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Bush’s War

Monday, March 24th, 2008

OK, enough of this head-in-the-sand, self-involved lollygagging. There are other things going on. Specifically, there is this obscene and pointless war in Iraq to make the world safe for oil billionnaires. I have never blogged about it before because everyone I know is dumbstruck by the horror of it, the obscenity of it; and not one of us knows what to do about it.  Nothing I can say will surprise anyone. But today, even if I say what everyone already knows, I have to say something. No one, not even Bush’s own people, has ever given a plausible reason for this war other than to take control of Iraq’s oil. The oil billionnaires who put Bush in power are now rolling in so many more billions of dollars that even they don’t know what to do with the money. Everybody knows this. There’s no point in even putting a link to the information. Now 4,o00 Americans are dead, about a million Iraqis are dead…a million, or at the very least 655,o00. So that would be everyone you have ever known in your whole life, and everyone they have ever known, and their families, and then some. A million dead people, give or take a few, and none of us can count that much suffering. Imagine that many bodies lying on the ground. My mind can’t hold it. How much grief is that? And the people who have lost legs or part of their brains, or who have gone mad with grief and horror, or the children whose lives are shattered by the loss of their parents, by hunger and despair–nobody even counts them.  This coming Friday I’m going to attend a peace action in a park near me, and there is a questionnaire they sent to the people who’ve signed up to attend. The first question is, “What have you done today to bring about peace?” Here’s my pathetic answer: for starters, I’m going to watch TV. [read on]

S.N. Goenka’s excellent system

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Home from the ten-day vipassana course, I recompose my molecules and begin again.  For ten days I was intimate with fifty strangers, sleeping from 10 p.m. till 4 a.m. in chilly dorms, standing in line to pee, jostling before dawn with toothbrushes in our mouths, staggering back to the meditation hall as if back into the mouth of hell.  Intimate as our circumstances were, each of us was engrossed in our own inner filmscape, what Yeats called the rag and bone shop of the heart. Full of memories and secrets, we sat knee to thigh with each other, absolutely still for thirteen hours a day. Sitting times were punctuated by breaks for breakfast and lunch (no dinner), a little time for walking in a spectacular meadow, a little time for personal hygiene, and by occasional five-minute pee-breaks. We sought equanimity, acknowledged impermanence, and watched our minds do what they do. Wander, obsess, fantasize, remember, hash things over and over. Occasionally we left our inner drama long enough to follow instructions. [read on]

Great compassion

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

My apartment smells like a new car: fresh paint, glue, and fabric sizing. No spaghetti stains or soup spills stain the carpet; no animal has vomited or left muddy paw prints on the chair. There are no rings on the tables left by coffee mugs or wine glasses, and the bookcases have no scrapes, gouges, or cigarette burns. No one has rested a tired, greasy head on the back of the sofa; no one has had sex or peed on the bed. No endearments have been whispered here, no blame hurled, and if a betrayal has occurred within these walls, it was before my time. It’s all pristine, virginal, untried and un-lived in. This is Paradise. I’ve been in Portland, Oregon for twenty days. For eighteen of those days, it did not rain in this place where they say it rains every day. Everything is in perfect order. My life in this place is as clean, cold, and sterile as a vacant cubicle in a city morgue. [read on]

Writing, Language, Ralph Fiennes

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

This email from Alberto Greenberg, who gave me permission to put it in the blog: “I WROTE MANY SHORT STORIES IN MY LIFE. AND ONE OR TWO LONGER ONES. I WROTE IN SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE. I WAS FILLING MANY NOTEBOOKS WITH THEM. BUT NEVER PUBLISHED. I FEEL HAPPY WHEN I WRITE AND THEN READ IT AGAIN. IT ALL MAKES SENSE. DIFFERENT FROM LIFE ITSELF!!!” We feel happy when we write and then read it again. I love that. It’s a little like gazing at our reflection, but it’s also about what Kripalu’s displaced guru once said: “The most important book you will ever read is the story of your own life.” Big emphasis in Asian cultures on “knowing yourself.” What’s written down, fictional though it may be, since each of us sees everything through individual lenses, is a little less ephemeral. The patterns are a bit clearer (even if distorted) when they’re on the paper, and it’s a chance, as Alberto says, to see sense in it. Different from life itself. M’e Mpho Nthunya once said of her book, “It’s my way to hold my whole life in my two hands.” I’ve been enjoying emails with Alberto, reading his blog, and (completely unrelated) watching Ralph Fiennes films. [read on]

Making commitments

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

OK, the newness has worn off. I live in Portland now. It’s time to clean the bathroom, do laundry, buy groceries, and get on with it. I did the new-girl-in-town thing, pushing past my native shyness to thrust myself into social situations (Chinese aerobics, the UU church, a writing workshop, a reading, a writer’s group, meetings with some splendid local women I found online, a kindly tax man, and a playful and worldly barber who cut my hair). I’ve met a fascinating array of people, some of whom may become real friends, given time and circumstance, so I feel I can now back off, quit pushing myself, and wait to see what comes. I’m a little more than halfway through the second volume of Proust, and because Proust’s angst-ridden introspection is so much like my own that when it doesn’t make me laugh it wears me out, I’ve also picked up Snow, by Orhan Pamuk. I rekindled my Netflix subscription and have a few good films to look at. But what do I want to commit to, other than my own writing and the self-indulgent pleasures of life beyond employment? Now that I have no excuse NOT to walk my talk, how do I want to contribute to the world in this place? That is the question. [read on]

Calming down

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

This dumb-slap from Stephen: “Oh for heaven’s sake Kendall, calm down, you’re having one of your spells, you’ve just changed addresses again, nothing so remarkable for you, and this saccharine-tinged mania will end in tears I warn you.” So while I am calming down (and calm is good, I agree) I want to examine (not just for Stephen) why I’m having this spell I seem to be having. It’s much more than a change of address. It’s a change of life as profound as marriage, having a child, divorce…moving to a different continent…but I’ve done all those things, and none of them was so disorienting and so promising as this. This makes a complete change from everything I have ever known before. How? [read on]

The causes of terror

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

On Tuesday this week, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that he had a “gut feeling” that the U.S. is in danger of another terrorist attack soon. Not practical evidence. Not “intelligence.” A “gut feeling.” That’s America. We trust our gut; we only need “intelligence” when we have to prove something; and if we don’t have the “intelligence” we need, we fabricate it or go back to our gut feelings. The one thing that has helped the Bush administration most is September 11. [read on]

This miracle!

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Each day I see a little more clearly what a miracle it is to be single, responsible to no one but myself, still relatively healthy and as sane as I’ve ever been, and about to live in some beautiful new place where the necessity to earn a living and provide for other people no longer dominates my life. Scales fall from my eyes. I want to move into a new landscape and touch it, smell it, roll in it, squish it between my fingers, chew on it, drench myself in it, know all its seasons and moods and colors, know it well enough to adore it: I want to move in and grow roots in it and make something, maybe something with my hands, that doesn’t have to be successful, doesn’t have to please anyone, or sell, or meet anyone’s standards but mine. If that is possible, life is about to become true in a way I haven’t experienced since I was four. For the first time, I see how dishonest the necessity to earn money has made me, how habitual that dishonesty has become. But I also see that it is possible to drop dishonest habits and come home to a home that is not a place but a way of being. [read on]

Courage and Zen

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

One of my favorite teachers is the Rev. Bill Clark, who used to be the minister at the UU Congregation here. Thanks to Alicia for sending me this link (accessible to those who have QuickTime and can listen to MP3 downloads) to a wonderful sermon of a little less than half an hour in length, on the subject of courage. If you don’t have the half hour or the technology to listen to it, here’s the part I love best: [read on]

Freedom to walk through some doors

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

Alan Johnston is free, and his words move me. In his press conference he says, “Maybe you have to have been a prisoner of some kind for some time to know how good it is to be able to do the most basic, basic things that freedom allows–like to get a haircut, to drink what you want, to walk through some doors, to speak to people that you love…” I think of the prisoners I love, the men who edit The Midnight Special (next edition coming out as soon as we get it copied and mailed). “To walk through some doors…” after years of sliding steel, banging steel, metal bars, steel grids, handcuffs, chains, and triple-thick plexiglass windows, just the wonder of being able to walk through some doors. Freedom. I think about the doors in free people’s lives, doors both literal and metaphorical. [read on]