Intermissions For Thought Police (Lockdown Journals III, IV)

Vera Rima 2020

**I don’t usually tackle such topics here — before reading please see the intro for this project, from first section (Lockdown I, II)

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Part III

REALLY BAD THOUGHTS FOLLOWED BY ACCEPTABLE THOUGHTS

If we could just set party affiliation completely aside for a moment, completely aside.  Clearly the most troubling aspect of this pandemic lockdown situation is addressing (or avoiding) certain ethical, moral, philosophical, and spiritual questions haunting the whole affair. Deciding as well, what ought to take priority.

There is the simpler question – not easier but more simple – the most practical question.  Experts and politicians essentially pleading with the public — how can we get people to understand, internalize, and accept the fact that this is considered the worst epidemic in 100 years and that is why we must all each take action and participate in a solution?

Then there are the questions that curiously reveal flawed and hypocritical value systems within parties.  Such as, how much is the actual or de facto “sanctity of life” worth?  Why do some groups value it above all else in certain situations, such as the abortion question, but not in other situations, such as the pandemic question?  Or the reverse: why value it above all else in the pandemic question, but not in the abortion question?

Who reads confirmed cases as an approx. 1-4% death rate, and who reads them as a 96-98% chance of recovery?  And how does that basic difference in perception influence their perspective?

And then there are the really really taboo questions.  How much can we reasonably expect from someone, from a whole population, to sacrifice for another, for a stranger, or even for ourselves in this exact scenario?  To what extent exactly do we ask them to suppress their own needs, goals, principles, beliefs, liberties, mental health, future, in the harsh reality of this system so contingent on self-reliance, in which people have little to no safety net outside of what they build for themselves in their lifetime? 

Self-sacrifice is generally a choice in this system.  But in this system, forced economic self-sacrifice appears to be flirting with tyranny.  Flirting.  If you don’t like something, normally you could bail, choose another path, if you have the courage.  But there’s no leaving this.

Nobody wants to hear it but the fact is that you can not save one group in this situation, without sacrificing another.  Especially with regard to health, safety, and economic pain.  The question is who is it ok to sacrifice versus not sacrifice, and under what circumstances is this actually okay – where do we draw that line.  Who or what is worth more, in this country?  As reported in numerous articles in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Politico, and many others, we already know that those losing the most are the ones who already have the least to lose.  While the bottom 25% of earners who are already the most economically unstable and insecure demographic upend their lives, those who keep their jobs and their futures relatively intact are already among the highest earners.  And does it make us selfish to even draw attention to this cold hard truth?  I think it is only the responsible thing to do.

We can not pretend that the impact of this reality doesn’t deserve our attention and care.  Yet we expect these people to take the hit quietly.  Even those whose jobs go away and do not come back, or whose jobs return in far limited capacity, or those who return to work with less quality jobs than they had before, starting over now from the bottom.  There is in fact a human price to pay for this plan.  Not only economic, but everything else that goes along with that such as mental health, addiction issues, relationship struggles, and indeed poorer physical health in the long term and less financial resources to deal with these issues.  Yet the attitude is that it’s ok to disregard the suffering caused to these people because if they don’t accept the terms given then they are immoral, greedy, callous, selfish, anti-science, and don’t care if people die of coronavirus.  To question the chosen course of action at all is to offend humanity itself.  The protocol is assumed to be worth it.

But such a position is, I’m afraid to say, not only manipulative, but also beginning to look like an abusive one to take.  It’s not quite because we are shutting things down.  It’s because of this casual disregard toward the have-less, an attitude so neglectful and dismissive it would suggest a deeper contempt built in to our cultural values.  It’s a trend that’s become a runaway train, and now finally backfires in a big way.  As reported in the New York Times piece I’ve mentioned already, since 1980 the after-tax income of the bottom half of earners has risen only 20%, and the middle 50%, while the wealthiest has risen 420%. The Economic Policy Institute reports that CEO pay has risen 940% since 1978, relative to “typical” workers who only saw a 12% rise.  As Vox bluntly puts it, “the rich are getting richer at the expense of everyone else.”  Yet even in a pandemic, debates abound on the extent to which the have-less take advantage of the system, live off the state, expect something for nothing, expect special treatment on someone else’s dollar.  

Indeed, it is not only the lowest classes who are being squeezed.  I’ll add to this essay now (that I actually wrote back in May but frankly didn’t have the courage to post) that more recently on 12/8/20, a news program on KQED radio reported on research about the income inequality gap that basically started 45 years ago in the 70s.  They said that the cost to the bottom 90%, to make the top 10% richer in this time period, is over 2 trillion dollars.  I believe in the range of 2.4 trillion (but don’t quote me on that exact figure — to be real, I heard it just as I turned on the radio in the car).  And if this gap had never started in the first place, then today the median income of around $50,000/yr, would today be $92,000/yr.  Over $40,000 more per year.  

Is Giving Money Away “Unfair”?

Imagine if we said to the wealthiest 10% of Americans, I’m sorry but we need you to contribute to coronavirus relief also, so we need to tax an extra 10% of your income this year, and next. No.  Surely this would not fly, were the wealthiest Americans comprehensively required to give up their money in the same way the less fortunate classes are required in this scenario.  No, instead many wealthier Americans are enabled to further increase their assets, buying up property and other investments at the lowest rates, moving money, or at the very least recovering loses rather quickly.  Surely we couldn’t get away with expecting them to surrender their own paychecks, surely we do not expect the same selflessness.  Giving is a choice — a luxury.

All this would seem to highlight wealthier Americans as an unofficial “protected class” in a collective crisis. While service industries are shut down by order of the government, no less.  And to those billionaires who do voluntarily donate to relief — before we get too misty-eyed about their heroism — I wonder why we couldn’t have all paid our employees a little more to begin with.

Do those affected employees and small business owners who resist the shut down “only care about money”?  Well, how about the wealthiest Americans, do we think they don’t care about their money?  Let’s try it.  Let’s see how “selfish” they may become, when their own checks are involuntarily cut by those in charge — no choice in the matter.  Let’s see how righteous and altruistic we can ALL be when it comes to the coronavirus.

It would seem that when wealthier Americans “unfairly” benefit, it’s not only par for the course, it’s, well, simply a byproduct of our action plan, which was the right thing to do for the good of all.  But when the less fortunate “unfairly” benefit, suddenly it’s “socialism.”  Political gaslighting at its finest/worst.  Problems in the system, it would seem, are only created by people make too little – not when they make too much.  

Discussions on this deep double standard hardly even exist.  Reportage on the wealth gap is rarely engaged in any kind of meaningful, lasting way.  Because for some reason it is not even worth talking about.  It seems to be, not very interesting.  As we attempt meaningful conversations about race and gender, the conversation about institutionalized economic inequality remains an elephant in the room.  It’s no wonder that in this moment, one’s level of income and access to resources determines not only where their livelihood, quality of life, and future lie in the social and economic spectrum — it also determines where they lie on the political priority list.

I have heard one person say, “I guess I just care more about old people than poor people.  I guess that’s just the truth of how I feel about it.”  Based on how things are going, I suppose we could say that this is a value judgement that’s not unpopular. Now, I’ll be the first to say that the people I’m most concerned for, the people I hope most to be protected from illness, are my two elderly Grandmas. I do not want my Grandmas to get the virus, certainly not to die of it.  We know that our elders are among the most vulnerable to covid fatalities. 

Yet, let’s also consider that while there are indeed many poor elders, by and large the elder generations are already known to be among the wealthiest, and they also hold a great deal of political power and influence. We know that they are on their way out of the workforce or already out of it, while the most economically vulnerable who still need to work, are asked to risk everything they have to protect others.  We know that we can’t have overfull hospitals to the point that there’s not enough space to treat people. We know that a certain amount of shut down is inevitable, as leaders see fit. Will it really “cost too much” to assist those of working age who do make this economic sacrifice, for the health of others, many of whom are of retiring age? Is this generational inequity another cold hard truth we simply bypass, in favor of the cold hard truth of “saving lives”? 

Here’s why lower earners need help, generous help, not half-assed help.  Because if we don’t, then we are literally asking them to fund the cost of saving lives.  We shut down, by order of the government – ultimately at their personal expense.

Why? Because debt is inevitable as a result of the pandemic and consequent shutdown.  So do we, collectively as a country, take on the burden of this responsibility for the greater good of all?  Or do we demand that certain individuals will — in fact the individuals least equipped to do so? 

The long-term ramifications of the disease and the shut down remain to be seen, as are further actions taken toward a greater good in future.  Greater good for whom?

May 27, 2020

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Part IV

Inquiry: the Luxury of Giving, the Price of Philanthropy, “Just” Poverty

Q: How Noble Is the Luxury of Giving?

At a certain point, don’t the wealthiest Americans (perhaps at least the top 2% if not the top 5%, but especially billionaires) kinda have to donate some money, to get rid of some of it before it starts to work against them? Sure they don’t actually have to, and some argue that they don’t contribute enough in recent years. But for those many wealthy who do, giving is largely to their benefit. Mass sums donated means tax-free deductions. Courtesy of outdated policy in fact, the wealthy receive the most generous deduction for charity–even if donating a more modest proportion of earnings than many lower income doners who can’t access any deduction. For the wealthy who take advantage of this benefit, charitable contributions could also enable manipulation of the tax bracket as desired. So, I wouldn’t assume an entirely altruistic motive for charity on their part, although I don’t doubt that they may enjoy it too.

Q: Aren’t Massive Donations By the Wealthy Kind of, Problematic?

In theory, with the largest quantities of giving increasingly concentrated among the wealthiest, don’t we end up with too few people deciding where all this wealth goes? Aren’t we supposed to be able to vote where mass sums of money in our society get prioritized? Isn’t that theoretically what would happen, for example, if monies from mass donations were collected through taxes instead? Isn’t that what would happen if more people were all paid a little more, who in turn paid higher taxes on their earnings, and then those extra funds were divided up according to the will of voters and elected representatives? Instead of excess corporate profits disappearing into tax loopholes, bloated salaries at the top, and then a few select people paid exponentially even more than that? And, incidentally, an inconspicuous “budget vote” for those few that essentially “counts more” as far as how to spend unfathomable sums in charity? Not to mention that charitable donations concentrated through the wealthiest ensures that the interests of the wealthy are, by and large, prioritized.

And what about how much buying power the richest may enjoy when it comes to actual voting — essentially, direct sway over elections?

Q: If the Wealthiest Can Afford to Give So Much Away, Why Is Pay So Low in Lower Tiers?

Now keep in mind that I am just a layman on these topics, so I pose this more as a question, but I’m also not an idiot. And these things just don’t make sense to me. In the case of Amazon – let’s get real. $15/hr is a total joke — and not just in California where I live but in plenty of other places too — and people are catching on to the ways in which Amazon exploits its labor and undercuts a whole industry. People who work there are so busy that they barely have time to go to the bathroom, so it’s not like the company can’t afford to pay them more. Wouldn’t it have been better to pay employees a billion dollars more, and increase their standard of living, instead of ending up with so much money yourself from the success of your businesses, that you can afford to give dazzling amounts of it away to some choice groups or causes?

In the Amazon example, I get it that Bezo’s personal wealth is not the same thing as Amazon wealth as an entity. However, even as a layman I assert that it would be dumb to think that your personal wealth has nothing to do with your business entities. I’m a videographer and I work for myself, and somehow the money from my business ends up in my pocket. And I don’t really want to hear what Bezos claimed income is, considering that his actual wealth is tied up in investments everywhere and let’s not pretend that that’s not for a reason and that the whole thing with all the numbers appears to be highly manipulated anyway. Then again, maybe I’m just not rich enough to understand how you can be so rich yet somehow boast of a relatively piddly income.

Now, you can donate to the homeless, OR, you can help prevent homelessness — by paying and benefiting people little more than the least possible amount that you could possibly get away with (and then acting like you ought to congratulated). You can also donate to early childhood education, but a lot of good that’ll do if their undervalued parents are overworked, stressed out, and can barely afford to feed and clothe their kids properly, let alone have much time to actually parent them.

Isn’t it an odd thing, generally speaking, to direct corporate entities paying bottom dollar to workers, make billions, and then donate a billion dollars to some special interest thing, when if all this wealth were spread out more in the first place, then everybody’s life could improve instead of select few? Select few, who then select remote beneficiaries of their fortune, totally alienated from their means of production?

And no, just because I used the phrase “means of production” doesn’t mean I’m a Marxist, ok? It just means I went to college. All this just means that I think we could probably do better. Ok? Couldn’t we do better? And it’s quite possible that we must do better. After all, people like William Graham Sumner warned us in What Social Classes Owe To Each Other, too much power in the hands of too few is a great danger to our system. I’m not diving deep into that – I read the book in college. I’m not a scholar on this subject, I’m a citizen with questions.

And again, maybe that’s part of my problem. Maybe I’m just not thinking like a rich person. I’m thinking like a concerned citizen. Does that make me an idiot? Naive? Or do I legitimately wonder what it means to really “only care about money,” as we sit here in a pandemic?

Do I just, not know how it all works? And if not, then why? How can I live here and be a college educated citizen and not know how it all works? Is there something I’m missing out on, as an average person wondering what the fuck is wrong with this picture? Why does nobody seem to care that much? Are we all just, too burned out? Is life too exhausting to even ask the questions? Will people hate us, if we dare? Or are we just, lazy as fuck?

And fearful?

Tell me this ISN’T how it works.

One thing that paying workers less and donating billions to special interest groups instead, is it makes you look good. You get to play hero… once again quite possibly, albeit rather indirectly, at the real-time expense of the lowest-paid workers in companies who scrape by paycheck to paycheck, probably with little to no savings, and have barely any future. And it makes you look good in the sense that the richer you are, you can secretly compete with the other richest people in the world for the title of who can be the richest one of all. Or as a company, secretly compete with all the other most powerful companies, to see who will make headlines for the top spot.

So if you’re going to be in this game, I guess you better be a little parsimonious, at least until that crown is yours. Am I wrong? Or am I starting to think like a rich person? I’m not sure, but I might be. I wonder if you kinda have to, to see through it? Who am I to say.

But the bottom line is, it’s a choice what to pay people, right? From top to bottom. Can’t act like it’s not a choice. So what are the reasons for that choice?

Q: Do Underskilled Employees “Deserve” To Be Paid So Little?

There’s always the argument that lower-tier employees are paid so little, because their skills aren’t worth very much. But even if unskilled or underskilled labor doesn’t require much more than showing up, does that mean that such employees don’t deserve a true living wage? Do we really think it is “just,” in America, for an underskilled laborer to work full-time, and yet still live in relative poverty?

Maybe it’s just me, but something must be wrong in our evaluations.

Are CEOs just not, doing well enough yet to justify paying more at the lower tiers? As affluent Americans’ wealth skyrockets, why would it seem right that lower tier pay profoundly stagnates? When growth happens, and the cost of living rises, doesn’t everyone deserve to be getting more? I don’t get it, or I’m missing something. Or worse — this is actual reality.

More to the point, is it really so fair that the upper tiers should be worth SO much more? Is the exponentially higher pay of a CEO really, so earned? So justifiable? Research indicates that it is not. But if they don’t really deserve to be paid so much for just showing up and having a certain title, then explain to me now why anyone at all in the lower tiers should still need food stamps and other assistance, for just showing up?

So. Perhaps it is time we call bluff. When somebody opines that underskilled employees deserve to be paid so little, perhaps we ought to point out that the upper tiers are paid well too much more, than they deserve.

December 14 – December 21, 2020

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Intermissions for Thought Police (Lockdown Journals V)

Vera Rima 2020

**I don’t usually tackle such topics here — intro for this project can be found here, from first section (Lockdown I, II)

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The Root of the Problem

Wherever we fall on the ideological spectrum
It’s worth asking, why are we so angry?
It’s not enough to just say “divided.”

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Part V

Tough Love for Americans (and hope beyond the conflict)

Once again setting party affiliation completely, absolutely, totally aside.  It’s true that many are quite happy to sacrifice, for saving as many lives as possible and slowing or preventing the spread of disease.  Others question whether this solution is truly proportional to the problem, considering the multitude of other problems to be created in its wake.  Whatever the case, I find myself disappointed in the condescending, self-righteous, patronizing, and even irrational attitudes I encounter, even among people whose values I generally share. While I rarely tackle “political” topics here, in this case I feel it essential.

It is a fact that unfortunately makes many uncomfortable, that people in this system have the right to assemble and protest under any circumstances when they are unhappy with the decisions their leaders are making.  People who protest perfectly valid and sensible policies, are not all automatically idiots.  Ignorance may abound, but only as much as it abounds on the other side of the aisle as well.  Quite simply, the people just see it differently and they do not agree.  They do not agree that the course of action is appropriate.  Whether we agree or disagree on any issue, whether we scoff or not, dissent must be permissible.  Now let’s be clear, I am not talking about dissent that occurs as a result of a misinformation campaign and conspiracy theory – that’s a whole other subject.  This is not about what we could probably refer to as a “misinformation crisis.” I’m talking about legitimately justified dissent provoked by verifiable choices, decisions made, actions taken by elected representatives and leaders.

Dissent is not misinformation in and of itself — although it is rather convenient to call it so when we do not agree.  Protest and dissent are a communication, an interaction between the public and leaders.  Dissent is not a liberal enterprise or a conservative enterprise.  It is an American enterprise.  Like it or not.  Agree with it or not.  Believe me, I am angered by some of the things people object to, and especially angered by those fighting to take away rights we have already won.  But I would still stand up for an opposing side’s right to express their view, as much as I really really don’t want to, because this is a right I also want to have for myself.  Free speech is a treasure for all of us – just as much for “us” as for “them.”

When people want change or they do not agree with what their leaders are doing, they protest to have a say in the matter.  It is very important that we do not erode this.  Of course this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t critique a protest or an argument, but we can choose how to use our own voice in an effective way.  An effective way, hopefully.

However

Valid as protesting the shut down may be in one sense, in another sense it also underestimates our creativity and potential for vision.  Let’s not forget, we are already free.  A fight to defend freedom as it is, in its current concept as we know it, may be short-sighted as it is limited.  And essentially, backward thinking if we are fighting for a freedom as we knew it, rather than seeing and utilizing freedom as it is available to us now.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  We can get creative in what our idea of freedom is, if we want this force, this crisis and our response to it, to become generative rather than destructive.  Because on an average day we do choose to flirt with a variation of “force,” too — a level of force by choice, and we still find freedom in this.  We choose school, university.  We choose jobs, bosses.  We choose hard core exercise regimes.  We choose relationships.  We choose limits.  We choose to be “forced” to do things in our own lives.

This situation with the pandemic is obviously unique, I am not arguing that.  But we do choose constraints on a regular basis because for most of us, a certain level of constraint may ironically bring more satisfaction and more freedom.  So we can get creative now.  We can do things differently.  We can choose another kind of freedom.  We can reimagine our lives right now.  We can say, if I had this whole life to do over again, what would I have done differently?  What would I have started, what would I have followed through on, had I the confidence and more importantly, the time?  Because we have nothing but time now, if we are “stuck” at home.  If we can just wade through the stress and anxiety… it is good to ask questions, but it is also good to reimagine, to reinvent.  We can honor the recommendations, and still be free.  We could even be more free.  Anything is possible.  Anything.

May 27, 2020

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(Part VI

FINAL THOUGHT I)

I’ve always preferred poetry, since poetry is better at questions than answers.

Poetry knows that nobody knows all the answers.

Even at its most candid, poetry rises unknowns and mysteries, prizes them.

I wrote all this because poetry won’t, however, be my cop-out.

June 9, 2020

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No Power, No Master

 

 

birds 4

 

 

 

 

Rain.  Blue-grey-violet light filling the room.  It’s late, 10:45 am.  Waking to dreams of the one I’d loved the most until finally many years later I didn’t – not that same way, pointing at a studio apartment for rent in the paper.  A large hexagon shaped space with beige floors in the photo, possibly carpet but nice, facing the street through bay windows.  I wanted to live there instead of him, could I – but hadn’t I already?  The thought makes me feel a bit sick.  Something bad happened there?  Can’t remember.  Many years ago, yesterday.  Being alone, wine, my computer, music, emails and IM, that’s it.  Scribbling in my journal in red and purple ink in bed, at my green desk covered in scraps of paper, notes, purple orchids and pots, flipping through thousands of photographs taken traveling and academic papers, lost in a foreign history of my own.  Plants, tall stacks of drafts, paintings beautiful amidst abstract misery and desperation.  Had I really lived there?  Or just imagined it?  The memory makes me ill.  Did I just make it up, the feeling?  The place?

 

 

 

 

Birds 2 revise again 2

 

 

 

 

Now staring into asphalt and a partly cloudy sky, intermittent city trees, standing in the street, waiting.  Forever.  Where is my friend?  We’re going to eat some sort of special bread from the bakery, a sweet bread or something?  As the sun falls hours later she finally shows, separating from a group of people I don’t recognize, surprised when I bring it up as if she’d never really intended to go.

Another fuzzy event I can’t recall, another one putting me off for some unidentifiable reason too.  So out of character for her, I don’t understand.  There was no one to be with.

 

 

 

 

Birds 11 draft

 

 

 

 

Birds 5 redo

 

 

 

 

Sitting outside on the sidewalk uncertain of what to do now.  Nobody around.  The air is fresh and bright.  There must have been a porch there, or some stairs, then a book appears in my hand.  I open its nearly eight by ten cover and skim.  50 or so pages, with illustrations.  Joy.  It was about joy.   This was written by a friend, a pianist, he’d given this to me.  No longer conscious of the street, completely absorbed in its lyrical writing and sparse, minimalistic line drawings lightly watercolored until an elation grows and spreads too immensely to look down any longer, too much to process any more information mentally.  I close it to feel its weight in my hands instead and look up lifting up into the air like years before, planes floating off a runway above shapes shrinking and tightening viewed through tiny windows.  So happy.  Magical.  Then I’m here.  Rain.  Blue-grey light filling the room.  It’s late, 10:45 am.  Curtains.  Oakland in the window.  My room.  No one’s around.

 

 

 

 

birds 4 redo with exposure plus extra contrast

 

 

 

 

Were all of those people trades for someone I really want to be with today?  Not sure I care what it means but it resonates for a few minutes.

 

 

 

 

Birds 8 shape edit

 

 

 

 

Birds 6

 

 

 

 

IMG_Birds 12 exposure change extra

 

 

 

 

Birds 9 idea not final.jpg

 

 

 

 

Birds 10 idea not final

 

 

 

 

Shaking off these dreams I get up to go out to the cafe.  The significance doesn’t feel so important, but I’m pretty sure I know why I’m remembering them so readily.   Vacation – no work for two weeks.  Whenever there’s more space, when more time is sensed and freedom and days ahead open, the volume of dreams I remember increases and changes: popcorn strings of memories like momentary portals into a higher consciousness about these experiences, mixed with creative currents more otherworldly and imaginative, like being inside of a hidden universe that rarely reveals, suppressed by routine realities.   Routines both necessary and destructive.  I used to take them too seriously.  And now I just don’t believe that I have to anymore.  Everything in my spirit won’t even let me anymore; it’s over.  My own way of seeing and being wakes up and takes priority and the space just has to be made for it, or it’s like I’ll just die.

This is the thing that may not make sense from the outside but it’s been said before many times over that a certain type of artist – perhaps so-called “real” artists – create because they have to.  We have to.  Maybe this is not true of all artists but in my own experience the choice has been to create, or to suffer a progressive downward spiral into an internal hell, self-imprisoned.  I’m fine to coast for a while but finally these become my two options and for others who are like me I wouldn’t doubt them to feel just as lost and miserable without creating.  Not that creating functions as a universal remedy for bad feelings – that would be silly.  For me though feeling bad and not creating would be an even worse if not dangerous condition than feeling bad and creating.  I didn’t desire this aspect of an artist’s life to be true of myself and I thought the idea sounded corny and overdramatic when I read about it in Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” at nineteen.  Coincidentally it was the only idea from the book I never forgot: write if you must write, if your need for writing is as though your life depended upon it.  I was too young then to understand these words more comprehensively, but cross the age of 30 when the focus of your generation suddenly becomes status and success and power and out of nowhere you feel like a complete loser.  Your dreams of being an artist or writer become even more naive and irresponsible and idealistic than when you were nineteen.  They’re beyond merely objectionable now, if not borderline reprehensible in a way they weren’t before.  Those benign impractical fantasies of young adulthood suddenly become things you could actually harm yourself with.

Was it Henry Miller who pointed out something like anyone can be an artist — until the age of 35?  This is not the same thing as declaring an intention to go into teaching or law or nursing or politics or business.  Creative ambitions might be treated as a curiosity or a bit of fun at best, but taken less and less seriously as time progresses.  It’s especially challenging for those choosing to abandon their former career path, to pursue art no longer as a hobby but as a primary occupation.  Are you published?  No.  Do you have a professional website?  No.  Business card?  No.  Portfolio?  Not in any organized fashion, not yet.  Not yet.  Not yet.  Not yet the unsatisfactory answer to every question.  Some start early, going ahead despite the odds to establish a position for themselves in the creative arts, publicly – others like me punish themselves for years first instead.  Just for inevitably being who you are despite every attempt to be something else, yet not quite understanding why you just can’t fit in to the occupations or places you’ve wandered into for safety and security.   By the time you finally come out of it to recognize what the trouble really is and you’ve already spent your money on degrees in other fields for other careers, who will indulge your grandiose aspirations now at this point?  But if you find that this is something you have to do – and you know this to be true of yourself because of the consequences you’ve experienced in avoiding this truth for your entire life, then the choice is clear.  Whether or not you’re any good at what you create at this point, whether or not you have everything you need for success in place, it ceases to matter.  You’ve worked your way to the top in places you didn’t even want to be, simply by showing up and working hard.  If you have to start at the bottom all over again, it will be worth it.  And how long will it take, exactly, to get to somewhere in the middle, if you even dare to imagine you could?  This ceases to matter also.  You’re tired of pretending, of lying.  You don’t think about the people who would criticize you as much anymore, or the what ifs, or the opportunities you’ve turned down or run away from in the past.  You think about what you need to do to make it happen.

I don’t feel sorry for myself or for those in my shoes.  I feel for those who are like me but still unable to create for whatever reason.  I know these people are out there so when somebody says they’re an artist, I tend to believe them no matter their current occupation or lifestyle or hobbies.

Two weeks of taking pictures and assembling them, drawing, writing, cups of tea and coffee, sleeping, planning, going to the gym, seeing friends.  I pour cream into my coffee as I only do in cafes – anywhere else, it’s black.  It’s noisy in here, there’s nowhere to sit comfortably.  Each conversation this morning is too loud and too much as I move from table to table seeking a place where I can think.  Think and write.  I’ve been desperately needing solace from these crowds.  Yet appreciate an unexpected sense of relief in this scene too, full of friends telling stories rather than singles with their devices.  I settle in near the speakers, faint music, not overbearing mainstream sounds like they often play but sounds with real feeling, though not especially edgy.  I realize I’ve forgotten to put in earrings this morning, which I’ve been wearing since I was three months old.  It feels oddly troubling.

My mind and body are glowing, not in a physical sense.  Something else.  I remember all the other times like this.  I remember the soft sunshine and the libraries and the roses in the window and the moped and the kissing and the airports and the poems scribbled out for fun with no concern for editing and the smells of cattle in foreign places and the miles and miles of road and ancient redwoods and the river.  I remember the intense dreams.  Stories of living life as art.

You’re free today.  You have two weeks.  Sit down.  It’s been a while since I’ve written, instead relishing the easy relief from words I enjoy so much in working with images.  Writing is so exposing, really so scary.  It doesn’t matter.  Text messages pop up, you ignore them for now.

Go write.  I’m dying to write now.  It doesn’t matter how it turns out, doesn’t matter if it’s good writing or bad, doesn’t matter if it’s real art.

 

 

 

 

Volunteers For A World With No Editor

 

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This was taken from scraps.  Cutouts produced incidentally while creating other black and white paper designs, extras tossed aside in the moment: the true first negative space of those projects, their waste, their remainder.   Sifted through the pile of odd shapes belonging nowhere, randomly assorted without purpose.  Four pieces chosen quickly, without thinking and no plan, without altering them further in any way, and within minutes assembled together and pasted up this leaning figure.  Looks like a lot of things to me but speaks like an example.

Urging to make significant or even delicious more of those elements in us and in the world so easy to reject, to cast out, to trample on, or to simply pass by.  Art and poetry are not luxuries but necessities for this reason.  To allow the unattended or just what looks like refuse to be seen and voiced and appreciated rather than tossed a token now and again, hardly a crumb.  The expendable, impractical, unnecessary – yours and mine too.  With poetry especially we have a marginalized form expressing the marginalized in apt communion.  To celebrate mystery, quiet amidst the noisy, or to place the unwanted or left behind because are we not all neglected or forgotten in some way and do we not all feel this.  To serve the imperfect, the difficult, the unsavory or troublesome, even the scary at times.  Our beauty does not exclude these flaws in a culture pretending to disown their existence.

What nobody would detect or consider without looking very, very, closely – art changing our minds about what’s beautiful and worthy, what we’re capable of discerning.  Not just a world in which we consume choice fragments of one another relentlessly and treat ourselves so, but a hunger for the whole range and process of a more private experience admired, an intelligence beyond the conspicuous so that every day just a little bit, even just a little to be able to show up and not be afraid to look further.  Since it’s the not looking – hiding – that’s more dangerous.

— And since culture’s infinitely richer than it could possibly be credited in any given moment — momentarily magnificent or bewildered or painfully plain.  So are we.

 

 

 

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Come With Me

 

Yes I admit searching for your face in crowds afraid of what I’d see.  You came in closed the door leaned your bike against the armoire put your keys and wallet down on the dresser and stay

ed.  We listened to the same musical refrain over and over after the film credits stop

ed since you made it last

even long

er than needed that evening, years

your presence melts resentments and smile fades priorities then there’s only innocence in us.  I’ve felt long

ing and awe and dread since childhood toward everything in life and everyone I’ve loved.  This is why poetry picked me without asking.  I’d eventually tell the truth, sometimes incredibly pained and sometimes without flinching in a way that served an art.  I was less than eight when I knew I was alone.  I see her walking slow

ly

in memory, eyes locked down at the ground watching feet move mechanically, but once she stop

es to stare at a glow.  Strange.  A mesmerizing purple hue around a shadow, circling the contour of the dark form in the sidewalk – was this some prophecy for today?  Six brothers and sisters new lives pop in and out of dreams like a vague connective tissue.  Purple orchids sit in the windowsill wait

ing for water don’t need too much attention, bookshelves crammed with ideas and lyrics and pictures don’t make this old, maybe ancient ache better when it visits, or easier the exceptional courageousness it takes to care.  Beyond the selfish, superficial, convenient or practical no bar, text box, or website brought us together.  You said you noticed I always look at the poem during critique instead of up at the group, you stay

ed long enough to get to know me a little but not very deep.  My most entitled and arrogant phase featured this loss although I couldn’t explain how much loneliness this arose from and alienation.  I still can’t keep up with demands in all directions by myself but who really can or how long

can we pretend.  Later on we leave after a short time.  Except in rare circumstances when we see differently those places in them that we fear.  And those elements in us embracing those who just don’t want to know, and those who do, and we take all of that.  All of it.  A fantasy is not a knowing.  A knowing says, this does not have to be so exciting.  A languishing calls in all of us.  Saying stop

by, hang out we are just talking.  It is not about being so impressed, it is beyond bodies, and we are not rushing out of here either.  We are not on our way home because there’s nowhere really to be, nowhere like here at least because why not with you, why not here making something, building something beyond our outfit and our face and our credentials?  I am dreaming now.  But this is the future of our yearnings.  Why not the freedom in doing nothing also, to stretch out in the grass for hours or lounge on the patio quietly, why not cooking and talking late into the night, where are these people?

Those who don’t mind the time?

This does not have to be so exciting it just has to be true.  I want to go find them and set down my keys on the table, turn off the internet and TV, to tell me their stories or notice the majestic shape of a tree reach in every direction for the sun to form such pleasing angles, am I crazy?  I am angry because there’s no antidote to the recklessness of others.  To the tyranny of business, being busy and making things happen.  There’s no pathology in craving more significance to our company — is it so dangerous to desire this today, feigning instead to resist real feeling as a means of self-improvement?  I have feel

ings.  That need not be cute or palatable.  Take no hallucination of ideals, that aesthetic is so tired.  The end is coming soon, dears.  Come by my love because fifty thousand options, fifty million options are not you, because fifty billion other options are still not who you are and because it does not matter about tomorrow, even now doesn’t matter because there’s nothing to do.  In truth, there is real

ly nothing.

Drink tea with me, no pool, no bar, no fancy food, no nice clothes, no entertainment.  I’m up the mountain pass now sipping the tea, bundled in wool, iron and wood and smoke billowing from fires in the freezing cold, there is no service here, and everything is free.  I long for you here but will find somebody to come with me, somebody along the way who wonders what it would be like to set their keys down anywhere, anywhere, and love those you find.  I create no words, no art to sell truly, I make piece after piece for those I hold and a place for us to exist in is all the same affair I work for, beyond the obvious yet not beyond those held in the middle of the darkness because the only thing we have that’s free in this world is each other and we know it.  This is why poetry is not endangered.  Is this not the belief anymore, here – what happened?  Nothing is just only ours.  Everything is for each other.  This is one truth of mine among many.  I wish it weren’t so sometimes.  I’d like to need no one, but this contemporary promise is a false idol of sorts.  I unpeel bananas

in the kitchen for breakfast, oranges

in the afternoon and adore them in solitude.  I don’t really adore french fries, though they taste good —  body is treated like this too.  It matters how you see

things, when we unpeel and also when we don’t.  I’m still being with them, still in love irresponsibly on paper and on screens and whatever and it’s great.  For us cyc

ling colors through bay windows, stay

ing up all night.  I come here to write for tears of long

ing to watch icy blue rivers in us melt

from ancient glaciers — they need a job.  In this moment as with most that matter nobody knows this about me and it’s okay.  I am the same as everyone.  You who recognize this thing.

You, taking heart

 

 

 

Just bring booze & blow me off

 

Stop being insane.  Claiming to be an artist doesn’t make you an artist.  Wanna come over and sit on my couch?  Bring me some booze.  Don’t be stupid, bring booze here and let’s figure out what’s up with you

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You’re a joke

 

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I

 

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HATE

 

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YOUR

 

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“ART”

 

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Bring bass and bulleit and you can suck my cock on it!!! my cock? There might be a hole in the back of your head when I’m done

Look bring good booze.  My demon is angry and I want to play the guitar

So suck it the fuck up and obey

Listen lady bring bulleit and a gun

Booze or whatever

I got a song for you

Look I need booze and shit now

Booze and apathy.  I know you got one you ugly bitch respond.  Unless you like it real lolololol

I got you a new bulb that I think will fit the lamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think I’m just gonna delete your shit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Version 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom In Constraint

You have said something about them, you have tossed pennies into the fountain in far off fantasies in your mind after all they’ve done, you have gone to pick up your image in its water somewhere beyond sensible and wasted yourself incautiously dipping your hands into its greenish mud puddle feeling the mossy bottom and the stone underneath it, wasted yourself watching a kaleidoscope of colors swirl around your wrists, watching green diamonds and blue gems morph to purple and magenta on the water’s oily surface in the angles of sun around tanned arms and through reflective fingers, and you’ve fallen behind the others, picked up incomprehensible images from exotic pools to sink yourself into and create yourself from, not borrowed from your own origins as you should, not done what you’ve been called upon by those who brought you, instead you have pulled out a starfish inedible and invasive multicolored and textured and other vain nonfunctional fascinations.

You have picked flowers all day.  Rearranged letters of the alphabet all day.  A candle left burning in your room to follow the mazes of wax and the loops of smoke taking your attention, then the fan left on for a clearing.  Trails of warm lemon juice cleansing negligence, you have sprayed perfume yet left no scent.  It was you who did the leaving, you who did this to them, you whose body is too soft to resist the most simple attraction and mind not soft enough to yield controls, you who betrayed trust by telling stories, who let yourself be eaten by worms of curiosity, you who gulp foolishly not more than banal beauties and ugliness.  To squander yourself insulting those who brought you, you who created universes invalid from real pennies and distorted realities from nebulous transparencies.  You are the kind who survives on chocolates.

You hearing them rehearsing, how could you do this to us?  How could you do this to you also.  You have said something, you have seen something.  Stuff that doesn’t matter, waste like this.  Crap like this, let it go and the box flies open.  Make your mistakes for they call them mistakes not choices.  Let it all out of the trap, let the mystery of this trap triumph if you absolutely must play so rough but don’t ask us to look, don’t ask us to see, don’t ask us to hear, don’t ask us to act.

Heirlooms are survival too.  You are too green for us, too blue, too purple, too much for us.  You haven’t done enough, organized enough this territory, you will never catch up.  You do this to us, do this to yourself, look.  Listen.  You’ll see, you’ll hear this.  You do this.  To us, to us.

You.

 

 

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You

 

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