We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Going to the movies

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

In the spirit of the holiday weekend I’m relaxing before school starts, religious school that is. Getting ready has occupied my mind on some level every day since mid-June. Now that Alan and I have a plan, I’m giving myself these three days as a break. Feels great.

Yesterday Kate and I went to BlacKkKlansman. I’m sure many of you who read this have seen it, so we’re a little late. Several folks from Beth Evergreen have seen it. The story is a bit thin. The KKK in Colorado Springs was not historically significant and though hateful were, even as presented in the film, inept. What Spike Lee has done is take that thin story and use it as the core of a biting criticism of the Trumpstate and the folks he encourages.

He begins with a satirical short film of Alec Baldwin playing a fictitious race “scholar.” He also includes clips from Gone With the Wind and Birth of a Nation, both of which smuggle in a great deal of cultural commentary on race relations and the historical context that created and sustains white supremacist ideology. He also has several Trump related jibes. For example, after a Klan initiation ceremony, David Duke has a screening of Birth of a Nation. The berobed stand up and shout “America First!” According to a Colorado Springs reporter at the time, Nancy Johnson, this happened. There were also references to making America great again.

The Adam Driver character was not Jewish in reality, so Spike Lee’s casting of him as Jewish was a vehicle for commentary on anti-semitism. Driver’s comments about being raised as a secular Jew who had not thought much about his heritage are a critique of passing, whether by blacks or Jews. The frisson between Stallworth’s blackness, which undergoes a transformation when he goes undercover to a Stokely Carmichael, by this time Kwami Ture, speech and Driver’s gradually emergent Jewish consciousness was a key feature of the film for me.

The film does not end in the Stallworth era Colorado Springs. Instead Lee cuts to actual footage from the “Unity” march for white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Included are several different perspectives of James Alex Fields Jr driving his silver Dodge Charger into a crowd of counter protesters and killing Heather Heyer. Following those news clips and cell phone videos are scenes from Trump’s infamous, “There were good people on both sides.” reaction to those events.

A profound scene, which interlaces with the Klan initiation in which Adam Driver participates as Stallworth, has Harry Belafonte sitting in a Huey Newton chair, telling the story of the  lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas in 1916.

The ongoing satirical edge of the film, begun with the Alec Baldwin short, lulls the viewer into the same sort of “oh these buffoons aren’t a serious threat.” mentality that pervades our cultural perception of not only the Klan but other white supremacists, too. Until, that is, we see Fields’ Dodge Charger smash into unprotected protesters. Until we see our President giving aid and comfort not to the victims but to the perpetrators. Then we’re forced to go back and consider Scarlett O’Hara wending her way through wounded Confederate soldiers and the blackfaced actors in the Birth of a Nation footage. We’re forced to consider that the America First shouts with the right arm salutes was not an artifact of an era now past, but with us now and not only with us now, but with us at the highest levels of our government.

The other turn that the movie makes is the implicit correlation between the America Love it or Leave it slogans embraced by the Klan and the same cultural tensions existing now. The era of the 1960’s lives on. Here’s a quote from a woman I know, an email she sent after I commented on a friend’s positive post about this movie:

Unless i have misinterpreted your comment on Ron S.’s FB, I didn’t know you are anti our country, our flag, and no doubt have always been. If so, how come you and the others are not moving to another country? Seems hypocritical that you all are still here. To me, this is not at all free speech ala the 1st Amendment.

 

O.K. Weird.

Beltane                                                                      Sumi-e Moon

In other news:  “…Mar-a-Lago, which is owned by the Trump Organization, was once a National Historic Landmark.”*  NYT article on folks who visit all 417 national parks and monuments. Including some, like Mar-a-lago, that have been decommissioned.

mar-a-lago

*Mar-a-Lago (/ˌmɑːrəˈlɑːɡ/) is a resort and National Historic Landmark in Palm Beach, Florida, built from 1924 to 1927 by cereal-company heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. wiki

*

Aickman

Beltane                                                                              Sumi-e Moon

AickmanTrying my hand at a short story in the style of Robert Aickman. If you appreciate strange fiction with a literary style, then you’ll love Aickman. His work is as distinctive as Kafka and some use the term Aikmanesque to reference it, as the word Kafkaesque references Kafka’s unique style. Aickman uses dense description of place and characters to lull the reader into a sense of the narrative, but he subtly tweaks certain aspects that color a character’s mood or personality and the apparently normal world in which they live. At some point in the story, a line gets crossed between this world and a surreal one that you then notice lurked behind even the first few paragraphs.

Let the Games Begin

Beltane                                                                     Mountain Moon

A local weather guy who lives on Conifer Mountain, on the left as we drive up Shadow Mountain Drive toward home, posts as wxgeek:    “The Red Flag Warning today is for southern Park County, and Teller county, but not for Jefferson County, so depends where you live, but consider fire danger elevated today in all foothill areas due to warm temps, gusty southwest winds and low RH values. This will be our everyday life until Monsoon season begins.”

 

EVACUATION LEVELS DURING WILDFIRES

 

LEVEL I – EVACUATION ALERT

      A wildfire threat is in your area. It would be wise to consider planning and/or packing, in the event an evacuation becomes necessary.

LEVEL II – EVACUATION WARNING

    You should prepare now by packing necessary items and preparing your family, pets, and vehicle for potential departure.

LEVEL III – EVACUATION ORDER

    Get out now with your family and pets. Do not spend time gathering belongings, just get out.

Drive with your lights on, safely and SLOWLY remaining aware of your surroundings as you leave.

Semiotics of the American Back Windshield. The Continuing Saga

Spring                                                                               Mountain Moon

20180425_182450

On the left reads: We don’t need gun control, we need idiot control. As I read it, the driver of the pickup vanished.

A Public Service Message

Spring                                                                             New Shoulder Moon

Threatened: A Green-Haired Turtle That Can Breathe Through Its Genitals   NYT today

Tarot and Craft Beer

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project

Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project

Went out last night to an Atlas Obscura/Denver event. Yes, this funky website now has local, meet-up like events in various cities. The one last night was on tarot, a presentation at the only in Denver, Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project. The presenter, Joy Vernon, has been reading tarot cards since 1991 and presently works out of the unfortunately named Isis Book Shop. Isis has since changed its name to Goddess Isis Bookshop to distinguish itself from the new caliphate.

20180409_194615Besides the quirky reputation of Atlas Obscura, which draw me in, I also went because Joy said she would discuss qabbalah and the tarot. Only a couple of mentions but they were there. Here’s a for instance in this blurry photograph of one of her slides. In another spot she mentions the correspondence between qabbalah (translation note: Rabbi Jamie says the q is the correct translation) and the qabbalistic Tree of Life with its ten sephirots. Not a detailed examination of the relationship, but enough to make me want to explore it further.

Joy was knowledgeable about her subject and an entertaining speaker. To pass over the “dry” history portion (her word) she suggested a drinking game. We were in a pub after all. Each time she mentioned a place or a Tarot card with Bacchus on it came up, each person had to say Bacchus and take a drink. The crowd, mostly millennials, was into it. So when she mentioned Milan, for instance, someone in the crowd would yell, “Bacchus!” and people would drink. Pretty modestly, but hey!

20180409_194857Tarot by itself has fascinated me for a long time and I have three decks of my own. I like the iconography and the mythical, archetypal leanings of current Tarot readers. That doesn’t mean I put much stock in the readings themselves, though I do believe any sincere examination of self, whether occasioned by a hallucinogen, meditation, an analyst or a Tarot reader can be of benefit.

The next Atlas Obscura event in Denver is a presentation by a crime scene cleaner. Wish I could go but it’s on April 22nd in the evening. On that night we’ll be dining at Domo, the rural Japanese style restaurant, with Ruth and Gabe and Jon in honor of the kid’s birthdays, Ruth on April 4th and Gabe’s on the 22nd, 12 and 10.

 

Stuff From Out There

Imbolc                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

A few random finds. The first one sent by sister Mary. It appeared in the Guardian.

Romanian court tells man he is not alive      Constantin Reliu, 63, fails to overturn 2003 death certificate because he appealed too late.  Read the whole story at Guardian

And, two from Post Secrets.  The second because it breaks my heart. The first because I recognized the sentiment of feeling guilty because I did not suffer more. The thing to remember is that ignored mine would have done what all cancers do, take over my body and kill me.

cancertalk

What Was I Thinking?

Samain (last day for this year)                   Long Nights Moon

identity

sometimes we steal it ourselves

I’m having a crisis of sorts, it will pass and life will return to normal, probably later today, but right now I’m having an identity crisis. Remember those?

Here’s a Psychology Today article about identity. As I took the short quiz at the bottom, I had two achieved statuses, politics and gender roles, one moratorium status, career choice, and a difficult to assess religious status. This latter status, religion, is perhaps more achieved than my current feelings suggest since I’m deep into a context which challenges my commitment regularly.

I’ll bracket the religious question for this post since I do have a position, one I’ve established over many years of thought and with which I’m comfortable. I think the oscillation, tension there is reasonable to expect given my current immersion in Judaism.

The other moratorium status, career choice, is a different matter. It may seem odd to have a career choice moratorium* at 70, but it is so. Unlikely to change now, too. Having this realization again, (it’s not new) is the emotional side of this crisis.

careerI thought I had my life direction nailed down. College, graduate school. Some sort of professional career, perhaps lawyer, perhaps professor, perhaps something not visible from within the boundaries of an Alexandria, Indiana horizon. Then, my mom died. That threw my final year of high school into turmoil. God, this hurts just writing about it.

No one’s fault. A random event, but one with devastating emotional consequences for me. I hit my first year of college, just about a year after her death, with high hopes, probably even fantasies. I’d gone through GQ issues over the summer and picked out a navy blue blazer, charcoal pants, oxblood shoes and a madras sport coat. I had a vested herringbone suit from my junior year. These clothing choices symbolized my desire to become someone new at Wabash.

madrasMost kids heading off for college, especially in the fifties and mid-1960’s, had a similar desire. Shape that adult self. Live into an adult role. The expectation was that college would provide room for exploration, trying on this and that persona, in effect researching skills and passions, until something coalesced. Then, earning money and work would merge into an expression of who you were. That’s why college was called then, the moratorium years. College was explicitly a time to be low on commitment, but high on exploration.

Didn’t happen for me, in terms of career. At Wabash I picked up three bad habits: drinking, smoking and self-doubt. The first two were fraternity based, lots of drinking and smoking. This was 1965, just before the emergence of the drug scene, so I was conventional in those choices. But, I was also an addictive personality so drinking and smoking would require much time and energy later to overcome.

Self-doubt happened in a way not uncommon, I imagine, for small town valedictorians. Wabash, at the time, was highly selective, only 200 in each class, all male and each bright, accomplished. I was not only not the smartest person in the room, I wasn’t even in the middle. Over time I imagine this would have sorted itself out, but I was too emotionally fragile, still grieving. My dad tried to understand, tried to be supportive, but I didn’t let him into my agony.

identity-cover socionic

identity-cover socionic

And so began a pattern. I left Wabash the next year, putatively over financial issues though I had a partial scholarship, but really it was the combination of drinking and feeling overwhelmed by the academic demands. I did well enough, mostly A’s, except for German, which almost resulted in my first D or F until I dropped it, but my nights were spent in anxious dreams, waking up with sweaty palms. I didn’t fit in. I hated the fraternity, but had no choice except to be in one due to odd Wabash rules for freshmen.

In 1966, a time of tumultuous change in the country, especially for college students and especially male, draft eligible college students, I chose, for reasons I don’t recall, to go to Ball State. It was close to home. That may have been the reason.

In another odd circumstance my love affair with philosophy, begun at Wabash, found me only a few credits shy of a major after four semester long philosophy courses I took in my freshmen year. That meant I could take a couple of philosophy classes, secure my major and move onto something else. Anthropology.

anthroI loved anthropology, too. Enough, it seemed, to make it a career. I combined my interest in philosophy and decided to enter the narrow field of theoretical anthropology, thinking about how anthropology works, how it could work, how it should work. That turned out to be a mistake and one I didn’t recover from. I applied to, and was accepted, at Brandeis and Rice, for graduate programs. But because my field was theoretical anthropology, I got no financial awards. That meant I needed a fellowship and I was nominated for a Danforth. In the end though, the end of college and of a political career based on radical politics at Ball State, I chose to do nothing. Just. Nothing.

Judy came into my life right at that point. A someone. Another mistake. For both of us. I did end up in Appleton, Wisconsin with her, moving there after a disastrous few months as a manager trainee for W.T. Grant and Company. What was I thinking?

This question, relevant to career, would become synonymous with my choices, one after the other. Seminary. I stayed in and got ordained. WWIT? I worked as an administrator. WWIT? I became a church executive. WWIT? I left the church to write. In this case I knew what I was thinking, but never got all the way there as a writer so, WWIT? For a moment I went back to the ministry as a UU. I was serious enough to intern at a UU church in St. Paul where I agreed to be the development minister. In this case, a really, really big WWIT?

what-was-i-thinking-webAnd so, here I am at 70, no career I really chose except writing and that one I couldn’t have sustained had it not been for the grace and love of Kate. There’s my identity crisis. Who have I been? What have I wanted to do with my life? Late in the game to ask these questions though to be honest they’ve surfaced right along since Wabash.

I could use help reframing all this. It’s not like I’ve drifted through life, doing nothing at all. I just never wrapped it up in a social role to which I felt like I truly belonged. Don’t know what that makes me at this point in my life. In a sense the third phase is the point when this question ceases to matter. That particular race finished a while ago and I’ve come into the pits. No more laps. Yet. What does, what did it all mean? I really don’t know at this point.

In yet another sense, and one I fully support with most of my being (ha), the answer doesn’t matter. I’ve lived. I’ve loved. I’m still doing both. The essentials. And, enough. I know. I know.

Yet the question lingers. What did I do?

 

People high on exploration but low on commitment are in a category that Marcia called “moratorium.” This means that they have placed a hold on making the major decisions in their lives.  They’re thinking hard about what they want to do but aren’t ready to commit.” from the article linked to above.

 

In A Techno-Desert, Thirsty for Human Interaction

Fall                                                                             Harvest Moon

5:20 am on Shadow Mountain. 43 degrees. 12% humidity. Pressure 22.60. No wind. Crescent moon. All the same without knowing these data points, I know. Still. I like to know them anyhow.

naisbittThis week Thursday I get to see Joe and SeoAh. I’m excited just to see them, to have some high touch in this high tech age. Remember Alvin Toffler? A futurist, he posited that the more complex and sophisticated our technology becomes, the more necessary direct human interaction. (Toffler preceded Naisbitt by at least two years with this idea, but Naisbitt made it a corporate buzz phrase. I find his notion of balance between our physical and spiritual reality an interesting idea.)

True. We exist, at least many of us, especially those younger than a certain age, in a cloud (pun intended) of virtual data. This blog, for example. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Email. Text messages. Twitter. I see, regularly, information and pictures about high school friends, old college friends, friends in Minnesota, family. I don’t use Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, not enough time in a day, but I’m on Facebook at least daily. I send and receive many e-mails, text messages. All this keeps me up to date, to some extent, on people I care about, a gratifying level of connection available, in yesteryear, only to voluminous letter writers.

1954-09 Galaxy Magazine by Ed EmshwillerBut the connection is, of course, partly, maybe mostly, illusory. We get only snippets, usually disconnected snippets. No hugs. No careful listening. No smiles. No touch on the hand during a conversation. No walks. No meals. The further out from our fleshly world, the less real information about another we receive because the context for what we know is very limited.

I don’t happen to see this as bad. I’m grateful for the chance to learn about even parts of the lives of people who once belonged to my fleshly world. But it does create a longing for in person moments, to embrace Joseph and SeoAh, for example. Or, to attend a 55th high school reunion, or show up at a Woolly Retreat in November,which I will not be able to do this year.

High Tech High TouchAs we age and travel becomes more difficult, I imagine this will become an even more poignant issue, extending even into our fleshly world. There’s promise, yes, in telemedicine, for example. We already meet with our financial planner over Skype. How many of our now daily or weekly interactions will become virtual? The key issue here, the one I think Toffler alluded to, though he may not have named it outright, is isolation.

We are on the map of the future where a cartographer might write in florid typescript, “Here there be dragons.” We just don’t know what the combination of high tech and increasingly low touch world might mean. Isolation is deadly, killing the spirit and ravaging the soul. Will we end up in a technological desert, thirsty for real human interaction, seeing it in the shimmering illusions of social media, but not being able to reach it? If so, what can we do about it?

 

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