teeth of the mind for another night of metaphysical scratching posts. Therefore: a fully conscious yet somehow incomplete representation of heavy rain on the streets, xylophones in cracked basements or angry crate-loaders found only in the back alleys of overcrowded markets. Therefore: the mind continues to wax analytical and keeps straining up to see the stars but it is overcast, was overcast yesterday, was overcast all month which made the brown tree branches black in some fiendish contrast, at least by my overworked rods. Therefore: the same geometric chord progression on the same guitar, twangs in the same place where the finger partially presses on the string, calluses falling to soft skin from disuse, same finger-picked progression bounding off the brown crud in front of the picture window not shaking down the horrible fire escape. No raccoons were coming to hang in front of our door, no flocks of sparrows to brighten up the dark browns with slightly brighter browns, no laughing jocks from the recenely refurbished neighbourhood bar. No clowns and trapeze artists in the backyard. No driving dance beats to bring down the eyesore of a shed in our backyard which we had such high hopes for. No inspiration from the French-language reading section in the library and no descent into adventure, no nadir from mediatio and you better believe no apotheosis. Such hopes are painfully 18th-century. If there was no wine did we at least have coocktails? No. Beers? No. Tequila? I wish. Whose voice am I speaking in? What am I lamenting? Was this a poem or was it prose? Both? Neither?

Consider: "Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend's success."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Garden Head

For someone interested in biology, I am surprisingly separated from the natural world. If you've been paying attention (not that there's any obligation) many posts will deal with urban soups, city lights, stories about subways and streetcars and alleys and bars and basements. It's sad to say, but the modern city, for all its rhapsodic and contradictory glory, is unsustainable. It will be here for the blink of an evolutionary eye and it will either be eaten by choking vines or distribute itself back into the ecosystem. Both options are on the table. They are not of equal probability, sadly.

I've recenly begun to take baby steps toward implementing all my talk into some sort of action. So I joined a gardening group for two reasons: to learn something about specific plants, and as insurance policy against starving to death in the event of violent collapse. I've only bene to one meeting, but I heard enough there to inspire me. It seems trite to say that gardening is a way of life, but it is a culture that embodies my values in a microcosm. There are people who keep seeds and maintain their lineages through the generations, people who are all about biodiversity, Native shamans whose culture complements our godless efforts, egalitarian utiltarians who just want to get some food out of fallow fields of a sprawling Canadian city, people who maintain strange personal Edens (as much as I hate to use the word). The parade of characters goes on.

So, will this help me tap into life? Into the force that animates? Into the cycles of the seasons? Into the ceremonies of a people concerned with a spirit world which is actual and all about us? Into reclaiming my own spirit which was meek and indecisive and dependent? Suddenly I don't sound so pessimistic. But such are initial bursts of enthusiasm.

Consider: "Many people's eyes glaze over when they see a complicated mathematical expression. Other people find this ridiculous. But I find it at least as elegant as a mandala. Not as elegant as math, but so it goes."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Urban Soup (Part IX)

This is the point in my life where series stall and all the threads come undone from the gestalt whole? What do I mean by "urban soups"? Where is the continuity? Who names these posts? Is it A.D.? Or is is autocompleted by blogging software eager to please? (Which raises issues about the limits of the "self" and other faux-profound impostures.) I am still trying to adequately characterize the soupiness, the thrown-ness, the diffusionary nature of what we urbanites do. We plod and find our ways into strange hallways and the corners of derelict kitchens and we talk and mingle with come who may. Very much like miso soup's little giblets making Jupiter patterns as you stir and drink. I wonder: is it belittling to the people I encounter that I cram their impressions into an overwrought metaphor that somehow spawned a series? But enough metacommentary. Nobody needs it anymore; no lessons are learned; no insights are to be had; nobody will be saved; nobody will be lost. At least not today.

It's a party. We've gathered here to furnaces turned up too high, to cigars and cigarettes and booze and pot and other things, I'm sure. We're here to stand in the hallway for a while awkwardly until the drugs can give us some approximation of a hive-mind mentality, at which point we'll be glad to spill our life stories to strangers, to talk of the end of the world, of twisters beyond the horizon, about our respective social work so as not to appear like degenerates, about the latest "noisecore". We reach the point where your humble author is pouring perfectly good wine on the floor in honour of those who could not be here today: his one ritualistic imperative, like the totemic Buddha imperative, like the don't-step-on-the-craks-or-you'll-break-your-mother's-back compulsion, like the desire to wrap up the conversation so I can take blond dreadlocks dude's wine and the impulse to clarify the different etiologies of mouth cancers and throat cancers even though by this point I'm deep in the well and just want to sleep. But there are people to talk to and tasks and pathfinding phenomena that emerge. But eventually we get onto the street to spectral playgrounds and big 3 a.m. slices and friendly winos and even some members of my alternate linguistic community. Arguments at the trees follow: alienations of memories and geodesic domes under the constellations quite like stonehenge.

I'll hedge my bets that the ambulance operators could caryr my stretcher to the emergency ward from here. Mercifully, that will not be necessary.

Consider: "Is your religion real when it costs you nothing and carries no risk? Is your religion real when you fatten upon it? Is your religion real when you commit atrocities in its name? Whence comes your downward degeneration from the original revelation?"