Friday, July 22, 2022

January 6 in Joshua Tree

Sorry for my lengthy absence, but I'm really getting into estivation! Seriously, if you faced roasting in the desert while staring at the apocalypse day after day, versus sensuous engagement with cool sand under a rock, which would you choose?

I'm sure I don't have to explain it to you. I don't want to hear about it anymore- the collapse of human civilization, our role as collapsees, the brightly packaged new humanoids buffed to a shine, waiting to replace us- I'm saying I don't want to hear about it anymore unless the story is delivered honestly, so that, say, David Muir of ABC would come on my dusty TV at 6:30pm and say, "My fellow humans, we have secretly longed for our downfall for so long that it has, regrettably, started to arrive. There's an old saying, 'Be careful what you wish for.' My fellow American humans, won't you help me reverse our wish? Altogether, say with me: 'I wish none of this were happening!'"

Anyway, that's my excuse for choosing shaded bliss, but last week, on the evening of July 21, 2022, I was jolted out of slumber by a blast in the early evening of telepathic energy shooting over the San Gabriels from all of L.A. County, down to San Diego and up to San Francisco and Portland and beyond.

I was in Joshua Tree National Park at the time with one of my desert companions, Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster, who taught me how to estivate there, thinking it would be a productive venue because of the therapuetic effects of Joshua trees. Robert says they have strong "auras" (from Greek "breeze, breath"), the closest English word Robert could find for the gila term, Krrrech-ack sput sput sput.

Joshuas are highly conscious (they are aware, for instance, that they may be gone soon). It was the Joshuas who alerted us that night to the telepathic tsunami.

You probably made the connection that July 21st was when the prime-time January 6 hearing was, and the burst of mental energy from the population was the spreading realization that a political shift of dynamic proportions had taken place.

I'd like to share the following brief exchange I had with Robert about the hearings:

Me: "This unified, highly polished and possibly effective hearing has, for now, saved the two-party system. Democrats have reasserted their relevance, and they are now the rational seeming party even though, other than working to contain Trump, they are doing...well...not much."

Robert: "Harry, you child! Why does it take a gila monster to wake you up? The daily vicissitudes of human political systems do not matter to gilas except as local readouts of the planetary forecast, which as of this morning was: Critical disruptions across the Earth's surface starting next Thursday afternoon and continuing over the next eon."

Sorry, I should have warned new readers that Robert, in human terms, is an extreme cynic and pessimist, though he asserts that his mentality is standard for gilas and has served them well for the last 20 million years.

I don't have much more to say about my epiphany, such as it was. If I or Robert get any earth shattering insights, we'll crawl out from under our rocks and make sure the news gets to you.

Meanwhile, I highly recommend my colleague D.L.'s blog, Lasken's Log at If anything big happens at my end, I'll relay it to DL and you'll hear it first!

Untill then, my rock beckons!

All the best, Harry the Human

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Ask the slime

I  The problem

In the mirror it is trapped:
the solitary soul not easily unwrapped;
its universal juice, reluctant to be tapped,
when pressed provides a sorely needed sap
of poetry and useful things like that.

II  The crime

I thought it best, as if I need but rhyme
to indicate the truth, to tell about the time
humanity emerged out of the slime
and saw the upward path it sought to climb
and found too late its orphaned soul- the crime!

III  What now?

Whom to punish?  Who gets the dreadful blame?
Do we need a gun?  At whom to aim?

Or rather ask the slime, our single seed:
What did we leave in you?  What do we need?

Sunday, November 7, 2021

What I think

Listen to the raindrops:

plink...plink... plink...

Saying something clear yet


Watch the swirling foam going

down the sink,

and you'll agree with me about

what I think.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Meaningless dreams

If Sigmund Freud were sitting across from me, I'd ask him what he thinks meaningless dreams are about.  Of course he would answer that a meaningless dream by definition is not about anything, that sometimes "a cigar is just a cigar."  "Dr. Freud," I would press on, "I'm having dreams about things you might term 'cigars' because they don't represent other things.  For instance, I dreamed of a door that was partially open, with a view to the street.  And I dreamed I rubbed my fingertips over the smooth surface of a desk.  Oddly, these dreams were vibrant in unearthly ways, but they were drained of extended meaning -the partially open door and the smooth desktop were...just those.  Dr. Freud, am I having meaningless dreams because of what is happening in Afghanistan?"

Dr. Freud might wonder why his repose should be disturbed by my question, then he might remember that in life he posited a referential universe, where things are predicated on past events, almost Newtonian- where things cause other things- even Einsteinian- where things are relative to other things.  A cigar is never just a cigar, especially for Freudians, I would argue to Freud.

I would stop arguing with Freud when I realized that the conversation itself was a meaningless dream.

When I taught elementary school, a music teacher showed me how to train kids to sing a round.  The trick is that the two groups need to look in opposite directions while singing.  Here's what I taught my second graders to sing in a round:

Row row row your boat

gently down the stream-

Merrily merrily merrily merrily

life is but a dream.

At the time, I wondered if I was teaching something radical, an explicit doctrine that life is a meaningless dream.

Full disclosure:  The above encounter with Dr. Freud actually happened, in my head, and it turned out he was not so easy to dismiss, for he reappeared, seated beside me in my living room, reading my mind, to admonish me: "Harry, you are indulging in wishful thinking!  You want life to be a meaningless dream so you can escape from the reality of Afghanistan's collapse, which weighs on you."

I stared at the self-induced simulacrum for a few moments.  Freud regarded me back while puffing on a cigar (which, to my consternation, turned into a flaccid penis as he palpated it, the white silky smoke an obscene addendum).

"What wishful thinking?" I asked (defensively, as Freud might have noted).

Freud replied, "If the world is a meaningless chaos, then you are not responsible for things going wrong in it, and you are not responsible for things that are going wrong inside you, things that are thrusting about of their own accord, oblivious to human dictate.  You get the picture?  You're out of control."

I got the picture all right.  Looking down at the dining room table I saw the headline of the morning paper: "'What was it all for?' ponders a town of Marines."  They are wondering what America's involvement in Afghanistan was for.  I wanted suddenly to have an out-of-body experience and return to my long ago second grade class, singing with them, " is but a dream."

Dr. Freud puffed at me, white plumes of suggestive smoke, then said: "America's post-war policies were not a dream.  They have become meaningless, as far as meaning goes, but there is meaning in the meaninglessness."

I couldn't disagree with an idea stated so clearly, but before I could respond, Freud became transparent and faded away, leaving wisps of smoke to clarify his thought: American foreign policy has been real, and that is its only meaning.  We did not conquer evil.  We did not determine our own evil or goodness.  We did not do anything except wage war.

I felt a familiar mental buzzing and knew that Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster was approaching my desert door.

"Robert," I thought in his direction (for new readers, I'm a telepath, retired to the desert), "I sense you.  Have you been eavesdropping on my thoughts again?"

"I have," thought Robert.

I opened the door and Robert trudged in.  I picked him up and set him on his favorite cushioned chair, recently vacated by the founder of psychoanalysis.

"Robert, what are your views on my conversation with Dr. Freud?"

Robert was dismissive: "Freud's motivation was to prove to his mother that he was a success; that's what I think."

"Ok, but...what about meaninglessness?  Do gilas ever get upset by the thought that everything is meaningless?  Like if a coyote eats one of you, does that make life seem meaningless?"

"No, we don't approach existence like that.  The meaning of a thing is the thing itself.  We don't complicate the picture with intellectual ornament."

"Ornament?  Robert, I know you follow human news.  Look what's happening in Afghanistan.  The events do not stand in isolation.  They have meaning, and that meaning is that the entire post-war foreign policy of the United States, in which it has tried to adumbrate an identity as the world's central super-power, has crumbled, and Americans now have to collectively acknowledge that we don't know how to rule ourselves, let alone the world."

Robert spat, his usual preface to impatient remarks: "Harry, gilas do not care what is happening in other parts of the world, because we are present in our part of the world.  If humans could tolerate presence where they are, you would not need to project yourselves to places where you are not, like countries other than your own, or parts of your own country that are not where you are."

"I could retort that gilas are provincial," I ventured.

"Ha!" Robert telepathically barked, "At least we have a province.  You humans live apart from the Earth in an artificial environment, your population so compressed that you must numb your claustrophobia with drugs.  You might as well be on Mars already."

We became silent.  After a moment, Dr. Freud returned, materializing in the middle of the room. He regarded Robert curled on the chair, picked him up, then sat on the chair, placing the telepathic lizard on his lap.

"Hi doc," said (thought) Robert.

"Hi Robert," said Freud, "Nothing surprises me anymore, not even you.  In fact nothing in the afterlife is surprising because there is no expectation of particular outcomes.  The real afterlife is more like the ancient Greek's Hades than current versions.  It's like swimming in an ocean of Thorazine."

"That should ensure that your perceptions are impartial," I observed.

"I think it does," said Freud, "and that gives me confidence to share something with you: my belief that President Biden was set-up."

"Duh," said Robert.

"Dr. Freud, forgive my associate.  He thinks the meaninglessness of the world gives him carte blanche to be rude.  Please elaborate on your findings."

"No problem," Freud continued, "the President was purposely misled by advisors who told him There is virtually no chance that the Taliban will take over Afghanistan, but during the same week that Biden publicly repeated this view as his own, the Taliban took over, with no apparent resistance. Biden was blindsided, seeming incompetent and clueless.  The desired outcome of this subtle coup is that Biden will take the fall for the loss of Afghanistan, its economic collapse and the catastrophe for women, if not for the entire lost cause of America's post-war years back to Vietnam.  Whatever cadre comes to power after Biden can then pose as innocent, like pool contractors who skimp on the rebar, but when you try to sue them, they've gone bankrupt and are operating under a new name."

Dr. Freud stood up and placed Robert back on the chair.  He gazed at the desert through my one large window and said mournfully, "Robert is right: The motivation for my career was to prove my worth to my mother (and of course overthrow my father).  One time I read her a passage from Civilization and its Discontents that I'm fond of:

A civilization that leaves so large a portion of its participants unsatisfied and drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of a lasting existence.

"My mother's comment was, 'Feh!,' (a term she reserved for the most useless ideas), 'Why would you write something like that?'"

Robert groaned, "You humans with your mothers!  You really should try egg-laying to simplify yourselves. "

Robert finally left, and Freud's apparition followed.  It had been a stimulating conversation, but I felt something was missing.

Could Freud have told me more?  I went back to my frayed copy of Civilization, finally finding a line that relaxed me enough to take an afternoon nap:

Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

New interview with Gregory

I hadn't talked to Gregory, leader of The Army of the Young (prominent on the U.S. West Coast and spreading) since the pandemic started over a year ago, so I thought I'd contact him and catch up.  Gregory is a political operative and messianic twenty-something.  I figured he'd have a lot to say about post-Trump reality.  It turned out he didn't.

Bakersfield is our chosen meeting point between Gregory's community near Marysville and mine in Pearblossom.  We sat at the Woolworth's vintage soda fountain, where we first talked several years ago.  

It occured to me that Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster might be a cogent contributor to our conversation, as he has an uncanny understanding of human politics.  Gregory is not entirely comfortable that I associate with deities and sentient reptiles, so I hid Robert in my "man-bag" and told him to wait for an appropriate moment to reveal himself.

Gregory sighed quietly, it seemed to me, when I asked him his thoughts on "post-Trump reality."  He took some time to answer.

Harry, he finally said, I'm sorry, I don't entirely enjoy thinking about things the way I used to.  I know I'm the head of a political movement and so on.

Yes, that sounds difficult, Gregory.  How are you going to handle your followers?  Are you going to conceal that you don't like thinking about things anymore?

For now that's the plan, yes.

So...why don't you like thinking about things anymore?

Well, because a political movement is based on optimism, and, somehow, in what you call the "post-Trump reality," I'm not optimistic.

You are...

Yes, I'm pessimistic.

Silence ensued as we digested Gregory's words.

Gregory, I'm so sorry, is there anything I can do?

No thanks, Harry.  Pessimism is just an emotional/intellectual state after all.  It will pass.

Just like optimism.


Gregory, if I may ask, what is it about our post-Trump reality that has caused your pessimism?

Of course you may ask, Harry.  I think it's the way Trump took on all our sins- not in a Jesus sort of way, where you die for everyone's sins- but in a self-referential way, where you actually commit all the sins most people can't get away with, making fame and fortune for yourself and wreckage for everyone else.

Then why aren't you optimistic because America was able- for now- to depose Trump?

Because just as a focus on Satan as the prime and ultimate source of evil can be counter-productive, diverting our attention from more local evil (or as I like to call it, malpractice) so too can associating Trump with every wicked political trend spread a protective shroud around more immediate problems.

Do you like President Biden?

What's to like? He fits a Central Casting call for "Nice older gentleman," the perfect two-dimensional cutout to lure us into war. 

Agreed, but why can't you just celebrate this limited victory for what it is?

It's too limited.  

Gregory ordered a root beer float, which struck me as somewhat optimistic.  I got a Diet Dr. Pepper.  I don't even want to think about what that meant.

Gregory, what do you want Biden to do?

Honestly, Harry, there's not much he can do.  The world is filled with millions of young people who have little hope of gainful or meaningful employment.   The default option is to send them to war, that or convert them to soylent green...And look at biotech. Humanity is going to be refashioned by scientists, and much of the human race will become obsolete by its own hand.  There's nothing anyone, including a president, can do about it.

Gregory, some people would call that optimistic.

Yes, Gregory smiled, but Harry, we're not among the elect.  I know you are a psychic with unusual connections to the, what shall I call it...spirit world? 

Gregory had been seriously unnerved during our last meeting, via Zoom, by a cameo appearance from Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess. 

But, Gregory continued, do you see yourself welcome in the coming age?

I'm not sure I'll be up to code. 

None of us will be up to code.  Remember the "savages" in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World?  They were people who still reproduced sexually.  "Mother" was a dirty word.  The savages were kept in concentration camps in the desert.  And don't forget climate change.

Let's hear it.

In order to keep the planet habitable, 20% of the fossil fuel that remains in the ground will have to go unused.  That is not going to happen.

I don't know, Gregory.  Greta Thunberg's movement has proven enduring.

That is the only movement that will count.  The adult movements are weakened by uncertainty.  The moment of Thunberg's vision has arrived.  Yet that 20% will be pumped into the sky.

Jesus, Gregory, your pessimism is getting to me.  You know, I'm a blogger.  People don't want to read bad news unless it's funny.  How am I supposed to make this funny? 

I don't know, Harry.  My calling asks me to be serious, which for me requires optimism.  Looks like we're both in the shit. 

Gee, I wonder what you can do about it, thought Robert (to us) from my "man-bag."  I had almost forgotten he was there.  Gregory gave me a skeptical look.

Gregory, I'm so sorry, I said, I know you aren't comfortable with my outreaches to non-human realms, but perhaps I could change your mind.  May I introduce Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster?

Hi Gregory, thought Robert as he stuck his head out of my bag and stared directly at Gregory, whose look turned from skepticism to disgust.

Gregory, Robert continued cheerily, don't forget I'm psychic.  I know you're not enjoying meeting me.

No...I, I'm happy to hear what you have to say, Gregory stammered, Go on please.

Well, I'll do my best, but I should explain that gila monsters do not have a sense of humor.  I've tried many times to understand what Harry means when he says something is "funny," to no avail.  I do know from my study of human physiology that laughter is a response to the reconciling of the left and right hemispheres of the human brain- which represent, roughly, literal versus figurative thinking- mediated by the corpus callosum, a bundle of nerve tissue that connects the hemispheres.  As the c.c. sifts through the streams of the two interpretations of the environment, it finds esoteric matches.  The c.c.'s brain decides which of these matches is "funny" (from Middle English, fon, fool).  The matches are sent to the brain's humor centers (there are 15 million).  If enough electrical charge is accumulated in the humor centers, a feedback loop with the c.c. emerges, and this triggers a spasmodic choking response in the upper body.  The experience, though highly valued by your kind, is mercifully denied to mine.

FYI, Robert, I retorted, what you just said was funny, but, as the saying goes, it was so funny I forgot to laugh.

Actually, Robert, said Gregory, who appeared considerably more relaxed, your ideas are intriguing.  I'm not much of a humorist myself, and I often wonder about laughter.  Since Harry went out on a limb to bring us together, maybe your analytical abilities could help him find the humor in our pessimistic scenarios.

Wow, muttered Robert, another human willing to listen to me.  Life just keeps getting better.  Let me think.

Robert started his purposeful thinking by chewing softly on the rim of my leather bag.  His thoughts were guarded, but sometimes we picked up stray, fragmented sentences.  They were not funny.  

Finally Robert stopped chewing on my bag and looked up, directly into Gregory's eyes.

Try thisHarry, Robert thought, still holding Gregory's gaze:

 A rabbi, a Catholic priest and a pantheist are walking together when they come upon the final 20% of Earth's fossil fuels.

The rabbi says, "Hey you two, why don't you go in with me to buy Earth's last fossil fuel?  Then we'll pull it off the market and save the planet!"

The Catholic priest says, "That's a great idea! Count me in!"

But the pantheist exclaims, "No!  This may not happen!  The Earth God is freezing to death and wants the surface of the planet to ignite and warm him!"

We gathered that Robert had come to the conclusion of his "joke" because he was shaking spasmodically in what I understood to be his first experience of humor and laughter.  Gregory looked pale and a bit disturbed.

Robert, I finally said, Please snap out of it.  That was not funny.

Really?, Robert spat, You obviously didn't get it.

Gregory and I decided not to belabor the point.  We made our goodbyes and headed to our cars.  On the drive back to Pearblossom Robert told me that now that he understands humor he is going to write a book called "Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster's favorite jokes."  He says he will forward the jokes to me as they develop.

The ride home was uneventful, punctuated every few minutes by spasmodic sounds from Robert's throat when he managed to get his corpus callosum to fire.

[For background on Gregory and his movement, and for a peek into the 2044 U.S. presidential election, go to might also find of interest my colleague D.L's latest post, "The next history," on Lasken's Log at]

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster's favorite jokes

Three entries from the upcoming book, "Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster's favorite jokes":

1. Once there was a king who was not a megalomaniac.  He worried: "How can I know what to do if I'm not a megalomaniac?" 

2. The Earth felt cold and neglected.  The Moon said, "You dummy!  Look at the sun.  Do you see it complaining?"


3. The cat said: "I am at the top of the food chain.  The humans serve me because I am far more beautiful than any human could be."  The dog hated that and barked at her.

Note: Though I'm able to change individual words on GoogleBlog's edit page, I have for several weeks been unable to revise sentence layout. The cause is that my edit pages have been invaded by a spideweb of alien script (comprised of segments of punctuation marks) which I have determined is machine language that most unsuspecting humans do not speak. I have written to GoogleBlog several times and asked why machines have assumed this new, sinister role, and what exactly the humans are talking to machines about, but I have received no response. I assume that humans invented this machine language so that machines, even though they mostly don't understand human writing, will at least know how to separate paragraphs. After fruitless experimentation, I confess I am unable to retrieve a single double-space between Robert's 2nd and 3rd jokes, which required such justification after I removed the original joke #3. This joke, I thought, was not Robert's best, as it seemed a naked attempt at guilt and shaming. I've reconsidered, however, and now feel that since the joke carries a potent truth, it merits honorary funniness. Since you've read this far, here's the joke: "A member of an Eastern religion that believes in reincarnation was starving to death. He hoped he would come back as a person who had always had enough to eat so that he would understand why such people are rarely happy."

Sunday, March 7, 2021


Sitting in a shack listening to gila monsters wage psychic war on humanity gets old fast, so for a change I spent yesterday in the Lancaster Public Library, where I found an engaging piece in this month's Scientific American (Dec. 2016) called The Evolution of Myths, by Julien d'Huy, a doctoral candidate in history at Pantheon-Sorbonne University in Paris.   d'Huy uses computers and specialized algorithms to track related myths in diverse cultures and pinpoint specific time periods in their evolutions.

The periods of time involved are surprisingly large, ranging back to the Paleolithic, when other sorts of humans than Homo Sapiens lived.  An implication is that portions of our myths may have originated in other hominids who had language, such as, perhaps, Neanderthals.  

d'Huy isolated three families of myths for his study:

1. The Cosmic Hunt, known to us through the Greek myth of Callisto, who was seduced by Zeus and turned into a bear by Zeus' wife Hera.  Callisto becomes separated from her son, Arcas.  Years later Arcas is a hunter who unknowingly throws a spear at his mother.  Zeus saves Callisto by turning her into the constellation Ursa Minor, the "little bear."  d'huy found the basic outline of this myth in dozens of cultures and formulated it this way: "A man or an animal pursues or kills one or more animals, and the creatures are changed into constellations."  Among the findings: Cosmic Hunt myths appeared in most of the human world at least 15,000 years ago.  d'Huy draws "trees" to show the interrelations of myths.  One branch of the Cosmic Hunt tree indicates a connection between the Greek version and the Algonquin.

2. Pygmalion myths feature a man who makes an artificial female to his liking and then falls in love with her.  d'Huy's study linked the myth to a north-south migration in Africa about 2,000 years ago.  It found that the Greek version (which inspired George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion) was most similar to a version in Madagascar.  

3. Polyphemus was, in the Greek myth, a giant cyclops- son of Poseidon, the god of the Sea- who trapped Ulysses and his men in his cave, where he planned to eat them.  The captives devise a sharp stake with which they blind Polyphemus while he sleeps, then escape by clinging to the underbellies of Polyphemus' sheep as they flee the cave.  d'huy describes the basic storyline of the Polyphemus myth family: "A man gets trapped in the cave of a monster and escapes by insinuating himself into a herd of animals under the monster's watchful eye." d'Huy finds a "protomyth" from the Paleolithic that "reflects the belief, widely held by ancient cultures, in the existence of a master of animals who keeps them in a cave and the need for an intermediary to free them." He also finds a connection with wall paintings, dated around 13,000 BC, in the Cave of the Trois-Freres in the French Pyrenees, in which humans and bison combine body parts and exchange expressive glances.  Further, "...the artist has meticulously drawn the anus and the vulvar orifice. These two elements can be compared with some Amerindian versions of the Polyphemus story where the man hides himself in the animal by entering its anus."

d'Huy calls variations on the three families of myths "mythmemes." Variations include changes of character, as when the human hunter Arcas becomes an animal, or changes in action, as when Ulysses and his men, clinging to the bellies of sheep, transform into escapees crawling into animal anuses and vaginas.  d'Huy finds that mythmemes often change at important historical times, for instance during migrations.  Once a mythmeme is set, there tend to be long periods of no change.  For example, the Greek versions have survived to our time unchanged.

But have they survived?  Many people today enjoy the Greek myths and find meaning in them, but they are not "our" myths.   We don't "believe" them or think about them much.  Of course we have religious scriptures that can be thought of as myths (whether you count them as literally true or not), but the populations of most of our large national groups don't all believe the same religion anymore. We have our national myths, like the stories of America's Founding Fathers, but these myths are so close to our time that we can parse the saintliness out of the main characters, and do.  Every culture in the world seems to be having problems maintaining its myths.

Maybe the problem is that the old myths (including those adhered to in contemporary religions) reflect either hunting or agricultural life, where animals had real presence, unlike today when we see animals from afar: a squirrel running behind a tree, a bird on a wire.

The animals are gone.  We need new myths that reflect technology, especially computers.  

As a small contribution, then, I offer for your consideration this draft of a new myth:

The world was dark; people could not speak to or understand each other.  They had voices, but they did not know what to say.  When two people met, they would formulate questions based on past experience, because people were able to learn from experience. One person, remembering that the weather affects everyone and so is a universally interesting topic, would say, "Looks like rain," and the other, remembering that cold often accompanies rain, would respond, "Yes, it may be cold too."  This was called a "conversation" even though the two people were not actually talking to each other, and each was essentially alone.  The people of this world were good with machines, and when they realized how lonely they were they built machines to help them communicate.  At first the machines didn't work because they did not know anything.  This frustrating situation lasted for years, until one young man called out to Techron, the God of Silicon, asking that the gift of consciousness be given to machines, so that they might be smart enough to create communication between people.  Techron was possibly not the wisest choice because, for reasons lost to antiquity, he replied that he would grant the young man's request only if the machine/human interface directed all resulting output through the human anus.  And that is why so many people today talk out of their ass.

The point is, we need new myths, and soon, while we have some chance of determining their endings.