Mythology of Self

What is a life? I have asked myself this question not to answer it, but to be finally consoled by it. The words come easier now that the years have passed. This is not to say I am closer to an answer than before, but at least I can frame it, put it up on the wall, look at it without flinching. I have many reasons to avoid this act, not the least of which is to have ignored life itself, or worse, to have abandoned it.

Part I. October 2001

1

What is a life? I have asked myself this question not to answer it, but to be finally consoled by it. The words come easier now that the years have passed. This is not to say I am closer to an answer than before, but at least I can frame it, put it up on the wall, look at it without flinching. I have many reasons to avoid this act, not the least of which is to have ignored life itself, or worse, to have abandoned it. Neither do I mean to absolve myself of embarrassment or hypocrisies I am guilty of, nor do I want to simplify the contradictions life presents. Even as I write these words, I sense a discomfort that calls forth a need, indeed, a delicate yearning to confront every injury I have hidden in my room of betrayals. How it has come to this, the questioning of a life even as it serves the choice of words I run away from: If I allow myself to choose widely, I will end up like the uroboros, devouring its own tail, though I fear the tail-biting serpent has more validity than I do. Perhaps I should reorder my priorities and seek its wisdom.

2

I do not remember the moment when thought took center stage, and I was no longer afraid to call myself a liar. How I have hated this word since I was a child; how I despise using it now, even as I struggle to confront the truth. What justice do I seek in questioning my own fabrications? I am burdened by false despair, provoked, perhaps, by a self-righteous acquiescence to the quest, this so-called journey being in and of itself the sole victor necessitating the hard, sometimes brutal, and, most assuredly, humiliating work to unmask oneself. (Even my use of the reflexive pronoun suggests how far I must go, still, to anchor myself as my own agent.) I am like a walker of thought, digging holes out of concepts and filling them up with years of ambitious but fruitless thinking. How many days have I given over to thoughts about the meaning of life? Sophomoric thoughts, perhaps, but not idle ones. Why am I here? Does God exist? If God does not exist, then is life absurd, as the existentialists claim? Most persistently, however, and more grievous, is the thought that has followed me into adulthood and, which, I have been unable to shake off. Am I being dreamed? I do not know the source of these inquiries, and perhaps, from some perspectives, they can rightly be called blasphemies. Still, I have not escaped the spiritual and physical angst I have endured to this day because of them. Perhaps I have insulted my readers, but if so, may they take comfort in my inner turmoil. I fear, even now, that digging holes out of concepts is no wiser than projecting gods and goddesses above the escarpment.

3

In Metaphysics: Concept and Problems, Theodor Adorno states in Lecture Twelve: “It is a peculiarity of metaphysical thinking . . . that the conceptual operations it performs, which aim initially at something like a critique of mythological beings, repeatedly end in reinstating these mythical beings, or the divinity; but it no longer does so in a belief in the direct experience or the sensible perceptibility or the substantial existence of the divinitis or divinity, but on the basis of conceptual thoughts.”

4

do I dream a girl walking? or is the dream a mirror image of a girl who walks? her form. her shape. the size of her. her long hair. who is she? where is she going?

5

What does an image hold? How does it mean? Can it ever become the content of things substantial, or is it always only a mental picture of something incorporeal—in the mind’s eye of the poet or philosopher? (“The apparition of these faces in the crowd, / Petals on a wet, black bough.” Ezra Pound) Can an image hold in itself the objective world as that which is both real and not real, immanent and transcendent, God and not-God? Or is God a painful illusion, an image we posit as a consequence of our long strings of DNA demanding the existence of a Transcendent Being. If only we could experience the radiant joy of mystics who see God face to face, rather than projecting ourselves into the experience as a mediated one, or worse, as a leap of faith. Perhaps the girl/image can know metaphysical truths that bring her closer to God. Perhaps she does not need any proof at all. But is she happier? Or is she still in pain.

6

What a mess I have created. My words split apart like two halves of the same creature, distinctly different but the same, nevertheless. They eat with the same mouth, see with the same set of eyes, walk with the same pair of legs. I do not make sense to myself. How can I hope to make sense to others, when the inside and the outside are hopelessly bisected as if there were, in fact, a material I/Not-I complex? Perhaps the route to wholeness is through this complex; I cannot tell if this is, indeed, a true point of departure, but if I allow myself to posit such a concept, then at least I will feel as though I have done something brave: I have challenged the bifurcation. I lie to myself, even now, believing that I can explicate wholeness. Does it exist? Is it concealed in words, concepts, images, and symbols that connect two halves; affirm the first reality; clarify the truth? I apologize for my obfuscations, as if I am thoughtlessly intending to obscure the meaning of my own imagined identity. If you wish to curse me now, I do not blame you. I am my own worst enemy, a corporeal configuration of the incorporeal I/Not-I complex.

7

is she a dream? an image? a symbol? or a concept signing her to be

8

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value. The themes of metaphysics are all the Big Ones: True Being, The One, The Absolute, God, Immortality. The Urgrund.

9

can one be dead even as one is alive? is she alive or just a dream

10

In Lecture Fifteen Adorno claims that culture has failed to its very core. “It can be said that Auschwitz and the world of Auschwitz have made clear something which was not a surprise to those who were not positivists but had a deep, speculative turn of mind: that culture has failed to its very core.” He gave this lecture to the College de France on July 20,1965.

Edward Said describes 9/11 as “the carefully planned and horrendous, pathologically motivated suicide attack and mass slaughter by a small group of deranged militants.”

11

after 9/11 i fear the entrapment of our being-ness by the totality of annihilation

12

Is it possible that all of this—the search for some affirmation of life—will lead to my own metaphysical demise, as if in the search I will be reduced to a cipher, a mere image of memory, or worse, a self-enclosed symbol like the uroboros? Perhaps l should be pleasantly surprised that such an image/symbol would emerge, and I should, therefore, enthusiastically embrace it as a sign pointing toward wholeness. But since I am in the process of renouncing such myth-making attachments, I do not like being linked to my own tail. Perhaps I can posit a concept of wholeness. What comes after? Or does such a reality exist? If so, does it exist in others even if it does not exist in me? Thus, is it autonomous to the person and never contagious? I do not know if I can stand up under the scrutiny of the I/Not-I complex. I fear I am becoming muddle-headed, intent on proving my point without fact-checking the truth and validity of my argument. Perhaps I should return to mythmaking and consider myself lucky that I have escaped without permanent damage to my central core. Perhaps the uroboros has some value, after all. This eternal mandala.

13

Adorno claims that the so-called mind-body problem dominating western thinking has its conception in Aristotle’s division of the human being into the material and the immaterial. It is the common problem of the dualism of body and soul.

14

the girl as dream? or image walking into wholeness as clarifying reality, both material and immaterial, not higher or lower, but as one with the I/Not-I complex: a dot matrix process of mental pictures projecting the I/Not-I as filmic inner life onto screens, with vicarious dream-life detail. girl/image as deterrent to thought? provocation to thought? vehicle as sign inside thought? sense utility of meaning as image to being? girl as

15

Alchemists appropriated the ancient symbol of the uroboros, or tail-eating serpent, to drive the point home that all matter is essentially one and that it can only be made perfect through death and rebirth. Thus, the serpent has no beginning and no end; it devours itself and renews itself. Life and death, creation and destruction, an unending circular process, out of the one comes the other.

16

When Thomas H. Huxley, the British scientist, coined the word “agnostic” in the mid-eighteenth century, he combined the prefix “a”-“without, not” and the Greek word “gnosis”-knowledge. He claimed he was without knowledge of things that did not belong in the material world.

agnostic: one who believes that there can be no proof of the existence of God but does not deny the possibility that God exists.

Part I. Notes

  • Theodor W. Adorno, Metaphysics: Concept and Problems, Ed. Rolf Tiedemann, Translated by Edmund Jephcott (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1970, 2000), 88.
  • The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Third Edition, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992).
  • Adorno, 118.
  • Edward W. Said, “The Clash of Ignorance,” The Nation, October 22, 2001, 12.
  • Adorno, 83.
  • Allison Courdert, Alchemy: The Philosopher’s Stone (Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Publications, 1980), 142.
  • The American Heritage Dictionary.

Part II. January 7, 2002

1

I search for the voice that tells me who I am. Or may be. Or might become. Or not. Even after a hiatus imposed at will, I fear I have lost it, never to regain its mysterious resonance. Or perhaps in its autonomous journey apart, I fear it has learned how to renounce what I have struggled to define since it first appeared in its primary authenticity, as an extension of some indiscriminate existential groping to understand life as more than a given grace. After too many years of dormancy, you can understand my fear, can’t you? Think of how you, yourself, might strategize to sustain clarity in your own conditional state, and how, upon achieving a modicum of success, you ever so naively neglect to hear it tremble as it slips away into the uroboric soup: How your guilt disdains recovered awareness. How your shame tacks into fear. How your anger justifies unresolved negligence, even as you do not notice its articulate absence. Please do not wish upon me a similar fate, however subtly I feel your pull toward the bifurcated center. For to lose myself in you would be a bad stroke of luck, indeed, or worse, an irremediable despair into the ambiguity of the I/Not-I complex. I do not know if I will avoid that fate, or if it is even inevitable, but for now I pull myself together to describe the voice in all its multiple narratives, its descriptive destinies. I wish myself well. I do not speak of betrayal. Not now. Not, surely, as I dream on both sides of the diagonal the evanescent source of a specific timbre of knowing.

2

when is one man’s premise another man’s death?

3

The New York Times: November 23, 2001

A huge bomb effective at killing and terrifying troops, the BLU-82 “daisy cutter,” was dropped south of the Kandahar stronghold on Wednesday, a spokesman for the United States Central Command said today.

“The bomb is designed to explode three feet above the ground, sending a devastating wave of fire and blast several hundred yards to kill troops, flatten trees, knock over structures and demoralize those beyond the immediate impact zone.”

4

As I grow older, I rely less and less on guidebooks of living or social maxims or religious instructions to tell me how to live, even as I respect these traditional modes of moral conveyance. As a child, religious instruction was the indispensable authority that instilled in me an abject fear of God and eternal damnation, a superpower wrestling with a weakling. I did not realize until much later in life that my war with the Word was more an asymmetric assault on my mental DNA than it was a yielding up of blessed faith. Even as Karl Marx insulted a variety of persons when he declared religion to be a crutch, his derogation blends possibilities of truth. Which is more destructive? The believer who believes in his absolute belief? Or the seeker who seeks to dissolve form and matter, multiplicity and the one, possibility and reality in order to posit that subjectivity actually conditions or constitutes truth and objectivity. And even as I abided the Word and feared eternal damnation, I was no better off for it. My soul continues to heal to this day. For what is the relation between possibility and reality if it is not in the dissolution of the equation itself, where the seeker seeks surprise and wholeness in words that unmask beings of truth.

5

smokescreen: 1. A mass of dense artificial smoke used to conceal military areas. 2. An action or statement used to conceal actual plans or intentions.

6

she dreams reality as mother’s other dead face of distinction. it is her way of discriminating among mediums to say what she knows as objective awareness, the language learned in triple-decked realms of strings—not projected mental ensembles—

7

I do not know why I write about my mother just now. She died fourteen years ago and would have been eighty-two years old this year. Although I think about her every day, the grief is somewhere else. There is a bodily release when it is over. But grief, when it is full-blown, is like disease itself: It takes up residence inside you and grows more solid until it becomes the real structure of things. Grief is strange that way. It magnifies the smallest indiscretion and oppresses even a magnanimous gesture. I wanted desperately for her to live a healthy life—to eat better, exercise, to take care of herself. She was not one to focus on her body’s needs; my mother lived for others: her daughters, her grandchildren, my father, her friends. Did I need to control her mortality? As one who analyzes the cause in and of itself , I am perplexed by the inadequate and ineffectual answers I come up with as to the reason why I saw, for the first time, how truly fragile she was. We were watching the 1984 Summer Olympics barely twenty-five miles from her living room, and I was massaging her arthritic feet with herbal lotion. My mother died four years later, and I have no more knobby feet to touch. I think of her now as a novitiate into the wisdom-ed dead. She invites me to sit on rocks and eat barley cakes, and I hear her voice sorting through my blindness.

8

We humans have evolved as endurance runners. This is a claim Bernd Heinrich makes in his book, Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us About Running and Life. We are natural-born endurance runners with fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers about evenly distributed. Our flexible Achilles tendons, our arched feet, our strong big toes give us our running gait. Our lungs, blood and circulatory system supply the oxygen for aerobic processing. Our bipedalism increases exposure to convective cooling. And we perspire like no other animal. Perhaps, as hunters, Heinrich suggests, we even outran enough mastodons to push them to extinction.

9

metaphor. a hiding behind words. word volumes of masking. volumes of masking words. mask as word agent? metaphor. to carry. origin. source. motive. convergence of memory. conveyance of moment. the a priori unmasking. the smokescreen-destruct.

[Middle English methaphor, from Old French metaphore, from Latin metaphora, from Greek, transference, metaphor, from metapherein, to transfer: meta-, meta + pherein, to carry; see bher1 in Appendix.]

bher1. Important derivates are bear, burden, birth, bring, fertile, differ, offer, prefer, suffer, transfer, furtive, and metaphor. To carry; also to bear children.

10

Adorno in Lecture Seven. “But the question that has given such force to the concept of subjectivity in the history of modern philosophy—the question whether subjectivity actually conditions or constitutes truth and objectivity—is alien to the whole of ancient philosophy.”

11

The New York Times December 3, 2001

US MAKING WEAPONS TO BLAST UNDERGROUND HIDE-OUTS

GBU-28 laser-guided “bunker buster” plunges 100 feet into the earth to destroy command bunkers

“Deep Digger” rapid-fire cannon eats into rock or reinforced concrete with a series of blasts

AGM-86D strikes hardened, buried target complexes and detonates inside

Advanced Unitary Penetrator drives through the earth like a nail

Thermobaric Bomb detonates in a tunnel creating a wave of high pressure to kill people

12

Where does this desire to be a more reflective and calmer, more gentle and kinder person come from? The craving to be at peace with oneself, to resolve the inherent contradictions, to ameliorate the inner conflict—is this a quest that pays in the end? Or is it a futile search, in some sense so banal and ineffectual that it becomes a tired cliché? After all, shouldn’t one understand from the beginning that growth happens because of an internal dialectic that favors inner turmoil? One does not attain enlightenment by staring at stars. Or does one. In my youth I really believed that your essence drives you toward self-fulfillment, and you become yourself and only yourself because this is who you are meant to become. Although I fastened on Aristotle’s concept of entelechy to help me implement this process of actuality, it seems a dubious proposition to me now. To claim a person has an essence—or is an essence—does not console me, as it did then, but rather instills a qualifiable fear in me, with its certitude and absoluteness, its determinism that makes me, a priori, one thing or the other when the end comes. Neither chance nor free will enters into the equation of essences, nor the fragile moment when choices are offered and decisions are made and consequences are, intentionally or unintentionally, rendered. One must accept, eventually, yourself as the actor who does the act and are yourself the agent. And yet, entelechy had such an authoritative ring to it, precisely because it had Aristotle’s stamp of approval on it. Entelechy flowered inside my youthful mind like a weed choking off other more useful concepts, in time and imagination. In some counterintuitive way, it seems almost more instructive now to listen to the footsteps of the dead, with all of their inscrutable intentions and influences, charting the silent interaction between the here and the there and the continual transfer of our molecules and their vibrating soul strings.

13

In Edward Said’s landmark book Orientalism, he describes the debilitating effect of the “hegemonism of possessing minorities”: “A white middle-class Westerner believes it is his human prerogative not only to manage the nonwhite world but also to own it, just because by definition ‘it’ is not quite as human as ‘we’ are. There is no purer example than this of dehumanized thought.”

14

she is the one who wants to know. she is the agent, the cause, the motive maker. she is the indescribable barrier, the desire to describe, narrate, invent, imagine. she is a deserter to the cause of unity. she is multiplicity in movement. she is subjective truth in objective apparel

15

Surely, we cannot help but notice the asymmetry inherent in the war waged in Afghanistan by the United States against a ragtag opposition like the Taliban, with no air defense to speak of, impotent to defend itself against hi-tech precision weaponry relentlessly bombing their targets day against battle-hardened troops. One day the asymmetry will make itself known.

16

The New York Times December 11, 2001

“A 15,000-pound bomb, nicknamed Daisy Cutter, was dropped against a mountain-face with a number of caves believed to be shielding Al Qaeda leadership.

“The bomb, officially known as the BLU-82, is designed to explode three feet above the ground, sending a devastating wave of fire and blast several hundred yards to kill troops, flatten trees, knock over structures, collapse cave entrances, and, in general, demoralize those beyond the immediate impact.

“‘There is a psychological effect of having a munition of 15,000 pounds of explosive capability that’s brought into a very narrowly defined area,’ said Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeam, deputy director of planning and operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Part II. Notes

  • “U.S. Hits Caves in bin Laden Hunt; Battle Rages in North,” The New York Times, November 23, 2001.
  • Adorno, 48.
  • The American Heritage Dictionary.
  • American Scientist, January-February No. 2. Book Review by David Schoonmaker, 87.
  • Adorno, 48.
  • Andrew C. Revkin, “U.S. Making Weapons to Blast Underground Hide-Outs,” The New York Times, December 3, 2001, A-1.
  • Edward W. Said, Orientalism, (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), 108.
  • “Taliban is Defeated, Pentagon Says, But War Goes on As Caves Are Besieged,” The New York Times, December 11, 2001.

Part III. January 30, 2002

1

Sometimes, if I listen too long to myself, I think, perhaps, I will become irrelevant. The side of me that quests for wholeness measures its moments of truth, its advance toward the real self, in suicidal gasps of fear at the diffuse need of the other side to slow things down, to muck it all up with guilt and shame, whether real or imagined. This amorphous presence, this other side—cause or consequence of the I/Not complex?—bares its ineluctable need to conquer an already dreadful wasteland of repressed shame for letting oneself down. For squandering given gifts or not using them in the first place. Of guilt for not pleasing others, for having done them wrong and then not doing them right. Of fear for being imperfect and then failing to recuse the imperfections. When, if ever, is it humanly possible to look at oneself without fear or shame, without guilt at the figure cut by the reflection in a divided flask? The real self is, I propose, a fictitious enterprise I have unfailingly defended over the years, a barrier to that specific chaos of adumbrations: those sketchy, unfilled dots whose numbers can never trace the secret of infinity.

2

Dr. Kenneth M. Lanzetta, an astrophysicist who has analyzed recent images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, reports that star and galaxy formation burst forth like a “fireworks of creation.” Perhaps as many as 14 billion years ago, an explosion occurred that created the universe. This theoretical explosion, called The Big Bang, was the birthplace of what we see in our skies today and what we can only imagine billions of light years away. Dr. Lanzetta estimates that this early star formation began perhaps 500 million years after the Big Bang.

3

she recuses the self to further definition. to provoke the mask-like arsenal of lies. that archeological dig. those miasmic truths. worse, lies forbidding authentication or a large vocabulary of dust and metaphor scrims. to ensnare? to enslave? to enthrall? to split reality into appearances as non-identities. the real as form as acquisition of banal matter. squishy her. squishy you

4

Said argues in Orientalism that the relationship between the “Orient” and the “Occident” is one of power and domination and hegemony. The Orient experience of Arabs and Islam provides the West with one of its deepest images of “the Other.” This Orient, this “Other,” has been, since the post-Enlightenment period and into the modern age, the discourse “by which European culture was able to manage—and even produce—the Orient politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically, and imaginatively.” Said continues: “We must take seriously Vico’s great observation that men make their own history, that what they can know is what they have made, and extend it to geography: as both geographical and cultural entities—to say nothing of historical entities—such locales, regions, geographical sectors as ‘Orient’ and ‘Occident’ are man-made. Therefore as much as the West itself, the Orient is an idea that has a history and a tradition of thought, imagery, and vocabulary that have given it reality and presence in and for the West. The two geographical entities thus support and to an extent reflect each other.”

5

miasma: 1. A noxious atmosphere or influence. 2a. A poisonous atmosphere formerly thought to rise from swamps and putrid matter and cause disease. b. A thick, vaporous atmosphere or emanation. [Greek, pollution, stain. From miainein, to pollute]

6

The narrative of voice is the story of place and how it finds childhood in memory and time and the imagined universe of being. It is the story of infinity and how stars like urns on dark nights carry peculiar projections of disintegration and death. It is the story of beginnings and ends as silent form curving back on itself. It is the story of value breaking into the world. Of individuals in their sensuous particularity. Of identity. Of names. Still, each one of us harbors the elusive fear that we might not be all there is. We might be a frail rendition of the real thing, hard-wired to forget the silence of chaos, as the ever louder synaptic concert recounts tall tales of our otherwise feeble existence. We might be a lie. We might be a memory. We might be the roar of the ocean at night and the first feel of sand in the morning. We might be the dampness of sheets or the voices in the next room telling their own tall tales. We might also be a sentimental story. We might be a fondness, an admirable recollection of persuasive anecdotes coeval with a stranger chrestomathy. We might be, as well, the universal pathos reticent in its concrete historicism.

7

“The horror arrived in episodic bursts of chilling disbelief, signified first by trembling floors, sharp eruptions, cracked windows. There was the actual unfathomable realization of a gaping, flaming hole in [the] first one of the tall towers, and then the same thing all over again in its twin. There was the merciless sight of bodies helplessly tumbling out, some of them in flames.”

8

what kind of hard-wired animals are we, anyway?

9

Chaos. Silence. The Universal Mind. Beginnings. Ends. Infinity. Cosmic Presences. War. Justice. Peace. Who are we? Why are we here? What comes next? On January 20, 2002, my niece Eve Whiteley Campeau writes to me:

“If all that existed in the world was purity and good, then we would have achieved the ultimate silence, and in that silence is nothingness, and in that nothingness is the extinction of our physical beings as we understand it. Therefore, I believe it is up to the individual conscience to take it upon itself to attempt to find this path for its own sake (not in an ego sake, but for the recognition that it is the only way to find that pure state and ultimately find its way to peace). It is the individual soul’s and sole responsibility to take that journey which is why it can be lonely and difficult as it often means letting go of the human world as we know it.”

10

A Found Poem

In the beginning

the Big Bang spewed intense radiation and energy.

Within a few cooling minutes protons and neutrons formed,

then joined to create light elements

like hydrogen, helium and lithium. Finally, these atomic nuclei captured

electrons

to form atoms. By 300,000 years,

the universe was composed mostly of clouds of hydrogen and

helium atoms. But

all was darkness, and astronomers refer to this as the dark age. Little is

known

or even surmised about conditions then, but at some point

slightly higher densities of hydrogen

grew larger and clumpier

until they presumably collapsed

of their own gravity and became stars and galaxies of stars.

Then there was light.

11

inside the wheel transcendence pierces the abyss as downward or inward movement toward the unfathomable, the limitless, the unformed. away from surface, facade, mask. god as wheel in a closed universe? as imagistic confluence marking the periphery of the abyss, a solipsistic danger, perhaps? perhaps. perhaps a truer version to know. to value. she rides out its consonance as a blinking memory deep and far away

12

Adorno in Lecture Nine: “Philosophy has the curious characteristic that, although itself entrapped, locked inside the glasshouse of our constitution and our language, it is nevertheless able constantly to think beyond itself and its limits, to think itself through walls of its glasshouse. And this thinking beyond itself into openness—that, precisely, is metaphysics.”

13

The New York Times December 16, 2001

A deadly repertoire of air superiority: “B-52s, B-1s, Navy Jets, Predator Drones, AC-130 Special Operations gunships.

“The destructive potential of the American airstrikes is evident on a devastated ridge on the way to a hilltop command post, now occupied by the local Afghan fighters allied with Washington.

“Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters had occupied the ridge and used it to shell the road below. Now it is a ghostly region where the trees are merely splintered fragments, small bits of clothing are spread about like confetti and the metal remains of cluster bombs litter the ground.”

14

Tim Flannery, in his book The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples, describes the ecological conditions of North America 13,800 years ago when the Clovis people—the probable first inhabitants—entered the southern part of the continent. At that time the part of the continent we now call Alaska was divided from the rest by a great continental ice sheet. When the ice began to melt, a southern portal was opened to these Clovis people. Flannery describes this southern gateway as a “narrow corridor between the retreating Laurentide and Cordilleran ice caps. It was an inhospitable, frigid, and boggy corridor largely devoid of life. People may have shunned it for centuries, but finally someone decided to explore it. After threading their way past freezing mires, louring walls of ice and through dense fog for a hundred miles or more, those early explorers emerged somewhere near present-day Edmonton. To the south lay an enormous, megafauna dotted plain. A whole New World, stretching almost from pole to pole, lay before them.”

15

What is health? What is disease? How do we identify and describe the vulnerabilities toward disease in individuals? families? societies? nations? What is disease in the world? For example, is war a world disease? Are stockpiling nuclear weapons a world disease? Manufacturing chemical and biological weapons? Selling guns, grenades, cluster bombs, tanks, attack jets, radar systems, missile launchers? Is torture a world disease? And genocide? Totalitarianism, fascism, racism, religious fanaticism—are these world diseases? What is health? Is wholeness the foundation of health? Is it a fiction, an aspiration, or a realistic goal of individuals? societies? nations? the world? Can societies be whole without whole individuals? Can individuals be whole in diseased societies? Do societies implode when they are top-heavy with diseased individuals? Can societies self-heal?

16

she dreams the dust as falling birds

Part III. Notes

  • John Noble Wilford, “Stars Burst On Scene Ensemble, Astronomer Suggests,” The New York Times, January 9, 2002, A-21.
  • Said, 1,3, 4-5.
  • The American Heritage Dictionary.
  • N.R. Kleinfield, “U.S. Attacked. Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers and Hit Pentagon in Day Of Terror, The New York Times, September 12, 2001, A-1.
  • Personal correspondence with Eve Whiteley Campeau, January 20, 2002.
  • Wilford, A-21.
  • Adorno, 68.
  • “Tora Bora Campaign Advancing Slowly,” The New York Times, December 16, 2001, B-2.
  • Tim Flannery, The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its People.(New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001), 180.

Part IV. February 25, 2002

1

I am a geography of one. The boundaries of my geography are human made, but they are not a given. Yet, I have fortified myself within these imposed geographical boundaries since birth. I have become a region and a state and a nation and a continent all rolled into one, a global impostor ready and willing to betray my own imposition. Oftentimes, via oppression, as in colonialism or imperialism or totalitarianism, and torture, states and nations and continents oppress even the slightest virtue of my fictional culture and draw the outlines of my geography without a hint of foresight and prophecy. Over the years I have drawn and redrawn the geography. Still, I stay the same. I have become that character in my own book, the one I write now, the one I have written inside my head since l can remember my first home on the edge of the bay and the sound of gulls closing in as my mother strolls me in my carriage toward those creatures flying overhead. These gulls are not images or metaphors. They are not motive or cause. They are the natural consequences of sight and memory. That it should be otherwise I have layered in deep history. If only I had understood this fiction a long time ago, these boundaries as a not given.

2

money = power

3

A hypothetical picture of the evolutionary tree of life may eventually be rendered more like a primordial copse than a tidy central park of distinctive trunks and their identifiable branches. Over the last twenty-five years, scientists have studied the mutations of genes from hundreds of species, and they have identified three major branches on this evolutionary tree: bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes. The eukaryotes are probably of most interest because it is the branch that includes humans, along with plants, fungi, and protozoa, albeit we, as part of the animal grouping, occupy a mere few twigs at the tip of the branch. In the 1990s, scientists began to sequence the entire genomes of microbes, and to their astonishment, they discovered that these primordial microbes on these so-called distinct branches had swapped genes many times. Microbiologist Carl Woese, the first scientist to recognize the evolutionary distinction among the three branches, hypothesized that around the time when the “DNA world” was emerging from the “RNA world,” the RNA replicating function was so sloppy that only simple mutations could survive. Rather than being passed down from one generation to the next, as would happen if the replicating function had “careful proofreading enzymes,” simple protein mutations moved only from one microbe to another. These wandering microbial genes, Woese suggests, were our common ancestors. Only after more complicated systems of genes evolved and then became more specialized could they replicate their DNA more accurately. Thus, clear lines of descent emerged out of the copse of early evolution with each branch of organisms carrying a “jumble of genes as a reminder of our promiscuous past.” Woese claims that on the early Earth “there was no genealogy. Life had not yet separated into distinct lineages, and thus no single species lies at the base of the tree of life. Our common ancestor was every microbe that lived on the early Earth: a fluid matrix of genes that covered the planet.”

4

can the good claim absolute value and thus demolish the shadow of its own projection?

5

The New York Times “Rumsfeld Defends Treatment by U.S. of Cuba Detainees”

“Mr. Rumsfeld spoke in an unusual briefing that stretched over an hour in an attempt, he said, to ‘tap down some of this hyperbole.’ It was prompted by a rising tide of international criticism after the Defense Department released photographs over the weekend that showed some of the prisoners kneeling before their captors, their legs in shackles, their hands bound in manacles, their mouths covered by surgical masks and their eyes blinded by large goggles with black tape.

“His comments came as criticism swelled from abroad. Critics said the United States was using sensory deprivation and other psychological control techniques to weaken the prisoners so that interrogations would be more fruitful. The International Committee of the Red Cross, in a rare break with its code of not publicly criticizing detaining governments, said America might have violated the Geneva Convention’s rules against making a spectacle of prisoners by distributing the pictures, which were published worldwide.

“Amnesty International sought access to the prisoners in Guantanamo and said they should be allowed to have lawyers.

“Keeping prisoners incommunicado, sensory deprivation, the use of unnecessary restraint and the humiliation of people through tactics such as shaving them are all classic techniques employed to break the spirit of individuals ahead of interrogation, the organization said.”

6

+ access = plutocracy

7

when she dresses the image does the dream hide the dress? repress the motive? rationalize thought? the final purpose? the cause? obsessions in dreams. in images. obsessions as bodily re­-enactment from the time of gulls. in her multiplexed identity she discusses this matrix of fertile abandonment before heartache packs the cardboard metaphors with coffee grinds and pieces of sandpaper reality. to ingather the bifurcation. besides, she cannot rapture or yearn the nonconformity as conformity conforms conforming: not like a bricked-up glasshouse buried inside a deader mausoleum. thus, the system closes up, the wheel salivates as when she grows the dead weeds inversely. didn’t it just break your heart? to recognize the deep history of self? her adjudication of the telos in her old age, so off and far away—these molecules recycled in asteroids

8

power: 1. The ability or capacity to perform or act effectively. 2. Often powers. A specific capacity, faculty, or aptitude: her powers of concentration. 3. Strength or force exerted or capable of being exerted; might. See Synonyms at strength. 4. The ability or official capacity to exercise control; authority. 5. A person, group, or nation having great influence or control over others: the western powers. 6. The might of a nation, political organization, or similar group.

[Middle English, from Old French pooir, to be able, power, from Vulgar Latin *potere, to be able, from potis, able, powerful. See poti- in Appendix 1.]

poti – Important derivatives are possess, power, possible, potent, and impotent.

9

“Terrorists, like viruses, are everywhere. There is no longer a boundary that can hem terrorism in; it is at the heart of the very culture it’s fighting with, and the visible fracture (and the hatred) that pits the exploited and underdeveloped nations of the world against the West masks the dominant system’s internal fractures. It is as if every means of domination secreted its own antidote. Against this almost automatic form of resistance to its power, the system can do nothing. Terrorism is the shock wave of this silent resistance.”

10

I do not know when, precisely, I stopped believing in the perfectibility of humankind. The abstraction itself—of perfectibility—was, for me, not only an ideal worthy of incorporation into my moral makeup, but it was also a necessary praxis in living out my ups and downs, and, most problematically, in my interior battleground between good and evil. The problem was that perfectibility had become its own raison d’être. It had become a futile reification. Growing up, I figured if I tried hard enough, if I held myself accountable for each and every flaw, if I examined my actions with due diligence, I could be, if not perfected, at least perfectible in the process. I could hold my head up and claim a modicum degree of accomplishment in conquering the most dubious and wretched parts of myself. But to all those who believe this: I have not succeeded in this effort. In fact, I have given it up altogether. I have thrown it to the winds. I am stranded now on a desert island where the sand haze and wind haze commingle in shadow and invisibility and the force of their intersection produces an ambiguous shift in perception, movement, act. Perhaps the flaw in this superhuman quest toward perfectibility lies in a confounded childhood brain absorbing the multifarious and ambivalent societal messages, such as: If you are worth anything you will climb the ladder to the top. You will win the gold medal. You will be a superstar. Maybe I have not been seriously damaged by my idealistic quest, or my adolescent belief in this cultural myth of perfectibility and progress. On the other hand, I fear I may have betrayed the more important and concomitant voice. To speak up. To speak out. To shout, if necessary, to be heard. Have I caused damage beyond repair? For, who am I apart from—whom? If I could peek in a while, would I recognize the phantom from the body, the doodads from the soul?

11

What is good and evil? Absolutes of inextricable fates? False universals? Psychologies of assault? Disintegrative wheels of discourse? Dehumanized reductionisms? Are we ripe for a new paradigm?

12

Adorno in Lecture Sixteen: “It is, I would say, a metaphysical fallacy into which I should like to prevent you from falling to believe that because culture has failed; because it has not kept its promise; because it has denied human beings freedom, individuality, true universality; because it has not fulfilled its own concept, it should therefore be thrown on the scrap-heap and cheerfully replaced by the cynical establishment of immediate power relationships. One of the most dangerous errors now lurking in the collective unconscious—and the word error is far too weak and intellectual for it—is to assume that because something is not what it promises to be, because it does not yet match its concept, it is therefore worse than its opposite, the pure immediacy which destroys it. On these grounds too, therefore, for reasons arising from the dialectical nature of culture, the abstract separation of culture from metaphysics which is taken for granted today cannot be endorsed.”

13

she integrates the terror: absorbs the external/ internal conflict between good and evil—the eternal bifurcation—is it a snare? the uroboros spins into a heap of symbols like so many globalized apples on a truck driving to nowhere. as if: Rumpelstiltskin Redux

14

The evolution of anatomically modern homo sapiens is a mere blink of the eye in the long, almost incomprehensible narrative of the evolution of life on Planet Earth. The Earth formed 4.55 billion years ago. Carbon, the earliest chemical existence of life, was found 3.85 billion years ago in sedimentary rocks in what is now southwestern Greenland.

Bacteria—cyanobacteria—were discovered in the 1970s in what is now western Australia. Looking like living blue-green algae, they date back to 3.5 billion years ago. Eukaryotes, the group of organisms that includes humans, were found in the mid-1990s inside ancient shales in what is now northwest Australia and have been dated to 2.7 billion years ago. Plants evolved only 500 million years ago. Insects and other invertebrates moved onto land 450 million years ago. Amphibians began to evolve 320 million years ago, mammals and dinosaurs 225 million years ago. With the great asteroid impact in the Yucatan Peninsula causing the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, mammals began to dominate planet Earth. Around 5 million years ago, the ancestors of humans and chimpanzees began to diverge from a common ancestor.

Paleoanthropologists have found fossils of hominids—human-like species—as far back as 4.4 million years ago. Australopithecus anamensis lived 4.2 million years ago. Australopithecus afarensis lived about 3.9 to 3 million years ago. Homo ergaster, the first hominid to be considered a human being, left Africa by 1.7 million years ago and reached what is now the Republic of Georgia near the Caspian Sea. Around 1 million years ago, hominids were moving into Asia and Europe, and by 800,000 years ago they had invaded the “Old World” from Spain to Indonesia. Between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago scientists estimate that biologically modern humans evolved in Africa. And 50,000 years ago they pushed out of Africa to “replace all other species of humans across the Old World.” Modern homo sapiens had become the dominant species in a mere blink of the eye.

15

“‘We campaign against the violation of prisoners’ human rights the world over, whoever is responsible for the violations and whoever the prisoners are. There can be no double standards in human rights—they are universal and indivisible, and it is only by upholding those principles that real justice can be done, Amnesty International concluded.”

16

My geography is not a given. It is not a gift. It is not a grace. It is not a sin, either. Not original. Not final. How many prayers do we have to say to unpray the disaster of a boarded-up, boundaried geography? Confined inside this given geography, this make-believe pen like cows and pigs and goats—agriculture at its most sublime—we mistake the cause for reason, the process for desire. Once in a while, you catch reality on the other side of the world as it blinks its effulgent vision toward you (as in a documentary you direct in the morning and edit at night on the underside of your eyelid), and you explicate the roadmap of underground caves brimming with primordial designs: to unleash the preferred subversion, the indefinable mostly wild subverter. My geography is not a given. I press toward my definition of the narrowly visible marks of the invisible boundaries, my haunt a presumptuous geography constrained between oppressive discourse and the film rolling backwards like a majestic wheel dragging these boundaries to a newly awkward assignation I plot to reconfigure.

Part IV. Notes

  • Carl Zimmer, Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, 102-103, 108-109.
  • Katharine Q. Seelye, “Rumsfeld Defends Treatment by U.S. of Cuba Detainees,” The New York Times, January 23, 2002, A 1.
  • American Heritage Dictionary.
  • Jean Baudrillard, “L’Esprit Du Terrorisms,” Harper’s Magazine, February 2002, 14.
  • Adorno, 127.
  • Zimmer, 70-71, 65-66, 165, 262-264, 267-268, 295.
  • Amnesty International Website, “USA: Amnesty International requests access to Guantanamo base,” January 22, 2002.

Part V. March 22, 2002

1

I have forgotten my reader. My dear reader. I remembered her once and now I have forgotten where she comes from. Where she is going. The one who wills the narrative. The one who tells the story. How old is she? ls she this old? She is a riddle, dear reader. A riddle of fear, perhaps. Maybe a riddle of origin. Surely, one should know where one comes from. If not, how can one begin the journey? Maybe she is the one who tears the whole apart. Puts it back together. Perhaps I should fear this about you too, dear reader? I have left you in the lurch. Left you long ago, some place where I cannot hypothesize the empirical resilience of dust or the mental confabulations required of helium. A process prefigured before primeval atoms exploded in raindrops of dream. A prescient gift locked in the reeling arms of eye worms.

2

there is this bone-crushing war draped like silk over corpses

3

out of the house she cracks the discourse of the inherently dominant power. what was once locked inside now freely runs about as circled disquisitions dissecting the rebellious nature of mitochondrial eve, her threadlike granules genetic feasts to enjoin the oppressor oppressing even the mouth of time, that duplex gland of imagination. she grinds the cells to fuel the revelation and sits beside the injunction as granary to act, as intuited combination. satisfaction complete for yet another year?

4

“It does not seem to me, Austerlitz added, that we understand the laws governing the return of the past, but I feel more and more as if time did not exist at all, only various spaces interlocking according to the rules of a higher form of stereometry, between which the living and the dead can move back and forth as they like, and the longer I think about it the more it seems to me that we who are still alive are unreal in the eyes of the dead, that only occasionally, in certain lights and atmospheric conditions, do we appear in their field of vision.”

5

complete: 1. Having all necessary or normal parts, components, or steps; entire: a complete meal. 2. Botany: Having all principal parts, namely, sepals, petals, stamens, and pistil or pistils. Used of a flower. 3. Having come to an end; concluded. 4. Absolute; total. 5.a. Skilled; accomplished: a complete musician b. Thorough; consummate a complete coward.

[Middle English complet, from Latin completus, past participle of complere, to fill out: com-, intensive pref: see com – + plere, to fill; see pele1 in Appendix.]

pele1: Important derivatives are full, fill, plenitude, plenty, replenish, folk, plural, plus, surplus.

6

The New York Times “U.S. Forces Join Big Assault On An Afghan Stronghold; One G.I. Killed; Others Hurt”

“A senior officer in Washington said Air Force B-52, B-1 and F-15E bombers as well as carrier-based warplanes had attacked enemy positions with laser- and satellite-guided bombs. AC-130 gunships, armed with cannons and heavy machine guns, were also laying down withering fire, officials said.

“The two 2,000 pound ‘thermobaric’ bombs dropped today use an experimental warhead designed to send a blast of pressure and incinerating heat into deep caves. The penetrating warhead, called a BLU-1188, scatters a wide cloud of explosive particles before detonating. A small number of the new weapons were rushed to Afghanistan after a successful test in Nevada in mid-December, and today marked the first time they were used in combat.”

7

I did not understand then, as a child, the lack of control I had over my life. I hope you will indulge me as I explain to myself, and perhaps to you, too, how this powerlessness has played out in my middle years. Every child, of course, feels weaker than the adults living among her, but when can we safely inspect our behavior to judge how this weakness countermands our drives and desires to live a more complete life? How can we extricate multifarious threads of captivity or loss woven like a tapestry inside our precious brainy bins? Say this loss figures so great that you lead a parallel life magnified by its illusion just as parallel lines recede in a flat universe never to meet again. To identify my own weakness as a blockade to a fuller life is not to exaggerate its effects on my actions, or more accurately, my inactions, just as the awareness of weakness spills out of an enclosed room stuffed with a repellant residue, and suddenly a force stronger than yourself—say your parallel life—pulls you duty-bound out of your denial and fierce repression into a playground of curved space and warped time. When I travel the biosphere, a fantasy delivers itself of effulgent rectangles dangling in the four corners of the room, and of perpendicularity conquering monsters and under beings and trifectas of future bedevilments. The fear of weakness captured in childhood and woven in tapestry betrays the elusive miscasting of memory’s only silence—this biosphere—as categorical imperative to live life to the fullest.

8

Photograph Caption: “Airman is Mourned. Family members joined servicemen yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, 26, of Camarillo, Calif. He was killed on March 3 on a mission in Afghanistan.” A man—father? brother? uncle?—stands among the mourning family, his face covered by a handkerchief of grief.

9

a premise of completion beyond denial, lack, emptied out, partial, not, without, withhold, deficit, absence, to be in need of, abstinence, deficient, not total, blank, bare, barren, inadequate, insufficient, abstemious, missing, restraint, control, limitation, restriction, checked, refusal, curbed, inhibition, refuse

10

she defies the definition. haunts the description. is she both warrior and sanguine facade? a hypothetical deduction: fiction as pretense to choose character, act, scene, mood, form. as imbricated household-like shingles on a roof. poor girl. she evades the truth and affronts the messy complex drive to complete the wheel as interval transcendence where she sighs evermore

11

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire identifies dehumanization as violence against the act of becoming fully human. He writes: “Dehumanization, which marks not only those whose humanity has been stolen, but also (though in a different way) those who have stolen it, is a distortion of the vocation of becoming more fully human. This distortion occurs within history; but it is not an historical vocation. Indeed, to admit of dehumanization as an historical vocation would lead either to cynicism or total despair. The struggle for humanization, for the emancipation of labor, for the overcoming of alienation, for the affirmation of men [and women] as persons would be meaningless. This struggle is possible only because dehumanization, although a concrete historical fact, is not a given destiny but the result of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed.”

12

do you wear a watch, dear reader? if you do, will you tell me how old she is? is she this old before my requisite narrative runs dry?

13

The New York Times “U.S. Nuclear Plan Sees New Targets And New Weapons: Contingencies for North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya”

On March 10, 2002, Michael Gordon of The New York Times reported on the leaked “Nuclear Posture Review,” a fifty-six-page Pentagon blueprint for developing and deploying nuclear weapons. What is striking about this report is how it turns the cold war policy of MAD—Mutual Assured Destruction—upside down and replaces it with a policy in which nuclear weapons are developed to fight wars, even in conflicts with non-nuclear adversaries. The Bush Administration argues that the “Nuclear Posture Review” is a planning document, not an operational guide. Yet several key elements of the “Review” are alarming. First, it calls for the development of lower yield earth-penetrating nuclear weapons that can destroy “heavily fortified underground bunkers” where chemical and biological weapons may be stored. These new nuclear weapons would improve on the current nuclear earth buster, the B-61-11. Second, the “Nuclear Posture Review” broadens the circumstances and contingencies under which nuclear weapons could be used, and it identifies specific countries as “potential nuclear battlegrounds.” The potential nuclear targets—Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya—are all non-nuclear nations and signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The U.S., as signatory to the Treaty, has promised that it would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states “unless those countries attack the U.S. and its allies in alliance with a nuclear weapons state.” Third, the Pentagon wants to develop radiological or chemical weapons—”Agent Defeat Weapons”—to destroy stockpiles of chemical or biological agents, and also “plutonium pits”: “a hollow sphere made out of plutonium around which explosives are fastened” that create nuclear explosions when the plutonium is squeezed together into a critical mass. Finally, the Bush Administration’s aversion to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is more than politics. The “Nuclear Posture Review” states: “While the United States is making every effort to maintain the nuclear stockpile without additional nuclear testing, this may not be possible in the indefinite future.”

14

If memory were my first guard, I would not have dodged its onerous thrust. I would have begged to remember when wheels plowed the airy dust and scattered dimensions in yellow and orange. When syntax found its edgy joy. When voice reassessed the manufacture of 0. Still, I do not speak of pain, or the fear in pain, or the pain in joy, or the necessity in will, or the fallacy in memory, or the memory in time, or the time in fungible simulacra. I step back into memory, not seeing, not visualizing the boundaries before and after, what it was, or is, who I wanted to be, who I came to be. Who is the person in that biosphere? The other one, that parallel one. The one you wish to be, this one you are.

15

Chicago, February 27, 2002: Today, the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the minute hand of the “Doomsday Clock,” the symbol of nuclear danger, from nine to seven minutes to midnight, the same setting at which the clock debuted fifty-five years ago. Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, this is the third time the hand has moved forward.

“We move the hands taking into account both negative and positive developments. The negative developments include too little progress on global nuclear disarmament; growing concerns about the security of nuclear weapons materials worldwide; the continuing U.S. preference for unilateral action rather than cooperative international diplomacy; U.S. abandonment of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and U.S. efforts to thwart enactment of international agreements designed to constrain proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; the crisis between India and Pakistan; terrorist efforts to acquire and use nuclear and biological weapons; and the growing inequality between rich and poor around the world that increases the potential for violence and war.”

16

what will become of us?

Part V. Notes

  • W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz, Translated by Anthea Bell, (New York: Random House, 2001), 185.
  • American Heritage Dictionary.
  • John F. Burns and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Forces Join Big Assault On An Afghan Stronghold; One G.I. Killed; Others Hurt,” The New York Times, March 3, 2002, A-14.
  • “Airman is Mourned,” The New York Times, March 15, 2002, A-11.
  • Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos, (New York: The Seabury Press,) 1970, 28.
  • Michael R. Gordon, “U,S. Nuclear Plan Sees New Targets And New Weapons: Contingencies for North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya,” The New York Times, March 10, 2002, A-1, A-6.
  • Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “From the Board of Directors: It’s seven minutes to midnight,” February 27, 2002.

Part VI. April 24, 2002

1

When I look back over my life and remember the girl I was, I am reminded, sadly, of how I stranded her then, too many years ago. She was the one who knew what I could become, how I would get to wherever it was I should be going. She was no abstraction in the business of becoming, not an addenda or a coda, neither was she a fiction in my own dream, nor friction, bifurcation, absence in being. Alive with desire, she circulated her unique repertoire of mysterious perspicacity, defining the present moment by moment for all that it was worth. She was not more than nine years old—the one I remember most clearly. What shall I make now of her, this idée fixe, this nine-year-old girl. I carry her as fact inside an urn of desire and wish, awaiting clarity to dreams that never began, yielding accomplishment to source as fruition denied, ambitions evaded, aspirations forbidden, intractable grieving. And there she was, fully real, and I did not know what to do with her. She was the origin, the one who knew how to become, the one who promised, advised, and embraced the wholeness of body and prematurely discovered a woman of means, talking autonomy and status and real honest-to-god stature. As a telltale telos, fully implicated in concretizing my referential necessity, she looped her existential hands into my mental haunts soaring in some Bardo-like space without purpose or context or understanding, and she pulled me back in. She took a stand, this nine-year-old kid, but I fled what I would become without her tagging along.

2

Adorno in Lecture Thirteen: “For in idealism it is the case that if everything is finally reducible to mind, then the content of mind, that which itself is not mind, the not-I, nevertheless is mind; and that consequently the absolute, which corresponds in Aristotle to the divine principle, can have nothing other than itself as its content.”

3

she wakes in panic fear stripped of the dreamstroke as fantasy possibilizing monied fame monied art monied love monied source monied hope monied soul turning mountains into nightscape ritual necessities and her otherwise diurnal banalities into urns of photons reposited as the world’s horror soul claps against her in-my-skin costume like a runaway model skirting her way to the uppermost story of a very tall building to behold a skydiving terrorist in her dream—this panic fear

4

wheel: 1. A solid disk or a rigid circular ring connected by spokes to a hub, designed to turn an axle passed through the center. 2. Something resembling such a disk or ring in appearance or movement or having a wheel as its principal part or characteristic, as: a. The steering device on a vehicle. b. A potter’s wheel c. A water wheel. d. A spinning wheel. e. Games. A device used in roulette and other games of chance. f. A firework that rotates while burning. G. Informal. A bicycle. h. An instrument to which a victim was bound for torture during the Middle Ages. [Middle English, from Old English hweol. See kwel1 in Appendix,]

kwel1: Important derivatives include colony, cult, culture, wheel, cycle, cyclone, bicycle

5

In Orientalism, Edward Said explains the historical/political cultural us/them dichotomy: “It is hegemony, or rather the result of cultural hegemony at work, that gives Orientalism the durability and the strength I have been speaking about so far. Orientalism is never far from what Denys Hay has called the idea of Europe, a collective notion identifying ‘us’ Europeans as against all ‘those’ non-Europeans, and indeed it can be argued that the major component in European culture is precisely what made that culture hegemonic both in and outside Europe: the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the non-European peoples and cultures. There is in addition the hegemony of European ideas about the Orient, themselves reiterating European superiority over Oriental backwardness usually overriding the possibility that a more independent, or more skeptical, thinker might have had different views on the matter.”

6

watch out! she will turn you round. her deep axis with your eyes wide open

7

To become conscious of oneself, should one embrace the split between the I and the Not-I, between the self and the other, between the I and the me to discover distraction/distortion between the oppressor and the oppressed, or the inverse as necessity to evolve, to deepen the conscientization of mind, as evolutionary windfall? Does this split replicate viable awareness as sojourn nurtures indwelling soul? Or is it a crisis, a quasi-pathological break or critical lacuna in an otherwise well-formed personality required by mass culture assimilation, peer-group identity, mainstream personality? Can we know where it comes from? Where it is going? Can we contend rightly that this split lends a significant boost to altruistic acts in the forward direction of social justice, equality, political fairness, daily acts of kindness? That it obviates prejudice, bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia? Misogyny? Can this interpretation withstand the opposite notion that splits of any kind invade growth integration, when, in reality, it might effect just the opposite: tell the truth even when you shudder to know that I am this other, as I am this I, and the two are objective and subjective together, without imperial division. Memory holds as the split recedes but the Not-I returns as pinpoint light piercing the dark wholeness.

8

magic wheel, potter’s wheel, wheel of fortune, water wheel, round, roundness, whole rounding rotating axis, ritual circumambulation, circumambulate wheeling starry universe, circular magic wheel, mandala, circles, cycles, encircled uroboros

9

the fear of authority as in author, creator, increaser, influencer, enforcer, judge, as in father, man, male, God. is it so close this testosterone choosing tyranny or the psyche’s hothouse as justification, authorization, agency, precedent, investment. ah, to hold one’s own desire to deliver the goods, as in forthrightness, honesty, sincerity, rectitude, probity, integrity. histrionics for the guileless this one who turned for God in fear as resident deathdoor to conflate authority with life-nodding plastic shapes outside her evolutionary epiphany. the forklift arrives just in time lifting her head from the abyss just in time

10

Found Poem #2

USE OF PINTPOINT AIR POWER

COMES OF AGE

IN NEW WAR

RQ-4 Global Hawk Unmanned Reconnaissance/Surveillance Drone E-8C Joint

Stars Airborne Battle Management

RC-135 Rivet Joint Reconnaissance/Intelligence-Gathering 8-52 & B-1 Heavy

Bombers

B-2 Stealth Bomber

F A-18 Hornet Carrier-Based Fighter-Bomber F-16 Fighting Falcon Land-Based

Fighter

F-15E Strike Eagle Land-Based Fighter

RQ-1 Predator Unmanned Reconnaissance/Surveillance Drone AC-130

Gunship

Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) Satellite-Guided Bomb CBU-87 Cluster

Bomb

GBU-15 Unpowered Glide or Manually Guided Bomb

11

I try to open up language. I embrace no triumph in securing it or chaining it or charming its wishes and dreams. If in layering it, will it egress at will, become a glasshouse, a peer-for-all? Do I regret what I could have accomplished in the form and soul and purpose of it? Thus metaphors hide like elves behind tree stumps, images proliferate daimonic kneebends, synecdoches churn shipwrecked waves and desultory personifications usurp the right of return. There is no self, to speak of, in language, unless you try to open it up, insert one, and quickly lock it shut to prevent its escape. For what is the nonidentity of language except an analogy for the wistful soul? Can you own either one, a language closed or opened or abridged or ameliorated or turned and tuned to the general mass within earshot of each other? My putative quest is sincere, but I must apologize for any frustration I cause. The terminus means something different, perhaps, from what I intend to suggest. Do you think it is a perduring bore, a fulsome operation seeking something for nothing, as a quilt meshed out of cigarette paper, the tobacco notwithstanding? What I fear is—and please do take it for what it is worth (or not)—the progress I have made, not made, hope to make, wish I had made, dream about making as a rebellious act against ruin. Language shapes the sneak preview and then abandons me, again, to wait, alone, isolated, enclosed, confined, solitary without raindrops or seeds to sow. Does energy move into itself when matter dies, implodes, or as wheels cycle through a closed system? I regress to find the true self of open language, to strip the layers clean, to promise not to lie anymore when someone—who?—kneads an act caked with mud and gold.

12

Dear One, I think it relates, or is connected to, what we are talking about—the intimacy between women—how it drives deep to affirm an essential element complete in becoming/being/be I suppose—for how can we know who we are unless we are, at some time, in some place, reflected in whom we choose to spend our time with?

13

she calculates her transient plywood sleep between coyote howls and saguaro cactus under nuclear tests downwind, mutating the map points her geography feeds when her synapses shut down and license plates don’t tell her what she needs to know this child digests only so much of her parental enterprise crossing the country at night the desert imprints loss and pathos and deliverance and the high dust posits its own metaphysical intrigue in a vulnerable wind all at once wholly at ease with the heat and sand and starry sky at the edge of the observable universe only beyond those years her daimonic dialectic engages between what was built then and what is built now for the future though her interlocutor coheres in a capacious playground equipped with fantasy and reconcilable preoccupation in recycled soul parts, bits and pieces presupposing memory and intuitive remembering

14

what is more real than the real real?

15

“One second ago, the big bang burst forth. What triggered it no one knows, but now heat a thousand times hotter than the Sun’s center sears the entire cosmos. Because of the intense heat, light floods all space, spanning the spectrum from gamma rays to radio waves, with every hue of the rainbow in between. A few brave protons and neutrons swirl about, dodging the photons, smashing into one another, struggling to construct elements that the merciless photons tear apart. As space expands, the heat diminishes, the photons weaken, and the universe’s first nuclear reactor springs into action, cooking up the three lightest elements, hydrogen, helium, and lithium. Although nearly lost in all the light—photons outnumber protons over a billion to one—these three lightweight elements emerge from a primordial fireball, ready to build the material world.”

16

inside the wheel she disappears down the hole where projections are cured in fire and ice—her bit part in the regressive/aggressive act more real than reality’s intrinsic value/worth/money game she sizes up and shapes to debate this dialectic wound: the material real wants you, needs you. this desire

Part VI. Notes

  • Adorno, 93.
  • The American Heritage Dictionary.
  • Said, 7.
  • Eric Schmitt & James Dao, “Use of Pinpoint Air Power Comes of Age in New War,” The New York Times, December 24, 2001, A-1, B-3.
  • Personal correspondence.
  • Ken Crosswell, The Universe at Midnight. Observations Illuminating the Universe. (New York: The Free Press, 2001) 104.
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