Thursday, April 3, 2008

Speaking of Liberating Systems
From the Edge of the American West blog:
"[T]he great and good Volker Berghahn discussed, in painstaking detail, his note-taking methods. Upon finishing his explanation, Volker smiled and said, “I find my system liberating.” At the time I couldn’t get beyond the irony. But now, I think Berghahn meant what A White Bear means: familiarity with a complex but flexible system is not about circumscribing options but creating new ones.

Complex, yet flexible. The infinite within the finite. Discipline as ultimate freedom. To look at everything, we must look at just one thing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I Hate Nature
The heading of this post is a response to both my hometown of Portland as well as old queries from ex-coworkers at Megalithic Shoe Co., Inc., who, when they discovered I had traveled to India on multiple occasions for reasons relating to yoga, suddenly assumed I preferred patchouli, Phish, and seventies-era VW buses or Toyota Priuses.

"Nature" includes forests, mountains, the woods, creeks, trees in general, babbling brooks, leaves, bushes. Flowers are okay as long as they're safely in a vase.

It's not so much nature itself that I hate --- and here I refuse to anthropomorphize the savage and meaningless and insistent ruthless urge for life to propagate --- it's the recreational activities that surround it: hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, bird-watching, tracking. Pretty much anything involving brown boots, a puffy jacket, and a stout oak staff for support.

All good hatred, if pure and true, stems from deep fear. As an impressionable young lad, I happened to see about 20 minutes of Super-8 film footage taken on a tourist safari in Africa in the seventies. The clip depicted some hapless tourist opting out of the gene pool by leaping from his Volkswagen Thing to shoot a closer photo of a pride of lions.

The lions --- being fucking lions! --- in turn promptly leapt on the guy and ate him.

They didn't kill him and then eat him. They ate him, starting with his stomach, in a process that didn't end before the camera ran out of film. A lion sat on the man's chest and occasionally took bites from his stomach and chest; the man twitched and kicked and ineffectually swatted at the big cat.

Despite the bars, fences and cages, a shoulder-high tiger switching out of the darkness at the Mysore zoo is enough to inspire a change of underwear. And don't get me started on my fear of bears.

I suppose, then, that it's fitting I live in Portland, Oregon, which is essentially a city built among a vast forest of Ents, that is, malign trees, trees that insist on crowding into and over every street and house, building and sidewalk, casting black, pre-Cambrian shadows that whisper of a more primordial darkness. The city is also just a few miles from mountains, streams, beaches, trails, hills, valleys --- in other words, you can't throw a non-biodegradable styrofoam coffee-cup anywhere without hitting the Great Fucking Outdoors.

I prefer urban nature --- the green and yellow grown-over vacant lot en route to the coffee shop; the yellow flashbulbs of dandelions thrust between the cracks in pavement; the red flowers in a white bucket being sold on the freeway on-ramp; a rectilinear, sculpted and tamed green shrub leaning well away from the sidewalk. Acceptable wildlife include squirrels, pigeons, cats, mid-sized dogs, and any other animal I at least double in body-weight and which, were it to suddenly go rabid, I could reliably stomp to death.

Acceptable nature activities include those that do not necessitate my participation with nature; rather, the event or activity may take place in nature, but it must reduce existence to the cotton-haze of exertion and effort until the universe has dwindled to the pure pinprick of single-pointed consciousness.

Such activities may include road cycling, trail-running, rock-climbing, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, or an ounce of psilocybin.

It's at this point in the argument that my wife tells me to go live in an ashram.