Sunday, December 21, 2014

means to an end

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from." 

T.S. Eliot

Every ending has its seeds in its beginning.

What to make of that?

Do we see those seeds? Do we recognize them at the outset? Likely not.

Why would we? Why would we want to?

Knowing these things does not make anything automatically easier. (I don't even know what that means. What ending is "automatic"? Or "easy"?)

Or less painful.

Aptly, today, Day 355, has these words from Thich Nhat Hanh in a compendium of his wisdom:

"Go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your feelings need you, your perceptions need you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it. Go home and be there for all these things."

Friday, December 19, 2014


Expectation, the act of expecting, pregnant with meaning. Expectation, connoting hope or desire (or wish fulfillment, consistency, constancy, as in "I expect the sun will rise tomorrow," or obedience to mathematical laws, as in "I expect two plus two will equal four tomorrow"). Expectation: a Latinate thorough looking at. But also a burden. You expect that X, Y, or Z will happen. Or you expect Z, or Y, or X to happen. At least one of them. You are sure of it. It is ordained. Preordained. You anticipate the outcome. You can see it. You can see clearly now. Except for one tiny problem: "it" is not yet now, and when the cosmic clock strikes "now" (where is "now" on the clock's face?) what you saw so clearly turns out to be different. Entirely different. Or nano-different. It is not a matter of better or worse. It is different. It is not what you expected. This new now turns out to be different from your expectation. If you were honest, you would be forced to admit that the outcome, the outcomes plural, of your expectation, your expectations plural, are always different from what you envisioned, what you saw so clearly. Be honest. Isn't that always the case, at least to an infinitesimal degree? To an infinite degree? When did something, anything, ever turn out to be exactly as you expected it to be, fully, in all dimensions, in duration, in intensity, hue, proportion, sound, and sense? So expectation is a setup, if not for disappointment, at least for surprise; if not for surprise, at least for a shift (closer, farther, dimmer, brighter, fuller, emptier) in what you thought you saw, before it even happened, even though you really weren't "seeing" anything yet because there was nothing to see. Except expectation.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

nada zilch zed

Sometimes you just ain't got nothing to say, cleverly or prosaically. Not that such a condition ever brought talk radio or TV to silence.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I'm only sleeping...

less often
even less often remembering
not one of the 100
chosen by Marina Abramovic
in The Dream Book
to retreat
into solitude
and then
relate my dream(s)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

sounds like . . .

Yesterday, an ad on the radio for "Lights on the Lake" declared something like "many new displays."



Upon quick reflection while driving, those sound-alikes came to me, who likes to noodle with words.

A friend later pointed out he has a similar misfire when he hears an ad for a local restaurant (a very good one) named Laci's Tapas Bar.


In the Eighties, when I worked on audiovisual programs, a producer told me of working on a script for a kids' program about Paul Bunyan. The script said something like, "He dragged his axe around the country," but during recording they realized "ax" sounded like a posterior part of Bunyan's anatomy.

Is there a name for this phenomenon?

Friday, December 12, 2014

the healing touch

You got there late, as is your habit, character flaw, or constant misjudgment of time constraints. St. Paul's Cathedral. Downtown Syracuse. The Hadley Chapel, a dusty taste of Olde England or late 1800s America. Four men, including yourself, scattered in straightback, wicker (?) chairs, a priest at the altar. She invites all to join her around the table. Communion. Co-union. Eucharist. Thanks. The men look sad, you think, but upon reflection find that a misperception. Sadness, yes, but a calm, subtle smiles, serenity, a hunger. You wonder, does the priest feel threatend by these four men in this cramped space? No sign of it. Besides, the sense of spiritual surrender perfumes the air like incense. After the Eucharist, the priest asks you, "Do you want the healing? You were late, and . . ." "Sure, I'm always up for some healing," you interrupt (another habit or flaw or branding characteristic). She walks up to the front. You kneel at the communion railing with its cushions. The priest, who happens to be the rector of the Cathedral parish, tells you how even if you were not present earlier, the fruits of the healing service were yours to taste. She has a small container in her hands, the holy chrism. She asks if there is any need or person you want to mention, on whose behalf you want healing extended. You are caught by surprise. You can't speak. You can name (or not name) dozens of people, endless needs, candidates for unction, salve, and balm. The emotion embarrasses you and you check it, contain it, at least outwardly. "Josephine," you say. "My mom, 98," you get out. The priest anoints your forehead with oil. Her hands touch your forehead. She lays her hands on your head, firmly, not superficially. She holds her hands on your hair, on your head, saying prayers of healing, invoking Christ to heal, repair, comfort. It's not so much the words. You may even have misheard the words. It was the human touch. You wanted to empty yourself by sobbing. Of course, you did not. (How indecorous would it be?) But this hearty touch. And when her hands lifted, you were lighter. Residual moisture rimmed the corners of your eyes. Did she know? You wondered, what if this were the moment your mother died? Does it matter? All would be well. All things would be well.


. . . and ever notice how intellectuals ooze with bland excitement over the word "text"? Oh, they love the word "text." Heaven (or God or Goddess) forbid they say passage or paragraph or poem or piece or article or essay or sentence or gospel or speech or novel or novella or epic or sermon or excerpt or rendition or reading or account or version or edition or narrative or lyric or hymn or paean or prose.


They insist on T  E  X  T.

sort of

Ever notice how academics and so-called articulate people use "sort of" in a manner, and just as habitually, that is similar to the use of "you know" by their more plebeian counterparts?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

fearful symmetry

I experienced a "fearful symmetry," a phrase from William Blake, upon watching the movie "The Railway Man" a day or so after the Senate released a report five years in the making (which I have not read) on "enhanced interrogation techniques," which is a euphemism for torture.

Yes, war (though the "war on terror" was a misnomer from the start, but that's another topic for another day) involves unspeakable, unbearable, obscene acts of treachery and degradation under the guise of honor, cause, duty, or patriotism. And it also elicits acts of heroism, bravery, selflessness, valor, sacrifice, under the same banners.

But don't people (don't I, don't you) have both a right and an obligation to ask:

What are we? What do we espouse? What do we stand for? What defines us?

I do not pretend these are simple questions evoking simple answers. Nor do I pretend to speak with authority, as I type this in a comfortable chair in a public cafe in a free society. (Allow a digression: are you "free" if you are cajoled, motivated, nudged, coerced every day by forces you do not recognize or acknowledge? I'm not talking conspiracy or paranoiac whisperings. I am referring to the relentless onslaught of consumerist stimulation that tickles our fancies and enslaves our wallets.)

At any rate, I propose the asking (and the potential answering) of these and like-minded difficult but profound questions as part of our civic discourse  -- beyond pieties, cliches, jingoism, chauvinism, and bromides.

As G.K. Chesteron said, " 'My country, right or wrong' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.' "

Monday, December 08, 2014

comma sense

Who says punctuation doesn't matter?

Don't get me wrong. Although I posture as a purist, I recognize, mostly through texting, that we humans who speak English tend to figure things out, despite missing apostrophes, periods, commas, whatnot. And I thought I heard in my linguistics course decades ago that simplification in language is actually a mark of sophistication. (I would have to research that now; comments invited to affirm, explain, or invalidate that assertion.)

On the black-pepper grinder and shaker, the instructions declare:


followed by directions for counterclockwise hand turnings for coarser or finer results.

Imagine adding a comma:


as in:

to adjust to your quotidian challenges, grind through them, yielding either coarser or finer results, peppery or not, seasoning your day, discovering its flavor and zest despite any blandness or bitterness.