Thursday, June 8, 2017

James Comey vs. Wonder Woman

I'm a telepath who lives in the desert to lessen human noise, but sometimes that noise is focused in a way that forces me to listen.  The mass appeal of former FBI Director James Comey's testimony creates such a focus.  I would give-in and listen, but I'm frustrated by the public assumption, abetted by the media, that the hearings might result in President Trump's downfall.  You don't have to be a psychic to know that no such downfall is imminent, that the hearings will be forgotten at the first national emergency and obscured ever after.

Nevertheless, it's hard to escape this strong tide of thought.  Last night I needed something else to think about, and I found it in the new movie Wonder Woman, presented by some reviewers as a feminist vision to counteract the current male resurgence.  I had planned to see it at the Cinemark 22 in Lancaster, close to home, but my friend Doug, a retired English teacher- and my primary link to human society- called to see if I'd like to go with him and his wife Susan (a retired school administrator) to the Edwards Stadium 6 in Calabasas, a white enclave in the rolling hills northwest of the melting pot of the San Fernando Valley.  I jumped at the chance for human society and a break from the importunings of my psychic animal friends (see previous posts), and last night drove 67 miles from Pearblossom to Calabasas.

On the way I abandoned my hesitations and listened to NPR analysis of the summary Comey released of his planned testimony.  The closest thing to a "smoking gun" was his claim that President Trump asked him to drop an investigation into Trump's national security advisor, Michael Flynn, a request that would constitute obstruction of justice, a federal crime. The effort is hollow. Trump's statements to Comey about Flynn are, as far as we know, not recorded.  There is no paper evidence, no other witness.  It's Comey's word against Trump's, which means end of story, no downfall this time.

In a lame show of freedom from media, I announced, "I'm done with this shit!" and turned off the radio just as I entered the parking lot of the Calabasas Commons, an upscale open-air mall that is actually quite pleasant even though it looks like an Italian village re-dreamed by Disney and has speakers hidden in bushes that play, any time I have been there, only songs by the Rat Pack (Rick Caruso, are you listening?).  

I parked as close to the theater as I could, which was fairly close because it was Wednesday night, and local high schools had a few days to go before the summer shut-down. There was a long line next to the theater where people were waiting for free ice cream at a newly opened Jeni's, and it was there I spotted Doug and Susan, engaged in their decades long debate about whether a long line is ever worth waiting in, Doug feeling not, Susan believing that good things come to those who wait.

I waited with them and, lo and behold, a good thing, in the form of creamy, sweet ice cream, came to us, albeit on tiny plastic spoons.

"Someone remind me why we're seeing Wonder Woman," said Doug, who generally preempts my role as curmudgeon when we're together.

"Because it's there," explained Susan.

"And because it's a distraction from the Comey waste of time," I added, to reaffirm my credentials as a malcontent.

We bought our tickets and entered the faux-palace, finding plush, reclining seats in the three-fourths filled auditorium.  I held down a button until my seat position was nearly supine.  It was not the most comfortable position for watching the screen, but I felt only the extreme setting would give me my money's worth.

Wonder Woman can be described as a series of action scenes surrounding lingering shots of Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s pretty face.  Susan was struck by her beauty and by the smart casting of this soft and hard looking woman to kick the crap out of many men (to be fair, she kicks the crap out of one woman, the weird Dr. Poison).  The three of us agreed that Gadot was a strong choice, giving some depth to an otherwise ridiculous and lazy film.

The movie opens with scenes of a fantastical CGI city, carved into the mountains of a hidden island, where an all-female society known as the Amazons lives.  There are few biological details, but we get the impression that the females do not reproduce and are immortal.  The exception, and the only child on the island, is eight-year-old Diana (young Wonder Woman), who was created by Zeus back in the day.

A note on Zeus: even though he was a notorious male chauvinist and serial rapist, Zeus was apparently in the Amazons' court, defending them from the evil and ultra-male God of War, Aries, by making the Amazons' island invisible and by creating the super-warrior Diana.  For these signs of support, Zeus' rap sheet is forgotten.

Anyone expecting moral clarity in the movie for depicting women as a force for peace and nurturing, and men as a force for brutality and war, will be confused by the Amazon culture, in which women continually train for battle against a hypothetical male army that will arise when Aries wakes up from an assumed dormancy (Diana learns when she arrives, fully grown suddenly, on the French front in World War I, that Aries has been anything but dormant).

Back to the idyllic island: Beautiful women smile and gaze at one another as they perfect man-killing arrows and magic cords that force men to tell the truth.  Everyone is in harmony with nature except, as noted, little Diana, who drives her elders crazy by wanting to practice warfare all the time. From the derivative and tedious dialogue, we learn that Diana's mother wants to protect her from her warrior fate by not telling her the truth, that Zeus created Diana to be a "god killer" whose destiny is to kill Aries, so that there will be no more war and the Amazons can go back to designing lethal weapons and perhaps quilting.

To recap: In Wonder Woman, men represent the murderous, destructive instincts. Women represent, well...I guess the opposite, somehow.  Since the Amazons are obsessed by war and don't reproduce- even Diana's interest in having babies is nil- you have to wonder what the contrast is.

More symbolism: The only way Diana can kill Aries is with a magic sword designed by Zeus, giving us a story in which a woman must use a phallic symbol to kill a man. I'm not complaining about the symbolism; I'm just asking: What does it mean?  You'd think a true feminist story would entail a heroine killing a man with a symbolic vagina- maybe whacking Aries over the head with one of Judy Chicago's ceramic vulvas.

On the drive home I absently turned on the radio and got an unpleasant dose of Comey commentary.  I punched channel buttons furiously until I found a classic rock station playing The Pretenders' My city was gone.  I thought about the similarity between the Comey hearings and Wonder Woman.  Like the moviethe hearings do not answer the questions they are supposed to answer.  

In the case of the hearings, there is especially one unanswered question: What do the hearings have to do with getting rid of Trump?  The basic problem seems to be that, unlike Watergate, where even Republicans were emboldened to take on Nixon, today everyone in both parties is too afraid of Trump- or not in a position- to take him on. The man need only wait for the first distracting emergency to get off scot-free.

And what of Wonder Woman and feminism?  The biological sciences will soon give us the ability to turn both femininity and masculinity into anything we want them to be. If we're going to make educated decisions about the changes, we probably should look more realistically at what it means to be male and female.  Hopefully we won't be burdened with too much Hollywood schlock on the subject.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Trump countdown to August 21, 2017

The promotion of the total solar eclipse last August 21, the first to span the U.S. since 1918, started back in spring of 2017, with maps in major papers showing a strip of darkness spreading across America from northern Oregon to the southeast, exiting the continent through South Carolina. You'll recall the spring was a season of deep insecurity for Americans, both insiders and outsiders, no one alive having experienced a civil war within Washington D.C. before, so the idea that the rhythm of the cosmos, punctuated by celestial spheres, could counteract human disruption was seductive, and many people wanted to feel nature's hidden hand by standing in the shadow of the moon.

As noted in the next post, I overcame my inertia and cynicism and joined Gregory, the up-and-coming young prophet of the desert, and several hundred of his followers, including Rebecca and Anthony (destined to run against each other for U.S. president in 2044- see next post) for a pilgrimage to the eclipse.  I'm not sure if Gregory believes in astronomical "signs," or if he just saw the eclipse as a good platform for propagating his views. His destination was the "Total Solar Eclipse Gathering" near Mitchell, Oregon.  A quick look at the Gathering's website suggested it could be a hippy mecca, swarming with New and Old Ager's who would distort Gregory's message into a parody of '60's babble, by which I mean the '60's idea that an age of higher consciousness is dawning for humankind, if only we would be receptive to it.  I agreed with Gregory that no such age is dawning- there is as much evidence of a new Dark Age as anything else- and I fretted that a hippy venue like this would muddle Gregory's message of rational secular mysticism.

Whatever he was thinking, Gregory was in a buoyant mood the morning our caravan assembled in the Antelope Valley for the three day drive to Mitchell.  I felt a bit of the lightness just from the excitement of the trip. The eclipse hype, however, had begun to get on my nerves.

I discussed my unease with Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster, who had come to see me off. 

Harry, I would like to hear you express in vocal, human language, rather than telepathically, your problem with this “pilgrimage."

I thought you looked down on human speech. You've said that using thoughts instead of words puts gilas a quantum leap above humans.  

Well, now I think there's a certain discipline involved in stringing human words together- it forces you to consider in minute detail what you are thinking, to solidify it, so to speak.

Why thank you, Robert!  That's perhaps the nicest thing you've ever said about my species- maybe the only nice thing.

Don't get used to it.  Anyway, can you revert to human speech and tell me what's wrong with this pilgrimage?

Robert was right, I found.  When I switched to human speech, I was forced to look at my thoughts in high resolution, the detail exposed. What a great system for manipulating reality!  No wonder we've taken over. I cleared my throat and began stringing words.

Ok, Robert, here goes.  Humans have so little information about themselves- where they come from, what they are, what they should do- that they cling to things that suggest meaning, as coincidences do.  It is a coincidence that many people alive today celebrated the year 2,000, because 1,000 years (a unit of time that appears significant in our ten-based numbering system) is a long time to wait for each millennial, and what are the odds that you'll be born close enough to one to "see" it? 
 So, because I was a human looking for meaning on New Year's Eve, 1999, I went with my friend Doug and his wife to Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley where we watched the aging Steppenwolf band howl that they were born to be wild, then we watched a clock tick down the last seconds of 1999, followed at last by a frenzy of excitement, both forced and real, when the big 2,000 flashed on the digital screen. The moment had been hyped for years as a magical piece of time straddling some sort of fault or fissure in human karma.

I paused for breath.  It was considerably harder to form my thoughts into words than to telepathically transmit them.  I made a mental note for future investigation:  Telepathic creatures can lie only by using concealment, by covering up a thought or feeling, but the potential to lie in human language is virtually unlimited.  Does this have something to do with its utility?  Is lying essential to the human endeavor?

Harry, I just followed your thoughts about human language, telepathy and lying. There is indeed material for further study.

While we're on the subject, Robert, can gilas lie?

Oh yes.  Telepathy is not the barrier to misrepresentation you might think.

Hmm.  Well, anyway, look back 17 years to our Millennial.  Did it mean anything?  Did it do anything?

That's a rhetorical question, Harry, doubly so since I can read in your thoughts the answer.

Of course.  And that answer, just to satisfy the human need to "complete" a thought, is that the Millennial meant squat.  And you know what, that's what this eclipse is going to mean.


Yes, squat.

We mused quietly for a while.  Gregory walked up to us, seeming to sense our pensive mood.  I said my goodbyes to Robert and walked with Gregory back to the crowd and vehicles.

Harry, what do you think of this trip?

Well, the publicity could be good, if you aren't painted as a mystical kook.

True enough.  How about the eclipse itself?

I thought Gregory deserved more than glib ridicule of the eclipse.

Gregory, the eclipse is too late for us to benefit from the alleged revolutionary fallout. It should have happened three months ago, when Trump was struggling- so we thought- to survive the FBI investigations about Russians and leaks.  It seemed then that he might be in trouble.  An eclipse in May or June might have pushed the American imagination one step closer to toppling him. Instead, the terrorist attacks in the spring and summer obliterated the public's memory of the whole affair.  No one thinks now about the FBI or Trump being in trouble.

Yes, well, if Trump won't fall on August 21st, maybe something else will.

The question becomes, "What?"  Gregory, are you making this trip because it will help spread your ideas?

That's part of it.  

Will it work?

Spreading ideas is easy, Harry.  What's hard is getting the ideas into the "mainstream," so that people don't think you're crazy if you think them.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Gregory's Army of the Young: Can it trump Trump?

The nascent cynicism of any 71 year old would probably have been enough to blot out sufficient interest in the recent total solar eclipse (last August 21) to stop in its tracks an impulse to travel to northern Oregon to see it, but my friendship with Gregory, my young desert neighbor and leader of a west coast survival cult, changed that.

That tale is recounted above.  Here I want to re-acquaint readers with Gregory, his supporters and his movement. You can read the history by clicking: (scroll to the last post on the page and read upwards), or simply keep reading this post, where I have copied Gregory's manifesto and campaign speeches by Rebecca Silversmith and Anthony Roberts (whose younger versions accompanied us on the trip to Oregon) delivered in the 2044 U.S. presidential election.

A word of explanation: For a brief period my telepathic abilities led me to detailed visions of the future, but this upset the Time Artists (keep reading from the Prologue, linked above, to learn about the Time Artists), who feared I would change settled history. The Time Artists partially wiped my memory, which is why for many chapters I have made no mention of Gregory, Rebecca or Anthony. With some therapy from Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess and Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster, I have made progress in restoring my memory, which is a good thing because Gregory's "school" is critical to current and future history.  

Statement from Gregory, leader of Mantis, the Army of the Young,  June, 2016

Greetings, men and women of our rapidly evolving society!  My name is Gregory and I am the leader of Mantis, a revolutionary movement on the West Coast whose aim is to ensure that the coming pre-emption of human evolution by the military/media/industrial complex will not exclude the co-evolution of human groups who wish to determine their own culture.

Why might some people want to determine their own culture?  Simply, some people may not want their progeny to end up as bionic machine parts in a factory or as medicated zombies waiting to blink out of a new world.

Some people might want to create a world for themselves, not for a corporation.

I am twenty-four years old.  Too young to be a revolutionary leader?  Not according to my new friend Harry the Human.  Harry was a young revolutionary leader in the '60s, but he tells me that no revolution was happening then (though some thought there was), so there wasn't much for a revolutionary leader to do.  Now, he says, a revolution is not only possible but unavoidable.

What do we mean by "revolution."  First, here's what we do not mean: We do not mean violent overthrow of governments or corporations.  We do mean a consistent refusal to submit to government/corporate plans if they stand in the way of our new, human lives.  

When test-tube babies grow into optimal factory workers, we want nothing to do with it.  When the government clones new and lethal soldiers for its wars of corporate conquest and domestic manipulation, we want nothing to do with it.  When education becomes a tech manual, we want nothing to do with it.

We want what many people have wanted: A rational life that fits into the planet that engendered us.  We are not opposed to genetic engineering and all the powerful gifts of science to our kind, but we want a say in our re-creation.  

For instance, we want beauty in our society.  Our species has beauty receptors, but we destroy all beauty as if it threatens us.  When the corporate world is ugly as perceived by traditional human receptors, it will de-evolve the beauty receptors out of people and replace them with receptors with new, pale definitions of beauty, or supply "anti-depressants" to dull the pain of an ugly world.  We will do no such things.  We will develop our beauty receptors, our poetry receptors, our idea receptors, our love receptors.

We will find a territory.  It will be ours.  We will have treaties with corporations and governments, but we will not be subject to any of them. We will be subject to our own laws.

Where will the territory be?  Since Mantis is spread up and down the West Coast, our territory will likely be in some part of the current western U.S. It is too early now to know the location, as the re-configuration of the U.S., along with the redrawing of the borders of all the world's nation-states, is a process just beginning.  When it arrives for the U.S., Mantis will be strong and ready to negotiate our new place.

That re-configuring of nation-states will be delayed for some years by the wars currently unfolding.  These wars will distract people from the worldwide crises of government, in which it is clear that governments cannot solve any of our species' most pressing problems.  Wars will divert people's attention from the dysfunction, and from the gradual replacement of traditional humans with new models.  The Media/Government/Military Complex does not want people to be aware of their evolution.

But we of Mantis are aware!

Statement from Anthony Roberts, candidate of the Scientific Humanist Party for U.S. President, 2044:

Greetings, Americans and fellow humans!  We approach this election at a critical time, as the forces guiding our species converge to offer us a moment of decision. By using the term "decision," I have already distinguished our Party from the opposition, Cosmic Merger, which sees the next step in human evolution continuing the passive, uncaring process we have known since we began what we thought was the domination of this planet.  In truth, we have never dominated anything; we were thrust into the appearance of dominance by who-knows-what forces, making a virtue of necessity with the old scriptural command for "dominion."  As the catastrophe of World War III made clear, we have had no more dominion over our planet and our lives than fruit flies.  The science of consciousness has shown that we haven't even possessed our own selves, as we find that the fictional self in our heads that details the "decisions" we make and our moment-to-moment being occur a full quarter-second after the fact.  We have been automatons, slaves if you will, to forces that our "science" could not, indeed did not want to see.

That has changed now with that very science of consciousness, as foreseen in the pre-war "movie," The Matrix, recently restored and understood as prophetic.  This work suggests that when we realize we are shadows on Plato's wall, a brave achievement in itself, we change.  This change has occurred to our entire species, and we face a clear decision, yes, a decision! Do we want to participate in our own reconstruction, or do we not?

Scientific Humanism started, as our opposition Cosmic Merger did, from the teachings of our beloved Gregory, teachings which presaged World War III and were developed further by him after the war.  Gregory helped us understand and deal with a disaster taken by many as the final repudiation of the pride our species once had in itself, in its rationality and resourcefulness, happening ironically just as we acquired the long-sought dominion of the earth.  The war- as Gregory warned- was a construct of the ruling circles of our species, who corralled seven billion confused and frightened people into believing that whichever "nation-state" they belonged to (non-belonging being a dangerous rarity), other nation-states were moving against theirs, so that the ancient valorizing of combat was revived and people were manipulated into global war.  While each side believed other sides had started the fighting, in fact the technocrats of the species had banded together and started it.  

I worked for some years with my esteemed opponent, Ms. Silversmith, together with Gregory to develop his theories into political action, but divisions arose when it came time to reconcile Gregory's ideas with the defeatism embraced by Ms. Silversmith and her faction.  Cosmic Merger, as they grandiosely call themselves, interpreted World War III as the end of human agency, even as a goal, calling for acquiescence in vague "forces." By contrast, the Scientific Humanists realized that, with its destruction of archaic concepts, obsolete technologies and ways of life, the war brought an opportunity for our species to, for the first time, create its own definition and fate, as Gregory encouraged us to do.

Every schoolchild knows that World War III, using nuclear, biological, geological and meteorological weapons, killed two-thirds of the human population, a slaughter which we recognize as the intent of the war from the beginning.  The instigators eventually turned on each other, revealing themselves in the process, and a great purging ensued. Many of their oligarchical ideas were exposed by documents uncovered in the year leading up to the Treaty of Los Angeles in 2027.  The universal acceptance of the Treaty led to a resurgence of old-style domestic politics, most of which, our opponents and we agree, was noise.  The most prominent of the nascent political parties, endorsed by Gregory, was Purposeful Beginning, which had a compelling vision of humanity's undecided course: that we should take control of the newly powerful biological and AI technologies to remake our species from another blueprint than that envisioned by the instigators of the war- a blueprint that would represent what the species as a whole desired, for itself.  The World War had effectively sated the part of the human psyche that craved fire and death, so this would be a rare opportunity for a species to set its own agenda.  Young people flocked to our message and we became the dominant party.

There was loose unity for several years, until two opposing factions emerged with differing visions of the coming prototype for human biology and culture.  Those who drifted from PB's founding principles of self-determination, later becoming, as noted, Cosmic Merger, were comfortable with a 20th Century hierarchical society entailing a management/worker dichotomy,  justified of course with a veneer of mystical babble to cover the lack of actual change in human nature in their proposals.   CM envisioned compliant workers and consumers living modest and intellectually restricted lives in service of a small class of highly comfortable "managers," these being, of course, the Party elite.  The problem discerned by the founders of Scientific Humanism was that, without fundamental change in our psyches, the manager class would be as much in the thrall of the workers as the workers were of them.  The basic thralldom of our species would be unchanged.  We would still, without further understanding and modification of our "specs," be laboring to fulfill imperatives not written or understood by us.

Take sexual pleasure as a salient example.  We have learned that sexual reproduction is a response to the rapid evolution of parasites, who are so aggressive against multicellular creatures like humans that we must continually reshuffle our genes merely to survive.  Our science, however, is reaching a point where the parasites can be confronted, perhaps co-opted by us, so that rather than wiping them out- which would probably wipe out many ecosystems we depend on- we incorporate them into our biology. This is the way to true dominion of our earthly environment, not the mindless kill-offs we were programmed to pursue in the past.

And what of sex, then?  In another prophetic pre-war work, Brave New World, the workers had no need of sex, being mass-produced in petri dishes, but the managerial class enjoyed culturally approved promiscuity. Along with the recently recognized impracticality of cloned humans- in terms of matching parasite evolution- it is now clear that the sexual pleasure of the managers depicted in the book indulged a useless function, since the managers too were lab-born.  What we need now is a conscious decision about what sex is and what it could be in the post-parasite world. Do we need two genders?  Should there be relentless recharging of desire, expelled periodically in orgasmic release, or should we experience a sort of steady-state orgasm?  At last, we can decide.

In addition to its incomplete understanding of sex, Brave New World did not fully explore the age of automation.  We will soon have no need of a worker class.  There will literally be no work.  As human management too becomes automated, that will be the end of the last jobs for humans, if by "human" you mean "like us."  What will old style people do then?  In Brave New World, people who have been sexually reproduced, from a "mother" and "father" (both derisive terms), are isolated on "reservations" and referred to as "savages."  Will we see this coming and take up arms, or become so bored with our "liberation" from work that we start fearing/loving our robots and have a war with them just for something to do?  Or will we use the opportunity to at last grow up, become conscious, aware, and take charge of our destiny?

The Scientific Humanist Party chooses the latter route.  A vote for me on November 8 will be a vote for decision.  A vote for Cosmic Merger will be a vote for the passivity that time and again has nearly destroyed our species.  

The choice is yours!

Statement from Rebecca Silversmith, candidate of the Cosmic Merger Party for U.S. President, 2044

Greetings, Americans and all people of Earth!  This election offers the starkest choice that our species has faced in many years.  Do we choose the arrogant and selfish path that has dimly lit the way throughout our desperate and tragic history, as my opponent from the Scientific Humanist Party advocates?  Or do we at last follow Gregory's true path and combine with the forces that brought us into being in the first place?

The recent war offers all the proof we need that the old ways of humanity did not serve us well.  We dub it World War III, as if only three wars characterize the species, when in fact we should call it Human War Three-Hundred Thousand, suggesting the non-stop wars we've engaged in throughout our recorded history.  The Scientific Humanists point out, correctly, that World War III was a manipulated effort by mostly hidden technocrats (the elected officials of the time being more attorneys and carnival barkers than leaders) to wipe out an archaic infrastructure of obsolete technology and discontented humans, and they suggest that human passivity made the war possible.  The Cosmic Merger Party understands, however, that the arrogance of the technocrats who promoted World War III is exactly what the Scientific Humanists now extol.  Those technocrats embodied the very traits that my opponent would like to see enshrined in the species, glorified in a credo of "rational" decision making. How many times has humankind paid obeisance to decisiveness as a trait divorced from what it decides?  How has that worked?  Look no further than Nazi Germany, whose leader's favorite philosophical concept was "will."

Take sex for example.  My opponent is correct that a potential modus vivendi between humans and parasites may open up sexual reproduction and its cultural artifacts to reinterpretation.  But he insists that we are in a position to decide in detail how that should be expressed.  Do we actually know enough to be in the position of decision we're in?   What the Cosmic Merger Party understands is that even our current position of apparent supreme "dominion" is still a result of forces we cannot see.  Why are we in this seeming dominant position?  We don't know why, any more than we've known why we've been in any position throughout human history.  Where is the wisdom that people used to speak of?  The term "wisdom" is not used by my opponent, because he knows that his understanding does not go beyond the mechanistic understanding of past eras.  Wisdom is the term for knowledge that cannot be known.  My opponent would scoff at such a formulation.  But if he meditated, if he opened up his mind to the non-human universe, he might change his mind.  And he might have a better idea what to do.

And what of science?  Does the Cosmic Merger Party oppose science as benighted and arrogant?  Not at all.  What we call for is a new type of science, so that, for instance, instead of finding out what atoms are made of by smashing them into each other, or determining how animals operate by torturing them to death, we find new tools to "see" into things.  There is evidence that the ancient cultures of our species did indeed see into things, and speak to things.  We've been taught to ridicule and dismiss such notions, in favor of my opponent's credo of "deciding," of keeping the human in charge.  And look what that got us: Human War Three-Hundred Thousand!

The next leader of humanity will choose between two competing philosophies.  Will you elect my opponent and plunge us into a high-tech Dark Age?  Or will you elect me and usher in the age when our species meets it true parents, the Earth and the sky, the inner and the outer, emerging as one with its makers?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Movie review: "A Quiet Passion"

I cannot live with You-
It would be Life-
And Life is over there-
Behind the Shelf

Emily Dickinson

A new movie about Emily Dickinson is always special.  "A Quiet Passion," masterfully directed by Terrence Davies, didn't make it to the desert, so last night I schlepped 57 miles to the Encino Laemlee Theater in the San Fernando Valley to see it.

The Encino theater is one of six Laemlee "art houses" spread around L.A., though you might also call them "senior citizen centers."  At the Encino Laemlee there were several older people in the ticket line.  The man at the head of the line was struggling to figure out first the schedule and then how to pay for his ticket, and I had my usual flash of inappropriate and uncalled for anger, thinking how slow this old guy was, before an anxious inner voice reminded me that I too am an old guy and that someone might be wanting me to hurry up. At the window I was so intent on a quick and youthful seeming purchase I didn't wonder until I had said them how the words One senior for a quiet passion might have sounded to the gum chewing teenager across from me, though she continued to chew gum and think about a better job as she impassively punched out my ticket.

I didn't expect a full house, since this was the Tuesday after the previous Friday's opening, which was probably well attended. The pool of like-minded souls I had nevertheless expected to find was as diminutive a human sample as I've seen at a Laemlee: a group of four or five women in an upper row, one couple halfway down, and one guy by himself in the front row. I had dozens of empty rows to choose from. Sweet!  

The movie starts with a group​ of soon to be graduated girls at the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Massachusetts, circa 1846, standing at attention as they are dressed down by a fearsome headmistress who demands that the girls who have decided to go to Christ move to her left, and that the girls who are undecided move to her right. Young Dickinson (wonderfully played by Emma Bell) is then revealed standing in the middle, in neither group, an agnostic among agnostics.  She proceeds to argue theology with the headmistress.

This adherence to inner feeling stays with Dickinson throughout life, costing her all her friends and suitors- both male and female- and often the love of her family. Dickinson in later years (remarkably played by Cynthia Nixon) takes us down a slope from youthful playfulness and innocent precocity to physical degeneration and horrifying self-knowledge, lived out in Dickinson's wealthy and prominent father's house, which she never left.  

Davies dwells on illness as Ingmar Bergman often did, with shots almost a minute long of Dickinson having a seizure, or staggering across her room (which she does not leave for the last 15 years of her life) in the throes of various collapses.  She was diagnosed with a kidney disorder that probably lead to her death at age 55, but her mental state would have been called melancholia or hysteria. There are long shots of her face, staring in her candle-lit room at something far away, or very close.

To live is so startling it leaves little room for anything else.

Her hope of escape from her cloistered life was fame and recognition for her poetry, but publication came in mutilated dribbles (seven poems total, revised without her consent by condescending male editors).  She knew her poetry was different, special. The film suggests that she knew she would be posthumously famous.  Davies gives her this striking line, spoken to her sister:

If I had fame, I would have a kind of love that is barred to me now.

Young people who wonder what draws older audiences to such movies may be told a secret: the story of Emily Dickinson is intensely erotic.  From her prized position beside her domineering father (her mother is a background figure), to her infatuations with married men who spurn her, to her intense feelings for female friends and her devastation when they marry, she is a black hole of longing for people who race away from her like a red-shifting universe.  During the mourning period for her mother, while the family is dressed in black, she wears white.  Her sister exclaims, "But we are in mourning!," and Dickinson replies, "So am I!"  She wears virginal white for the rest of her life.

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, that is poetry.

She lived in a cold universe, I thought in the car heading home.  On the radio Stephen Hawking predicted that humans will need to leave the earth within one hundred years or go extinct.  What if Hawking was trapped in a room, Waiting for Godot style, with Emily Dickinson? Would she scoff at his idea that space will be our solace?

Those who have not found the heaven below,
will fail of it above.

It was almost midnight when I walked into my one-roomer in the desert. There on my couch, having crawled in an open window, was Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster.  I had not seen him in weeks.

We need to talk, Robert thought at me.

Please, Robert, I thought back, no politics tonight.

Why didn't you take me with you to the Emily Dickinson movie?

I forget he can read my mind.

Sorry, Robert, sometimes I'm embarrassed by my species, what a hard time it's having as it takes over the world.

The takeover of the world Dickinson had in mind would have been different.

We agreed on that.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I took ayahuasca with Donald Trump!

One morning I was walking through the desert behind my shack in Pearblossom when Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess greeted me from atop a medium sized boulder.

Greetings, Harry!  Betty called, Where are you headed?

Hello Betty.  I'm just wandering around, looking for inspiration to get through another day.

Yes, pressure is building throughout the biome.  It seems one of your big human wars is about to break out.  Plus ca change....

Betty, that's a cliche.  And tell me something I don't know.

That's a cliche too, Harry.

Here we are playing word games on the cusp of apocalypse.

Right, huh?  Listen, Harry, I have the perfect distraction from the realistic magic you suffer from.

"Realistic magic"?

That's what I call the other side of magical realism, that your girlfriend Pepper hated so much [see next post].  Your kind is trapped in magical realism’s opposite, realistic magic, where the magic is so well disguised you can't see it.

Hmm...Betty, what sort of distraction did you have in mind?

Then I noticed the small red pouch held delicately in her glowing teeth (she and I communicate telepathically).

What's in your mouth, Betty?

It's ayahuasca.  Heard of it?

It's like LSD, right?

The difference is that a human chemist invented LSD in 1938.  Ayahuasca was invented by the gods of the Amazon basin, so you can imagine it has certain properties beyond the LSD experience.

So you propose I have an ayahuasca trip with you in the desert?

I have a different idea.  First, take this pouch out of my mouth and remove the contents.

I did as instructed, removing a small, pliable purplish pellet.

Eat it, commanded the Trickster Goddess.  I complied.

We began to stroll across the desert, Betty leading the way.  After a time the ayahuasca kicked in with the usual stuff: a sharpening of colors, a lessening of the boundaries between things, a freeing of the mind from conventional connections, conclusions, assumptions.  The morning was cool and still, an added bonus. 

Betty, this would be an adequate LSD trip, but I'm not sure what's particular about ayahuasca.

Harry, this substance was designed by the gods to make certain types of communication possible, when it pleased the gods that humans engage in it.

What kind of communication?

As I asked this, we rounded a dune to behold a bowl shaped depression, at the center of which was a swirling, shimmering....

It's a mini-black hole, Betty explained.

Yeah?  Did you put it there?

No, it predates me.  The ayahuasca helps you see it.

Let me guess, we're going to jump through it.

Close, you are going to jump through it.

Maybe thanks to the ayahuasca I felt no dread.  It seemed a logical and very human thing to want to jump into that hole.

If I jump, then what?  Where will I be?  Will I be stuck there?

You will go where your counterpart is.  Your negative, the antithesis of you.  
Wait, you mean I'm going to Vonnegut's.....

Yes, the Infandibulum, where paradoxes find true love.

And getting back....?

You don't entirely leave here, you'll be drawn back by your own self that stayed, like the ba and the ka of the ancient Egyptians, minus the pyramids.  
And pharaohs.

Exactly!  Ok Harry, jump when ready!

I couldn't think of anything else I was ready to do, so I did a little hop and just glided into the thing and popped right out, fully dressed in a clean flannel shirt and jeans, seated in a chair across from the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in the Oval Office of the White House.

The two of us stared at each other for a few beats.  He studied me quietly, curiously, no sign of alarm.  I felt the need to speak first.

Mr. President, I'm sorry for this intrusion.  I don't exactly understand what's happened....

That's ok.  I took some stuff, aya...something....


Yes!  Steve gave it to me.  Do you know Steve?

No.  I don't know anyone here.  Would you like me to leave?

No, I was expecting you.  Before I took the aya...whatever, Steve told me that I would be visited by someone who could give me great new perspectives, but you never know who it is beforehand.  I had told Steve I needed a little something. You know, we're more or less on top of things, but it gets intense and you need some R&R.  

I understand, Mr.....shall I call you Mr. President?

Just call me Don.  Who are you?

Harry, aka Harry the Human.  I'm a telepath.  In my youth, in the Hippy 60's, I did performances in the Haight.

A hippy! I've always wanted to talk to a hippy!  What is it with you guys?


I mean, you don't give a shit that you live in a fantasy?  That all your ideas about things are from another planet?  The peace and love planet?  The "We are one" planet? Guess what, Harry- we don't live on that planet!

Well put, Don.  That's a good description of the situation.  But which is worse, finding that your ideas about life are fantasy based, or accepting reality, day in, day out, with no escape?

Touche, Harry.  Honestly, sometimes I don't know why the hell I'm doing this.  It was exciting at first, just to be able to show people I was not a dummy, that I was actually smarter than they were, and now they know it...very exciting, but the shit here just doesn't stop.

Don, I have to confess I've been writing things about you that you might not like.

Such as?

Well, I wrote that you fulfilled a prophecy in the biblical Tower of Babel story [see posts below].

Yeah?  That's when God got angry and made it so everyone speaks different languages?

Yeah, like now, it seems like people can't communicate.

And that's supposed to be my fault! 

He looked at me sadly, I thought, and I realized I was speaking directly with his subconscious (as we arrogantly call it).  That's what the gods put into ayahuasca: the ability for mind to mind, soul to soul contact.  It seemed safe enough. The parties do their business, then each withdraws back through the black hole, back to normalcy.

I tried to sooth him: 

Don, on top of nobody understanding each other, it seems like everybody understands you.  Only you!

Yeah, he grinned, Everybody only understands me!  How the hell did I do that? Answer me that. How the hell did I do that?

I understand your frustration, Don.  We get ourselves worked up about life, about defeating things that make our lives hard.  We may defeat those things, but it's still the same fucking life.

Damn right, Harry!  It's still the same fucking life!

People will kick you when you're up as well as down!

Right again, Harry the Human!  I can tell you've been around the block a few times.

Don, I've got to ask you, and feel free to decline, but this seems like a safe place....

Go ahead, Harry.  I find this therapeutic.

Well, I've written a lot about the military industrial complex, which was President Eisenhower's idea.  Remember him?

Yes, we were little boys....

We mused quietly for a bit.

I've heard of the military industrial complex.  It's some lefty idea right?

Well, sometimes it's a right wing idea too.


The military industrial complex is all the private interests that make money off war and preparation for war, and the government defense agencies that make policy.  

Yeah, sure, what about them?  Wonderful people, by the way.  

I'm sure many are, but Eisenhower saw a potential for collusion between profits and policy.  I should note, I've added the media to Eisenhower's formula, since it has become an extension of manipulated war policy.

The media!  I showed those cocksuckers!  

I have to admit you did.  Do you read the New Yorker?

Sometimes my people show me stuff.

Boy do they hate you.  

Yeah, because I'm not Ted Kennedy, all polished and patrician.  

Don, how the fuck do you know the word "patrician"?

Don laughed.  If you couldn't tell, the ayahuasca was loosening us up.  I felt the need to get back to serious discussion points.

Anyway, Don, back to the military media industrial complex, how do you get along with those guys? What's with the secret plan to destroy ISIS? That's their turf, you know. You're a real estate guy.

Harry, I just follow the news like everybody else, and I see when a story gets weak.  It gets weak when everything takes too long to happen, like in a bad story that puts people to sleep.

Sometimes I like going to sleep.

Sure, but don't you like to wake up too?  And when you're awake, don't you want things to happen? The military, etc. complex was spinning the same story over and over, about communists, about terrorists, about North Korean nukes, and nothing ever happened.  Generations passed, and nothing happened.  No story.  I'm saying, it's time for a fucking story!

I had an epiphany, like a bolt of lightning.  

Don, I know why Betty did this....

Did what?  Who's Betty?

Sorry, The Coyote Creator Goddess.  She's at my end.  She hooked us up because we have something in common, which is that we both want something to happen.  We want different things to happen, though.

What do you want?

I want the predatory circus we call life to develop a sort of overall consciousness, to escape what the Hindus call the circle of life.

Escape the circle of life?  You mean kill yourself?

No.  The circle of life is not a good thing. You need to get out of it, actually, to live.

What's wrong with the circle of life?

What's wrong is that it's a circle.  It goes around and around- birth, life, death- doing the same things over and over, with no point, no...achievement.

No achievement?

If you sign a peace treaty, it's just the prelude to the next war.  Endless war...endless....

Harry, is this what a hippy is, someone who doesn't like war?

Well, that's part of it.  There's also a large dose of hedonism.

Pleasure loving!  

Yes, that's why hippies don't like war, because it hurts.

I guess they're right about that.  And I'm with you on pleasure.  Who are these people who oppose my pleasure?  Do they hate pleasure?

You can hate anything, Don.  If I may return to the military media industrial complex: It seems like they didn't see you coming.

No, but a few have been surprised by my abilities, and we are meshing nicely.

There will be some losers.

Of course, there are always losers.

Have you ever been a loser, Don?

Yes.  It hurts.

It does.  What if there were a way to "win," but not like the zero sum model, where you only win if someone else loses.  Listen, Don, hedonism, in my view, entails empathy.  In other words, the pleasure is greater if it's being shared and you are loved.  That's the ultimate hedonism.  Do you follow me?

Harry, I'm not dumb!  Of course I follow you!


No problem.  If I make a million dollars on a deal, someone else does not make that million, only I do.  If I become president, someone else doesn't.

Yes, Don, of course.  That's the process in the real world.  But Betty, the Coyote Goddess I mentioned, told me we are governed by realistic magic, so more things are possible than meet the eye.  Look at the two things we have in common: we both want something to happen, and we're both hedonists. Surely these two things could merge somehow into a wiser and more farsighted type of government policy.  That's the magic I'm talking about!

That would be some magic!  

I can't believe we're agreeing about something!  This is the most far out trip ever!

At that moment Betty the Creator Goddess appeared in a white flash, calling to us it seemed from the mini-black hole.

That's enough fun for now, boys.  Harry, hop in!

I did as told and a moment later was standing alone in the desert, my house in the distance, a gila monster peering sadly at me, the sun going down and a hangover you would not believe.

[For more Harry the Human, click "Older Posts" below]