Tag Archives: neuroplasticity

Children at the Brink

I was running with the wind again. Headed north with Lacey riding shotgun. We had dinner in Ashland Saturday night. Sunday stopped in Eugene for breakfast. I’d been the producer of the street performing program at the Eugene Celebration for a bunch of years. Downtown Eugene has gone from bad to worse in the last few years.

After breakfast north to Portland and stopped to have a visit with one of my oldest friends. He’s holed up on the Northeast side just off Sandy. My friend likes to think outside the box, he prefers to live outside the box, and working from this scaffolding makes a curiosity, a kind of unbridled romp far from the familiar fields.

Evening shared more time with a husband, wife and their two teen daughters. On my way to see our youngest now at Seattle University it was like a taste of warm ups for what was about to come.

The progressive teen of the Pacific Northwest is a roving Burning Man Festival. They are playful souls. They bet with imagination. They read books, good reads.

They recycle. They eat good food. They like to juggle. They draw. They hook up and get tight with their sweethearts. They know that authenticity is the coin of the realm.

These are the souls we are handing our world off to. They are good loving people. They love the world they’ve been born into. The same as you and the same as me, and they want to do, to do whatever it takes, to turn the world around.

The obstructive class of status quo types that have the world by the throat… they will always want just one more bite of the apple, make one more close, one more deal, one more day before they let go.

My bet is with these feisty types up in this corner of the country. Come high tide, black ice, or snow storm they’re going to try to steer away from the catastrophe.

If you hadn’t noticed, Scientific America published a story this week. The article was unequivocal. Climate change is irreversible. The world is going to get much hotter. An extinction event could be baked into the cake.

We apparently can’t help ourselves. We can’t fix every problem. We can’t win every war. There are things beyond our reach. So, when was it we gave up and became fashionable not to try?

 

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Connect with me and I’ll sell you a print version for $15.

 

Yes, I’m the Great Pretender

Who are you kidding?

Delusion abounds in this the age of information. We are deluded and misdirected in this ever increasingly complex civilization we have been born into.

I try to understand economics. I read about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. I listen to commentary on the radio. One friend is angry at labor unions. Another friend blames bankers for his problems, another affirmative action, women’s liberation and Greenpeace.

Changing the subject is a popular devise to bury a subject you’d rather not discuss. I thought we were in the midst of a Great Recession, that there were millions upon millions of people without work and needed a job?

A group of men advertising themselves as celibate go get their nickers in a knot over a topic most of us thought settled five decades ago! Not only does birth control as a burden fall disproportionally upon women, it turns out the attack on this burden is executed disproportionally by a group of men vowing to have nothing to do with the very thing women alone are burdened with.

In the age of delusion we don’t fix problems. We have problems and when we begin to feel as if one problem is beginning to be fixed we raise new problems. Don’t let the (expletive deleted) get you down.

 

There is this profound sense that we can’t change. There is this slow motion train wreck quality to our times. More delusion probably, all too many people think that everything is just great.

It is literally a miracle to me that somehow we have managed to make jetliners as safe as we have given our propensity to delude ourselves. Maybe we’re kidding ourselves. Maybe it is far more dangerous than we know?

Facts- they say are stubborn things, but it is looking like delusion is too. I don’t think we get up in the morning go into the bathroom and wash our face and look into the mirror and say, “who are you kidding?”

Even if we did start the day off with the admonition to play it straight with ourselves it seems we are all in our own separate realities. Life is not a series of distinct, autonomous events. Life is more a flow, one event pushing the previous event out of our mind only to find that event being pushed by the next and the next.

Of course living in a ‘fact free of consequences world’ allows us to simply all go our own deluded way. Since nothing bad has happened nothing bad will happen. That’s delusions greatest threat; what might be bad for you might well be good for me!

Delusion doesn’t require a mental deficiency of any kind. Perfectly healthy well educated people can be utterly and completely deluded. We don’t need any help.

But, when you wake up, when you make an observation, and it is apparently confirmed and verified to be true and then you don’t react, don’t do what you can to right the situation and you pretend that you can’t do anything about it, that’s the bait to the trap.

The modern world we live in might simply be too complicated for us. That’s the biggest delusion, or perhaps it is a stubborn fact yet to be reckoned with.

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The Nevada Single-Leaf Pinion Pine Nut as Plot

They are right there... those are those dark spots on the hills

The Nevada single-leaf pinion pine (pinus monophylla) produces a nut. If you’ve ever made pesto you will recall that most recipes call for the use of pine nuts. If you’ve ever gone to a grocery store to buy pine nuts you soon discover that they are expensive. Retail they sell for near thirty dollars a pound.

Pinion and juniper grow together. The trees back in the ‘50’s were considered a nuisance. They removed them by hooking a stout anchor chain between two dozers and then our barbaric forefathers cleared the land. The land was now more suited to grazing cattle. Ranchers somehow overlooked the fact that beef earned them peanuts compared to what a crop of pinion nuts could bring.

Now the Nevada single-leaf pinion nut is not just some run of the mill pine nut. It is in the opinion of those who are supposed to know regarded to be one of nature’s most delicious prizes. Nevada pinion nuts are nature’s highest achievement.

If those old cowboys are anything like me they probably sat on their saddles looking out over their herd watching the sunset and the whole time they didn’t realize that they were looking right at the biggest cash crop growing in the Great Basin of the American west.

Biologists put pencil to paper and the value of the pine nuts in Nevada are an estimated 100 million dollars per year. That’s not a gold mine that’s a renewable resource. The eye popping economic value of this crop is a revelation. Add the ecological, spiritual and cultural significance of this prized nut and the wealth of this harvest boggles the human mind.

Before we knew what the heck we had we’d already removed as much as 90% of the original old growth pinion forests. Some folk are thinking might be another kind of nut if we don’t get our heads on straight and put new trees back in where the old ones once grew.

What’s this have to do with the price of tea in China? Exactly what I thought you’d be thinking too. What it means is that there exists a spectacular means to help the people right in Nevada to become self sufficient, care for the land, provide a valuable product to the world, and earn a wage that can help support a worker, a family, a community, a state and ultimately the whole nation.

We built the Bonneville Dam and it is as if nobody gave it a second thought as to what might happen to the salmon. Until taxol was discovered to be of use fighting cancer the Pacific Yew tree was a garbage tree of minimal value and of limited practical uses.

My next novel is set in Nevada. It is a comedy. I’m learning about pine nuts. I’m finding out about geothermal water heated greenhouses, Basque sheepherding, turquoise mining and land speed world records. I’m busy trying to make things up (plotting the novel) and it turns out truth as always is stranger than fiction.

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Slow Down You Move to Fast, You’ve Got to Make the Morning Last

1939 Chevy......almost exactly same engine as 1955...Oh yeah that's me

Running the mile in less than four minutes, we knew it could be done we just didn’t know what it might mean.

Now the rate of change seems to sweep whatever it is we are doing now into the dust bins of our present. So we sit with one foot in the present while we mock the latest release as almost but not quite right.

We are so drowning in fact that fiction is deemed quaint and irrelevant. Where and to what do we point? The modern man is an immigrant? Is he a banker? Is he toiling at a job that no longer exists or is soon to be outsourced?

To offer a perspective on what it is that is happening our audience needs to hold some collective grip; a shared experience. Since we have shattered, blue and red, Wall Street and Main Street, D’s and R’s, independents and libertarians, and these only describe a fraction of what has been shattered, the whole of what is being broken into pieces is even more sacred, more ancestral, more human and more at risk than any of that.

Here each individual offering, each solution is slapped down and stomped out. Some writers offer chaos theory, others comedy, still others give it a shot, but before the shot is given a chance to hit its mark the mark has moved; the rate of change is like that.

There is so much disappointment. I can barely find a movie I want to see. There is hardly a politician I want to vote for. There is not a tax I like, and not a birth control device I can put the whole of my faith in.

How do we explain this? I’m not a skeptic. I am not fatalistic. I’m not even pessimistic. But, if in foreground is my perky self and in the background is a world that is unable to manage itself, a world that is unable to control itself, its industries, its politics, its aim and future?

If you were going to write about the world you see and try to speak to all of us, not just some, but the whole of humanity, to help shape us, warn us, change us, evolve us, inform us, what and how in the world might you do that, now that you know that what you have to say falls upon a world imprisoned by the sheer rate of change.

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I Feel like a Natural Woman

Soul on Fire

Do you listen to your body? Do you overrule yourself and go against instinct? If you are in an odd situation how do you feel your way through things?

Moving from performing to writing and then back again I am reminded of this physical guidance system built into our nervous system.

I put a scene together in a chapter of one of my novels, building it piece by piece, brick by brick until it finally comes alive. The words and actions of the characters when carefully constructed can create the illusion of an experience. It rings true.

My men need women in my fiction and I have no choice but to get out my set of tools and construct them. I grew up in a family with three sisters.

I was always so at home with the women I danced with. I became one of them. They needed to forget about my gender, at least while we were dancing, we had work to do.

The women were in a competition with one another. It was their turf. In class once I had been accepted I was allowed to observe how they would jockey for advantage with one another.

There was nuance. They veiled their thoughts. Their eyes spoke nothing. Then, all at once I might note one of the dancers stealing a glance. They looked away. In their eyes you could see their thinking.

First and foremost I saw women with a fierce determination. They all seemed tough. They maintained a resolute confidence. Even the second or third or fourth best dancer among the women danced as if they were the best.

After class they would allow that another dancer might have an edge but while they were on the dance floor in a studio they moved with grit and confidence. I admired the women because their strength of character was colored with such a rich and textured vulnerability that you would seldom if ever find in the men.

In many ways I am very feminine, and I don’t mean in some silly insecure sense of the meaning, but each of us is in fact not just all male or all female. We all have some aspect, some fraction that consists of the other gender, and that other is located within us.

One of the privileges of fiction is that it allows us to channel these multitudes of people that inhabit our being. We have a duty to honor them and to speak as truthfully for them as our received wisdom allows.

A human being is in some odd sense a repository of experiences that transcends this one mortality. We know things that have come stored in our souls. There is a vast treasure of humanity capable of speaking through us. It is a mystery some days and as ordinary as old wallpaper on others.

 *A neighbor friend of mine who reads novels voraciously enjoyed your “Bankrupt Heart” immensely. He especially appreciated the atmosphere of the boatyard, a place and milieu imaginative literature had not yet taken him. He was also taken by the depth and authenticity of the characters. *

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A Day at the Beach

Not here, but like here

Madness it seems is not always confined to a mere individual. The whole lot of us can be convinced to run right off a cliff. We seem to be capable of collective irrationality.

If I didn’t have an understanding of yoga, the game of paintball, or solitaire I might look with virgin like eyes and think I was looking at madness incarnate

I used to frequent a resort in Arizona that specialized in welcoming recreational vehicle enthusiasts who preferred nudity. It turned out to not be my cup of tea. People who live in recreational vehicles would be well served by utilizing some textiles in strategically located portions of their anatomy.

But, that isn’t the point. Once they arrive, once they get sited, they by way of doing what everyone else are doing fit into the scene. How much literature is built upon a character that seems to awaken and then arouse everyone else to take a contrary action.

I arise every morning and compared to the guests at the RV park I am revolutionary. By the time I go out the door my madness is disguised. If I really groom and dress up I can put across a very convincing likeness of an adult.

A group of fetching waitresses I knew had decided they wanted to spend the day at a nude beach. Off they went for a day of unclothed fun in the sun. I worked near the restaurant and knew the women.

Hanging out at a nude beach is an excellent activity with total strangers. For whatever reason my fate took me to the same beach, it wasn’t my idea of fun particularly, but I went along. This group of fetching waitresses just about died when they spotted me trotting down the beach.

I tried to be adult about our accidental meeting under such circumstances. I had yet to have disrobed. I had yet to have joined in the collective madness that is getting naked at a nude beach which is not a madness whatsoever, it is what it is, nudity.

I thought their nudity quite rewarding. I think they found their unveiled offerings to a man they recognized from where they worked rather embarrassing. Perhaps that isn’t the right word, but there was a good deal of blushing.

One thing about nudity is that with two arms and hands and a pair of knees it takes a good deal of contorting to strategically solve the issue of how to seem like you are not covering up while you attempt to place knee or hand or elbow across various parts and places you’d rather not share. When done well it is almost a modern dance.

I try to contain my impulses to be swept away by the moment. We trotted away from my friends. We found a spot down the beach where we could play Frisbee.

I had a friend going broke. She took her massage table down to the nude beach. She set up her table, she took off her clothes, and she’s never lacked for work since. This is innovation.

 

 

Factual Straightjackets

Shifting Shapes

Do you shop at the local produce markets that pop up in your community? I do. I relate to the whole notion of how much it costs to transport food long distances.

I heard that because food from the southern hemisphere swirls in the opposite direction of food in the northern hemisphere that there is potentially a detrimental consequence to eating things swirled from the opposite hemisphere that you live in.

I generally try to keep my feet on the ground. I try not to get too pie in the sky or too sure of myself. I know with a great deal of certainty that what I know is more belief than fact. I’m factually certain that I live in a fantasy world!

I’ve been studying literary theory. Turns out we rely upon Marx and Engel.  We’re stuck. For all the fulmination, all the storm and drudge, all the high minded models that have been tossed out to the world like a bone to a dog that there remains precious little changed. It is still the big boys against everybody else!

Marx is as relevant as Henry Ford. It means that the industrial revolution continues to require equitable distribution of profits between interested parties, blah, blah, blah.

I hobnob with the elite now and again. I’ll be inWashingtonD.C.this weekend. I will press the flesh. Try to move the needle. If you didn’t know it I am influential! What I have to say matters. I can move the world!

What pair of glasses do you pick up from the table of your life to see the world through? How much of what you look at is slanted to fit your beliefs and not facts? Do you know a fact when you see one? Do you understand how your sunglasses might well be mythical, magical, blinders to something you will not allow your soul to see?

Facts are stubborn things and beliefs are their straightjackets….

 

 

To Hell in a Handbasket By Do-Gooders

I hate it when life looks this good...

How mean and nasty are you? I’m well shy of criminal mean and nasty but then I’m not talking about crime, I mean more generally about disposition, the essential direction of your personality.

I’ve seen perfectly rational individuals once they are inside the construct of a relationship find that they have a pretty short fuse. Light that thing and they just blow right up like a stick of dynamite.

The fuse thing comes as a surprise. So long as they are not in a relationship there is no fuse. With a relationship they have one. Some folk figure the solution to the problem is not to have that problem to begin with. So for starters they stay way the hell clear of relationships.

Now these stay the hell clear types who after a spell of doing nothing go out dancing and drinking. So, they get dragged right back to the very place they had promised that they would not go back to ever again.

Look at that face, a man really not happy right now, beautiful

 

This is the mystical nature of the unavoidable and unintended consequences of stubbornness. The less open you are to a thing the more that thing will occupy your attention.

You have to learn how to grit your teeth, not blow your top, you fake it until you make it; if you make it at all because it is a long journey to the serenity you have witnessed with your own eyes but have never had a taste of in your own heart.

I watch bemused with the dispositions of people in such places asSouth Carolina. They seem to have worked themselves up. They seem to be steamed. Don’t like things the way they are and as best I can tell they have a notion to get this thing moving back in a direction more suited to their point of view.

I suspect we are all looking together at some mysterious force; something you just can’t pretend doesn’t exist. It’s got fire, spleen, gumption. People snarl and insult. They turn into all elbows and tart rejoinder. I look in the mirror and swear if things keep going the way things are going I could end up joining their club… I’ll need a few more affairs, leave another wife and be sure to not release my tax returns.

It is a thing of beauty. I’m proud of folk for thinking outside the box. South Carolinian’s understand that we are all foul and fake. We all have some little monster just beneath the surface. So since love can drive us out of our minds lets try this other route. Their might be goodness in virtue but there is true happiness in a good old fashioned temper tantrum, you know something that can really make your blood boil.

It is why misery loves company. It allows the whole lot of us to celebrate the least of what we are. I have wasted all these years trying to be just a little tiny bit better. Its time to reconsider how much more satisfying my life could be if I just stopped trying to fix things and stick with being what I really am: unhappy.

 

 

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Forces to Reckon With

The Ego's Cage

I think I am civilized. Finally I have crossed some threshold and arrived. I never much enjoyed being barbaric. My brutish phase has ended.

In my twenties I had a temper. I could get so excited I couldn’t remember what I had become so excited about. Regardless I could stay mad for hours even if I couldn’t really put my finger on what triggered the whole thing.

I look in at the gladiators now working inSouth   Carolina and I am quite impressed. My worst days remain unremarkable. It would be hard to make them headline grabbing. I haven’t got any offshore accounts in the Caribbean, but to be honest I had a checking account inCanadafor a spell.

Hypocrisy is a mirror into the soul. It suggests all manner of convoluted exceptionalism. Where temperament truly glows is where one is absolved from the same requirements of another person. You happen to be so much better a person. That isn’t opinion it is an absolute truth. You don’t just take that to the bank you’ll find it at the scene of the crime and repeat it while undergoing an interrogation.

Following rules is for other suckers. You are obviously not an ‘other,’ you are you. You look in the mirror and there you are that complete obviously exceptional package. There is nothing wrong or you would have notice by now. You see a man free enough to be man enough to be leader enough of the free world.

You can’t be the leader of the free world and be expected to follow the same rules as everyone else. How would that look? Why in the world would you bother to even want that job? Truly exceptional men know this. You want to be free to be free to do as you damn well freely choose.

Approximate facsimile of what it looks like just before the end

The rain ends and the clouds part and the beams of light crack through this mist where revelation of these foundational principles fill the man with a confidence that doesn’t just intoxicate but ends in a roadside breath analyzer test. You are not just drunk with power it seems you are just drunk. Finally we have arrived. You are there. Please come with me!

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Tragic-comic reindeer eating

Might taste good, but make me feel bad...

A good street show is funny. You need to appeal to people’s better natures, they aren’t looking for Lear. They don’t want to know what the hell Congress has done now.

Of course the pantheon of the tragic-comic life is littered with many terrific examples: George Burns losing Gracie and then rising from his loss to laugh once more. There is the famous Lewinski fiasco that our recent President was unsuccessfully impeached for.

This is what I think was missing in Sarah Palins theatricality. She was too bellicose sexy and not big enough to laugh at her outlandish disguise. She was all glamour-puss and no wink-wink, nod-nod, look at me ain’t this grand even the Arctic bombshell can have a day in the sun.

I think a lot of the women I know would find George Clooney a great surrogate for Camelot. They could have a principled affair, surrendering to their lust and be all the better for it in the end. You never get that same vibe from Sarah. It would be like telling someone you buy Playboy because you really like reading the stories. Come on, who you kidding?

Lust, drugs, money, greed, thinking you won’t get caught and then you do, under certain conditions this can turn out sometimes as not too awful. A torrid affair with your wife (lust) after a sublime bottle of wine (drugs), while plunking down a fair chunk of cash for a hotel room with a spa on the balcony is benign, harms nobody. Do the same thing with someone you ought not to be with while using legally forbidden substances on an expense account you are not supposed to be using for such purposes and we have all the trappings of what we now seem to understand as an ordinary day in the life of corporate privilege of a kind.

I am most pleased by small tragedy to be followed by a larger more laughable comedy. Springtime for Hitler in Germany was Mel Brooks doing pitch perfect what I am talking about.

I find economics a great source of tragic-comic players. They do their deadpan so well. I feel like I am visiting a financial mortician sometimes, they are a kind of like the gay florist who pretends he’s straight. It would be so simple if we were all just one thing, but the biggest laugh isn’t who we are, but when our mask slips and the world gets a glimpse of not just our preferred self, but our whole self…the best of these disguised players it turns out are something less than half bad, and that’s about as good as it gets.

I used to worry I might turn out to be rotten to the core when in fact I was just a little too ripe. Most of what I am turned out to be not too bad, but still you have to be realistic. The half-life of tragic is still relentlessly in the hunt to spoil the punch lines of balance that is comic. Next time you flip out in rush hour traffic take a look in the rear view mirror. Who is that you see? I hope your answer is Daffy Duck….