Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Of Time and Tolle

It's been a while, hasn't it? Almost two weeks. I spent one week at music camp, where I felt isolated by the cliquishness of the other participants, not to mention that I am more a blues/rock player than a dabbler in traditional Celtic music. Unable to use my left pinkie, I appeared at camp with my ice maker (rather than ice breaker)--a little battery-powered amplifier for my electric guitar, whose fingering is easier, thus I could play a little--but the acoustic warriors did not seem happy with the surprise, though I played at acoustic volume.

I felt like an outcast, truly. I am not an unfriendly person but I found Lark Camp to be a pretty closed phenomenon. Many insiders had been coming for over a decade, eager to play with their long-lost friends. I wish I could have been a friend found, but it was not to be.

Upon arriving home I had to prepare for performing the following two days, at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Saturday and the Noyo Food Forest on Sunday. These gigs went passably well, but my heart was not much engaged. I felt more like a jukebox distraction than an artist pouring out his soul. But that is the meaning of professional: You do it because you're committed, not because you necessarily want to on a given day. Imagine if doctors said, "I don't feel like doing surgery today." The world would fall apart. Civilization depends upon the contract between personas, our social selves, and our responsibilities--even if so minor a thing as playing music for a benefit.

I have plateaued, it seems, in my recovery. The acute pains of nerve entrapment have quieted somewhat, but the persistent aches slow me down. I have maybe 50% of normal neck motion. My shoulder motion is somewhat greater, good enough to impress the orthopedist not to do surgery on my shoulder separation three weeks out. He said it should have been done acutely but that scarring now would require a larger operation and it was better simply to pursue physical therapy and reserve surgery in the event that the pain proved intolerable long-term. I had surgery on my back once before for long-term intolerable pain and it was a disaster that led to my disability.

My family doctor wanted an MRI of my neck to define the disk injuries and rule out occult fractures, but given my 20% co-pay, which would amount to over $500, and the fact that I'm relatively stable, we have decided to table it for now. I'm sure my cervical spine is just as messed up as my lumbar.

I had an emotional meltdown yesterday with at least three crying spells. I think it was the backwash of the accident, over which I had never wept, combined with my feeling of rejection at the music camp and Kathleen's ongoing dip in mood, in part related to my brush with death. How do you apologize for an accident? God knows the thought of losing her would send me into a tailspin. I think we should rather consciously rejoice in the miracle of my escape, but sometimes that's hard to do.

I have two new poems out in Centrifugal Eye, "Radiated" and "The Dust of Guanajuato." Both poems concern, coincidentally in the wake of my accident, physical problems--sunburn and air pollution. I have Lynn Strongin to thank for recommending the magazine to me; she has work in there as well.

I have been of late overwhelmed with spam and I blame Facebook for the most part, along with a program meant to alert me to others' birthdays. Both applications required a password to search my address list, and in all this trading of information I suspect the spam bots got a toehold. It's tedious to paw through my junk mail, but I could miss letters from editors if I don't. Perhaps I will begin to utilize another of my addresses until the spam typhoon dies down, but I've had my hotmail address for over ten years. (Did you know the founder of Hotmail, who sold out to Microsoft, is now trying to build a utopian city akin to Silicon Valley in northern India?)

I finished "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, and I have tried to practice remaining in the present, but sometimes my emotions get the better of me, along with thoughts of the future and the past. He claims we are all filled with the light of God, it's only a question of how much we become conscious of it. His message is not greatly different from other spiritual gurus like Baba Ram Das (Richard Alport) in "Be Here Now."

I want to honor the present and be present in the present but the present includes so many distractions, like the numbness in my left pinkie as I type. I don't want to focus on that or my aches and pains; it's easy to be present with pain, but that is an alarm of the body and not the fullness he seeks. I give him points for clarity, but he does demand a big leap of faith, since he supplies no reason for us to believe that Christ, or The Divine, lives in us all; he assumes it as a fact and goes from there.

Traditional Christian doctrine would require a submission to the Holy Spirit to have a foundation for access to eternal love within, but who am I to limit the reach of God? I journey towards the present but find so many detours, as in my ambition to clean up my desk today. Perhaps I can make that a test of presence, though no doubt sorting dead-tree correspondence will often return me to the past and the future.

I've also been reading Jung and his disciples, and again I am fascinated at how much his psychology depends upon the interpretation of archetypes in dreams. (I have tried to remember my recent dreams but keep losing them in the present.) Whereas Jung seeks integration of the conscious with the unconscious through mediators like the anima, the feminine guide for man, Tolle wants us to draw on an inner well of joy that he claims is always present. And strangely, in my presently labile emotional condition, I feel a monumental sadness while also conscious of an underlying unity and joy, though yesterday the sadness overwhelmed me, but the latter felt suspiciously like "bad chemicals."

The Beatles sang that Love is the answer and it is. But how to apply that inwardly in everyday life brings me to an impasse. I find it much easier to help my brother in need when opportunity affords than to think about my own spiritual state. I would like to be filled with light at all times; alas, I am only human, and the light shines when it will. Perhaps it shines brightest when I am least aware of it. But it seems there are too many shadows in me for the light to pierce the fog consistently, although Tolle, no doubt, would tell me to forget about dreams and dream the present.

Here's a new poem:

After the Accident

Third degree abrasions peel,
a scab falls and another.
I network through DNA,
my business cards abound.
Floss flicked a filling out,
it rattled on the floor.
My tongue explored the jagged
grotto of amalgam's absence,
another part discarded.
Here a nail, there a hair:
after a while it adds up.

My left collar bone pushes
my skin up like a tent pole.
But where did the trapped gas go
when the ligaments popped?
Could I have breathed it out,
sent a postcard to the ambient air?
I wonder I'm not whittled to the quick.
I wanted my poems to be dolmens:
the body decides.

From Kilorats to Kilobunnies in the same breath,



  1. "I wanted poems to mark my way..."

    I think that line expresses the reason--that up until now, I've never been able to fully, effectively articulate--why I write.

    Poems mark my way.

    I'm not saying that my poems and writing help me find the way through life. They're just markers that I plunk down. Not a path. Just random pale stones that I toss down as I go that hopefully glow in the light of the full moon.

    Thank you for that line, sir.

  2. I like the poem. Reminds me a bit of Yeats’ feeling “fastened to a dying animal,” but with more action involved. Ouch.

  3. Hey CE,
    On an unrelated note. Your link to my blog is no longer correct. My new address is http://artesmoriendi.blogspot.com/
    (though there isn't much going on there).

  4. Thanks, Jarod, I'll try to correct the link, though all my links are out of date--haven't reviewed them in well over a year.

    Yes, LKD, I feel the same way. Instead of a scrapbook I have poems, in my revision compared to "dolmens," to mark where I've been both in my mind and on this planet. Frost called poetry something like "a temporary stay against the confusion of the world."

    Whatever one says in a poem, it has a way of defining experience with a temporary finality that is satisfying. And good poems transcend mere experience and mark our connection to the universal, the timeless moment of which Eliot spoke.

    I think "Four Quartets" a much more useful read for me than Tolle's "The Power of Now." Unfortunately Eliot's take would never pass the popularity test for a self-help book. Imagine!LOL!



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