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Journal 042121

Woke up at a friend’s house and traveled downtown to cash my paycheck with the pretty teller. She speaks Portuguese. She says people think it’s a French accent, but she sounds like she’s from Brazil.

Walked past my favorite pier by the ferris wheel but it fell in the water. The whole pier fell in and went splash one day last year. I do suspect it was suicide (due to 2020-ness)

Sat on new concrete triangle built by the city further down the waterfront. Mourned Pier 58 and Seattle’s soul.

Grabbed water bottles and sat in the sun near Pike’s Place. A girl asked to sit with me and offered to share weed, but it was mixed with tobacco so I declined.

Nearly immediately Timothy Leary showed up and shared a pure and wonderful indica with us. The fact it’s his real name makes me laugh every time I see him or maybe it’s the weed.

The girl was pretty but she began acting strange in ways I’m not interested in on my day off, so I handed them both water and walked alone.

Crossing the field of tents outside city hall, I was struck by warmth. So many smiling faces gleaming in sun, most of them new to North America. “All this village needs is some water,” I thought.

I felt much better after I bought some water and handed out a dozen bottles. All you have to do is watch whose eyes light up and you know who is thirsty. One young man from Africa promised to hand out the rest of the water bottles to his tiny town inside Seattle. “Now we need live music,” we laughed together.

At the bus stop a man was stooped down and digging cigarette butts out of sidewalk cracks.

He was throwing them away and that astonished me. I’ve met very few people who pick up trash so I asked him about it. “If I ever have kids I want the world to be better,” he said. I bought his bus ride.

Back at my place by the lake, I found a lot of garbage but I fished out the beer cans with branches. When I’m gone for a day that happens.

Now that I’m typing this I remember what a Mexican midget named Martin once told me:

Not for money.

For the trees.

The water.

For children…

not born yet.

I caught him picking up bottles out here. I climbed a hill to talk to him. He bagged four full garbage bags that day from other parts of the lake and I asked him why he was doing it.

You don’t forget what a man who stands hip-high and is an angel tells you in broken English far more beautiful than unbroken.

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Clouds

Yesterday I walked the city with a woman from out of town. I wanted to show her Seattle’s waterfront.

The city wasn’t having it. It offered no peaceful expanse of water yesterday.

We confronted inert crowds of people instead. People frozen in lines so they can stay safe from being near each other. She couldn’t see over the heads.

Wherever there wasn’t a crowd, there were fences of gravel and cranes.

We kept walking. I knew the ferry terminal opened up a view.

Last month it had a view. Now it doesn’t.

An acre-wide concrete block has been put up, blocking that peek at open water. Presumably this will be another near-waterfront office building which will sit empty for years like the two concrete boxes near it. They have dusty “for lease” signs posted above the tents on the sidewalk ringing the offices nobody can afford.

As my eyebrows knitted, trying to see past the chainlink fences out to where the real world is, my friend pointed up.

“There’s the clouds,” she said. “Right there.”

She’s part Cherokee. I wonder if that helped remind her what’s real.

In that moment I sure needed the reminder.

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About Me

The homeless man watched from the woods as the world trembled and ranted and cowered while covering itself in shopping carts full of garbage.

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Main Page

a together poem

all people on earth are wholly human
and therefore worthy of my love,


our seven thousand human languages point to what is meaningful

the energy of our physics,
the angels and demons of our religions,
are the stars in the sky within us

not one finger pointing to the moon

but the wild all energy of starlight

uncontained by human words, unrestrained by our ideas

the energy of physics, force and mass in motion, the angels and demons dancing as they will

they care not even to laugh at our words

dancing instead

the billion stars beyond seven thousand languages

each human word pointing up,

my mind makes constellations to separate us yet

no star was born in a constellation, no tinyhuman pattern of observation and label

made the sky,

the stars of Andromeda were never chained,

she is free outside men’s minds


my heart is warmed by light beyond ideas
shining on us all

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Main Page, My Experiences

Fitting Into Society

When I was little, I had a toy with a wooden plank shaped like my sketch above. It had a square-shape, a circle-shape, and a star-shape that fit into the board.

Societies give us limited options for fitting in, and they don’t always match the shape of what we are.

I had a conversation that made me think about this, recently.

Fierce eyes attracted mine as I walked to a bus stop, and I stopped to talk with the woman they beamed from.

We ended up sitting by water, where she correctly identified the sound of raccoons chittering in the underbrush, and pointed out a massive heron bathing on the other side of the sparkling lake.

I laid out boxes of fresh raspberries and plump blueberries from Pike’s Place, and we drank probiotic grape juice together.

Sharing this lightest and healthiest of meals, we talked about pain and trauma and the heaviest things. This included why I no longer live indoors.

When I handed her a box of raisins to feed the raccoons, she muttered “raison d’être” under her breath, and I felt a tingle up the back of my neck. I probably felt the tingle because I’m sapiosexual, but also because of the subjects we discussed.

Do you exist for the purpose of fitting into society? What purpose does society ask you to serve, to justify your existence?

I noticed that in the city, any time I was more than a few feet away from this woman, men swarmed her like flies on a piece of fruit. She’s shaped lean and long in that traditional fashion-model mold I’d have found a little boring if not for the fierce eyes.

Society has a place for this shape – she can be an “object” and get paid for it. Society could take pictures and use the photographs to sell expensive makeup at the mall.

Based on her brilliance, I doubt she’d find that fulfilling. She had other ideas about how to fit in.

She and I agreed that I’d “given up on society.”

However, after thinking about this and getting the chance to write about it, I want to make a finer point:

I love humanity. I’m human and this asks me to be social to feel alive. I love life.

I do everything I can to affirm living with each of my days. I try, despite my mind’s notions of good and bad, to affirm our humanity in its wholeness.

All I’ve given up on is trying to fit in. Or wearing a suit and pretending to fit in. Or shaming myself for the fact that I don’t.

I don’t fit into a society that mistakes systems of economy and systems of politics, or any other manmade ideas, for reality.

Human ideologies and systems are useful, and make-believe ideas such as “money” can help us organize efforts and resources together.

But “money” is human make-believe, and human beings did not create the planet or its resources. Our ideas about how to manage the planet and ourselves, exist only in our minds.

What I have given up on, is trying to “fit into” societies that confuse make-believe manmade systems for reality.

That toy I had as a kid came with a mallet to help you tap the shapes into the board. I could beat on one shape and cram it into the square, but I’m done with that now.

I invite you to be whatever shape you are, and quit beating yourself on the head if you’re not fitting in.

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The Lending Library


I ran out of fiction this morning, having finished off the Stephen King books somebody left at a bus stop. The city is closed, and the waterfront Starbucks locked its doors this morning, which means Seattle is Officially Shut Down. The libraries have been closed for a week.


It occurred to me that the library I made a few years ago might still be open.
Back when I had a house, I put a wine chiller in my front yard and filled it with books and VHS tapes.


So I rode the bus down to the old neighborhood, where a 400sq-ft house made out of a barge hides between multi-million-dollar condos. Sure enough, whoever is in that funky little house today still wants books in their yard.


The seal on the wine-chiller’s door was in good shape when I found it at a thrift store, so I knew I could keep Northwest moisture out of VHS tapes and prevent the books from smelling like my grandma’s house. Cleaning the stickiness out of the bottom when I got it home, it occurred to me to try plugging the thing in. It seemed to hold temp. “Rich people,” I smiled to myself, imagining the worldview and perspectives of someone who spills Merlot in their $3,000 wine chiller and simply has the servants haul it away.
Having never seen a lending library which offered both movies and books before, I called the box “Movies and More” as a homage to the video store I rode my bike to as a teenager.


The seal on the door is still good.


The jubilant sign I’d cut from red and yellow plastic and taped to the inside of the door is gone now. There were no videos in there this morning, but a VCR doesn’t fit in my backpack anyway. I got to thinking about the past.
Years ago (shockingly few, since I feel only tangentially related to the person who lived in that house,) I’d jog down the steps every morning eager to open the stainless-steel door.


“What does the neighborhood want to share, today?”


My six-pound dog learned to pause there as we’d go out, instead of towing me down the sidewalk. She’d wiggle her tail and indulge my bizarre human behaviors as if I’d found a particularly fascinating urine spot.


Each morning I looked forward to seeing what was new in there. Instead of discarded books and movies, there was often passion in the offerings. Sometimes a short letter explained why it was a favorite book, or a sticky-note read: “Dang good drama.”


People seemed to communicate with one another through their contributions. Patterns emerged. My “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” led to “Breakfast Club” and was met by “Sixteen Candles.” A fairly complete tour of the 80’s by way of John Hughes emerged in the box, capped off by “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”


One day somebody filled it from top to bottom with DVDs and Blu-Rays. I kept the “Zombieland” Blu-Ray for myself.


Overall, I think my favorite lending-library moment was the morning I opened the door to find “Breakfast of Champions” and “Only Cowgirls Get the Blues” pushed together. Someone had nestled these VHS tapes against each other on an otherwise empty shelf, to make what I saw as a charmingly obscure statement. Some form of synergy is often intuited between Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins by readers, and here someone had commented on it. The tapes sat together like brother birds, perched like crows on a telephone line.


Much has happened since I put that lending library up.


I’m sure there is a continuity, a through-line of some sort, between the person who opened that stainless steel door daily, and me today. At the very least, he and I might pick similar books.


I took one and I left one.

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Real Change

A friend of mine who sells Real Change newspapers saw me coming up the steps of the office this morning. He grabbed my shoulder and told me what happened for him recently:

He sold enough papers to get an apartment and sleep indoors.

Then, with the help of a local celebrity (a member of Pearl Jam) he sold enough papers in one day to pay his whole next months rent.

Real Change is a quality newspaper and a pretty incredible idea – help homeless people who want to participate with society’s systems get involved in capitalism. Give them a place to start. A way to participate with the world humans make out of dollars and ownership. No address required.

My own experience with the paper has been inspiring.

Years ago, I used to buy them from the guy who stood out in front of my local Trader Joe’s. In those days I was a Real Change customer. I’d walk up the hill from the house I rented, to get cheap Belgian chocolate bars and affordable French butter. A gregarious, lanky dude was always out front of the store offering papers for $2. The newspaper was full of progressive ideas I liked, and buying them became a habit when I was an indoors-person.

Life eventually exploded, as it sometimes does. I am no longer an indoors-person.

A few months ago, I looked across the street from a shelter in the damp dark of a Seattle morning, and saw an office: “Real Change.” After a moment, the name rang a bell – this must be the office for the papers I had once enjoyed buying and reading.

I returned to the same spot, out front of the TJ’s, this time as a vendor. It turned out that it was still a great place to have conversations about Noam Chomsky. While doing this I also went from zero dollars in my pocket to enough money to buy vitamin D3 and shoes without holes.

This has been a big deal for me over the last few months, because I could purchase comfort for a few dollars a week while doing something I wanted to do anyway – talk about social issues and thinky-things. It was a return to my old neighborhood, where I once stocked my lending library with VHS movies. It was a return to the streetcorner where I once stood and personally asked over 2,000 people to vote. (I’m not sure these left-leaning Seattleites did, based on how that election turned out.)

The streetcorner turned out to be a sort of spiritual nexus in my life – it was also the spot a homeless man once handed me his jacket. The primal simplicity of that moment changed me.

Just recently, another vendor earned that corner, a place that had turned out to be such a crossroads in my life. Kudos to him – he had to sell hundreds of newspapers in a month to reserve it for himself. I wasn’t going to do that.

I’ve noticed that no other streetcorner feels as good to me, and that when I try to sell papers anywhere else the only conversations I have are with the bones in my busted left foot. They keep yapping at me if I stand in one place, yet they seem happy to hike all day carrying nearly 300lbs up Seattle hills. So I’m moving on towards other things.

“Real Change” is something special. They do even more than help outdoor homeless people become successful indoor capitalists. They provide community for people who are ready to sign the social contract, but may never have been handed a pen by their parents.

They organize political and social activism. While I personally have no orientation “left” or “right” (I’m a “forward” guy) – I wholeheartedly support the efforts of people who put their hearts into this sort of change. I feel kinship with anyone who is actively easing suffering, and Real Change does this and more.

Even the “Emerald City Resource Guide” that’s showing me other things I can move toward, is published by them.

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Bridge to the Future

At a potluck in the big city a couple days ago, I talked with a man about the future of mankind.

Cancer had brought his personal future into doubt. He wondered about our collective future, and asked if I thought we were heading in the wrong direction.

The word “direction” felt important to me. In the direction our species is headed – in the distance – lies a place where the most fulfillment for the most people is possible. He asked me how I could see things in this way. A metaphor emerged which he told me he greatly appreciated:

There is a chasm between where we are now as a species, and a peaceful and harmonious place we want to be. On the other side of the chasm is a form of welcome and togetherness that our species as a whole has yet to experience.

The bridge that spans between now and this future does appear to be in bad shape.

The whole thing may tumble into the abyss.

Hatred in politics pulls it down in every country, schisms in religion pull it apart in every community.

It may be helpful to remember why a species would find itself in such trouble to begin with:

Was it a good idea to put billions of people at the same dinner table and allow them to talk about politics and religion?

We became global through commerce and then revealed everyone’s beliefs using social media.

While it might appear that lots of people have become dangerously deluded and unreasonable in the last few years, that is not the case.

We have been stupid and hateful for millennia. It’s part of being homo sapiens.

If you doubt this, please pick a chapter from a history book and read it. Any era or civilization will do.

Way back in the 20th century, Americans could think of ourselves as a group. We had no idea how stupid and hateful the other political party’s beliefs were. CBS, NBC and ABC didn’t show us that stuff.

Now we have Twitter. We get updates of outrageous insanity on a minute-by-minute basis.

However – we are, collectively, as nations and neighborhoods, moving toward something our species has never seen before. A wholeness and relatedness.

This means an interrelation of diverse and differing parts, just like when a mostly-masculine human and more-feminine person get together. They find things in common, but do not become identical. A global, harmonious, and peaceful world does not require us to meld into a large pile of gray goo.

In a fully interrelating, global world as experienced by a whole species, many beliefs won’t match up and that’s great.

So far, our species has mostly-transcended the de-humanization of those with differing skin color. We do less and less hatred-by-race. About 200 years ago most countries passed laws that people could not own people. Things have gotten better, and not perfect, since then.

Our species has mostly-transcended the de-humanization of those with differing genitals than our own. We do less and less minimization of women. About 100 years ago some countries passed laws that allowed women to vote. Things have gotten better, and not perfect, since then.

Now, we get to find ways to transcend the de-humanization of those with differing worldviews.

Transcending tribalism – our temptation to exalt “us” over “them” – when it comes to belief systems is harder. It was the spread of a belief in “human rights” that urged these other changes to happen. We can look around our country to see people who don’t value human rights.

Yet such people remain human.

We’re going to need to find something other than beliefs we all have in common.

This is the bridge to the future. Empathy and understanding for the human-ness of the “other,” based on something deeper or more fundamental than worldviews.

If you are a member of the Compassion Circle, you are working on building this bridge and strengthening the supports. Our human tendencies to divide and conquer are as basic as gravity threatening to pull this bridge down, and even our differing names for the same process have traditionally helped us divide.

We need ways to describe what lifts us up and holds us together – here are a few and please add more in comments:

It’s the opposite of “othering” that lets us connect

It is re-humanization that allows us to love

Transcending tribalism

Inclusion

Seriously, truly, welcoming a diversity of worldviews (even when this involves enduring our own feelings of moral disgust)

The bridge to the future can hold up the weight of billions of people, as precarious as it may look now. We are weaving a new strand and strengthening it with our own lives whenever we put empathy and understanding into practice.

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My laptop conked out in the cold this morning so I tried something new.

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