Saturday, January 30, 2021

 Exercise for Our New Age

Everyone should pull up his/her Outlook contacts.  (For those ancients who maintain a physical Rolodex, that should be consulted.)  Everyone should compile from this a list of names of personal and professional contacts, of people whom (s)he expects never to see again, face to face that is.  (Zoom does not count as face to face for this purpose.)

This is important, is it not, who it is whom we shall never see again?

I expect my own list to have hundreds of names on it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021


The Great Convergence

Unfortunately I can't conjure a comprehensive image for it.

What theology do we have, what "teleology," to save us from the apparent indifference of the universe at scale to us?

We needed another world that seemed, at least at the point of death, to care, either by offering us admittance through the Gates of Heaven, or by absorbing us into the Benign Light of Creation.

Now I fear that the Beyond, the other side of the veil, is a kaleidoscope world populated largely by demons, some laughing, some ready to devour us, as the Tibetan Book of the Dead foretells, except that they are not just products of our imagination that we must ignore if we are to escape the cycle of reincarnation.  They are real, and their indifference to our individual fates, like our own indifference to particular ants in the woods, is "how things are."  I try to think in a clear-eyed way about:

  • Sept 11
  • The tsunamis of Japan and Indonesia
  • Our current plague
  • Our political chaos and corruption
  • The tens of millions of deaths in WWII, which I now see as directly traceable to the decadence of the interwar years in Germany, a decadence that I would have gladly embraced myself, and one not unlike the ethos of the culture in which I swam in the '60s and '70s
  • Most especially, the knocking on our door of otherworldly civilizations and what it portends for that same theology and teleology
  • Our common ignorance of history
To whom are we to "commend our spirits" when the time comes?

Sunday, January 24, 2021


The Victory of the Taliban

The smiles of all women and girls suppressed and shielded so as not to inflame the hearts of men, so as not to invite any further contact.   The milk of human kindness left to sour in the bottle.

Saturday, January 23, 2021


A Visit to Israel In Extremis

In my dream, I was a young American visiting Israel when the '67 War broke out.  I was taken everywhere along with a few others in a tank.   The tank was spacious but there were no windows; we never knew where we were or where we were headed.

Curiously, in the dream I knew the broad history of the war, and most specifically that it would only last six days, with Israel triumphant.  But it was very stressful to ride in the tank.  I felt that at any moment we could be ambushed and killed.

In the evening, we went to a very large and informal Israeli restaurant.   We chatted with two young Israeli friends of ours who were sitting at the end of a table that held about 20 of their friends and family members.  No one asked us to sit; no one offered us any food.    This annoyed me; I was very hungry.

After the chat we left, passing by as we did a large electrified mural purporting to show the progress of the war.   On the mural, Israel was shaped more like Switzerland than like Israel.  While the mural showed many Israeli advances, it also showed setbacks in some places.

In the far west, the mural pointed to one area and said that it was generally very quiet as a "trading zone."   And indeed, on the map one could see veiled Arab women, alive in real time, going to or coming from market.  Just then an errant shell landed among them.   Several of the women fell to the ground screaming, and within a minute or two they bled out.   Their wounds were horrible.  The other women cried out in mourning.   I felt sickened, physically.   I just wanted the whole thing to end.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


Off Kilter

A vertigo that seems to reside in the hips.   I asked my doctor what causes it.   He said it was a lifelong accumulation of bad choices.  I asked him to read "Illness As Metaphor."  He said that he had read it, and that Susan Sontag had it coming too.

Sunday, January 3, 2021


The Ethical and the Aesthetic

I had a plan for worming my way into heaven, remembering as I did my father's favorite verse, one that might serve as a password or, more accurately, a "passphrase" -- "Those who exalt themselves shall be humbled, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted."

In the event, though, the gates were not pearly.   That's just an optical illusion created by the intense surrounding light.  They are more like a beige, or maybe the same shade of cream as a 1960 Ford Falcon.  Certainly they do look freshly painted.

And Peter, the disciple Peter, was not impressed with my plan.   He said "You don't understand!" He said that the test to get in was not an ethical but an aesthetic one.  Turns out the formal "commandments" have nothing to do with it.  "We just don't like you," he said.  I asked him for a Mulligan on this, but he said that it was impossible; the logistics wouldn't allow it.

And so that is how I was consigned to the Circle of Hell where bad comedians hang on meat hooks, the soles of their feet nearly touching the live coals beneath.  What comes out of their mouths now is not funny.

Saturday, January 2, 2021


Probably Not

Are there rivulets of joy and serenity, running free in subterranean caverns beneath our feet, somewhere equidistant between the surface of our lives and the banks of the immortal River Styx?

Friday, January 1, 2021


It is New Year's Day 2021.  My tent poles all have come down in the storm.