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Twelve Hours in the Hole (at
Blah, blah, blah, etc., etc. Whatever!
Keep your soul serene and intact,
even if your body seems to be fragmenting and falling apart. Endure the
pleasantries of the evening anyway, watching
the tube, video-writing and being full of biscuits. (By the way, that film,
forget it. It has no substance. Try
instead, at least it has an absurd sense of humor.)
Beware. Be awake. Bemused. A window of opportunity exists, we never know for how long. "This is the day that LOVE has made, let us be glad & rejoice therein." There is plenty of time to do what must be done, even though the days and years march right on by with inexorable certainty.
Illumination often occurs at the very last instant, as in the movie American Beauty (which must be seen, in spite of its occasional grossness) -- the final reflections of Kevin Spacey's character are introduced at the very beginning of the story and extended throughout, creating a continuous reverie upon life that is perhaps possible only from the perspective of one's own death. In any case, it's now or never, more than ever!
"The wisdom of insecurity is
not a way of evasion, but
of carrying on wherever we happen to be stationed --
carrying on, however, without imagining that the burden
of the world, or even of the next moment, is ours.
It is a philosophy not of nihilism but of the reality of
the present -- always remembering that to be of the
present is to be, and candidly know ourselves to be, on
the crest of a breaking wave."
--Philip Wheelwright, Arts and Letters
The Wisdom of Insecurity
Alan W. Watts
When each moment becomes an
expectation life is deprived of fulfillment, and death is dreaded for it seems
that here expectation must come to an end. While there is life there is hope --
and if one lives on hope, death is indeed the end. But to the undivided mind,
death is another moment, complete like every moment, and cannot yield its secret
unless lived to the full--
Death is the epitome of the truth that in each moment we are thrust into the unknown. Here all clinging to security is compelled to cease, and wherever the past is dropped away and safety abandoned, life is renewed. Death is the unknown in which all of us lived before birth.
Nothing is more creative than death, since it is the whole secret of life. It means that the past must be abandoned, that the unknown cannot be avoided, that "I" cannot continue, and that nothing can be ultimately fixed. (p 117)
will not awaken the dead, Dear One.
Dulcet tones of sweetest love will sound the call, and glory full-born will appear. No fear!
crammed with Heaven,
And every common bush aflame with God,
But only he that sees takes off his shoes.
Related to the environmental challenge is
population growth. There were about 310 million people in the world in the year
1000. We have just passed the six-billion mark. We can feel the pressure of the
rising numbers, on other species and on nature generally, even in a spacious
country like the United States. In Rwanda, poor, small and densely populated,
population pressure surely contributed to sparking the genocide.
It will require all of our ingenuity and commitment to meet the challenges of environmental degradation and population growth. But even modest steps are obstructed now by ideology or a self-interest that cannot see beyond the short term.
Herman Hesse in MAGISTER LUDI
As every flower fades and as all youth
Departs, so life at every stage,
So every virtue, so our grasp of the truth,
Blooms in its day and may not last forever.
Since life may summon us at every age,
Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,
Be ready bravely, and without remorse
To find new light that old ties cannot give.
In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live.
Serenely let us move to distant places
And let no sentiment of home detain us.
The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us
But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces
If we accept a home of our own making.
Familiar habit makes for indolence,
We must prepare for parting and leave-taking
Or else remain the the slaves of permanence.
Even the hour of our death may send
Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces,
And life may summon us to newer races.
So be it, heart, bid farewell without end.
Life begins on the far side of despair.
--Jean-Paul Sartre in The Flies
Rolling Stone, December 30, 1999-January 6, 2000
HOPES FOR SOCIETY - I'd like to see a comeback for respect in the next century. Ove the last twenty years, it's become OK in America to show disrespect for other people, even the president. Honest criticism is one thing, disrespect is another. Yet the media is full of it, and so is the Internet. There's no right thing or wrong thing, just an attitude of "Put it out there and if it hurts someone, who cares?" There's not much hope in a future like that.
*CULTURAL EVENT - Since I've been
making movies, the worst thing to have happened is the tyranny of box-office
statistics. Every Monday you can turn on the television or pick up a newspaper
and read which films were successful over the weekend. You're no longer reading
think pieces or what the critics have to say. I've disagreed vehemently with
critics in the past. But they made me think. What have we got now? Numbers. It's
shocking that people base their decision to go to a movie on how many other
people did or did not pay to see it.
do not see
faults in anybody's life; do not see the faults in your own life.
Only force yourself to see all the good things you have done,
all the good things you are planning to do and all the good things that others have done.
You cannot do
a kindness too soon,
because you never know how soon it will be too late.
only be turned around once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost...
Not till we are lost, in other words not until we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves,
and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations."
David Thoreau in
BY Chrystalle M. de Lucca
Now More Than Ever, It's Now Or Never
Certain moments of traumatic
urgency will not be denied. When the time comes, birth will occur, as will
death. Nature follows its own rules. Daybreak and evening, springtime and
winter, their arrival cannot be detained.
In the realm of human events, too, there are moments of inevitability, times of radical transition that are so urgent as to require every living molecule of courageous resiliency that can be summoned. At such times, waves of irresistible change sweep us along toward inexorable goals, when all we can hope to do is just hang on and ride the waves with a calm sense of reality.
Reality can swiftly turn to surrealism in situations of extreme trauma and stress, for instance, at the passing of a close relative or friend. Time seems to stand still as we simply go through the motions of everyday life. All moments may be equally momentous, if we only knew it. Ordinary, chronological time is a fiction by which we organize our lives, but certain times remind us strikingly of the apocalyptic significance of our existence.
NASA scientists want to know what happened to the atmosphere and the oceans of Mars, especially since the life of our own planet seems to be deteriorating so rapidly. Is there a parallel? Did sentient beings blow it big time up there? And are we creating a hell here on earth as arctic ice floes melt away, along with the ozone layer, the rainforests, etc.? Dolphins are beaching themselves, as if in protest, but where is the human protest? Now more than ever, if we're going to do anything about it while there is still time, it's now or never. What we do to heal the earth at this point may be more symbolic than substantive, but how can we face our children, the people of tomorrow, and do nothing at all?
The New York Times OP-ED
Saturday, September 4, 1999
Indifferent to a Planet in Pain
By Bill McKibben - Johnsburg, NY
As the hot sun sets on this long, odd summer,
you might try staring into the nighttime sky. Several times in the last few
months, observers in the lower 48 have seen "noctilucent clouds," which develop
about 50 miles above the earth's surface -- clouds so high that they reflect the
sun's rays long after nightfall.
They're spectacular -- and they're also out of place. These odd clouds belong in far northern and southern latitudes, but global warming seems to be driving them toward the Equator. The same carbon dioxide that warms the lower atmosphere cools the next layer - the mesosphere - causing the clouds to form.
Sightings as far south as Colorado are a big event, according to Gary Thomas, a professor at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. "While they are a beautiful phenomenon," Professor Thomas told National Geographic's on-line magazine, "these clouds may be a message from Mother Nature that we are upsetting the equilibrium of the atmosphere."
Ten years ago, global warming was a strong hypothesis. Now, after a decade of intensive research, scientists around the world have formed an ironclad consensus that we are heating the planet. Almost daily some new piece of evidence appears; the weekly editions of the journals Science and Nature make "The Blair Witch Project" look like "The Baby-Sitters Club." Forget the piddling drought and heat wave that withered lawns and fields across the Northeast this summer.
Consider the real news:
Spring comes a week earlier across the Northern Hemisphere than it did just 30 years ago. Severe rainstorms have grown by almost 20 percent, precisely what you'd expect on a planet where warmer air can carry more water vapor. A Navy sonar survey conducted this summer shows that the Arctic ice sheet is in many places 40 inches thinner than its normal 10 feet. Warmer waters have bleached coral reefs around the globe. Glaciers are melting. Sea levels are rising.
The question is not what we should do. Though it's far too late to prevent global warming, it takes no special insight to deduce the policies that would slow it down. Stiff increases in the price of fossil fuels would quickly bring a new generation of renewable energy technologies to the fore. Raising fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks would end the trend to ever-bigger sport utility vehicles. And focused diplomacy and foreign aid could keep developing nations from sliding into our bad habits.
No the question is why we've done so little. In 1992, President George Bush promised the world that the United States would emit no more carbon dioxide in 2000 than it had in 1990. The Clinton Administration instead watched with little apparent concern as our emissions surged more than 10 percent. Congress refuses even to consider the baby step represented by the 1997 Kyoto accords, which would return us to 1990 levels by 2010. The issue barely even crops up in the Presidential campaigns.
The reason, I think, is that we don't yet feel viscerally the wrongness of what we're doing - not just the very rational fears about what it will be like to live in a superheated world but, even more, the simple shock that we've grown so large we can dominate everything. Earthquakes and volcanoes are the only "natural disasters" left. Everything that happens above the surface comes at least in part from us, from our appetites and our economies.
I used to wonder why my parents'
generation had been so blind to the wrongness of segregation; they were
people of good conscience, so why had inertia ruled for so long? Now I think I
understand better. It took the emotional shock of seeing police dogs rip the
flesh of protesters for white people to really understand the day-to-day
corrosiveness of Jim Crow.
We need that same gut understanding of our environmental situation if we are to take the giant steps we must take soon. Go outside: try to understand that the sun beating down, the rain pouring down, the wind blowing by are all now human artifacts. We don't live on the planet we were born on. We live on a new, poorer, simpler planet, and we continue to impoverish it with every ounce of oil and pound of coal that we burn.
In retrospect it will be clear. A hundred years from now, people may will remember the 1990's not as the decade of the Internet's spread or the Dow's ascension but as the years when global temperatures began spiking upward - as the years when rain and wind and ice and sea water began irrefutably to reflect the power and heedlessness of our species. But how bad it will get depends on how deeply and how quickly we can feel.
It depends on whether we're still capable of shock.
Bill McKibben is the author of "The End of Nature," which will be reissued this month in an updated 10th anniversary .
The Seed Catalog Movie-Go-Round / Unforgettable Scenes
Revisiting an old movie friend can be either
rewarding or disappointing. Back in the fifties I definitely fell in love with
the Stewart Granger - Deborah Kerr film,
King Solomon's Mines.
I was thrilled and intrigued every time I saw it, which was a lot inasmuch as I
was a projectionist at the Lyon's State Theatre in Franklin, VA, when it played
there for a week or more. (This was an afternoon/evening high school
work-release job.) When I saw this film again sometime ago on TV I found myself
not so absorbed with it as I had been long ago. It's still a great romantic
adventure picture, however, and light years ahead of the Richard Chamberlain
version which came out a decade or more ago and was such an embarrassingly awful
attempt to rekindle the magic of this classic.
When I revisited another favorite movie lately, The Man Who Fell To Earth with David Bowie, there was only an increase of wonder and respect. It not only is, in my opinion the best science fiction film ever, but one of the most enduringly interesting cinematic visions ever created! And it is eternally hip. Experiencing the film more than once is recommended, and it won't get tiresome, I assure you.
The opening scenes, the ball of fire tumbling to earth like an inverted rocket launch, the unsteady, gangling figure of the alien emerging into this crazy world of human and inhuman behavior -- it is all so wonderfully conceived! Lately I've been playing scenes of the movie in my mind against some of David Bowie's space tunes from the CD "Ziggy Stardust," "Station to Station," etc. What a great multi-media show that could be!
OK, one more! The Big Country -- what a vivid parable of strife, class warfare, and human reconciliation. There are so many great scenes in this gigantic, quintessential western, but my favorite would have to be when ole Burl Ives appeared in the midst of Charles Bickford's grand ball, abruptly stopping the music, this grizzled patriarch of the lowly Henneseys, confronting the "powers-that-be" so emphatically with his just complaints. Then there is Gregory Peck., that far-seeing, magnificent sea captain who has come out west to marry Carroll Baker, who gradually becomes totally frustrated by his unwillingness to prove himself or justify himself to others. "Why," she sputters tearfully, "you don't even seem to care what people think about me," he said, "I'm only responsible for what I am." But never mind, Jean Simmons is there, waiting for him in the wings, and she's much better for him anyway. I haven't visited this old friend of a movie in quite a long while, but I hope it still plays well.
Puritan, was I right to envy those Italians their bread and circus piety?
--Robert Lowell in his poem "Beyond the Alps"
about one another
what is decent, productive,
and ongoing. Leave
all the rest behind.
As God does.
As Love does.
The New York Times
As for Dylan on Dylan, in a 1991 interview with Song Talk magazine the artist downplayed his poetic ambitions:
Song Talk: Van Morrison said that you are our greatest living poet. Do you think of yourself in those terms?
Sometimes. It's within me. It's within
me to put myself up and be a poet. But it's a dedication. It's a big dedication.
Poets don't drive cars. [laughs] Poets don't go to the supermarket. Poets don't
empty the garbage. Poets aren't on the P.T.A. Poets, you know, they don't go
picket the Better Housing Bureau, or whatever... Poets don't even speak on the
telephone. Poets don't even talk to anybody. Poets do a lot of listening and...
they behave in a gentlemanly way. And live by their own gentlemanly code. And
die broke. Or drown in lakes. Poets usually have very unhappy endings.
Sometimes. It's within me. It's within me to put myself up and be a poet. But it's a dedication. It's a big dedication. Poets don't drive cars. [laughs] Poets don't go to the supermarket. Poets don't empty the garbage. Poets aren't on the P.T.A. Poets, you know, they don't go picket the Better Housing Bureau, or whatever... Poets don't even speak on the telephone. Poets don't even talk to anybody. Poets do a lot of listening and... they behave in a gentlemanly way. And live by their own gentlemanly code. And die broke. Or drown in lakes. Poets usually have very unhappy endings.
And he cast his own vote for the most talented lyricist:
Dylan: To me, Hank Williams is still the best songwriter.
The Seed Catalog
William T. Joyner, Editor
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