Fragment 1

Sat 10/01/11 at 11:57 am

1:30 a.m., Sunday, September 08, 2002

I went to bed at around midnight, but I am having my second bout with anxiety in as many nights. Tonight I was able to nod off downstairs, but when I tried to return to bed upstairs, the churning of my stomach made it impossible to sleep. Anxiety. How to describe it? An intense sensation on the left side of my solar plexus. That is where I always feel anxious. On the left side of my gut. Like memory, it too is a ball. It is in constant motion. It pulses like a lighthouse beacon, on, off, on, off, on, off. “Beat” is wrong. “Pulse” is right.

I want to be asleep. My heart hurts. It is “pleuritic.” At some point when I threw up, I must have caused some bit of cartilage to pull away from the rib cage and from around my heart. I also think my heart is surrounded by a thick, sticky mucous. At least that’s what it feels like. It hurts. I cannot feel the beat. I only feel the pulse of anxiety. That pulse, not the other. So, the heartbeat is the pulse. But anxiety is a pulse, not a beat. The heartbeat is usually not intense enough to be a pulse. If it gets too bad, the heart pounds. Yes, “pounds” works for the pulsating anxiety, too. Pounding anxiety. So, I cannot feel my heart. I feel my anxiety.

What’s the worst that could happen? I am in no danger tonight of one of my fragile lungs popping and collapsing. I am only in danger of a sleepless night. And that not much of a danger. I have not had many sleepless nights, and never an involuntary one caused by anxiety.

Water drunk after chewing Winterfresh gum leaves an aftertaste like marzipan.

The anxiety may be abating. A game or two, and then to sleep, to dream, perchance to dream, aye there’s the rub. Hamlet didn’t want to lose himself either. I want to keep dreaming. But I also want to keep waking up.

p.s. Anxiety dissolves; anger dissipates.

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previous post: Prednisone Rant, Sort of

Who Could Know?

Sun 09/11/11 at 8:46 am

My brother John watched as one of the planes followed Fifth Avenue down the island. Shortly thereafter, he wrote the following tribute. Who Could Know?

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Free Association

Thu 09/01/11 at 6:57 pm

Today when I appeared to be napping, I was actually thinking because even after a largely sleepless night I was unable to go to sleep. Ever since my transplant, sleep has been iffy. Indeed the first few weeks I maybe caught 20 minutes here and there. Days are very long when sleep fails to happen – especially when one is encumbered by draining chest tubes, lying in a bed with a mattress that precludes being able to reach the controls with at least one “Code Blue” called on the ward each night — talk about momento mori. Anyway, I’m really sick of being sleep deprived. But, I digress.

Today, as I was lying there, a question came to mind. Assuming dogs and cats are sentient but not sapient, are they nonetheless enlightened in that they don’t know where they end and the rest of the universe begins?

That thought gave way to a somewhat related, but really not so much, reminder of a line in a song recorded by Art Garfunkel in his first solo effort entitled “Angel Clare.” One of the tracks ends with the question, “Do spacemen pass dead souls on their way to the moon?”

I think I may have dropped off for a bit after that.

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Famous Pairs

Thu 08/18/11 at 10:57 am

At dinner last night, the subject of Odin’s Ravens came up. When I got home, using Wikipedia, I compiled the following and sent it (minus photographs) as an email to my buddy mjh. He suggested I post on Walking Raven, so here goes.

In Norse mythology, Huginn (from Old Norse “thought”) and Muninn (Old Norse “memory” or “mind”) are a pair of ravens that fly all over the world, Midgard, and bring the god Odin information. Huginn and Muninn are attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; in the Third Grammatical Treatise, compiled in the 13th century by Óláfr Þórðarson; and in the poetry of skalds. The names of the ravens are sometimes modernly anglicized as Hugin and Munin.

In the Poetic Edda, a disguised Odin expresses that he fears that they may not return from their daily flights. The Prose Edda explains that Odin is referred to as “raven-god” due to his association with Huginn and Muninn. In the Prose Edda and the Third Grammatical Treatise, the two ravens are described as perching on Odin’s shoulders. Heimskringla details that Odin gave Huginn and Muninn the ability to speak.

Migration Period golden bracteates, Vendel era helmet plates, a pair of identical Germanic Iron Age bird-shaped brooches, Viking Age objects depicting a moustached man wearing a helmet, and a portion of the 10th or 11th century Thorwald’s Cross may depict Odin with one of the ravens. Huginn and Muninn’s role as Odin’s messengers has been linked to shamanic practices, the Norse raven banner, general raven symbolism among the Germanic peoples, and the Norse concepts of the fylgja and the hamingja.

* * *

In Norse mythology, Geri and Freki (Old Norse, both meaning “the ravenous” or “greedy one”) are two wolves which are said to accompany the god Odin. They are attested in the Poetic Edda, a collection of epic poetry compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and in the poetry of skalds. The pair has been compared to similar figures found in Greek, Roman and Vedic mythology, and may also be connected to beliefs surrounding the Germanic “wolf-warrior bands”, the Úlfhéðnar.

* * *

Two famous stone lions guarding the entrance [to the main New York Public Library] were sculpted by Edward Clark Potter. They were originally named Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, in honor of the library’s founders. These names were transformed into Lady Astor and Lord Lenox (although both lions are male). In the 1930s they were nicknamed “Patience” and “Fortitude” by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. He chose these names because he felt that the citizens of New York would need to possess these qualities to see themselves through the Great Depression. Patience is on the south side (the left as one faces the main entrance) and Fortitude on the north.

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previous post: And So (Hopefully) It Begins

And So (Hopefully) It Begins

Wed 07/27/11 at 10:20 am

Some of you may recall from other blog entries or posts that I have transferred almost all of my cds to iTunes. At present, I have 9119 songs in my Library. For some time now, I’ve been listening to them all by album, alphabetically by title. As of the beginning of this entry, I’ve made it to “Hits” by Phil Collins. The other day, I remembered I read an interview with Neil Gaiman in which he explained that he listened to music while he wrote. I thought I might give it a try. Then my musician Brother was killed and it was too painful to listen to much music – especially Standards and any song with a piano. Lately, I’ve added music back into my life. I am still, however, neglecting my writing.

Then a few days ago, it dawned on me that in all likelihood I had at least one unwritten page swirling around in my head for each of those 9119 songs; maybe even that many unwritten poems, novels, essays, posts, etc. My biggest regret by far is my unwillingness regularly to perform the act of committing the compositions of my mind to paper – real or virtual – i.e., writing. [One night I asked a group of friends whether if an individual lacks something with which to write and so tells a thought story to him/herself for later transcription (maybe), is that “writing?” The consensus was “No.” Writing by definition includes the physical act of placing symbols on a page – real or virtual.]

In a weird sort of way, I can see how listening to music might help a person to focus and stay engaged longer than might otherwise be the case. Then I thought waaaaay back to my 17th Century Literature class and the poet Christopher Smart. He would suffer bouts of insanity periodically and wander the streets of London practicing Paul’s admonition recorded in I Thessalonians 5:17: “pray without ceasing.” I substituted “write” for “pray,” and decided I would indeed endeavor to write without ceasing to the best of my ability. It’s time and I have much to say – even if from experience I know I am more or less a lone voice crying in the virtual wilderness.

next post: Famous Pairs
previous post: Happy Bloomsday.

Happy Bloomsday.

Thu 06/16/11 at 6:16 am

Another year and I’m still here. Yes.

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Happy Bloomsday

Wed 06/16/10 at 7:01 pm

“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

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Part the Second

Thu 12/17/09 at 4:35 pm

For those of you who don’t already know it, I’m on the list awaiting a lung transplant. [Well, maybe someone has arrived here through or the like.] I have severe COPD; i.e., “end-stage emphysema” as it was called back in the days of plain speaking. Since being diagnosed, I have spent a fair amount of time contemplating my mortality. For some, such contemplation results in a taking up, strengthening, or renewal of faith in a higher power or powers. For me, it has proved the opposite.

If all goes as planned, these next few blog entries will prove precursors to getting back to the writing of my novel, The First Voice (“Voice”). Depending on the way my existential winds blow, however, it may remain unfinished. Thus, I thought I’d use this entry as an opportunity at least to present a piece of what has been written. I do so because as it happens, Elfredge Bettisdatter, Voice’s protagonist, has traveled a spiritual path nearly identical to mine. A while back she had occasion to review this journey one fine afternoon while riding the subway from the 14th Street stop in lower Manhattan up to St. John the Divine:

For this trip under the island, Elfredge opted for the express train. Maybe I’ll even walk from 96th. Dad would be so pleased I’m going to a church on Sunday. Religion had played a major role in her childhood. Weekly attendance at Sunday school and Sunday services was mandatory. No comics until afterward so we’d be in a proper frame of mind. Each night the family gathered for devotions, and then bedtime songs and prayers. Now I lay me. Way scary. Summers brought Bible school and Bible camp. Epiphany was her favorite church holiday. Come to think of it, that might have more to do with Joyce than the Magi. Still, my favorite participants in the Christmas story were those three wise men. Maybe I should take a closer look at Zoroastrianism.

Elfredge grew up across the street from the Lutheran Church she and her family attended. God’s House. Specifically, God the Father. The church was never locked, and she would often stop by on the way home for a quick audience. The glowing red light above the altar informed her that God was “in.”

If anyone had asked, Elfredge would have said that she pictured God the Father as He was depicted on Michelangelo’s ceiling or in William Blake’s illustrations. If she stopped to think about it though, Elfredge realized that, in her mind’s eye, the presence she felt was a great brooding dragon draped over the altar. Upon hearing her enter the sanctuary, He would open the monocular eye facing her and readjust His giant head ever so slightly for the best viewing angle. He never spoke, only listened, and for that reason these encounters were, for the most part, dissatisfying. Even so, she usually felt somewhat better simply for having articulated her wishes, couched, always of course, in terms of doing His will for her life. She envied her Catholic friends who were permitted to ask for specifics without qualification.

As for the other members of the Trinity, for many years she had the feeling that the Holy Ghost awaited her somewhere. She also somehow knew that before any such encounter could occur she first had to come to terms with Jesus Christ, and she found the whole Son of God thing troublesome. She had tried desperately to believe. Christ, however, turned a deaf ear to her entreaties to come into her heart. For a while, she would only recite the first and last parts of the Apostle’s Creed, remaining silent during the middle section. She wanted to avoid committing blasphemy just in case Jesus being the Son of God and all was true. She lacked the strength of character to decline to be confirmed, and would have totally understood had God seen fit to strike her down by lightning rather than permit her to take her first communion. I believe. Help my unbelief! Afterward, whenever possible she would cut out of church just before that part of the service.

Belief or no, Good Friday had a profound effect on her. 3:00 p.m. It is finished. The temple curtain. Torn asunder. The cross on the altar draped in black. God in all Three Persons dead. Black Saturday. On Easter Sunday, Elfredge would sit in the balcony by herself, and look down upon the communion of saints in their Easter finery and she would have fleeting sensations of what it meant to be a member of the Body of Christ, a communicant. Then the first shaft of sunlight would beam through the stained glass window behind the altar, the brass choir would sound, and the congregation would rise as one. A person would have to be dead to fail to thrill as the worshippers began to sing in glorious four part, descanted, harmony, “Christ the Lord has risen today, Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, lay, ay, loo, oo, ya.” Pooh-pooh Lake Wobegon all you want but Garrison himself has waxed poetic about singing with Lutherans. Even then, faith eluded Elfredge, and the exhilaration of the moment gave way to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Eventually, belief in a Creator God went by the wayside, and, finally, Elfredge gave up the Holy Ghost. On off days, she might echo Gloucester. We are as flies to wanton boys; they kill us for their sport. Overall, though, she viewed the human race as an evolutionary anomaly. A fluke of the universe. The Number 3 screeched into the 96th Station, and Elfredge returned to the material plane.

In part, this conclusion of flukedom comes from there simply being too many shared “plot points” among the hundreds, if not thousands, of “one true religion(s)” that have come and gone from the beginning of human sapience. I include here a couple from the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditons. For instance, imagine my surprise a few years back, when, as a near lifelong admirer of Leonard Cohen, I learned that for Muslims, the story of Isaac is the story of Ishmael.

For those of you unfamiliar with matters religious, the big three patriarchal religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) share Abraham as The Patriarch. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Yahweh, in return for Abraham’s agreement to worship Him as the one and only true God, entered into a covenant with Abraham promising that he would be the father of nations. Well, the years went by and Abraham and his wife Sarah remained childless. Eventually, Sarah, seeing as how Yahweh was preventing her from conceiving, gave her Egyptian slave-girl Hagar to Abraham as a wife. Hagar and Abraham, who was 86 at the time, had a son named Ishmael. Fourteen years later, Sarah conceived and bore Isaac.

The Hebrew Bible contains an account of Yahweh’s command that Abraham offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice. Just as Abraham, in his unwavering obedience, begins the downward sweep of the axe to kill Isaac, Yahweh stayed his hand and provided instead a sacrificial ram that just happened (wink, wink) to have caught his horns in a thicket. Isaac went on to become the progenitor of the Jewish nation, and, by extension the Christian “nation” through Jesus (assuming His mother Mary’s lineage, like that of her husband Joseph, can be traced back to King David).

With the birth of Isaac, Sarah made Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael off into the desert where they would have died of thirst but for Yahweh a/k/a Allah’s intervention. The Koran also contains a section chronicling Allah’s command for Abraham to offer his oldest son as a sacrifice. Thus, Muslims maintain this son was Ishmael. Moreover, Muslims believe the name “Isaac” was inserted into the Hebrew Bible at a later date, and therefore represents corrupted text. Ishmael went on to become an expert with the bow (according to Genesis) and the progenitor of the nation of Islam.

And how many of you know that Muslims, too, await the second coming of Jesus Christ? Indeed, I still remember the first time I read the section addressing this belief in Wikipedia. I was blown away. The section as it appears today has been reworked somewhat, but I still have a copy in my notes of the Wiki entry which read as follows:

The mainstream Islamic view of the second coming maintains that Jesus was replaced by a duplicate who looked like Jesus, and that it was the duplicate who was crucified while the real Jesus was lifted up to Heaven by God, where he is waiting to descend during the “last days” when corruption and perversity are rife on Earth. He will then wage a battle against the false Messiah or Dajjal, break the cross, kill swine and call all humanity to Islam.

I realize that two examples or two hundred examples of “both sides can’t be right” will fail to persuade most of you that maybe as far as religions go we humans made it all up in the first place. Even I, who can state unequivocally that I believe ours is a random, indifferent universe, still find myself at times imploring a God in whom I no longer believe to make it so my brother is no longer dead.

Besides, proving or disproving God’s existence begs the question. Think about it. Whether God exists is neither here nor there. Let’s say at some point the Hubble telescope (or the Very Large Array) manages to zero in at the precise location of the creation of this universe and the pictures of the swirling cosmos that gets sent back to earth looks remarkably like an old guy with a long white beard. So what? So what unless God knows we exist and does indeed take a personal interest in each of our individual lives. If God has no plans for us or will to be done, then whether or not there is a God doesn’t much matter in our little corner of the universe. And if that’s the case, well, to borrow a line from Joni Mitchell, it all comes down to us.

next post: Fragment 2
previous post: Part the First


Thu 12/03/09 at 10:51 am

I saw again this morning
that which will be
the death of me.
By-product of my misspent youth.
No one ever told me
I could misspend so soon.

December 3, 2009

next post: Oh, My Brother
previous post: Synonymic 2

Poetry Found

Wed 12/02/09 at 4:25 pm

“I heard the Bell toll for some that were dead.” Pilgrim’s Progess, John Bunyan

“[A]nd therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne

next post: Happy Bloomsday
previous post: In Memoriam

Part the First

Wed 11/25/09 at 11:35 am

For two years, or so, I have been sporadically constructing a Walking Raven post, the working title for which has been the “Mother of All Blog Entries” (“MOABE”). I have now decided to publish it in serialized form in the hope that as pieces get fed cloudward (I just made that up), what remains will become manageable enough to finish, so I can get on with fulfilling my destiny — or not — depending on which direction my existential winds blow. Here then is

The Author’s Preface

“Hello. My name is Kris, and I’m an alcoholic.” I can’t remember when, exactly, I first said those words at an AA meeting. It would have been sometime after the Ides of March, 1975, a day that will live in “famy.” It was on the Ides of March, 1975, that I first crossed the threshold of Hazelden. I was 20 years old. (It was the 70s and if you could go over and get killed in Viet Nam you damn well could drink and vote at home, so the legal age for both changed to 18 the summer of 1973.) I had spent the last year and a half attending classes by day, cooking part-time at Pumpernik’s Deli, and drinking until I blacked out nearly every night.

Then, one night, I lost my bosses’ wife’s car. I had taken it home because buses were iffy on Sunday mornings. The Deli had a busy weekend breakfast crowd. I would do the prep and cook 400+ omelets or plates of scrambled eggs (highly recommend pastrami, onion, and egges) each weekend morning with a debilitating hangover. I remember going downstairs and getting in the car on Saturday night. I had decided to go stay with a friend who lived closer to the deli. My last memory of that night was getting in the car. I woke up the next morning back in my own bed with the car key in my pocket and no car. Oops. To this day I have no idea what occurred that night. My boss found the car a few days later at the St. Paul impound lot with two bent wheels on the passenger side.

Sometime that next week, I went to student health services and spoke with a counselor. I explained about how I might be an alcoholic. We went through the twenty questions. I answered “yes” to nearly all of them. When we finished, she reached down, opened one of her desk drawers and came up with a list of treatment centers. She asked me, “Where would you like to go?” (This was Minnesota, remember.) How I knew about Hazelden, I’m not entirely sure, but it was on the list. A couple weeks later, on March 15, 1975 — after passing out and missing last call the night before and drinking a double scotch at the Oak Room Grill (Cutty Sark was the bar scotch for 60 cents a shot) — my brother John and best friend Judi — the two who had been most instrumental in keeping me alive — drove me out to Hazelden. Talk about coming full circle. it was on March 16, 1973 that I had gone to my first bar and experienced my first black out.

During my first individual session, my counselor asked me what brought me to Hazelden. I somewhat flippantly remarked that I knew I could make it as an alcoholic, so I thought I’d see what being sober was like. She looked at me over her glasses and announced that I had “failed as an alcoholic the moment [I had] walked through those doors.” That pronouncement, as much as anything else, has kept me relatively sober since then. Over the next ten years I had a couple of one night slips and a couple bouts of dabbling with a drink here and there over a period of a few weeks, but I’ve not had a drink since the May, 1985.) I have continued, however, to struggle with addictions of one sort or another throughout my life – most notably, my nearly 30-year addiction to nicotine. Two-and-a-half years ago, I stuck the needle in my arm, again, metaphorically speaking, of course. I loaded World of Warcraft (WOW) on my newly acquired Lenovo X61 Tablet PC, created my avatar, a human Paladin named “Elfredge” (female)(mining/blacksmithing), and started my 10-day free trial.

If only I could embrace the notion that 13 or so billion years ago someone or something uttered what amounted to “Let there be light” — or performed one of the other equivalent actions as reported by other religious, philosophic, or scientific entities to explain the beginning of this, our universe — thereby causing the precise series of events that led me to the Best Buy just off I-40 in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I acquired the software containing the virtual world of Azeroth. In other words, if only I could believe that everything since the beginning of this timespace universe has occurred according to the laws of the unified field theory. Then I could simply accept WOW as a wonderful gift from the universe. Because truly, just as I once would have been content to drink myself to death, or, as I have nearly done, smoke myself to death, I stand content to play myself to death.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) (everything is, after all, relative), I believe that our universe operates on what has been labeled the “uncertainty principle” in quantum physics. I will not attempt to offer an explanation of the principle here. Suffice that God does indeed throw dice (metaphorically speaking, of course). In my mind, the uncertainty principle accounts for humans having free will which means that I, as a human being, have a choice to do something other than exist enveloped in the mind-numbing bliss generated by playing my massively multiplayer online role playing game (“MMORPG”). This belief that I am neither victim nor puppet of some higher or natural law has led to my decision, time, and time again, to stop playing WOW to the exclusion of nearly everything else.

And why do I keep going back to the game? Well, that’s easy. I’m an addict. (Assuming I’m right about free will versus predetermination.) Even so, why not play, if it makes me happy and isn’t hurting anyone else? Just surrender to the addiction and enjoy? At the moment, as I await a call that I have a donor for a new lung or lungs, it can be said it sort of sucks to be me. Ay, there’s the rub, as my favorite Dane is/was wont to say. [Actually Hamlet has fallen out of favor lately. He’s a whiner.] In the first place, I wrote, without thinking, “anyone else,” in the previous sentence. Somewhere, then, deep down, I must believe that playing WOW is hurtful to me. At least “bad,” “wrong,” okay, “immoral” rather than what I might – perhaps even “would” — like to believe, “amoral.” If I believed playing was amoral, I wouldn’t feel bad about playing all the time, but I am unable to deny that while playing to the exclusion of everything else on the one hand is as close to nirvana as I’ll probably get in this lifetime, it also causes a sensation in the pit of my stomach, the place where I’m supposed to feel bad when I’m doing something “wrong.”

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Christian – though [the] God [I no longer believe in] knows I tried to believe, to have faith, in my younger days. In those days, I had a fascination with the unforgiveable sin, first introduced to me as the topic of a Sunday sermon based on Christ’s declaration in Matthew 12: 31-32 (NRSV):

Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

I remember endeavoring to learn what word or words might constitute this sin. (As a young pup I took things quite literally – still do actually. It was a sad day when I finally understood that “not every sentence is a contract.” That knowledge, however, has made life much less painful and confusing.) I was fascinated by the idea that with a word, I had the power to condemn myself to eternal damnation. Sometimes I wondered if, in possession of this knowledge, I would have the courage and perversity to say it and be done with it. Other times, I recall having some concern I would utter the word or words by mistake.

Over the ensuing years I became acquainted with Faust and the notion of selling one’s soul, but that is different because it involves a “boutique” unforgiveable sin not a sin out there for just anybody to commit. Then there is Huck’s “and then says to myself, ‘Alright, then, I’ll go to Hell’.” (It is this decision that puts Huck right up there as one of my most admired people.) And there’s Ahab. But even their sins, as bold as they are, were sins against Yahweh, not the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until I read The Faerie Queene as a graduate student in my late 20s that I found a satisfactory answer to the question –in part because, as I’ve just now realized, I had forgotten the unforgivable sin was a speaking sin against the Holy Ghost. To Spenser, the unforgiveable sin was to despair to the point of suicide. That explanation served me in good stead for many years. Lately, however, and to bring it around to the subject at hand, my addiction to WOW, I’ve been having second thoughts.

Go to any 12-step program meeting of whatever ilk, AA, NA, Al-Anon, COA, CODA, OA, GA, and one soon learns that “denial” is “more than just a river in Egypt.” Unlike many alcoholics, it took me almost no time at all to accept that I was an alcoholic. After all, what better excuse to drink? Of course I drank, that’s what alcoholics do. Once in treatment, however, I went a day without drinking, and then another, and then another, and I kept waking up. Eventually, I had to admit it was unnecessary to drink to live. After that, I pretty much had to accept drinking was a matter of choice – indeed almost everything in life involves some sort of choice. Moreover– gasp! — I am responsible for the choices I make. It wasn’t a rotten childhood, or a genetic predisposition, or any of a number of other excuses I used to keep drinking. It was a choice I made. But that’s where things start to get insidious. At a certain point, choice moves beyond choice to “rationalization.” And, at a certain point, the words we tell ourselves to justify our actions or inactions, to dissolve that pit in our stomachs, can, I submit, amount to speaking against the “Holy Spirit.” Rationalization, then, is the unforgiveable sin.

It’s a disease, and the ultimate denial is non-denial. The game’s, not the play’s, the thing. And oh, it catches my conscience so. And so, just for today, this hour, this minute, right now, I write through the desire, the urge to double click the WOW icon, type in my password and start merrily killing everything in sight (Well, not everything. “There are no honor points in killing guards” – but people do it, oh yes they do.) And why not simply succumb? Because I believe there is a qualitative difference between playing a video game and reading a book and, for that matter, writing a poem or performing some other creative act than reading a book. (And I mean qualitative, not just quantitative, and I know the difference because I went to college in the 70s and we got to take cool classes like Marxism for credit. “Production is immediate consumption.” (Come to think of it, in high school, I had a large poster of Karl Marx on my bedroom wall, along with Moshe Dyan. What’s that all about, Alfie?) Semper Fi.

next post: Part the Second
previous post: Once Upon a Time…

In Memoriam

Mon 11/23/09 at 2:20 am

On this day one year ago at or about the hour of 1:20 a.m. PST the music died. The rest is silence.

next post: Poetry Found
previous post: Of Turtle Bones, Arrows, and Awo

Of Turtle Bones, Arrows, and Awo

Wed 10/07/09 at 10:12 am

The Teaching Company offers a 24 lecture course entitled “The Great Philosophical Debate: Free Will and Determinism.” The “Buy-This-Course” blurb uses Saul Smilansky as its example of a contemporary philosopher who “believes that we do not have free will but that we must keep it a secret from the masses” because “ if all people knew their behavior was determined, they would stop behaving morally.” Huh?

I’m still unsure who to believe, all those angels of print and screen who are ticked God gave humans, but not them, free will, or Calvin and his categories of the elect, the damned, and the preterites who are damned simply because they are not meant to be saved. I’d like to believe we have free will, but the ironist in me suspects that the notion God needs to damn a whole class of people just so certain others can feel special is the more likely scenario. Of course this presupposes the existence of God. Take that presupposition out of the equation and what’s left is a universe that either operates according to a set of laws (even if the “unified theory” continues to elude), or is some random conglomerate of matter and energy.

Two isolated (and admittedly minor) events in my life caused me at one point to contemplate whether it really is futile to try to outmaneuver an inexorable fate that has been correctly predicted. The first incident occurred sometime in the year 2000 when I saw my first picture of a PT Cruiser. I simply had to have one. I went shopping, but, early on, supply exceeded demand. By the time supply caught up with demand, and I was once again in the market for a new vehicle, I chose practicality over visceral response and purchased a Wintergreen Subaru Outback (beige interior) instead. Fast forward to 2007, where, for a few months, I exchanged the Subaru for a well-loved-but-too-small-to-accommodate-my-oxygen-tank 1999 green Mazda Miata convertible (beige interior). Unfortunately I was pretty sure it was incapable of getting me safely to LA where I needed to go to see my beloved brother. Enter the newly designed Scion xB. It reminded me of the mini-hearse Harold built in the movie Harold and Maude, only Teal. Blue neon interior lights. I loved it. I priced it. I slept on it. On the way back to the Toyota dealership to buy it, I took a detour into the Chrysler dealership where I found a Tangerine Pearl PT Cruiser Touring Edition with power moon roof, YES Essentials® cloth low-back bucket seats, pastel pebble beige interior, and body-color spoiler. I bought it instead of the Scion. A few weeks later, I spotted a Teal Scion xB driving down the street. I distinctly remember saying to myself, “Self, they’re driving my car.” (I think in inclusive language, grammar be damned.) And then I realized I meant what I had just said. I really did want the Scion. So why had I bought the PT? Was I destined to own a PT? Did I really have a choice? Even knowing then what I know now, I’m unsure whether I could have left the dealership that day and driven the extra mile down the road to Toyota.

The second incident also began in the year 2000. Darcy and I were in the midst of designing the residence we later built just behind the Biopark here in Albuquerque. We had a rule that served us in good stead during this time. We called it the “Ick” rule. If either of us was categorically opposed to anything in connection with the planning, construction, or furnishing of the house, all either one of us had to say was: “That’s an Ick.” End of discussion. The only challenge ever raised with respect to the “Ick” rule occurred during the design phase when Darcy wanted to have a bay window in what would be her office. I invoked the Ick rule. She countered it was in her space. I stood firm, and she agreed to a design modification whereby the window would be built out like a bay window so there would be ample shelf space for cat beds, but it would be squared as opposed to angled with no side windows.
Last year Darcy’s Mom, Margaret, decided to move to a senior facility, and we decided to purchase her home because it was a single story. My space in our old house was a wonderful loft on the second floor called the “Aerie,” but I hadn’t been able to use it in literally years given the effort required to climb the stairs. When Margaret first bought the house in which we presently reside, she performed some fairly extensive renovations (including building the addition that has been transformed into Walking Raven Central). The living room looks east onto a park and then onto a view of the Sandia Mountains. To optimize her view, she added, . . . wait for it, . . . a bay window. (Hey, I’ve mellowed somewhat over the years.) Was I fated all along to have a bay window?

Still unconvinced? Well, how about this one. I started law school in 1983. Shortly thereafter, I attended some sort of mock trial event presided over by Justice Mary Coon Walters. Justice Walters was the first woman appointed as a Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court. I thought she was way cool and remember saying to myself, “Self, I’m going to work for her someday.” Three years later, Justice Walters sat down at her desk, arranged the resumes of the prospective law clerks she’d interviewed according to class rank, and started making calls. She moved down the list until Jana accepted her first offer and continued on down the list until I accepted the second.

I’ve just finished reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. In each book, after a hero is given a quest s/he must go consult the oracle in the attic. The role of prophesy, at least in “Western” art and literature certainly suggests free will is an illusion. Moreover, even if the hero is told that the outcome of a prophesy is evitable, I’ve been unable to come up with, or be directed to, an example where a prophesy has been thwarted or gone unfulfilled. (Although one “quest-ending” continues to trouble me. Frodo put on the Ring.) The same holds true with quest literature, except we’re often informed that the back-story involves other wannabe heroes who have tried and failed. I’d like it if my destiny included finishing my novel, The First Voice, since that means my number won’t come up until I finish it. In the meantime, I continue to listen for that voice in my head that signals I may have just been given a glimpse into my future, keeping in mind, of course, that inherent in oracular prophesies is they are understood only after the fact.

next post: In Memoriam
previous post: Happy Bloomsday

Happy Bloomsday

Tue 06/16/09 at 8:05 am

“Who’ll hang Judas Iscariot?” — James Joyce, Ulysses

next post: Of Turtle Bones, Arrows, and Awo
previous post: “New Year”

I’m Not Sayin’ I’m Lost Exactly, But I Have Wandered Off-Course

Fri 05/22/09 at 12:47 pm

I found this document today, tucked in a Word folder entitled “Pages.” I reproduce it here, [nearly] untouched.

2:50 p.m., Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Okay, how to proceed from here. If I write these pages in cursive pen to paper, folks will have a difficult time reading them. So, I would need to translate into typewritten pages. I don’t have time for such nonsense, but perhaps Christine would consent to do so. I could also dictate, but again transcription impediments. Christine, again. Besides, while there may not be a lot of difference between pen to paper and keyboard to screen, I think there may be more of a difference between voice to tape. I don’t know why exactly but it’s a filter thing. To write or type, the words must form written symbols. No need for such translation with speech until a later time.

I can see one major difference right now between cursive and type. I make a number of errors when typing that I would not make writing, which does interrupt the flow of thought. By how much though, I’m not sure. I am, after all, capable, though not as much as before, of “holding that thought.” For the moment, I guess I’m inclined to type, unless I see a great difference between the two. I will however continue alternating for a bit to see if there’s a real qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) difference. It is nice, though, to use my retractable fountain pen. It writes smooth and silent.

I awoke to rain this morning. The sky was almost uniformly gray with no blue sky or sunshine in sight. It’s brightening now, with some cloud definition. The rain stopped a while back. Sigh. It was dark enough the street lights came on in the middle of the afternoon. I need to put more descriptive passages in the novel. Or do I? Are they just filler, or do they serve a function? Well, they probably set the atmosphere the writer wishes to convey to the audience. But, if one writes that it rains, then what else is needed? Well, rain is different with respect, for instance, to intensity and duration. If one of the goals of writing is to create an almost cinemagraphic effect; i.e., to enable the reader to see the action of the book with the mind’s eye, then perhaps it’s important, but only if one wants to have the reader’s eye more attuned to the writer’s eye. So, one can say, “it is raining,” and the reader can pick what kind of rain. The conditions. Would it be possible to write around the rain such that the conditions are suggested by the action, though not described? Implicit vs. explicit surroundings. But that supposes that the conditions of the surrounding are somehow informed by the action. How stupid is that? It’s raining, therefore one acts in such and such a way, when, indeed, one could act in such and such a way whether it is raining or not.

I know there is a convention where the surrounding conditions are written to reflect the inner weather of a character. I don’t want to do that. I will write of murder in the sunshine. But that’s sort of unnatural, too, since murder seldom occurs in the sunshine. If most murders are “red ball” murders (passion killing) or manslaughter, are we as human beings more passionate or more careless in the dark? Or is [it] that as a general rule more drug and/or alcohol use and abuse occurs at night? So, it is not necessarily human nature to kill, but human nature somehow altered by chemicals. And what, if anything, can be inferred from that?

My blinds are closed, thereby preventing me from looking west. I think the sun has broken through. Heavy, heavy sigh. But, would living where it rains more really make a difference on who I am? Are there rain people or sun people or snow people? Well, there’s SAD, but not everyone suffers from it. Assuming one doesn’t, then what, if any, difference does it make except in terms of personal preference? I almost wrote, “what, if anything,” which would then be followed by “makes a difference.” It appears the two sentences have the same meaning. Aesthetically, I prefer, “[w]hat, if any difference . . .”. But they are the same because “it” and “thing” are synonymous. I wish I’d been sober for my logic class. I wish I’d taken linguistics. I wish I understood the language of mathematics and music. But choices must be made. Time is more finite for me than for others. First things first. Write the book. Then decide where to go from there . . .

End, 3:35 p.m.

12:47 p.m., Friday, May 22, 2009

“And so it goes.”

next post: Part the Second
previous post: Happy Bloomsday

Synonymic 2

Mon 04/20/09 at 1:15 pm

No eye is on the sparrow and nobody’s watching me = Cave, Cave Dominus videt — NOT!

next post: Obstruction
previous post: Synonymic

The most unkindest cut of all

Wed 04/08/09 at 3:03 pm

October 20, 1992 – April 8, 2009

He was, quite simply, the love of my life.

previous post: Joe Joe


Fri 03/27/09 at 9:57 am

Let us make humankind in our image = I am become you

next post: Synonymic 2
previous post: 2:12ish

“New Year”

Thu 01/01/09 at 8:36 am

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” T.S. Eliot

next post: Happy Bloomsday
previous post: Two Flutes and One to Wail

The Virtual Scroll: An Excerpt

Thu 12/25/08 at 4:52 pm

Decades after Mother’s death her father told Tink, well, mentioned to her, almost in passing, that the first Christmas after Mother’s death he had walked out to the cemetery. It was that comment, more than anything else, which finally endeared him to her. Since the telling she has taken the journey with him more than once in her mind’s eye. She watches as the darkened figure of her father slips out the door of Grandma’s house in the earliest hours of Christmas morning, makes his way down the two blocks back to Zion Lutheran where the candlelight service had been held a few hours before. He hangs a left, walks through the small downtown, continues past the water tower, over the railroad tracks. Just out of town, he turns right, for perhaps another half mile, no more, to what Tink described in a poem she wrote shortly after the death as the “evergreen land with only eleven trees.” She sees Mother’s gravestone, with its single granite rose and the Lutheran seal, and the names, Osnes writ large, and then John, 1925 — , and Betty, 1927 — 1970. It sits at the southwestern end. (If, indeed, all graves point east toward the rising sun, ambiguity intended.) Tink listens as her Father, in a tear-filled voice, speaks aloud to his “Beck.” Tells her he misses her. Loved her. Then she watches as her father slowly turns and makes his solitary way back to life and living people and things understood. But part of Tink, perhaps the best part, dwells there still.

next post: Virtual Scroll: Take 2

Two Flutes and One to Wail

Wed 12/24/08 at 12:47 am

Many of you know by now that at approximately 1:20 a.m. the morning of Sunday, November 23, 2008, David Moses Jassy, a black rap musician from Sweden, brutally murdered my beloved brother John. According to eye-witness accounts, as my brother crossed the street, a white SUV crossed the line delineating the crosswalk. Apparently, John slapped his hands on the hood of the car. In response, Jassy exited the rental SUV, hit him in the face, and, as John bent down to retrieve his glasses, kicked him in the head. Despite efforts on the part of witnesses, including an off-duty police officer, to restrain him, Jassy broke free, got back in the vehicle, and drove over my brother’s body as he fled the scene. EMTs arrived within four minutes of the first 911 call. John had no vitals at that time. Even so, he was intubated, given CPR, and so forth. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 1:52. More about this senseless tragedy, along with memories, photos, and music may be found at

John and I were 18 months apart. My younger sister Mary Beth came along 6 years after I did. Our Mother’s death from breast cancer at the ages of 16, 15, and 9, respectively, formed a bond among the three of us that strengthened over time. One of the many things we shared was a love of music. Whenever we were together, a word or phrase would cause one of us to start singing, and the other two would chime in. We knew a song for almost any word. For instance, one of us would use “sunshine” in conversation and soon would be heard, “we sang in the sunshine, you know we laughed every day . . .” We were “on the road again,” or on “the long and winding road.” We never “let the sun catch [us] crying.” We did our “crying in the rain.”

John and I lived together (with a few other friends) in St. Paul for about a year while I attended the University of Minnesota. It was the hey-day of the Selby-Dale restoration. Our gang was well-known at the Commodore Hotel where F. Scott and Zelda lived while he wrote This Side of Paradise. One night John orchestrated a Lutheran Church basement potluck to be held in the magnificent Art Deco bar. Everyone who had escaped from the surrounding small towns and made it to the “Big City” brought their favorite childhood casserole and Jello dishes, washed down with martinis and other cocktails. Scandalous.

We also frequented the Oak Room Bar which was a couple blocks down from the Commodore on the Southwest corner of Selby and Western. This area of the city was still very much in a state of transition. The regulars would be lined up outside by 8:00 a.m. waiting for the doors to open. Many would still be there when we arrived around 8:00 p.m. Cutty Sark was the bar scotch (60 cents a shot). The jukebox played standards like “Mac the Knife” and “Three Coins in a Fountain.”

I moved to New Mexico in 1978, and for the next 30 years ours was primarily a long-distance relationship. I made it back to the Midwest at least once a year. After John moved to New York, he and I nearly always managed an annual Minneapolis rendezvous with Sister Mary. In addition, I tried to make it to Manhattan at least once a year. For many of his years there, John had a fabulous 18th floor, one-bedroom apartment on West 14th between 5th and 6th facing dead onto Midtown and the Empire State Building. We used to come in from a late dinner and sit on his sofa (my bed) and make derisive comments about the tourists who pointed their cameras into the night, flashing away in the surrounding darkness.

In 1993, for John’s 40th birthday, his then-partner Jim drove John to a cattery in Connecticut where they picked out a Cornish Rex kitten with the registered name of Beaconwood Desert Chief. As they drove back into the City down 7th Avenue, John spotted an old painted sign on the side of a building that read “Jensen Lewis Awning Company.” And the kitten had his everyday name, “Jensen!”

Jensen was fairly feral in those days. He didn’t mind being petted, but forget about holding him. Any attempt to do so would be met by a fierce struggle that ended with him leaping out of one’s arms and running for cover. He was, however, extremely fond of playing fetch with his little toy mice. John would throw one and Jensen would go careening full speed after it and pounce on his prey. He would then pick it up in his mouth, walk over to my brother, and deposit the mouse in front of him for another throw. He never tired of this activity. Given his penchant for fetch, I sometimes refer to him as “dog-kitty.”

Rexes have a need to communicate their presence often and loudly — especially in the early hours of the morning. For that reason, the kitchen served as Jensen’s bedroom, and a blanket atop the refrigerator as his bed. I still remember stumbling into the kitchen to start the coffee, and there would be Jensen — staring down at me from his perch.

John and Jensen lived contently in Manhattan for several years, but in 1997, circumstances made it difficult for John to keep him, and John asked if he could come live with me. I readily assented, and so one day, he and Jensen boarded a plane for Albuquerque. I met them at the airport. I will never forget the moment Jensen’s Kennel Kab finally emerged through the flaps of the oversized luggage conveyor belt. He was wide-awake, lying on his refrigerator blanket. Jensen has lived with me for over 10 years. Even so, if you knew my brother at all, you knew about Jensen. Jensen is/was the love of our respective lives.

John and I had a few “must dos” in New York. If he was playing somewhere, I, of course, would hang out and listen whenever I could. One night at the Omni, Judy Collins came in for dinner. John and I conferred as to which song he should play. We settled on “Michael from Mountains” by Joni Mitchell that Judy covered on her Wildflowers album. As she left, she walked over to John and thanked him, both for playing the song, and reminding her how much she liked the song. He told her his sister had suggested he play it. She replied, “Well, then, thank your sister.”

Even though he had a wonderful voice, John sang rarely and reluctantly. For 30 years I begged him to sing. Finally, during what turned out to be my last visit to Manhattan, John both played and sang at the Ada Restaurant. The night I went to hear him, he pulled the microphone close and announced that the next song was for his sister Kris. He then serenaded me with a beautifully phrased version of the Carpenters’ “I Won’t Last a Day Without You.” Needless to say, I dissolved into a puddle of tears.

No matter what time of year, on Sundays we’d walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and have either lunch or breakfast in Brooklyn. At least once during each visit, we’d have dinner at Joe Allen’s. We’d sit at the bar, and John would treat himself to a cheeseburger and fries. I liked the red beans and rice with andouille sausage. Two of my most prized possessions are the Joe Allen Christmas presents given out each year to regular patrons. John gave me the t-shirt and wine bottle coaster. (Sorry, Deborah.)

One year my visit overlapped the Thanksgiving weekend. John took me to see the Metropolitan Museum’s Christmas tree adorned with 18th-century Neapolitan angels and cherubs and other crèche figures. Exquisite. That may have also been the year he and I attended his favorite holiday event, “Lessons and Carols” at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue. Angelic voices intermingled with the muffled rumble of the subway trains rushing below.

On the morning of 9/11, John was on the roof of an apartment complex near Columbia having his morning cigarettes and coffee. One of the planes flew directly over his head and on down the island. Shortly thereafter, John wrote a beautiful anthem,“Who Could Know.

At the very least, John was an economic victim of 9/11. In times of economic distress, live music is one of the first cuts. To make matters worse, his “day job” was as a travel agent. The agency he worked for eventually closed its doors. He struggled valiantly, but in 2004, it became clear he simply had to leave his beloved Manhattan. In September, he started driving with a friend from the east coast about the same time I started driving north from New Mexico. We converged at Sister Mary’s house in Burnsville, Minnesota, the southernmost suburb of Minneapolis.

We both loved road trips. The initial plan was to check out possible piano venues in D.C. and do some touring along the way. We were excited about visiting, among other locations, Gettysburg and Savannah. Essentially, we planned to turn right at D.C. and end up in Miami where he hoped to find piano work. Once we met up in Minneapolis, however, we reevaluated the situation. John thought he might like to come on to Albuquerque with me instead. And so we did, by a somewhat circuitous route. I had earlier managed to travel old Route 66 from Springfield, Missouri to Albuquerque. We decided we could use the opportunity to tour the first leg, starting at Adams Street and Michigan Avenue in Chicago. So we went east before we went west. On the way to Albuquerque, we rode to the top of the St. Louis Arch and touched the nose on Abraham Lincoln’s bust for luck.

John enjoyed his months in Albuquerque. During that time, I experienced my first major COPD exacerbation and emergency room transport. After my hospitalization, he moved in with me and my partner Darcy, so that someone would be home during the day should I require assistance. He and I had many good times while he was on “Kris Watch.” At the time, in addition to Jensen, our “farm” consisted of three other cats (Sophie, Shobo, and Simon) and two rescued greyhounds, Dante and B’mer. John and Dante fell in love. The two of them were inseparable. John would take both hounds on long walks almost every day. On the way out he would let them wander and sniff, but on the way back, he would march them home, one on either side. It was a sight to behold.

In 2005, an employment opportunity took John to Los Angeles. Though he left behind Jensen, Dante, and me, his former partner, now best friend, Jim a/k/a “Chonga” lived in Silver Lake. I made three trips to LA, and John came back to Albuquerque twice on the train. His first train trip coincided with a Sister Mary visit. It was the last time the three of us were together.

For the past two years, my brother and I either talked to each other or exchanged voice mails every day. Last February, I could tell he was feeling kind of low, so I jumped in my tangerine pearl PT Cruiser and drove out to LA for a visit. I timed it so I would be there for his Sunday night “John Osnes and Friends” at The Piano Bar. He had some wonderful singers who were there most Sundays, but it was also set up so that anyone who wanted to sing was welcome. For the first, and now only, time, John played and I sang “Imagine” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” I also cajoled him into riding the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica pier.

In the past few weeks I don’t know how many times I’ve heard or read from folks offering condolences, “I don’t know what to say.” That’s just it; there is nothing that can be said. What happened is unspeakable. In a different sense of the word, the more I read and tinker with the above, I realize it tells you some things about John and me, but it doesn’t really “say” much. Perhaps someday I will find words to tell you about my brother, and our relationship, and what he meant to me.

One thing I will say is that many of you are unaware that for most of John’s life, his was a struggle simply to survive. The reason most of you were unaware of this struggle is that he managed to survive (and, yes, often to the consternation of his family and friends) on his own terms.

Finally, when someone dies people often remark that a light has gone out in the universe. In John’s case, I’m with Don McLean. The early hours of Sunday, November 23, 2008 mark, for me, “the day the music died.” The rest is silence.

next post: “New Year”
previous post: Beware of Tricksters


Sat 12/20/08 at 11:49 pm

2:12ish my time,
Every day he worked,
He would call
From the same Starbuck’s near his office.

“Hi, my John.”
“Hi, my Kris.”

“How are you? How’s your health?”

And then a report of his night,
His day ‘til then.

“Well, I guess I better eat my protein bar
And go up the hill.”

“I love you.”
“I love you.”



next post: Synonymic
previous post: The Real Suspension of Disbelief

Once Upon a Time…

Tue 11/18/08 at 10:25 am


[hat tip to Robin]

next post: Part the First
previous post: Interim Report

Interim Report

Wed 11/05/08 at 1:24 pm

Well, my Mother of All Blog Entries (MOABE) remains unfinished, but a few days ago, I experienced a series of events I decided deserves (it’s all connected) a separate post.

Until last Saturday night, my MOABE had remained untouched since September 27, 2008. Instead, I pretty much mainlined World of Warcraft (WOW) through the entire month of October. Finally, I reached what I wanted to call “saity;” i.e., the point of being sated. I conducted a number of searches, but found no such word. I tried a few spelling variations. For instance, an Encarta search for “satity” takes one to the entry for “satori.” (A synchronous occurrence as I am at present intrigued by the proposition that Hamlet can be read as Our Hero’s journey to satori. The rest, after all, is silence.) I finally found the sought-for word, “satiety,” which brings us back on task.

Saturday night I played WOW to satiety, and actually turned my attention to non-WOW things. (A promising development in my addiction process). I wrote a bit in the MOABE, started a new book, and even played a different computer game.

Sunday morning I awoke to a brainstorm. Thoughts flashed like lightening and boomed like thunder. I started to pay attention and realized my brain was channeling stuff related to The First Voice a/k/a My Unfinished Novel. At present, I’m stalled in the middle of Chapter 15 with Johanna explaining the importance of memes to Elfredge. For those who find themselves asking “who’s Johanna,” or “who’s Elfredge,” I leave it to you to peruse my other blog entries for answers to these, and other, questions that may arise while reading this entry. Please note the search feature in the upper right directly below the Walking Raven. I realize I am being a lazy writer, but that’s just the way it is. By way of introduction, I will, however, supply you with Encarta’s definition for “meme” which reads “any characteristic of a culture, e.g. its language, that can be transmitted from one generation to the next in a way analogous to the transmission of genetic information.” Memes can also be images or music. I suppose a meme in its purest form is some sort of mathematical expresses ion.

And with that, here follows a distillation of the thoughts that flooded my brain last Sunday morning as I waited for the leftover coffee to heat in the microwave. Before the Big Bang which many scientists believe marks the beginning of this universe, there existed a singularity. The “spark” that set off the Big Bang caused this singularity’s three visible dimensions to fuse with the fourth, thereby creating spacetime, or what we call real time, which in turn set up the determination we now refer to as the expanding universe. What if, I asked myself on Sunday Morning, before the Big Bang, the singularity was comprised solely of dark energy strings? And what if the universe began because one of the dark energy strings morphed into a meme which turned out to be the first bit of visible energy? In other words, “Let there be light.” Or, if you prefer, “In the beginning was the Word.” I have read it is difficult, if not impossible, to explain light. I have also read no one can really explain the mind, or where or what the mind is.

Understanding “self” is a bit easier. According to Andrew Newberg in his book Why God Won’t Go Away, our brain contains a highly specialized bundle of neurons known as the posterior superior parietal lobe. Newberg renames it the Orientation Association Area (“OAA”). He goes on to explains the OAA actually consists of two areas, “the left orientation area creates the brains spatial sense of self, while the right side creates the physical space in which that self can exist.”

I have a keen sense of my OAA. Ever since I can remember, I have imagined a small Mini-Me that stands before a control panel just behind my forehead. Over my lifetime, this Mini-Me has had various names. These days I refer to her as “Tink,” as in, yes, Tinky Winky, the large purple Teletubbie. I have created an avatar of Tink as one of my WOW characters. As you can see below, she is neither large, nor purple. Rather, she is a Gnome Mage Engineer. (And yes, for you Halo fans, she’s a bit Cortana-esque.)


Also, I confess I started out my WOW career with visions of grandeur. Tink is a few avatars down the character list. The Night Elf Hunter Walkingraven (see below) is my second creation:


In case you are wondering, the cat figure next to him is his pet, Jensen. But enough. Tink is my mind, my consciousness, my self (sic). Tink looks out through my eyes. She looks in with the third, inner, eye.

My OAA is the seat of my imagination where I go to convert memes into thoughts which I can then endeavor to communicate to the rest of the world. If the same meme comes from enough people it becomes a piece of our culture. I’m writing this particular paragraph on Election Day morning, so I offer the following example of meme-travel. Last week, a friend came over, whipped out her wallet, and pointed to a red, white, and blue sticker that read, “I voted.” To me, however, she exclaimed, “Look! I Obamaed!”

I’d like to think this effort to communicate goes somewhat beyond the 100 monkeys’ scenario, but who knows. The survival value of intelligence with respect to evolution remains to be seen. But even if the human race is just a blip on the spacetime continuum, I believe we have a duty to contribute to the memes of the universe.

One way I fulfill this duty is by opening my moonroof and playing CDs of poetry, letting the words waft up into the sky. Each read, written, or spoken word frees a meme. Creative activity creates new memes. Without memes, spacetime will revert back to a dark singularity. At least I think that’s in part what Michael Ende wants to convey in the German fantasy novel The Neverending Story. Those of you who have read this incredible book will recall it begins with the inhabitants of Fantastica (Phantásien in the German version) seeking guidance from the Childlike Empress as to how to stop the Nothing from devouring their world. The Childlike Empress reveals that the only thing that will keep the Nothing at bay is to find a human child who will give her a new name. Naming creates reality in the sense that naming defines an object and calls it forth from the rest of the material soup. As explained by another character in the book, Grograman, the Many Colored Death, “beginning at the moment when you gave [something] its name it has existed forever.” Ultimately, The Neverending Story shows the importance of stories, or perhaps more accurately, imagination, in regard to existence.

Similarly, in the final pages of The Amber Spyglass, volume three of Philip Pullman’s wonderful His Dark Materials trilogy, inhabitants of the multiverse are admonished by Lord Asriel to continue to tell the stories.

As I noted above, the Big Bang marked the beginning of time. It comes as no surprise then that my brainstorm ended with a revelation as to the meaning of that first meme. The English translation reads “Once upon a time . . .”

next post: Once Upon a Time…

The Real Suspension of Disbelief

Mon 11/03/08 at 2:38 pm

Let’s be honest.

How many of us
Would simply

Let our virgin child live,
Stay hidden among the women,
Remain celibate,

Kick the bum out,
Marry the first suitable suitor,
Leave the brother’s body to the dogs,

Stay with Circe,
Stay with Dido,
Stay in the Shire?


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previous post: Why stop us the climbing?

Beware of Tricksters

Thu 09/18/08 at 10:51 am

pro-woman, anti-palin

next post: Two Flutes and One to Wail
previous post: Prednisone Rant, Sort of

Prednisone Rant, Sort of

Sat 08/30/08 at 10:21 am

Just wanted you to know I’ve been on prednisone for a few days now and ran out of my generic Paxil last week. Don’t worry, I’m just waiting on a refill of the Paxil. My ribs hurt. Either because I’ve been coughing so much, so hard, or my lungs are trying to expand out of my chest. And, I don’t mean to be a drama queen, but sometimes it gets a little scary. [Note: And I wasn’t being a drama queen; I spent the day after I wrote what you have just read at the emergency room on the urging of my wonderful Nurse Jane and the EMTs and orders of Dr. Bro relayed via Nurse David. A kick-ass steroid and a couple antibiotic IVs have hopefully gotten my infection under control, but the gang at Presbyterian gave me an open invitation to come back anytime this weekend should the need arise.] As a result, I’m a little cranky, and possibly a tiny bit manic. Something to keep in mind as you read the below.

Some of you know I’ve been spending the last couple weeks writing a post whose working title is “Mother of All Blog Entries” in between fighting my massive addiction to that massively multiplayer online game (“MMOG”) World of Warcraft (“WOW”)with The Burning Crusade extension — me and 10 to 11 million other monthly subscription players worldwide. (I used to have a postcard on my bulletin board that read “400,000 heroin addicts can’t be all wrong.” I suppose on some level that remains to be seen, but I’m more or less betting it doesn’t really matter one way or the other in the; i.e., my, “grand scheme of things.” [And for those of you who just rolled your eyes, clichés are hardwired into my DNA, so deal. Besides, when you think about it, they are an excellent “common-denominator” communication device even though I know many of you would begin that phrase with the word “lowest.” In this case, untrue. The qualifier “at the end of the day,” is the lowest common-denominator for communicating the particular sentiment expressed above. I suppose I could have said, “in the grand scheme of Indra’s Net.” Show of hands, how many of you have I lost with what some might consider an obscure reference? How many of you just think I’m being affected? How many prefer “in the long run?” Okay, enough.]

Yesterday, I had the following early morning Instant Message (“IM”) exchange with one of my most preferred human s (“ph”) who will know who s/he is when s/he reads it:

Me (6:41:58 AM): [M]aybe the Matrix [movie] is right. [W]e play video games to manufacture energy for [the inhabitants of] another universe and they decided to at least make it pleasant for us.
ph[d](6:42:51 AM): [O]r maybe you’re just using it to keep away from your own real feelings and to keep from interacting with other living human beings[.]
Me (6:43:28 AM): [N]o, [I]’m following the natural law of physics. [A]ll things being equal, [an object will follow] the path of least resistance. . . .
Me (6:44:39 AM): [I]t’s easier to play WOW than read. [I]it’s easier to read than write.

Some of you may have had encountered me in the throes of my initial infatuation with WOW. I confess. I was rude. I kept playing while we talked, and for that I apologize. That said, the idea I am playing WOW to avoid feeling or interacting with other humans is, at least in my reality, (almost) ironic. “Almost,” because, as I stated in an earlier entry on this same subject, I am an off-the-chart introvert. See December 8, 2007 Entry. [And speaking of irony, I note I posted that entry on the third day of a prednisone burst.] Perhaps in the minds of those of you who read my earlier entry, you misunderstood me, thinking I meant I really didn’t want to talk to any of you. If so, that was a failure to communicate on my part. [And a “shout out” to another buddy who, after reading my earlier post was prompted to call me on Skype to have voice contact rather than send an email while traveling outside the country.] [See, I’m watching the Democratic Convention. A new meme, “shout out,” has gone national. Thanks, Barack.][Okay, show of hands, now how many of you have I lost? Screw it, I’m just going to write, and let the chips fall where they may.] [Oops, there I go again.]

Before our friend Myra died, she and Darcy would periodically call each other and talk for seemingly hours. When asked later what they had talked about, Darcy would invariably answer, “Green grapes,” her metaphor for the everyday stuff, places gone and people seen. She came up with the expression after seeing the following New Yorker cartoon:


The caption reads: “On my way home today on the bus, a lone grape rolled down the aisle and came to rest near my feet. It was pale green and looked to be of the seedless variety.”

Unlike Darcy and Myra, I am Green grapes-impaired. When I was practicing law I consciously had to remind myself to begin a telephone conversation with “Hi, how are you? How are the spouse, pets, kids?” Often though, I would screw up and just dive right into the business at hand. I think I got better over the years, but if I’m in a social situation with a lot of people I don’t know, I still have trouble coming up with things to talk about. So, for me, food and the weather, not so much. Movies and books, better, much better. Discussions about a subject du jour, free will, predestination, the nature of karma, the Islamic version of the second coming of Christ, the meaning of life, the fear (or not) of death. Even better.

I’ll also confess to being empathy-impaired. I was fascinated to learn, well into my 20s, that some people, when they tell me, for example, “I have a headache,” don’t want to hear “Well, have you taken aspirin? Do you need to call the doctor?” More often than not, they don’t want the perceived problem solved, they just want me to acknowledge their pain or frustration or whatever. I still tend to miss those signals, but learning, and employing, the expression, “Poor, baby,” when I think of it has been invaluable.

For the record, though, I am still, and will always be, a recovering attorney. I do like to argue, and I like to win. Perhaps the least understood aspect of the practice of law is that law is based on the precept that one side wins and one side loses. Ultimately, a decision must be made. Good attorneys, and I was a good attorney, must find the winning argument, based on the facts and the law, no matter which side one takes. That’s why so many attorneys invariably preface any answer to a question with the infuriating quip, “It depends.” That’s because law, like physics, adheres to the special principle of relativity; i.e., before one can apply the law, one must create an inert situation by establishing the facts. Juries are known as fact-finders. Judges are the law-givers.

Here’s a classic law school illustration: 99 nuns swear under oath the light was red. A witness, known by the jury to have previously been incarcerated for committing perjury and to have been paid a large sum of money by the present defendant to testify the light was green, swears under oath the light was green. If the jury believes the perjurer, well, the light was green. And it’s the attorney who is charged with the task on behalf of his client, the defendant, to convince the jury to believe the perjurer. [Show of hands, how many of you have just thought, “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit?”]

I hope the above somewhat explains the overzealousness I sometimes exhibit over something that really doesn’t matter, oh, let’s use “in the long run,” this time. On another day, I might agree with your position or decide it’s not worth fighting over. But for today, it’s the hunt. The smell of fear and blood. (My fear, my blood, too, remember.) So cut me a deal and don’t take things so personally, okay?

There are other times though I would like to have what could be characterized as a serious discussion. To experience the intimacy of communication and understanding. And it’s those times I regret my adversarial ways because well, these ways get in the way. Perhaps my major regret in this life is to have done (and still do) whatever it is that prevents this level of communication. So, there you have it.

I don’t get out much anymore and planned events get cancelled for health reasons as often, if not more often, as they happen, but if you’re ever in the neighborhood feel free to come on by. No pressure. Be it for green grapes, debate, or to climb into Kerouac’s bathtub (metaphorically speaking, and fully clothed, of course), you’ll be welcome. I’ll even try to remember my manners, and at some point ask if you want something to drink. But if you don’t want to wait for that to happen, please feel free to wander into the kitchen and help yourself.

next post: Beware of Tricksters
previous post: Quiz

Why stop us the climbing?

Sat 08/23/08 at 9:45 am

Why do we stop climbing trees?
Or, for that matter,
Looking for trees to climb.
Or, for that matter,
Looking at trees for their climbability.
Or, for that matter,
Looking at trees.
Or , for that matter,
Looking for trees.
Or, for that matter,
Why stop us the asking?


next post: The Real Suspension of Disbelief
previous post: Illustration No. 1

Illustration No. 1

Sun 08/17/08 at 7:06 am

We interrupt this program . . .

News Flash!


next post: Why stop us the climbing?
previous post: Quiz


Mon 07/28/08 at 6:42 am

Which statement was written by a college graduate:

a) I’m not dead yet.
b) I’m not dead, yet.
c) I’m not dead . . . yet.
d) I’m not dead. Yet.
e) I’m not dead; yet.
f) I’m not dead yet?
g) I’m not dead yet!


next post: Illustration No. 1
previous post: Final Jeopardy Answer
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