March 2nd, 2008

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Good Morning!

The day wakes fresh with a little crescent moon in a corner of the sky.

I used to think Maureen Dowd was a little tough on Hillary but now I understand why.  I am getting more and more comments on why people are for Barack.  I think Maureen says it well here.   Playing the victim and fear-mongering no longer work.   The people have learned something under more than seven years of Bush.

Op-Ed Columnist

A Wake-Up Call for Hillary

Published: March 2, 2008


Channeling her inner Cheney, Hillary Clinton dropped a fear bomb, as Michelle Obama might call it, implying in a new ad that if her opponent is elected, your angelic, innocent, sleeping children could die in a terrorist attack.

Only she has the wise head to go nuclear, should that Strangelovian phone call from a power-mad Putin come into the White House at 3 a.m. Her ad shows how composed she would be at the dread moment when she picks up the phone. Her nuke look is feminine, in a tailored camel-colored jacket and gold necklace, yet serious, in Tina Fey black reading glasses.

It’s hard to discern the message of the ad. The scariest thing is not the persistently ringing phone but an Andrea Yates-looking mother who’s creeping up on the sleeping babes in the dark. The point can’t be that Hillary is superior to Obama in international crisis management, because she’s done no more of it than he has. She’s only done domestic crisis management, cleaning up after Frisky Bill.

Is the message that Hillary is Ready on Night One? That she won’t have to waste any time if she’s rousted out of bed in the wee hours, because she’s wearing a pantsuit under her pantsuit? (Or is it just, as Wesley Clark said during an appearance with her in Waco on Friday, that Hillary’s “been in the White House when the tough decisions were made. I guess you’ve been at the bedside when that phone rang at 3 a.m.”)

It’s rather Mommie Dearest for the first serious female contender to try to give the kiddies nightmares. How maternal is that? But since her nightmare is losing, she doesn’t mind scaring the pj’s off of little Jimmy and Johnny.

Obambi-No-More briskly dismissed Hillary’s attempt to cast him as a global ingénue. “Senator Clinton may not be aware, but we already had a red phone moment,” he said at an outdoor rally here, with the crowd of 8,000 booing at the mention of Hillary’s ad. “It was the decision to invade Iraq. Senator Clinton picked up the phone and gave the wrong answer. And John McCain picked up the phone and gave the wrong answer. And George Bush picked up the phone and gave the wrong answer.”

(In fact, there is no red phone in the Oval Office, but maybe Obama will redecorate. He wants to put in a hoops court.)

On “Nightline” last week, Hillary once more wallowed in gender inequities, asserting that it’s harder for her to run than her opponent — a black man with an exotic name that most Americans hadn’t even heard a year ago.

“Every so often I just wish that it were a little more of an even playing field,” she said, “but, you know, I play on whatever field is out there.”

Is that how she would deal with dictators, by playing the refs and going before the U.N. to demand: “How come you’re not asking Ahmadinejad these questions first?”

Tangled in her own victimhood, she snipped to Cynthia McFadden that Obama had written in his book that “he’s a blank screen and people of widely different views project what they want to believe onto him.” She said voters were projecting their hopes onto that blank screen even though “he just hasn’t been around long enough.”

In the next breath, asked about the women who feel sorry for her, she said: “I think a lot of women project their own feelings and their lives on to me, and they see how hard this is. It’s hard. It’s hard being a woman out there.”

So projection is bad with Obama but good with her?

On a conference call Friday with Hillary’s ever-more-hysterical male strategists, Slate’s John Dickerson asked exactly when she had been tested in a foreign policy crisis. After a silence long enough to knit a sweater in, as the Web site The Hotline put it, Mark Penn cited “her work on the Armed Services Committee.”

Hillary’s boys pout that the press should find some dirt on Obama before time runs out. Their once fearsome campaign is now reduced to whining that Obama did not hold any substantive hearings of his Subcommittee on European Affairs. What’s next? Bitterly complaining that he missed a quorum call?

Hillary keeps trying to dismiss Obama’s appeal as emotional, something that can be overcome with enough mental discipline. But behind that ethereal presence he’s a wonky lawyer, just like Hillary. He reads The Times and Philip Roth and talks about the fine points of Medicare Part B in a way W. never could have when he first ran for president. (Or now.)

Hillary’s visceral attacks will not work. And the Republicans’ visceral attacks on the Obamas’ patriotism, and their usual attempt to make the Democrat seem foreign (Hussein, Hussein, Hussein!), may not have the same traction.

The president took the country to war on his gut, exploited our fears and played the patriotism card to advance his political agenda.

This time, Americans may prefer cerebral arguments to visceral ones. What a refreshing change reality would be.

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I seem to have Australia on the brain and mind.  I feel Greg calling me there.   Dave sends me information to entice.   Check this out:

I read The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin last night to immerse in an Aboriginal experience of over twenty years ago.  I know times have changed, but maybe not the feeling of a visit to Ayers Rock.    I want to walk and feel the songlines.

I offer some quotes from the book that speak to me.

"The most sublime labour of poetry is to give sense and passion to insensate things; and it is characteristic of children to raise inanimate things in their hands and talk to them in play as if they were living persons ... This philological-philosophical axiom proves to us that in the world's childhood men were by nature sublime poets ..."

       Giambattista Vico, The New Science, XXXVII

"The ancient Egyptians believed the seat of the soul was in the tongue; the tongue was a rudder or steering oar with which a man steered his course through the world."

"Poetry proper is never merely a higher mode (melos) of every-day language.  It is rather the reverse: everyday language is a forgotten and therefore used-up poem, from which there hardly resounds a call any longer."

       Martin Heidegger, 'Language'

"Richard Lee calculated that a Bushman child will be carried a distance of 4,900 miles before he begins to walk on his own. Since, during this rhythmic phase, he will be forever naming the contents of his territory, it is impossible he will not become a poet."

"In Aranda Traditions Strehlow contrasts two Central Australian peoples: one sedentary, one mobile.

    The Aranda, living in a country of safe waterholes and plentiful game, were arch-conservatives whose ceremonies were unchangeable, initiations brutal, and whose penalty for sacrilege was death.  They looked on themselves as a "pure" race, and rarely thought of leaving their land. 

    The Western Desert People, on the other hand, were as open-minded as the Aranda were closed. They borrowed songs and dances freely, loving their land no less and yet forever on the move.  The most striking thing about these people; Strehlow writes, 'was their ready laughter.  They were a cheerful laughing people, who bore themselves as though they had never known a care in the world. Aranda men, civilized on sheep stations, used to say, "They are always laughing.  They can't help it."

Now there is something to contemplate as we look at the U.S. today.

I conclude with the following words from Bruce Chatwin.

"As I wrote in my notebooks, the mystics believe the ideal man shall walk himself to a "right death." He who has arrived "goes back."

    In Aboriginal Australia, there are specific rules for "going back" or rather, for singing your way to where you belong: to your "conception site," to the place where your tjuringa is stored.  Only then can you become - or re-become - the Ancestor.  The concept is quite similar to Heraclitus's mysterious dictum, "Mortals and immortals, alive in short death, dead in each other's life."

May we each sing our way to where we belong, in and out of time!

inside matisse

slowing down to listen, see, live -

This is a beautiful article about Laurie Seagel. Read it all, especially through to the end to get to his own words and what he was doing and what he learned and how he used it.   Very beautiful and touching.  It will affect your next moments and how you live.

I have to share it.  I put the last part of the article here, though I suggest reading it all.

I don’t remember exactly when Laurie gave me a copy of a manuscript he’d written, All Men Shall Be Gods, but I still have it. For years, I’ve wanted to publish a particular section from it, a remarkable account of an experiment in living he carried out in San Francisco in the early 1960s before he fell under the sway of amphetamines. I feel compelled to underline how striking I find this singular inquiry to have been. It's an ontological adventure that could easily have remained untold and I'm grateful, finally, to be able to share it with others. Here is that excerpt.

Laurie Seagel writes:

I decided to try to find out what were man’s basic needs. I would live without most things I was accustomed to and see what it would be like. I decided to give up words; I would only say “yes,” “yes” to every question, nothing more, a nod of the head would usually suffice. I would give up things; sandals, a thin shirt and a thin pair of pants would be enough. I knew I could adjust to temperatures in San Francisco through bodily relaxation. The fewer clothes the better; I would worry about changing when the need arose. Nothing in my pockets, nothing, no money, no identification, nothing. And no place. I would break the habit of thinking “where” and “where to?” All places would be equal. I would try to learn to be comfortable anywhere.
     I hid a sleeping bag in the bushes near Coit Tower, the highest point on Telegraph Hill, though I ended up sleeping in it only once. The rest of my belongings I hauled over to the family home in Oakland.
     Usually, I wore a hat pulled down low. I sat, relaxed my body, and watched, or listened—looked and listened. I sat in Cassandra’s, in the Coffee Gallery, the Bagel Shop, The Place—these were the main gathering spots for people I knew. There was also the Cellar Jazz Club, evenings. Still later some nights after the Cellar closed, we sojourned across town to the Black Fillmore district where jazz was played until early morning at Bimbo’s Bop City. Or I’d go off by myself, as most of the others went home.
     When Cassandra’s closed, I’d cross the street where a small cafe was good for a short stop. The small hours of the morning, three to five, I’d spend in a variety of regular ways. Lying among the empty bins in the Italian bakery on Grant just above Green, I watched the bakers working, kneading, arranging, shoving the long rows of loaves into the great oven—rhythm, movement, fire and quiet Italian talk. I enjoyed the warmth and the smell, enjoyed watching them work, like a dance it was—and they always welcomed me. I was a spectator whose enjoyment in watching them heightened their own enjoyment in the work. Invariably one of them would thrust a fresh loaf of bread upon me when I rose to leave.
     Another activity for three to five in the morning was walking through the bustling, bright and raucous produce market located then at easy walking distance from North Beach. My eyes delighted in the colors of the fruits and vegetables, and I felt energy from the surging of the men and their machines, the helter-skelter of it all. Here too, people got used to seeing me among them. I was always silent and happy, smiling from the delight my eyes were beholding. I was joyous watching the beauty of existence. Here in the produce market people called me “wolf-man,” I suppose because my hair was long and shaggy, but they always acted toward me with friendliness and offered me fruit, which I ate.
     When I was especially tired, during these pre-dawn hours and at other times also, I went into rhythmical walking, sometimes for long distances around San Francisco, long rhythmical strides, arms swinging. The action sort of turned me on, got me high, rested me.
    Every day, before the sun rose, I climbed to the top of Telegraph Hill somewhere alongside of Coit Tower, to sit and meditate. From my spot, all the sounds of the bay down below me in an arc left, right and center rose up directly, undisturbed by any edifice. I sat, relaxed deeply, deeply, and listened, watched. The sounds of the ships, of the city, of the birds were pleasant to me. I enjoyed them every day, day after day, for hours at a time. When I began hearing the coarser hum of human voices—tourists appeared about nine in the morning to look out on the bay—I lay down where I was and slept for a few hours. I liked sleeping in the sun.
     When I awoke, I usually went to Washington Square Park, or down through Fisherman’s Wharf to Aquatic Park. On the grass of Washington Square, or the sand of Aquatic Park, I’d catch some more sleep in the sun, sometimes swim in the bay at Aquatic Park, eat raw fish at the wharf, or I would sit and watch, listen, or be together with friends— “beatniks” we were beginning to be called after Chronicle columnist Herb Caen put together Kerouac’s “beat” with the “nik” from the Russian “Sputnik.”
     Looking and listening were for me ways of quieting my mind, teaching it to not think, breaking habits of thought like: what to do? where to go? But after awhile, looking and listening became something much more: I came to see and to hear the world, existence, more and more acutely. The more I watched and listened, the more I saw and heard, more keenly, more distinctly.
     Every day I gained more and more pleasure from this listening and looking, always seeing and hearing more clearly. As time went on, I appreciated how glorious and beautiful existence is, living. I saw how busy, preoccupied were most people with doing, making. Existence was already so much to enjoy, so grand and lovely, so exquisite. Just to see, to hear the sights and sounds that were there made me happy and delighted. I was truly happy and at peace. Everywhere. All the time.

     Throughout those eight months, or a year—I’m not sure exactly how many months went by—I had not the slightest inkling of trouble of any kind. The two policemen on the beat, when they passed me they said, “Hi Laurie,” and that was that. I did what I wanted, when I wanted to, sometimes with others, but most often alone.  I roamed freely, drank lots of water, ate enough somehow and was always serene in enjoyment of the beauty of all I saw unfolding before me, day into night, night again into day: the warmth of the sun, the cool breezes, the fog, the wind, the sea, sky and stars, trees, flowers, children playing, old people, young mothers with their children, the Chinese, the Italians, the French, the Basque.
     My attention became so keen I saw in crowded coffee shops and meeting places, how people’s bodies reacted to each other’s without their consciously knowing it.
     When I sat at a live jazz session, my hearing was so sharp, it was like what poets call “a sensitive ear in the audience.” I would hear each particular instrument, separately. The musicians told me that when I listened, they began to hear themselves more distinctly, then each heard the other, and the music grew in intensity and those jam sessions were really something else… at the Cellar, and on weekends, at the Coffee Gallery.

     It was all a part of that community spirit which existed, the spirit that both allowed me to be on “this trip” and to live freely in the midst of it. The life of North Beach nourished me, fed my spirit and my body. It was fun to be with this happy throng, to share with them the sounds of talk, laughter, music, nature, the clanging of the cable car bell, the sound of the seagulls, Sonny’s saxophone, Max’s bass fiddle, Bill Wiesjon’s piano, Chuck Taylor’s drums.
     What are the basic needs of man? What did I learn during this time? I lived very contentedly on almost nothing. I required little sleep and little food. I drank water copiously, had abundant sunshine, walked and ran tremendous amounts, meditated, rested much, did not feel the need for sex, though I enjoyed frequent human companionship, or at least proximity.
     I came to regard my needs as so scant that you could say that what you need is what you want. Air, water, rest, exercise, a little food, this is all I seemed to need.
     I did have an acute sense of something like regret or sorrow that other people were not enjoying existence as much as I was then. If only they could sit more quietly and look, listen, feel. I felt that people could live better that way and that society would be better, life would be better that way. But I didn’t talk. I didn’t think I could start talking and somehow teach people to be that way, change the world.
     When I finally did decide to end this period, I just hoped that somehow, some way, I could express what I had experienced and learned and somehow bring some of it back into existence, at least into my own existence, and perhaps for others as well…

--by Richard Whittaker; Dec 21, 2007


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I take this from Joan as I did the previous post.  We are both involved with taxes today, and creative ways to entertain and distract.

Check this out:

If as the previous post suggests, our response affects what we are responding to, then, our abilities to see more nooks and crannies of the universe, will stimulate even more what we know, and what responds, both within and without.
egg stone

Jane Hirshfield

I treated myself to Jane Hirshfield's book, Given Sugar, Given Salt today as a reward for doing taxes.   I think this poem goes along with the theme of noticing and slowing down.

Only When I Am Quiet and Do Not Speak

    - Jane Hirshfield

Only when I am quiet for a long time
and do not speak
do the objects of my life draw near.

Shy, the scissors and spoons, the blue mug.
Hesitant even the towels,
for all their intimate knowledge and scent of fresh bleach.

How steady their regard as they ponder,
dreaming and waking,
the entrancement of my daily wanderings and tasks.
Drunk on the honey of feelings, the honey of purpose,
they seem to be thinking,
a quiet judgment that glistens between the glass doorknobs.

Yet theirs is not the false reserve
of a scarcely concealed ill-will,
nor that other, active shying: of pelted rocks.

No, not that. For I hear the sigh of happiness
each object gives off
if I glimpse for even an instant the actual instant -

As if they believed it possible
I might join
their circle of simple, passionate thusness,
their hidden rituals of luck and solitude,
the joyous gap in them where appears in us the pronoun I.