Supernova Era

Winter and the Future Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Kassi at Petsmart, who groomed Kepler so well. All the kids from Collegiate Academy who came into the Starbucks while I waited for Kep. Growers of coffee. Dairy farmers. Cappuccino. The checkout clerk at Petsmart so proud of her dog. Passing the emissions test. Emissions testing. Friend Debra who we’ll see for dinner tonight.

A confluence of literature and place yesterday. Started reading Supernova Era by the brilliant contemporary Chinese science fiction writer, Cixin Liu. A star goes supernova close to earth. His astronomical knowledge is profound, the explanation for this event detailed and lengthy.

The resulting energy burst damages the DNA of everyone on earth. Those above middle school age no longer have the capacity to recover from such an insult. Over the course of a year all the adults will die, leaving about one billion children under school age all across the globe.

While I waited for Kep at the Kipling Avenue Starbucks, I read chapters about the transition from an adult run world to a child run world. Parents taught their children the occupations they were in as the most efficient way to transfer knowledge quickly. Cixin focuses on the case of China.

As I read this, kids from the Collegiate Academy about two blocks away began to stream into the Starbucks. One tall senior high youth had a fade and a topknot grown from the crown of his head. A girl with whom he would later play fight had piercings, black lipstick and a friendly demeanor. She asked politely if she could have the chair at my table.

A younger, perhaps middle school girl, had on an orange athleisure top and carried, of course, her phone. She seemed serious until her friend came in, then they laughed and shared pictures off their phones.

The Starbucks lit up with the energy of young folks performing the person they thought they wanted to be or should be or could be.

At one point a college aged woman walked through them. Pant suit, blouse, briefcase. Not that far away in age, but so distant in sense of self and composure. At least outwardly. Her mask was adult.

My mask was that of the elder amused at the antics of the young, serious in his reading, but willing to laugh with the kids, too. Kabbalah teaches that we all wear masks, all the time. That everything is a mask for the ohr, the divine light of creation shattered after the tzimtzum, the sacred’s self contraction to allow space for other.

Saw all this through the lens of Cixin Liu’s middle schoolers taking over the adult world. Three children from the same middle school class in suburban Beijing were chosen to become the President, Prime Minister, and head of the military. No time for elections.

As I read, I looked up and saw the kids around me, released from the strict parameters of schooling, letting their still forming selves out to play. And tried to imagine this group here designated to run Colorado.

She’s the governor. He’s the head of the Highway Patrol. That one the Mayor of Littleton. Topknot guy following his mother as a bulldozer operator.

A fun collision of reading and immediate reality.

Downsize?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

Stick to it

Winter and the Full Future Moon shining through the lodgepole pines in the west

Friday gratefuls: for the Mussar group. for the Daf Yomi, now day seven. for the chance to do the Murdoch mitzvah. for the fresh new snow. for the 12 degree weather, what they call here, Stock Show weather. for Black Mountain who watches over me from above. for Shadow Mountain who supports me from below. for the crazy people who go out on Evergreen Lake for ice-fishing. May there always be crazy people.

Kepler to the vet yesterday. No, not bites and rips from Murdoch’s teeth. Rashes and hot spots. Antibiotics and an increased prednisone load for a week or so. Dr. Palmini has lost weight and buffed up. When I asked him if he would go to the Iditarod this year. The jury’s still out, he said. It’s a long time to be gone. But, it’s fun, isn’t it? Well, some of it, but when you get up at 3 am…? He goes as a volunteer vet for the sled dogs in the race. Lots of Iditarod memorabilia on the walls of his practice.

Back to HIIT workouts for cardio. Hi intensity interval training. A new one. Slow, 90 seconds. Fast as possible, 6mph for me, 30 seconds. Repeat four times then 3 minute cool down. I increased the number of intervals and the incline, from 1% to 2%, this week. Intervals are the best workout for cardio and they take a shorter time period that most cardio workouts.

Mussar. Got caught out nodding like I understood something that was said. Had to admit it, because the conversation expected me to say something about I’d already said. Everybody laughed when I told them. First time I can recall being caught in this oh, so usual gambit of not only me, but all folks hard of hearing. Gotta work on the ear wax thing. Seems to bother my hearing aid a lot.

The quality of the day, see Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities, was perseverance. A lot of discussion, an amusing number of examples about math, not unusual in a group with literary inclinations. Perseverance is in my toolkit.

Mostly. I can write novels. Start and finish them. Not easy, often taking over a year. I did not persevere so well with marketing them, though. I enjoy, as I said a few posts back, long books, long movies, long tv series. I can start all of these and finish them. Think War and Peace, Dante’s Inferno, Spenser’s Fairie Queen, Faust, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 10 Commandments, the Irishman, Gone with the Wind. And, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I’m finally in the fifth and last season. It only has 88 episodes.

I can make a commitment and stick to it for years, a lifetime. One of my youthful commitments was to keep reading difficult material. Stay political. College. Keep asking the fundamental questions and don’t shy away from difficult answers. Never work in a setting that compromises your values. Kate, now for over 30 years. The Woollies, about the same. Joseph, now going 39 years. Exercise, since my forties.

When I didn’t persevere, marketing and college German being the ones that come to mind, it was out of fear, I think. Fear is not a guide, it’s a caution, but I let myself get stuck in its glue at least those two times and I regret it. Anxiety grows along with fear and fear increases the anxiety. As I’m learning to be easier with myself, I’ll give myself an “I’m sorry to hear that, but you’re ok now.” bit of self-talk.

Late, late night.

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Off to Brave Alice in Wonderland last night. Ruth’s 8th grade play. She gets her head chopped off and plays a bishop. My kinda gal. It meant we didn’t get home until almost 8:15.

Boy. Am I outta shape on the nightlife thing. (and, I know. 8:15’s not really late, is it?) It is to my body. Slept in till almost 8:30 am. Made me feel loggy, lazy. Just got up here to the loft at 10:15. About 5 hours later than usual.

Weird happenstance. Apparently Denver has two middle schools named MauCaliffe and they are in with in 2.5 miles of each other. Guess which one I went to first? Yep.

Seoah, who’d never heard of Alice in Wonderland, let alone the middle school adaptation, enjoyed herself thoroughly. She made grilled cheese sandwiches and sliced apples for us since we had to go in early. 4:00 pm for 6:00 pm performance. Getting through Denver between 4 and 6 pm is a slow crawl.

Another weird thing. Seeing all the Christmas lights in Denver, a lot, from outside the Christmas veil. I live somewhere the Winter Solstice, Hanukah, and the ghosts of Christmas past. The only December holiday I fully own now is the Solstice. The darkness, the solitude, the longest night on top of Shadow Mountain with Black Mountain rising to our west.

On the Move Fitness has a treadmill out of service so I’m doing my warmup here, then leaving for my 11 am appointment. Gotta hit the belt.

Zornberg and Denes

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Brother Mark made a good observation. When remembering “my dead” yesterday, I did not include any dogs. He recalls, for example, “Vega’s woof.” I wrote him back and said, yes: Celt, Sorsha, Scott, Morgana, Tully, Tira, Orion, Tor. The Wolfhounds. Buck, Iris, Emma, Bridgit, Kona, Hilo. The Whippets. Vega. The coyote hound/IW mix.

My favorite version of the afterlife is that moment when all the dogs you’ve ever loved come up to greet you. If that could be so, I’d find eternity bearable.

Continuing to meditate, up to eleven minutes now toward a goal of twenty. And, read. First things.

This morning I read from The Human Argument, a collection of the writings of Agnes Denes. If you say, who? I understand. I’d never heard of her either until an article about her art in the Washington Post this week. This woman’s work is a stunner, combining science, mathematics, ecology, and art. I’m still not able to post pictures here (working on it), but you can see some of her work at the two links here. An important artist, IMO, but one I’d missed completely. Even the Walker has only one work by her and it’s a book. The MIA? Nothing.

Followed that with some more reading from Zornberg. Damn, this woman is so smart. And clever. The Beginning of Desire is a commentary on Genesis and its organized by parsha, the long readings required each week to get through the whole Torah in a year. The first parsha is named Bereshit since parshas take their name from the first word or phrase in the text. Bereshit is also the Hebrew name for the first book of the Bible, what I have known up till now as Genesis. Easily the best commentary I’ve ever read.

Here’s a quote from the introduction in which she talks about her method: “The aim of interpretation is, I suggest, not merely to domesticate, to familiarize an ancient book: it is also, and perhaps more importantly, to “make strangeness in certain respects stranger.”” She allows no definitive interpretation, rather she seeks a polyvalent conversation between reader and text, a dynamic reading that learns from the text and the life of the reader in dialectical tension.

Wondering now if staying immersed in Zornberg, in the world of ancient literature, the Greeks and Romans, too, might be the way forward for me. I certainly love it. Get excited.

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.