Mile High Comics

Winter                                                                                Stent Moon

20181228_135344Went to Mile High Comics yesterday. They advertise as America’s largest and friendliest comics dealer. When we went in, a staffer, maybe the owner, hipster beard and comic icon t-shirt, greeted us. “This place is big. 1983 to 3 months ago is all here. He gestured toward row after row of white boxes on tables, “All alphabetized by title regardless of publisher.” To our left, along the wall of this cavernous 45,000 square foot warehouse, “…are variants (particular issues of a comic with different cover art from the original). Marvel and DC work with us, so many of them are unique, only available here.” The new comics, in the last three months, had tables and chair in front of them for friendly perusing.

20181228_141214“Back there, where the Help Desk sign is, we have our inventory. Customers can’t go back there, but it’s all searchable and staff will bring you anything you want to see. 8 million comics in inventory. 2 million on display. 10 million all together.” He seemed sincere, but the numbers seem pretty damned high to me. Even so, there’s no doubt there were a vast amount of comic books.

It’s not a fancy place. Bare concrete floors with gray sealer paint, carpet squares laid down in front of the new comics. The fixtures were used, bought at auction, I imagine. A ten foot ceiling and the only walls marked off bathrooms, a utility closet and a small backroom area. A long outside wall, one that runs along now disused railroad tracks, had the silver and golden age comics, 1930-1983. Many of them, the rarest editions, sat under clear plastic covers that reached to the ceiling. Many of the prices were impressive. $2,000 was not an unusual price point.

20181228_142947In addition to the 10 million comics several different displays featured toys related to the various universes represented in the comic book world. A true multiverse of the mind. There were Star Wars toys with death stars and yodas, Empire fighters and Millennium Falcons. Star Trek toys with Data, Captain Picard, models of the Enterprise. A large Ironman statue. Intricate modeled scenes from Batman, Superman, the Marvel comics sat alongside small action figures. There were chess pieces made of comic book figurines, including one full chess set with pieces modeled from Batman characters.

There weren’t many people there at 1 pm on Friday afternoon. But of those that were thick glasses, unkempt hair, and a distracted look was common. Nerd stereotypes that would fit well in the Big Bang Theory.

I didn’t buy anything. The size of the place and the vast number of things on offer overwhelmed me. I went to the chairs and tables in the new comics section, sat down, and closed my eyes.

Synthesis

Samain                                                                Thanksgiving Moon

astrology3Wonder what the stars (and the planets) have to say about reading my full chart for the first time today? We could look it up. I’m going to Golden, under Table Mesa, to the Bean Fosters coffee house. Elisa, a petroleum geologist, dean of academics at a consortium of community colleges and a member of Congregation Beth Evergreen has done whatever astrologists do with my birth information. She says the consult lasts as long as I have questions. She really doesn’t have that long, so I’ll restrain myself.

Even after finishing Tarnas the old statistical line, often heard in scientific circles, keeps coming to mind: Correlation without causation. It reminds us that many things correlate with each other, say a line of cars at a stoplight, with no cause behind them. It’s like diagnostics in medicine. A particular complex of symptoms may seem to point to a particular cause, but until the link between the symptoms and a certain cause is identified, all you have is correlation. And, it may be pointing you in the wrong direction.

Francis Bacon mentions four idols of the mind that lead us astray:*

*”Bacon also listed what he called the idols (false images) of the mind. He described these as things which obstructed the path of correct scientific reasoning.

  1. Idols of the Tribe (Idola tribus): This is humans’ tendency to perceive more order and regularity in systems than truly exists, and is due to people following their preconceived ideas about things.
  2. Idols of the Cave (Idola specus): This is due to individuals’ personal weaknesses in reasoning due to particular personalities, likes and dislikes.
  3. Idols of the Marketplace (Idola fori): This is due to confusion in the use of language and taking some words in science to have a different meaning than their common usage.
  4. Idols of the Theatre (Idola theatri): This is the following of academic dogma and not asking questions about the world.”  wiki

maslowBacon also points out that the path of facts and induction may be slow, but it heads in the right direction. No matter how fast you go down a path without facts, you will never reach the truth.

This way of thinking is the grand inheritance of the Enlightenment, follow reason. However, if you look at Bacon’s fourth idol, the idols of the Theatre, you will notice a potential problem. In Bacon’s time of course he aimed his critique at the Scholastics whose main mode of learning was deductive, starting often with scripture. It’s fair, at least to me, that now we consider whether the Copernican Self has become a contemporary idol of the theatre, an explanatory idea with great power, just like Scholastic reasoning, but, much like Scholastic thought, obscuring greater truths.

To summarize. I found Tarnas’ critique of skepticism personally valid. It’s a tool, not a way of life. I found his description of the Copernican Self and the primal Self accurate and helpful. I also took his point about the angst and anomie that infects our age as rooted in the disenchantment of the universe occasioned by thinkers like Copernicus and Descartes. His argument that it is time for a synthesis between the Copernican (modern) Self and the primal Self seems important to me, a correct diagnosis and a possible solution.

BaconsScientificMethodHis emphasis on depth psychology, in particular synchronicity and the collective unconscious, as partial evidence that the modern Self need not be wholly isolate makes sense to me. I had many years of Jungian analysis and find the non-pathological approach of Jungian thought very congenial. I’m not sure how many outside the world of depth psychology would agree with him on this point however. But, I do.

That synthesis between the modern and the primal, perhaps a neo-primal Self, does require some way of convincing modernist thought to make the leap, to create openings in the seal around its Self. This is a difficult requirement since it means setting aside that Self as the center of a disenchanted universe; much, it has just occurred to me, in the manner that Copernicus and Kepler dethroned the earth as the center of the universe.

astronomy 2mass xscNeither an obvious nor an easy matter. “I’m going to have my chart read this afternoon.” “I know.” “Yes, you know, but you don’t approve.” “Oh, I think it’s fine to read your chart. But, believing it?” She shrugged. Kate and I share a strong or high version of the modern Self, reason uber alles. I have flirted, however, for a very long time with a Romantic view carrying an aesthetic and spiritual seeker’s heart inside a rationalist’s body and mind. This is not a synthesis. It’s a carrying of opposites, learning from both, knowing the parallel, never touching rails down which they run.

The synthesis between these two metaphysics, one disenchanted, one ensouled, seems like the task of our time, our Great Work, to use Thomas Berry’s idea. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his Great Work for our generation, creating a sustainable human presence on earth, may require such a synthesis to succeed. I also think this synthesis defines the inchoate sense that I had about the need to reimagine faith. No, I don’t want to revert to an unexamined enchanted universe, to become a shaman for a world without reason. At the same time I no longer want to live in a disenchanted universe, alone in the cold vastness. Will astrology prove a tool to help with the synthesis? I’m not sure. But I’m gonna give it an honest examination. Starting with the event on 9:30 am on February 14th, 1947, in the small Red River town of Duncan, Oklahoma.

 

 

 

North

Lughnasa                                                                      Waning Summer Moon

strangerReading two books right now, The Stranger in the Woods and Northland. They are oddly complementary. Northland recounts a three-year long journey by the author following the northern border across the U.S. It starts in Maine. This early part of his journey is through land very familiar to friends Paul and Sarah Strickland who live near the St. Croix River separating the U.S. and Canada. Stranger in the Woods tells the story of Christopher Knight, who grew up in central/northern Maine, graduated from high school, became a burglar alarm installer, then, at age 20 decided to disappear into the woods. He was found 27 years later after having spent the intervening time in silence, living alone in a rocky clearing and subsisting off of raiding cabins near his well-concealed home.

Porter Knox, author of Northland, says that land in the U.S. along the northern border is a land apart, distant from the rest of the country both for its inhabitants and visitors. Having lived in Minnesota for forty years, I know the Northland border there and in Michigan, too. It’s severe country in Minnesota with temperatures the rest of the country read about during the winter, lakes carved by the retreating glaciers of the last ice age and boreal forests. It’s also poor country with soil too rocky and thin for agriculture and too distant from cities for most commercial purposes. Tourism is the main economic driver there and that’s seasonal.

Knight’s family had developed a way of living in the Northland. They had a large garden, hunted, were clever with their hands and spent time with books, not media. It was a subsistence existence that reminded me of the movie Captain Fantastic. Christopher took the northland life style to a logical extreme, becoming isolated not only from the rest of the country, but from human community itself. In Minnesota and Wisconsin his family would probably have been called Jackpine Savages, which refers to folks who live off the land there, often taking multiple jobs while living mostly off game, fish and gardens.

As I write this from the top of Shadow Mountain, I can see how different and faraway this border and these lifestyles must seem to the rest of the U.S. In fact, it strikes me as odd how little known these northern lifeways are. Redneck culture, not the same, but also rural in origin, has a lot of visibility. So does the older Appalachian Scotch-Irish culture from which Redneck culture emerged. Cowboys were similarly isolated from mainstream U.S. culture, but their presence is large in U.S. history, too. Not so for the folks who live in the colder regions along the border with Canada.

 

Krishna Janma

Midsommar                                                                   Most Heat Moon

Krishnas-birth-in-prisonLooking for light in prison. An assignment for the kabbalah class tonight. Rabbi Jamie suggested watching a movie like Hurricane, about Rubin Carter. I thought of MLK and Letters from the Birmingham Jail and Nelson Mandela, too. Then I remembered a portion of the Mahabharata I’d watched. This DVD version, 94 episodes, aired in India in the late 1980’s. Bought it to watch while doing long sessions on the treadmill.

Krishna Janma was episode 11. A prophecy tells Kansa, a king, that his sister Devaki’s eighth son will kill him. At first he looks for the easiest solution. Kill Devaki. Vasudeva, her husband, pleads with Kansa not to kill his sister. “I will bring you each child to destroy.”

Kansa considers this and agrees with a condition. They have to live in chains in his dungeon. Six sons are born. Kansa comes in their cell after each birth, grabs the newborn and throws it against the wall. When the seventh son is born, a friend of Devaki’s visits her in the cell and takes her pregnancy as her own. This causes Kansa great consternation but he can’t do anything since the seventh pregnancy seems to have mysteriously ended.

krishnaFinally, nine years later, Devaki is pregnant again, this time with the eighth son Kansa dreaded. This son is Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu.

“Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases I send myself forth.
For the protection of the good and for the destruction of evil,
and for the establishment of righteousness,
I come into being age after age.”

— Bhagavad Gita 4.7–8

Happy-Janmashtami-Images-Wishes-Quotes-SMS-Status-Greetings-09

When Devaki gives birth to Krishna, a light shines in the cell and a voice, presumably Vishnu, tells Vasudeva to take baby Krishna out of the dungeon to another couple. Vasudeva wonders how he can accomplish this but the dungeon’s many barred doors swing open, the guards are put asleep and he walks out into a raging storm with his eighth son held over his head.

Krishna Janmashtami is a Hindu holiday that celebrates Krishna’s birth. It’s a lunar holiday so the date changes from year to year, but this year Janmashtami is on August 14th.

An Endangered Species

Imbolc                                                                               Valentine Moon

Let’s call alt-facts what they are: propaganda. Psychological warfare against our own citizens. Though specific attacks on the environment, refugees, people of color and regulations keeping rapacious financiers at bay are horrible, an assault on the nature of truth is deadly.

How can we keep a political dialogue going if facts are subject to derision and distortion and obfuscation? The tobacco/cancer link deniers, the pesticide purveyors, the climate change deniers, the colorful and varied tweets of our Twitler, his outright lies about his inauguration crowd and the massive voter fraud and his distance from his businesses are all instances of outright deception, propaganda presented as fact.

Facts are, of course, subject to interpretation and reasonable people can disagree about their implications. That’s not the issue here. The issue here is changing the facts, ignoring them, hiding them (see the Whitehouse website, for example). Our democracy cannot survive a buffet attitude toward the truth.

I’m not sure that the Trump folks even know the difference between facts and lies. Their ideology or their venal natures may allow them to see only what they want to see. Whatever it is, I hope we can work as a nation to protect truth-sayers, fact-gatherers, lie confounders. Science is a conspiracy, yes, a conspiracy to understand the nature of reality.

So, hard as it is for many to fathom, are the humanities. In studying literature, philosophy, theater, language, cinema we gain the tools to separate fact from fiction. Critical thinking may be the most powerful tool we have in fighting the rise of a nationalist fascism. Critical thinking is taught in the humanities. In them we also learn the value of fiction, when it can enlighten us, when it can deceive us.

Right now facts and the truth they undergird need protection under the Endangered Species act.

OK, Woollies. I Finally Did My Assignment.

Winter                                                                 Cold Moon

For this meeting, please bring a magazine, journal, newspaper article, book, or something written, that you have read within the last month and that brought a great deal of passion, inspiration, focus, energy, or meaning for you personally.” Scott Simpson, for the Woolly meeting a week ago today

I’ve read three books recently that have stayed with me: Zero K by Don Delillo, Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and The Nix by Nathan Hill. These are all fiction, all by contemporary authors.

zero kZero K examines, in a minimalist world, our obsessions with death, immortality and technology while recounting a strained father-son relationship. It’s stark and strange, featuring, for example, a compound somewhere in the ‘stans. At this compound, mostly underground, is the center for a cryogenics movement funded by wealthy folk hoping to live forever, or at least until there’s a cure for whatever they have right now.

Underground RailroadUnderground Railroad imagines a real railroad, with tunnels and station masters, which carries escaped slaves. It is not so much the railroad though that commends this novel, but the story of the slaves who escape. This novel puts you inside the minds of slaves on the plantation and as they decide to flee and the ambiguous world that faces them even in relative freedom. Claustrophobic, scary, uncertain life on the run sometimes contrasted favorably with enslavement, sometimes furnished prisons and punishments that did not. I appreciated the chance to live in this world for the time it took to read this novel.

nixThe Nix uses massive online video gaming, the Chicago protests of 1968, and the life of a disappointed assistant professor of English and his estranged mother to reflect on what it means to be human.

The nix is a Norwegian legend, according to the characters in the book, which involves a horse. The horse finds children, plays with them, then invites them, by lowering his head, to climb aboard. At first, the children are delighted. They love the horse. Then, the horse begins to gallop, faster and faster. The child becomes frightened. Finally the horse wades into a lake, throw off the child and kills them. The theme of the Nix is just this: that the thing you love can kill you.

Well worth the read.

You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither can you desist from it.

Samain                                                                             Thanksgiving Moon

weeping-buddha-1He sits, early in the morning, while it is still dark outside, with his head in his hands. Orion, his longtime friend hangs in the sky visible to the southwest, Scorpio and Cassiopeia and the Drinking Gourd out there, too. A crescent Thanksgiving Moon, waxing toward its Super Moon event on November 25th, was visible last night.

If only the world could be quiet, serene, beautiful like the 5 am dark sky here on Shadow Mountain. No pussy grabbing. No complaints about raping 13 year old girls. No encouragement of political violence. No cynical comments about the validity of our electoral process.

Perhaps he could just slip away, go to some Trump Island in the the general area of Antarctica or maybe a luxury masted sailing ship forever circling the diminishing sea ice of the North Pole. Like Frankenstein’s creation. I would make a comparison between Trump and Frankenstein’s monster, but the monster was Frankenstein.

monsterIn this case Trumpism is the monster, a living candidacy patched together from a body of populist resentment, the brain of a nativist bigot, the nervous system of fearful white males and the legs of second-amendment worshipping other-phobic citizens. The arms, though, the arms are Trump’s, dangling like the tentacles of a squid, ready to grab, squeeze, embrace. Force. Trump is Frankenstein to this political moment in the Republican Party. The GOP provided the lightning that brought this monster to life and has paraded it with pride through this mockery of a campaign.

These are the most perilous political times in which I have lived. There are milita’s preparing an armed response to a potential Hillary gun-grabbing presidency. Our to this point normative peaceful transition of power after a Presidential election is under threat. This is a core feature of our democracy. The stakes on one issue, strangely absent from the campaign, are ultimate, the very survival of the human race may hang in the balance: climate change. The timer counting down the years in which we can still soften the blow of advancing global warming nears its alarm.

hamletRace relations are in a visibly violent phase. Police kill black folks with so steady a drumbeat that it has become like Trump’s long string of insults to America, dulling our capacity for outrage. Misogyny is at its peak in the Donald, powerful at the same time as our first serious female candidate.

The Forever War has captured our youth, our money, our tolerance. We bomb and shoot and strike with drones, again dulling our capacity for outrage by desensitization.

I am not a man given to despair. Hamlet, that most existential of Shakespeare’s plays, offers a choice in the often quoted to be or not to be soliloquy. Do we suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them? I know my answer.

Rabbi Hillel

Rabbi Hillel

Rabbi Tarfon is credited with this quote: “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it” (Avot 2:21). wiki This is a wonderful thought because it drives directly against despair, relieving us of the expectation of finishing our political work, yet not letting us set it aside either.

So, when confronted with the potential momentary success of hate-filled, other-despising politics, those of us committed to a diverse, egalitarian world must not pull back, must not flee to Canada, must not despair. We are not, as Rabbi Tarfon said, at liberty to desist.

 

 

 

 

Indolence in Horse Country

Summer                                                               Park County Fair Moon

An indolent day yesterday. Kate, Jon and the grandkids left for Fairplay, about an hour west of here in South Park, headed to the Park County Fair. Neither Jon nor us has a vehicle that comfortably seats 5, so somebody had to stay behind. Me.

Did a little binge watching, read the Sport of Kings. This book, Sport of Kings, is a major American novel. It catches American aristocracy (that strange self-inflected club), slavery, westward expansion, effectively compares the breeding of blue-blood humans and blue-blood horses-thoroughbreds, the respective dynamics of working class, upper class and poor black families, all seen through the prism of Kentucky bluegrass horse culture. It’s one I may read twice.

Jon’s into Denver today to work on his and Jen’s house, getting it ready for sale in the red-hot Denver market. I’m following in just a bit to pick up some portion of his stuff: tools, clothes, walnut boards for the loft, machines for ski-making. This whole process has been icky so far, but I’m entertaining a hope (maybe, really, a fantasy) that this week marks a modest turning point in the acrimony.

Ladders rattle over the roof of the garage as the final masking is underway. The staining will commence on the whole very soon, perhaps today. The preparation for a good painting/staining job is painstaking, time-consuming.

Weird Times

Mabon                                                                               Moon of the First Snow

“There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children we learn and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the poison of life.”
—Celephaïs

This is a quote from an H.P. Lovecraft story published in Weird Tales. Lovecraft continues to resonate with some of us. A big celebration of his 125th birthday was held in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island this summer.

I’ve not read this story, but the quote kindled in me a desire to revisit certain childhood stories that captivated me. The one that has remained with me though I’ve never been able to find it again is The Weatherman. This was the story of a man, a god?, who makes the weather. Well illustrated, it shows an older man with a long gray beard who picks out different colored ribbons from his sack and flies with them through the sky, creating storms and blue skies and snow.

Retelling this story with my child’s wonder would be fun. That’s what struck me with this quote. I’ve been having a lot of these ideas surface recently, then I let them subside rather than acting of them. That time is coming to an end.

Greg Membrez, my Latin tutor, replied to a recent post on facebook about the snow: “Good time to read some Latin?” I’ve been away from the translating since mid-spring and I’d only just gotten started again when I let it slide during cancer season. I need the longer term projects like novels and translating Ovid. They keep me fresh and engaged. Time to get back to them.