Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic
enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.
Alfred North Whitehead
To see, to hear, means nothing. To recognize (or not to
recognize) means everything. Between what I do recognize and what
I do not recognize there stands myself.
I grew up on the streets with a headful of Homer, Herodotus, Ovid, Virgil, Coltrane, jazzed in the knowledge there was greater knowledge and a way to know it. Beowulf, Thomas Wolfe, Steppenwolf, Magister Ludi, Das Glasperlenspiel. Between Beethoven, Mingus, Bach, Monk, Palestrina, discovering the archeology of secret long dead libraries and dusty bookstores. Alexandria, New Directions, City Lights. Dylan, the first one, wording his birthday shroud from the morning surf and dark drunken midnights of Wales and New York, 20 years older than I was then; 16 years younger than I find myself writing this now, for some reason trying to remember.
John Donne, Bessie Smith, Zen, amphetamines. Japanese calendars, Child ballads, southern spirituals. Getting high on cheap wine, bad weed, and watching the cars at night from the overpass, taillights streaming into the night and wondering where I would travel, who become. Gerry Mulligan's baritone sax bopping and blurting, talking back to the night, to Kerouac, Clellon Homes, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, and ending up on those negro streets myself, looking for something altogether else. Apollo, Dionysus, Delphi, Styx. Crossings and counterpoints. Toynbee, Spengler, Robert Graves, Jane Ellen Harrison's dark Prolegomena. Books turned and weighed, their secret geometries imagined.
And dropping finally in the slums of Rochester, best Sandoz product ever made. Not knowing how to take it, how to be, joking and poking at the great snake sleeping, kundalini uroboros, under my little life. I picked up the first book that came to hand, The Interpretation of Dreams, read from it aloud, my voice strange in the great space opening out inside my head, but Freud, long since dead, still made too perfect sense. And I knew what I needed then: more acid.
Love and sadness, nights on the road and in empty rooms, so empty they echoed with absence. A night on the rocks down by the river, in it actually, all words gone and reason blown, only the water rushing past in the darkness. Forgotten how I'd gotten there or where I might ever go again from that place, turning inward, falling, back through time, unwinding, back to my own conception, disappearing. Then further back through geologic time and evolution, watching as terrifying beasts first became extinct and then emerged, and then had never been. Back through primitive swamps and forests, then oceans and only oceans, then swirling gas, no earth yet, no sun. No one to see. No one at all. And shocked: no God. But further unstopping something watched as time uncoiled back to its beginning and beyond, poised on the trembling brink, that endless moment before Before. Holding, holding, but rumbling now with silent immanence. Then everything exploding screaming streaming out of endless darkness light forever. Slamming across all that had ever been, creating, impossible, I opened my eyes and looked directly into sunrise. Found myself sitting on that rock, seeing my hands again, feeling my body, face wet with amnion fluid or tears or the baptismal waters of the river that had carved its way into my life all night. At the end of the endless telegraph road, the universe finally getting its own message. And it was the morning of the first day.
Later, sitting on my porch cupping hot tea to my cheek, the world so suddenly huge, watching the grass grow. Watching myself change, become lost and not caring. Taking off my shoes, most of my clothes, taking my wallet out of my jeans, setting aside anything that would identify me, bring me back. And dropping. Traveling. Tripping unconditionally. Never planning to return, and if returning ever, then not to this place or body or accidental frame of mind. Dying so many times. I grew up on those streets.
Wandering barefoot on the Lower East Side of New York, over a thousand dollars cash in my pocket, looking to score, bring back for the holy freaks the one good thing. Odysseus adrift. Also in my pocket, the Tarot, the Waite deck I'd just bought that day. I went into The Eatery on Second Avenue and my waitress saw the cards. "I was raised by Gypsies," she said. "I will tell you about the trumps if you like." I had just dropped another tab and had little time left I knew, but she sat with me and pointed to each of the major arcana, the Lovers, the Fool, the Tower, Death. Then stopped. "You have two Magicians," she said.
"It came like that."
"Heavy," she said, or something similar, and looked at me fully now: use it well. Pentacles, Cups, Wands, Swords. As above so below. The Magician stands between heaven and earth, connecting them. The Magician does not fuck around.
In those days I would find cards on the street. Regular playing cards, though I knew pretty well how they had evolved, clubs from Wands, hearts from Cups. Queen o' Diamonds is a hard card to play. And even in some cases, the particular Tarot image lost in the modern versions. A cup proffered by a hand extending from a cloud to an unwilling youth, ignoring it. A black-draped body lying in the mud, pierced by many swords.
I would be standing on some street corner and I would hear in my mind the sound the moon might make if it were a gong. And invariably, turning, I would see a card, face down on the street. I would pick it up wondering: what now? What next? At the end of some days I would have six or eight in my back pocket and would take them out, arrange them, try to fit them with the dozens of others I'd picked up during the weeks and months when this was happening. Something was happening, that much I knew. When was the last time you found a card on the street like that? For me, it's been many years now, and I've had to find other ways to tell my fortune.
Magic was natural then. Some door. Some key. Some way to see beyond and behind the events and circumstances into which we'd been thrown. Into which all of us have ever been thrown. So naturally, I Ching, the antique Chinese book of changes. Trigram hexagram, sun moon, man woman, the well. An obvious guide for 20th century orphan teenagers with too much love, too little experience.
And Egypt -- of Isis and Osiris, Justine, Balthazar, Clea, Mountolive -- and Tibet and India, Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki, Heinrich Zimmer, Joseph Campbell, Erich Neumann, Carl Jung. Tracing the stages of some journey we were taking anyway, whether or not we'd bought the ticket. Your face, your eyes, your ancient ceremony. I touch the stone to my forehead again, address the directions, the seasons, bow to you deeply and as best I can.
Abdul Mati Klarwein, does anyone remember that? Bitches Brew? Impossible anima, lover beyond breath of life. Fingers curling into the corn, the world at flood, proliferation and profusion, emblems that had been hidden, waiting centuries, icons, madonnas, archetypes, demons, gods, sex, longing, seed, birth, death. It wasn't the '50s anymore, kids, nor were we in Kansas, troubadours arriving out of nowhere like Medieval mummers, but with electric axes, amplifiers, walls of sound more powerful than the horns that brought down Jericho. Don't you want somebody to love? Don't you need somebody to love?
Stones, Beatles, Byrds, the Doors, the Dead, and Dylan, the other one, abandoning the blues and tin pan alley, chartbusters, the screaming fans, the stadiums. Let me take you down cause I'm going to...
Strawberry Fields, the prison, the escape. War in Viet Nam, in the streets of America, and everybody stoned, everyone feeling the napalm on their own backs, the gasoline igniting Buddhist monks in Asia and on television. We were tripping for the '68 convention, history, the moon walk. Out into the universe, we don't care who gets there first. Loving, dying, wondering as ever. But with a difference this time: that we knew it. That we were for once awake.
Then days in the country. Years. Pulling weeds and planting, having children. My daughter Shanti maybe three years old then, laughing under a tree so brilliant it was on fire. Fall in the Catskill mountains. Spring in Maine, and a remembered photograph, a picture of myself with long hair and a bandanna wrapped around my head, my dreams my freak flag, wreathed in white apple blossoms, looking right at you. No mistake. Ancient winters in cabins and brokendown houses, but so warm, so close. Cutting wood, splitting it. Milking the goats, their udders swollen full. American lotuses on the pond ringed by cedars, bathed in the billion-year silence of the undiscovered earth. Breaking the ice to drink. Deer and porcupines at the door. And Atalanta Fugiens, Michael Maier. Woodcuts and copper engravings, alchemy, magickal music. Of the spheres, of the sky at night while I'm taking a piss at the edge of the woods, the Milky Way wheeling overhead. Then hegira once more and more goodbyes. To friends, to lovers and whatever I'd found of a place. Those taillights again, but this time beckoning Orpheus into the underworld, into the Bardo between this life and some darkly inviting other.
Break, the film breaks. I am sitting overlooking a valley in Vermont. Nothing is happening. In the morning, cold, there is incense and a larger space that feels like home but has no location. Wrathful deities, mind unfurling like a prayer flag atop Everest. White light. Dawn.
Leaving again, for Colorado, Boulder, some strange place where I would get to see Alan Ginsberg dancing in his underwear (I swear I really did). And the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, inside which, if it has an inside, I never set foot, feeling too disembodied myself behind Country & Western beerjoints and cheap booze. Plus I became a committed proletarian, a working class hero priding myself on my tools and trucks and worldly tricks and saying things like jes' burn that sucker in there, fuckin A!
Drunk and forgotten and broken to have found it: a door I could never pass through and live to tell about. No more stories, no more dreams. No history, no lineage. Just Say No. Just stay stuck at heaven's door, at the gate, and what to make of the rusted hinges, weeds in the yard? No one had ever lived here in this lie. In the night I would hunt and hunt well, bringing you down in my teeth, the blood thick and good in my mouth. Your neck arched back, your breasts pressed into me, and coming together into our each and only darkness we would sleep.
Until I met my match. Sweet irony. Sweet Jesus. And I still don't know who you were, or who you may be today if it matters. But damn girl. So much pleasure, so much pain. And too much time already spent replaying each word, each gesture, until memory blacks out and turns to fabrication, fantasy, our words and visions lost in the storm of other conversations, other eyes. It would be easier to think I never knew you if not for being able to see your smile, hear your laughter, echoing somewhere between us still.
I awoke on the road to the south, to Santa Fe and Phoenix, where even mushrooms in the high desert would not release you. Then suddenly I was in Tokyo, emblems of fire and mountain and water and earth the radicals of everyday language. And I had to begin again at the beginning, building a world, a place that might match the patterns of all before. An algebra of the heart and a taxonomy of words to tell it in.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, I found myself stroking the star maker machines, the dumb mainframes from which would emerge, we all hoped, some intelligence not our own. A kind of SETI project of the soul, though none would admit it. None but I, and I only whispered it, because even then I knew it was insane. But artificial intelligence led straight back into the deepest mysteries of language, without which no Turing Test was ever possible, and so to conjugations of the verb to be.
It was parallel processing, you could say, a joke, though we both had different objectives all along. Mine to bring back from the cold dead cycles, the blind iterations of if-then loops through random access and all the rest, some spark of life, some however uncertainly beating heart.
So then back to "the States," as if I had come from there once upon a time, to Pittsburgh and Chicago, Connecticut, New York. Familiar words that had lost all meaning. Whose only meaning is whatever happened there, more than I could write if I lived forever. And I will not.
But something else. We are strangers always, all of us to all. And yet in the words and traces, there is memory that is not our own. Stranded here, not knowing how we arrived or what will happen next, there is still a chance to meet again, against all odds, to recognize each other even now, to wink perhaps, as if to say: I told you so.
Entropy Gradient Reversals
All Noise - All the Time
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Entropy Gradient Reversals CopyLeft Christopher Locke firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.rageboy.com
"reality leaves a lot to the imagination..." John Lennon