THOUGHTS on FREEDOM and PRISONS

When we first experience…

When do we first experience prison? It must be when as babies we realize that we are limited by our environment. The lines are formed early. Cribs are little cages, and the prisoner is always rattling at his. He wants out. The prisoner must realize there is a world beyond the bars, where he cannot go. His life is curtailed. He is in prison. 

A prisoner of needs

Maybe it goes back even further. Out of the undifferentiated universe of the uterus, the new person meets the cold air of our world.  From its predicament of near helplessness it realizes it is a prisoner of its needs and must depend on an agent from outside, who may or may not be there to accommodate them. It is the first experience of the pain of dependency. It also shows the person that there are various kinds, some more demoralising than others.

Caregivers as wardens, and schools…

As children we are under the rule of our caregivers, who decide our limitations. We may rail against these in shows of rebellion, but they usually hold the upper hand, indulging or punishing us for our behaviour. We will adapt to what they decide is acceptable, this forming our bars, and which provides a template for our encounter with the social contract.

School comprises a larger prison in which we learn to read and write and sit and stand and repeat in unison. We are told what is important in life. We contend with others who are in the same situation. Many thrill to the sound of the bell announcing the school day is over, or there is a recess, and we may escape for a while. Watch children in schoolyards celebrate their freedom with extreme loud defiance.

And, so, the socialization process continues, with limitation at every turn, compromise in every encounter, and as long as limits exist we are not free.

But when we sleep…

the most free we ever feel is when we sleep.

After enquiry, it is possible that freedom can be reduced to a feeling: space and non-attachment. The sky is a picture of freedom.

The body is the most constant prison of all. It is what encases us. It is us in relationship to everything else. We cannot escape our body unless we turn into a ghost.

If we suggest that we are something beyond our bodies, that something is dependent on our having a body in the first place.  It requires a body to house it.

Ideology confines thought, limiting it to its boundaries. Any thought which does not conform to the system is disallowed. Any ideology requires guards to protect it. To keep out the contradictions.

A prisoner to a system of ideas is often a willing prisoner. The world of ideas is a dangerous place, resulting in confusion. So, it is safer to buy into a system and keep it.

An actual prison can have its charms: your needs are cared for. You are not burdened with making choices. You have company. In general, however, how many people have tried to break into a prison?

Freedom, even partial freedom, seems to be a powerful need. It is a rebellious force, determined to overcome restrictions, as if restrictions were inherently the enemy of our nature. Regard your feelings while watching wild horses bolt; identify with the young child bent on overthrowing authority.

Thought is free. Anyone can at any time entertain whatever thought happens to be there. Why one thought generates itself and not another at any given moment is a great mystery. Yet, to function successfully requires organizational thought. We may organize thought any way we please, but then that pattern becomes a form of prison if we cannot at the same time not get stuck in it.  If you say you like peaches and at the same time cannot say that you do not like peaches, then you are in the prison of liking peaches.

In other words, logic is a prison as well.

Why is habit so commonplace among people in certain societies?  It must satisfy something in the mind that is pleased by repetition.  Habits are often difficult to break. If a habit cannot be broken, regardless of how beneficial it may be, it is a form of prison.  It is probable that habit is satisfying because it provides a degree of security; uncertainty often causes fear. If we could accept insecurity we would be freer for it.

People often prefer to be in prison than to be free as long as they are getting compensated in some way. The case made about one’s needs in prison being accomodated suggests that a trade-off is taking place wherein freedom is swapped for security.

It is reasonable to assert that people require freedom, and at the same time are afraid of it.

It is only when security becomes oppressive that people wish to replace it with freedom.

People who break certain laws may find themselves in a physical prison. But laws are also prisons, because we are required to act within its confines. If we break out of one type of prison, we way be put into another. 

Absolute freedom is what is required by the individual, although this is not usually a conscious need.

How is absolute freedom attainable? It probably isn’t, which is why an afterlife has been imagined. It is assumed that only there the individual may be perfectly free.

Attachment to the past is a common prison. The past has determined the present to a degree, but are these really linked? It is possible that connecting dots has no basis in reality. Perhaps all of the dots are, in fact, pristine and isolate.

Cause and effect would work as a principle if it were repeated infinitely, which hasn’t happened yet.

Accidents tell us that freedom exists. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. This tells you that anything is possible.

Of all the emotions, fear and love are the strongest; yet they are often in conflict.

*Putting a person in prison is telling the person that from this point on they will have no power.

A promise is a prison we make for ourselves.

In actual prisons…

*In an actual prison human beings degenerate, as if they were being deprived of oxygen. They revert to a more primitive life form.

Violence strikes at unknown moments. Prisoners feel that they are already dead, so that they might as well kill or wound others. It is a profound reaction to their condition. A person dies every morning in their own mind in prison.

A prisoner will need to adapt to his environment.  Eventually he may come to believe he belongs where he is, which means he has abdicated his freedom. This most unnatural state is something he must live with.

Perhaps the most unfortunate cases are ones who can only deal with confinement. These will return automatically to this environment. But if freedom is at the basis of human nature, they have become something other than human.

Imprisonment is meant as a form of punishment, which it is. But a crime and this form of punishment have no meaningful relationship to each other. The only possible positive outcome for the individual is that he determines not to go back. But will he?  If he has learned nothing about his behaviour, he will. It is often the case that you come out of the experience a worse person than when you went in.

Society must learn that treating people as less than human is not in its best interests. If a punishment is not understood as just, the prisoner will feel only resentment, which runs counter-intuitive toward that person not re-offending in the future.

Being in prison is referred to as “doing time.” If the prisoner is to benefit from this time, he should learn something about himself. Thus prisons should be educational establishments rather than pain factories.

Choices. What happens when choices are taken away? We do always have the choice of how to deal with not having choices. If done correctly, it can induce a sense of inner freedom.

Being thrust into a solitary state, the prisoner has the choice either of losing himself, or forging a new deeper self; the former leads to insanity, the latter to transcendence.

Emotions are usually our downfall. Most crimes are committed due to the control of certain emotions over the individual. Prisoners have the luxury of time to be able to understand this and to come to terms with their emotions.

Who needs more patience than a person doing time?

It is interesting how many people see offenders as different from themselves.  We perceive them as alien, degenerate, possessed. But we are just the same as them in our dreams and reveries.

*We are all prisoners of who we think we are. We are probably far from who (or what!) we think we are. But whose point of view should we see ourselves from? That is unknown and unknowable.

I think we all have a vague sense that we are living in prison most of the time, just under the veneer that we ride autonomous and in command.

I think we all know at this point that prison is a mistake.

One of the worst tortures in prison has to be the infliction of boredom, monotony to the point of causing no thought that anything will ever change. It is obviously meant to weaken the spirit of the individual.  In order for the inmate to remain sharp he must stimulate himself, which often means he turns to violence.

Boredom can be the springboard for creative activity as well. Many schemes are birthed as a result of the prisoner having little else to do.

Transgressions

Breaking a law is transgressive. It is crossing boundaries that have been set up. As children we always look for a line that is there to be crossed. The child looks at it with excitement, as if on the other side there is the land of enchantment. Of course, there is also fear involved. What monsters lurk? What will happen to me? The child soon finds out the price that has to be paid, and if it was worth it. This is something the criminal continues to ask himself.

Being a habitual criminal means that transgression is more satisfying than conformity. The square sides with conformity, obedience, docility. The criminal always has his eye on the next crime, the golden prize, after which he may want to retire.

Of course, he won’t; the life is just too exciting. Transgression continues to hold out its appeal.

What would it take to rehabilitate the seasoned criminal? Obviously, it would have to align with the criminal’s needs. Does he need to get beaten down in order to understand the error of his ways? No, because prison has taught him only to be more creative at doing what he does. It provides a more beguiling challenge to overcome his confinement. Just as the child seeks to triumph over his imposed conditions the criminal needs to think he can win against a world he believes is not in his best interests.

The criminal is never at peace if he continues to think he can win. Gradually, this ceases to be an illusion and depression sets in. Old cons in a prison environment is a sad picture. Age plus defeat equals devastation.

So, if the criminal is the unrepentant child who continues to transgress, perhaps it would be instructive to point out what maturity has to offer.

Maturity, it seems, is a tradeoff – the impulsiveness of the child for the solidity of the adult when reason can prevail over emotion. Can the criminal be shown the value of becoming an adult? What are these if truth be told?

Perhaps one of these is the satisfaction of self-determination. The convict lacks totally a sense of determining his life, which is at the discretion of the authorities who oversee him. Easing him into the role of adult by allocating responsibility is a good beginning. This goes beyond keeping him busy with mundane tasks; rather it is requiring him to offer his own ideas in his quest. The more we treat convicts as adults the more adult they will become if not at once, hopefully, over time.

The prevalence of violence in prison is related to a sense of helplessness on the part of the convicts. Violence creates consequences, which means that something has been attained. It matters little who the victim is or what happens to him, as long as some damage has been seen to be done. It is a game of thwarted ambition.

The type of violence practised in prison is hands-on with makeshift knives. This makes it intimate, requiring an elevated degree of emotion. It is as if a bonding ritual has been substituted by a stabbing.

To pierce a person’s flesh with a sharp object takes an intensification of hostility. Making hate the desired emotion to carry around by the convict. As long as the convict can still hate he is not yet emotionally dead.

Sex in prison must entail the element of violence. Bodies re-arranged as weapons. And sadomasochistic rituals. A fierce hierarchy presides. In this environment convicts need to know where they belong.

If the convict cannot trust anyone (at least at the beginning) he is all alone in a sea of potential sharks, and must guard against an attack. He must go into himself in order to summon the strength to survive.

Convicts in a crowded facility revert to a primitive form of bonding based on race, because it is the most obvious way to distinguish like and unlike. A shared race suggests a shared past, which is hoped may be a reason to trust. Whom to trust in a place where people are because they are not trustworthy to begin with is a hard call. The rule in prison is to trust nobody who appears different from them.

Prisons confine people who are anti-social in one place where they may be anti-social toward each other, thinking that when they are released they will no longer be anti-social toward society in general.

It is expected that most cons will return to prison. The justice system depends on it. If rehabilitation worked the system would suffer.

*Only the human animal keeps people in cages.

All organisms obey laws that make sense to them spontaneously. Nobody would think about disobeying the law to breathe, for example.

A society where everyone obeyed laws would require a lot fewer employees, so that the justice system is more of an industry than a judicial body.

It is important that bad people do not break good laws; it is also important that good people do break bad laws. (or at least change them.)

There must be a myriad of reasons people commit crimes, all of these worth investigating.

If we were to say that any crime at all is punishable by execution, would crime be eradicated?

Execution is preferable to a life sentence. There is nothing less humane than keeping someone in a cage to the day he dies.

Being an outlaw means being outside law, outside established order, be that an order laid down by men or the natural order. It is saying, “I will create my own laws and attempt to live them.” It is by experimenting that the outlaw determines what works for him. This then becomes a personal system he lives by, any part of which may be modified or changed or abandoned at will. If an outlaw joins a gang or organization he is no longer an outlaw because he must now submit to the rules of the club, rules he did not make. Being a true outlaw is a solitary experience.

Our attitude toward the outlaw is to denigrate him for not living according to a system we have been forced to adopt, and to punish him for this. On the other hand, we admire him for living by his own code, that is putting himself at risk for us so that we can still manage to imagine owning our own freedom.

Certain crimes are worth more than others, murder being at the top of the list. Killing somebody is an existential act that criminals understand makes the murderer worthy of respect in that it changes the person, making him aware of the karma he carries. Psychically he has a weight strapped to his back.

The murderer needs to pay for his crime with his own death. It is the only way he may gain relief. Unfortunately this is not often the case today in judicial rulings, in which the offender need only spend a certain number of years incarcerated. Years for murder do not equate.

In a crime of passion the killer is at the mercy of his emotions. It is worth enquiring how rage came to be part of our psychic makeup in the course of evolution. Has it served us? Has it kept our enemies at bay? Perhaps it has, but probably not. A cooler head is surely better for that. Rage appears as useless to humans as nipples on a man, and is moreover the cause of much barbaric criminal destruction in the bargain.

Because emotions play a part in human behaviour we understand a crime of passion and evaluate it as not as offensive as a crime that has been planned. It is as if you have abdicated responsibility to a part of yourself that you temporarily do not own. If someone has thought about the act beforehand he has understood its implications and has decided to proceed despite any inhibiting factors. That is the more serious crime.

Is it possible to gain freedom from our emotions? Emotions play at least as much of a role in human affairs as thought. They may cling, or pass, or recur. Nobody is ever without an emotion even if the emotion is unconscious. If we were free from emotion we would be closer to a machine. This is not to say that one mood cannot be swapped for another. This can and does happen all the time. It is possible to cause one emotion to change into another. Physical exertion often causes that. Which shows that emotion is physiological as much as psychological. As humans, we relate in emotional terms more often than any other, as in “How are you?” rather than “What are you thinking?”

Freedom is a daunting prospect. I have complete freedom to say what I wish in my next sentence. It is my choice. Let us say it makes a difference. Let us say it makes a great difference. The difficulty comes in the possibility of making the wrong choice. It could set off a chain of events that might take innumerable incarnations to overcome. The human race would be plunged into darkness. It would be my fault. Solidly on my shoulders. Obviously with freedom comes great responsibility. It is almost better to be a slave.

It is a sad fact that a high number of convicts who have been released from prison return to it. There are several factors that may contribute to this, but probably the most important reason is that the person cannot handle freedom. It is too heavy to bear after a long period of not having to think for themselves. Inside they are not burdened with freedom.

It is also a sad fact that people in general can not live with the burden of freedom, and are dependent on external forms of authority dictating their lives. Civilization has had its way. Humans can no longer even conceive of leading free lives. Leading a free life means living in isolation. It means living completely one’s personal experience. Perhaps only the insane can live entirely free lives.

The comfort of the slave comes in the form of freedom from the need to forge a destiny. His destiny at the mercy of an authority close to him, his god is physical.

Our boss is our god and that is why people work for other people.

People have a natural aversion to fat because it is flesh which keeps us confined to the prison of this world. A thinner person can more easily escape between its bars.

Skeletons don’t have problems.

Buddha says that desire is the great prison. Lack of desire can be just as limiting.

A problem is a prison. We are stuck within its confines and can see no way out. Once we see it from outside the box the problem is solved.

Freedom to curtailed by ethical standard, the standard itself a form of bondage.

The newly born first feel the prison of hunger and wonder what they are doing in there. They don’t realize yet that it is a life sentence.

Any need creates its prison. It is not just the need itself but the awareness of the need that makes one a prisoner. Even when a need has been met there is an underlying anxiety that it may not be the next time. Does the hungry baby know he will be fed every time he cries?

FATAL ATTRACTION

The wide blanket that covers it all,

I have a heart for you.

The dream has always been

to ride the skin that is your game,

The sad markings thrown away.

In any climate I make a vow:

I will not change my quest for you,

Your lullabies that bring on sleep.

I leave my gift at your doorstep.

I have no more appetite for loss.

This pales before your promises,

The great defeat of unhappiness

That trails along a cool white sheet

With whispers down an avenue.

Between your pear-like breasts

I lay my head

I lay aside my childish scorn

In you I will be torn

Outside of time and flesh,

An exquisite Nothingness.

You are always there

In the glare and in the dream.

From your constant womb of white

The perfect crown of a perfect life

You beckon to watery steps

With an air of indifference,

Or down into the arms of earth

Where we relinquish our flimsy truths

Of the noises that were us

The stances and the spasms spent

on happenstance.

You open your legs to this.

It is your fragrance that overcomes

my weariness.

In the dream I have seen

Your lipstick is reminiscent:

The smile.

I am afraid.

Outside of myself I watch myself

In my drugged state

Tethered to another life,

A weaker life,

I shudder.

You fade, removed page by page.

Over oceans of time,

You disappear.

I am clear

And alone.

It is another day:

I watch the sun rise.

HAIR PAIN

RON’S WISDOM SALONA fictional advice column

Dear Ron,
My problem is this: I cannot get my hair cut right. I tell my barber to stop at the point where it looks to be the right length. Okay. So what happens? I walk outside, catching my reflection in shop windows and  feeling pretty good about the length. Next I go home and take a shower and shampoo. What that does, believe it or not, is make my hair seem a lot shorter than it was in all those shop windows.

And this less- than-hairy look is something I have to live with for the next week or so, which causes my digestive juices to circulate so horribly that I am forever expelling gas. PLEASE don’t tell me to have my barber stop cutting sooner. I did that last time and had the problem of overhairiness, which was just as painful. I don’t know anymore what to say to my barber. (which has caused another problem, but not to go there at this juncture)

Hair Horror

Dear Hair,

Hair can be horrible –no doubt  about it. Why do we have hair at all is the question I have been asking myself since the age of six. I finally found the answer in my 65th year: We have inherited it from our simian ancestors. Apparently it is a way for animals to protect themselves from the elements. Big deal! I mean it’s cold, you jump into a pair of woollen long ones, right? No need to have hairy legs.

The same for the head. Wrap a scarf around it and travel. What in the world is the point of hair? Itches, becomes a snowstorm when you scratch that makes you  resemble Christmastime in a fairytale. Washing it takes forever and you always get shampoo in out of the way places. You dry it, it blows every which way but the right one. Then it sticks up where you don’t want it to and flattens out when you don’t want it to. It changes colour and nobody told it to. And it’s the first damn thing you see when you look at somebody. You are always comparing thicknesses.

If I had the ear of Mother Nature, I would ask her to do away with the pesky problem altogether. Just leave us with a nice smooth surface and be done with it. But She, knowing women, would probably be too busy at the beauty parlour to give me a straight answer. About your problem? I am just too agitated about the wider question to give you responsible guidelines at the moment. My hair is such a mess! Forgive me, Hair.

I know this didn’t help.

DREAM DIARY

I am teaching an Adult ESL class. There are not many students present. Anita is there. She and I are simulating an argument between a couple in order to generate a conversation on this by the students later in English. One of the students, a middle-aged woman interrupts and states that she objects to this exercise and wants to leave. We stop. I think about the situation. I do not have anything else I wish to start and there is about an hour left in the class. I tell her if she does not like it to just go. At this point, other students who were absent show up, including a man I like very much. The woman who wanted to leave suddenly gets very angry. She approaches me and puts a hand on my chest, poking it. I tell her plainly that if she does not stop this she will regret it, but she continues. I grab her hair and see her face actually fall apart into pieces. I am horrified. The dream ends.

DON’T BUY SHAMPOO IF YOU’RE BALD

RON’S WISDOM SALONA fictional advice column

Dear Ron,

Sometimes I think that I am wasting my life. I have this anxiety that I should be doing something with my life, but I am never able to decide what that “it” is. Maybe writing to you will show me the light. Sorry if this is too vague.

Existential Ed

Dear Ed,

You certainly wrote to the right person.  I spent the morning checking the oil quality on various body parts.

Let me pick out some words you employ:  “Wasting. Anxiety. Vague.”  Waste, according to the dictionary can mean many things.( They always list five or six meanings of one word which is annoying . I will go with number three. “To fail to use…” )

Are you failing to use something? Let us say you have a key that you never use. Well, you are wasting that key. It might be for a lock you don’t have  anymore. What should you do in that case? Throw the damn thing out, of course, or give it away as a gift.

Let us say you have shampoo and you are a bald person. Stop buying shampoo. It is a waste. Get the picture? But –and this is a pretty big but- I think I am hearing from you that you are wasting time. Okay. You can’t throw time in the garbage, can you? Or stop buying it. What you can do is to use it. Use it to do something. Get up in the morning and give yourself an objective for the day. Go to the toilet. Have a cracker and some marmalade.

Help someone out. Be a volunteer. That is always satisfying. Knock on your neighbour’s door and offer to do his dishes.  Don’t take no for an answer. If you see a lady carrying a purse that is probably heavy, offer to take it off her hands. You would be surprised at her reaction. Don’t let her give you anything back either. If she objects, just smile and insist.

You mention anxiety. Don’t let her anxiety throw you off. All people are a bit shy about speaking to strangers. At first. Once she gets to know you, it will be different. And never be vague. Tell them exactly what to want to do.  Say, “I want to polish your car.” Or better yet, find their key, get right in the driver’s seat and tell them that you will take them around town.

I hope you are catching on. Once you get home at night you won’t feel like you have been wasting your time at all. Let me know how it all went.

YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO STRETCH YOUR CAP

RON’S WISDOM SALONA fictional advice column

Dear Ron,
My problem fits into the fashion/hair category. I love my cap and I love to wear it constantly in the winter. What happens is that every time I take it off when I arrive somewhere I notice that my hair is flat. It throws my haircut which is giving me all manner of grief.  Do you think I should give up my cap or make peace with my ruined haircut?
Larry

Dear Larry,
My first question to you is: why do you take your cap off at all? You could resolve the issue by just keeping the cap on the whole time, and that way people would not have to witness your flat hair. All the boys are doing it these days, haven’t you noticed? It is “in”, the thing to do. The world is starting to resemble a Passover dinner or the inside of a dugout. You would look fashionable and maybe even meet new people in the process. Try it and let me know what happens.

Dear Ron,
I thought of that, but find it poses a problem of its own. If I wear the cap inside, my forehead starts to heat up causing a band of perspiration to form and eventually drip down onto my nose, making me have to  take the cap off to expose my ruined haircut.  Please! Sometimes I feel like the gods are against me.
Larry

Dear  Larry,
The dripping part is unfortunate.  Couldn’t you fit a little Kleenex in there to sop up the dampness? By the way, of what religious persuasion are you? I don’t know of many with more than one God.

Dear Ron,
The “gods” comment was just hyperbole I used to express my malcontent with my pesky situation.  I mean if there were more than one god, would they really have the time to get together to form a conspiracy against me, Larry? I am not that paranoid, but I am in despair about the cap/haircut problem. Your suggestion that I use Kleenex may be good, but what happens if it falls out and into my soup, for example.  I think I would feel awful if that happened.  It would then pose another problem, wouldn’t it? Would I be able to continue eating my soup?
Larry

Dear Larry,

It would depend on how tasty the soup was initially, but yes, I do get your point. Larry, there are times in the lives of men when a man must do what a man must do: I am sorry to have to tell you this but you are just going to have to stretch your cap. It can be done. Ask any haberdasher. It’s called “propping.” They can push it out so that your hair will have enough room to relax. Good luck and if you dare, let me know how your hair fares.

MY BEDSHEET DILEMMA

RON’S WISDOM SALONA fictional advice column

Dear Ron,

I don’t know what to do about my bed sheets. I wash them, I dry them, and you know what happens? They come out all wrinkled. Now I have to sleep on wrinkled sheets. Not only that. When I look at my sheets I think of my poor face which is starting to look like a prune and I want to heave.  Can’t they make sheets that don’t wrinkle, or is that too much to ask in our age of miracles?

Bedroom Blues

Dear Bedroom Blues,

I can sympathize. There is nothing sadder than wrinkled sheets. A close second I think would be world hunger. Wrinkles are also dangerous  in that they chafe and can even cut the skin if you are unlucky enough to be an active sleeper.

What pops immediately to mind from my bag of advice options is the iron. Yes, it is a chore and cuts down on your shopping time, but it has been known to fight the bumps. You would have to get a large ironing board, though, because the ones we usually  find are too narrow for sheets.  I am not sure where these can be purchased, but common sense tells me to locate a shop which caters to the over weight .

If that is not to your liking, a cover-up is the next best  strategy.  Throw a spread over it so that you won’t know it is there, and that way it will be out of mind and not cause you anguish. Or shut your eyes before you hit the sack and snap off the lights immediately, of course, remembering to  keep them closed  in the morning when the sheets are likely to be even more wrinkled.

If you are feeling really testy about the matter, I would encourage you to find others who share your problem and band together to harass the makers of those wrinkle-prone sheets with a constant barrage of e-mail, threatening to sue if they cannot come up with a better product.

You might like to cut down on mirror time as well so that you are not as pained by the prune effect. Good luck and let me know once you get the problem ironed out.

MAYBE YOUR PANTS DON’T BREATHE

RON’S WISDOM SALON: A fictional advice column

Dear Ron,
I have a kinda sticky problem. If I am in my car, driving for at least a half hour at a stretch, my behind gets very hot, to the point that I begin to feel like what I imagine an egg must in the process of getting hard boiled. It does not feel too great I can tell you. What can I do about this other than to stop driving?
Baked

Dear Baked,

I have pondered this considerably and have come up with a possible explanation. Your trousers. Maybe your pants don’t breathe sufficiently. Or maybe your underwear is too tight. Try clothes that enjoy breathing.  Cotton is an option.
Otherwise, I would keep the window wide open, and elevate your backside from time to time to invite air contact. One cheek at a time is a good way to do it, rotating each to get maximum contact for about thirty seconds, but carefully watching the road at the same time. Good luck and rotate responsibly.

HOW IT HAPPENED

We sit in opposition
Like cars gearing up for a
Game of chicken.
The wind blusters in your
Eyes, your piano voice comes
In crystals. I feel the years
Between us that have
Fallen off, revealing a hard
Skeleton  of love in place.
But
How  we try each
Other for fault! Your vanity,
my hands cut off at
The wrist. I have no
Stomach to pick through
These remains again or retrace
Plot points on the map
To here. I see it as a
Happy accident that
We have survived
Together at all,
Certainly not any of my
Doing.  Was it the god
Of inertia who intervened,
limited horizons pressing
Against motion?
Were we not brave enough,
and if so,
Has it not taken us down
A step?
Or
Was it something else entirely,
A flame of recognition
That held a mutual gaze
And burned everything else
Away?

==========

SIGNATURE

You wait
And if it doesn’t come you wait some more,
It is something like fishing
Except you don’t do it in the sun.
It is not exactly pleasant
And it is not exactly unpleasant either
And
Why you do it
is difficult to answer.
It has something to do with compulsion
Your having to know that you can,
On that day
come up with something
That will definitely surprise you.
So you court the gods gravely and fervently
Because you know that it is not really
You at all who is going to do the work.
It is rather a chorus of Voices somewhere
Inside your nervous system
that will come to visit you,
Bringing with them words as gifts to you,
Which they offer in muffled tones or
In fits and starts, or in lengthier
Instalments that you take down
At your keyboard you hope in the right
Order.
You want to receive the message correctly
not mishear it,
And you have to learn to trust that what they tell you
Is in fact the truth because you have no way of verifying
It.
Of course there will be at some point an overseer who
tinkers and censors
And deletes
A sort of Father Figure editor
Who must get the package wrapped correctly.
But that is the easy part really because the gift is already
There,
in whole
or in part.

Later, you and others will determine whether it was
A cheap gift or an expensive one.
You will provide your signature,
The Voices will be relegated to obscurity.

But
You know in your heart that you are probably
an imposter,
At best, an interceptor,
And the Voices will not be there to either
Confirm or deny it.

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HOW TO BEAT AN INSULT

We have all been insulted some time or other in our life. And it is important that one learns to take insults well if we are to retain any measure of self-respect. When someone says to you, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” How can you most handily respond to that?

Act interested . Go, “Why don’t I go fuck myself, indeed?” Have your  fingertip at your lip, your head cocked at an upturned angle while you say this.  It is possible, though unlikely, that the big-mouth will join you in attempting to answer their own question,  Or you could choose to remind them it is none of their business. Your insult to them. But the better course is to stay on the high road and not play tit for tat.  It is possible that the person decides to up the ante with a more direct “Fuck you” or “Fuck off.”

Now you must clarify matters. Explain to the frustrated soul that you don’t wish to do either. Be firm but kind. Remind them that we live in a democracy, that they are neither your guardian nor your stockbroker (if in fact it is the case)  and that you don’t wish to take their advice. Or, contrarily, that you may just do what they have suggested. Thank them for their tough-love manner and wish them well in their day.

If this leads to a physical threat, raise your hand and take on a stance of “Brother, you know not what you do!”  in the style  of Harvey Keitel, admonishing his flock in Martin Scorcese’s old movie, The Last Temptation of Christ.  It is always useful to have a model in mind when you make a magnanimous gesture. It may even get uglier. If so, employ one of Ghandi’s tactics and sit on the ground. Do not allow yourself to be hurt, but don’t resist either.  Do the right thing, a la the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Hopefully, a crowd will encircle you that includes a burly off-duty policeman. If that doesn’t happen, play dead, or convince the person that it is time for your nap. It is always amazing what people will accept at face value. The important thing is to keep them guessing and preferably under the impression that you cannot be bullied, or that you are mentally unbalanced and capable of untold destruction if pushed to it.

The best alternative, however, may still be the flight reaction. But usually it does not come to that. What is the worst that can happen? You die. There are worse things than death,( which I won’t get into at this juncture.) Suffice it say that even if you did die, you would know (how, I have no idea!) that you did the right thing. You did not insult back.  You did not steep to their level. You acted with dignity, forbearance, a smattering of intelligence, bluff. You danced well. You went out in style (whatever that means) Could they say the same? It is more than likely that they will at some point regret what they said or did to you, or they may even become born-again and go on to years of meetings in dank basements with badly dressed overweight people .

You will have changed the person. they might never insult another person again, or at least in the same manner.  You have made a difference!

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WHAT IS THE MYSTERY?


Write about it.

Write about what?

Find an” it” and write about it.

This is it.

Then what can we say about it?

That it’s here

Where?

Right here.

I can’t see. It’s too dark.

That’s it.

The darkness?

Yes.

What can we say about the darkness?

It’s dark.

Yes,… and?

And you don’t know where anything is.

Go on.

And It’s on my shoulder now.

Yes  It’s heavy, isn’t it

It’s gone now.

A little light, then?

Yes but it’s still hard to see.

Maybe you need glasses.

It’s possible.

Which it is it now?

There is only one it.

Darkness?

Yes.

Everything is possible in darkness.

Is it?

It is.

I see.

It’s too dark to see.

I know.

That’s it.

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

The package wears a bow-tie. He smiles at the clock. He can’t go anywhere or do anything because packages don’t move on their own and there is nothing that moves him. Being self-aware, He observes himself as weight. Gravity is the rule that owns him. Repetition is the game that plays him in a slow, evenly paced drip that marks time. More accurately, it is the clock that changes position, and the smile indicates nothing because it has been pasted on, it signifies no particular emotion. It remains perhaps because it relaxes his face and has become a habit and habit is what keeps him. He notices his chest, a block heaving, and sometimes gets lost in its momentum. In moments like this he goes away and then returns . He returns to the same place, to his body, to the repetition, to the arena of pain. Everything is old, solid, unchanged. He listens to his body, to the noises that wash over it in a functional , predictable sequence- the passages, the objections, the causes and effects, the tedium. He tries to listen for something different and then concludes that it has all been done just the same as it always has, in eternal, concentric stasis . He remembers, he still can remember, the sun, the moon, their dance in light and darkness. The clock moves once again and the past spins out as well with all the unreality of soap bubbles. It could be another mind that invented it. The mind means nothing, can’t be trusted to produce anything reliable. He is his body: Limited. Immobile. Circumscribed, as if spirit has been extricated leaving a corpse that is watching itself. A stone watching a stone, watching the clock move over frozen time.

=======================

 

NOT A LECTURE

The human mind is relentless

at what it wants to get.

When there is a pay-off, don’t worry,

It will be there in one way or another

To turn over the earth for its desired worm.

Your call will be returned.

You’ll be called “sir”

There will be bells and smiles at your command.

The whole world will tickle your fancy

Till the worm is there in the hand.

Then it will be farewell and good luck

And see you soon, maybe,

Until the next worm is wished for.

Self- interest is a funny thing

Because it makes people into things.

It makes us a hinge on the door

To someone else’s gain.

I’d rather be called something else,

Like friend.

Let’s spend some time together.

Let’s have mutual pleasure.

What’s -in it- for- me

is a nowhere strategy

That subtracts from our humanity.

Let’s be

Animals that care for each other.

Your gain is mine

Mine is ours,

A communism of the heart

In a time when the heart has become

nearly dysfunctional.

It’s possible

To transcend the fear of losing,

Being less

Because you have given.

There are just rewards before heaven.

A life of me and mine

Is less than satisfactory.

So find your generosity.

(This is not a plea from

An ad agency.)

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WHY?

 

I just told someone something

I am sure will kill me.

In the end I will be dead,

But not dead enough to regret

What I said.

Yet what is the good of truth

When you come down to it?

It glares, it smashes your head against

Your most tender parts.

Its reverberations last

Well into the next dilemma.

Making enemies of even the kindest people.

 

I beg for release…

From truth.

Being ground down each new day,

Knowing it will end

End badly, probably,l

I am paralyzed and the only thing I can do

Is laugh…

And worst of alI

I have no idea

Why.

Strange sounds are the last things

I hear

And

Yes,

A groaned

“Why?”

Among these.

 

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L ‘WREN

L’Wren Scott

la-styliste-l-wren-scott_4858771

When the bird died

I cried

She was so long and lithe

Hung from her French door.

And the world sighed,

‘Why? She had everything.’

 

Everything is not nearly enough,

There is nowhere to go from there

No real air,

Everything marked up with checks

And squares

To convince oneself this is a life.

 

I suppose we convince ourselves,

We must. Otherwise

Hell meets us face first

To declare the worst.

How to survive?

She tried , but she

Is no longer alive.

Mort-de-L-Wren-Scott-devaste-Mick-Jagger-ecrit-Je-ne-comprends-pas_portrait_w674

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