Saturday, July 31, 2010

Prioritizze, dammit!

There are just too many things I want to do just now, and too many that I thought I wanted to do that still cling to me. I am reading through the Oz books...all of them I can find, anyway. Hope Shanower & Smith finish as many as they can for Marvel Comics. Ozma and Dorothy will meet this fall in Marvel's version of Ozma of Oz. I'm in the RPTs now, and to me they have their own unique charm, just as the LFBs did. I love little kingdoms with their little courts, and I wish that Germany and India were still full of them :)

Am trying to get through Proclus' On Timaeus too, but it's Thomas Taylor's almost 200 year old translation, so it is a struggle. Damascius' great work will be out this year, in a modern translation~~I hope to have better luck with that; it is a foundational work of 6th-7th century thought, I believe. I want to find the time to watch Wagner's Lohengrin again, and to finish Tannhauser at last, esp. after reading Baudelaire's essay, but when will I have the time? Watching all this anime is eating up my free time...Persona, and Toradora, then on to Spice & Wolf and...and...

Have I had enough of history? I would like to find a good home for some of my books, but not if I will be filled with regret about it 5 years from now. The church fathers can go, I have had enough of them, but am I really ready to give up on William Blake, and Tolkein? Joyce went away, and I don't miss him...well maybe just that one passage at the end of Portrait of the Artist.

Aah! Help! I have really got to set my library in order...where can I find the will power.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


My great-aunt gave regularly to a televangelist who was later exposed as a greedy fraud. She was very upset about this, so I said that her giving was all about what kind of person she was. What he did with her gift was between him and his god. It had nothing to do with her generous heart.

I believe that what we get from people we admire has little to do with that person and more to do with us. By that I mean in most cases we do not know our designated celebrity personally, rather, we respond to something in them that we also recognize in ourselves. It is in the bringing out of these hidden qualities that we become more truly ourselves.

Which brings me to Lady Gaga. I don't know Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, and I doubt that I ever will. As a public persona, she might live to a Mick Jaggerish old age, flame out like Janis, or even pull a Britney. But that does not matter to me. In her Baba Wawa interview, she spoke about feeling like a freak, an outsider. Then the struggle to be free from that often self-imposed fear and creating a space of ones' own. And she has done that in the most flamboyant style.

When you feel like an outsider, like you don't fit into any of society's imposed categories, you can be hard on yourself. You know no one who shares your interests, your passions, so you learn to keep silent about them. Until someone like Gaga comes along, it never crosses your mind to create your own space, to be yourself, whatever you are, without fear of the judgement of your peers, and most harshly, the judgement of your own inner voices. Some people do get this much the better for them. But for the rest of us, a Gaga speaks like a voice from heaven.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ghosts in the Oil

Since the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, there have been some good documentaries on the formation of the coal and oil that fuel our modern lifestyle. It is a facsinating story that takes us back to the first flowering of ecosystems in the shallow water and on the land. All these new plants pulling so much carbon out of the atmosphere that the higher oxygen concentration allowed huge creatures to multiply. I knew that fossils had been found in coal, but I had no idea where oil came from. Now I know, but do I know too much? In my car, I think of the lives of the sea plants and creatured distilled into my tank. At home, I envision the ancient trees and plants whose bodies burn to create the electricity running my lights and air conditioner. Each of us has two lineages, the physical and the spiritual. I cannot prove the geneaology of the soul, but it uplifts me to think of it as a part of the Divine Reality, born and re-born through unending generations on this planet, and others. But that is not doctrine, just my fancy. Our other lineage is that of our physical bodies, going back through our known ancestors to unknown to, if evolution is to be accepted, the very origins of life on earth. Our distant ancestors wandered among those trees, and swam in those oceans, the very ones that now provide our coal and oil. Did they have dreams, other than food, rest, and survival? And are their untethered ghosts, if not bound in spiritual lineages to us, now flooding painfully back into our consciousness?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Human Communication

Mallarme's works are difficult, but rewarding. Sometimes, through the barriers of death, isolated human souls, and the thickets of two languages, he speaks to me. At least I want to believe he does ^^;

The White Waterlily shows the ultimate failure of human communication. In the online world Second Life, I attend several discussion groups. After each meeting, I come away with the feeling that the words mean something different to each of us, based on our education, bias, and life experiences. How can we comprehend all that context in a few short sentences? The word God, for example, is often connected with the word Father. If you has a good father, or a terrible father, then that word drags in a whole set of concepts to enliven God. But what if you never knew your father? Then, that word would bring none of the meaning the communicator expects us to be hearing.

In Mallarme's prose poem, the rower sets out with specific goals, a search for water plants, to survey the property line, and to say hello to a friend. In his little boat the fragile self is carried along until a swamp halts his progress. In my mind, the swamp is all the clog of sensory data that is hurled at us day by day, compounded so very much since Mallarme's day. Then, he sees the "other"...he senses her presence, he imagines her thoughts...but he cannot ever know them. She makes no indication that she has even seen him. At last, he gives up and departs, taking one flower as a memory of the (non)-event.

In speaking to others, we use words that we hope will cut through the swamp and reach them intact and full of our intentions. But these words arrive naked, and are re-clothed by the hearer. So we must not only judge our own, posssible hidden, intentions, but guess at the mind of the hearer...what do they think we mean? In that moment, human communications fail, and we drift back downstream, clutching our version of the memory of what may have occurred.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ozma and Ugu the Shoemaker

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star,
Sat gray-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair.

~Hyperion, John Keats

Ever since I read those lines more than 30 years ago, I have recognized and claimed the place of Saturn. It is far away from the "normal" world, the path of social expectations, a protected place of one's own in a world that seems at once hostile and uncaring. But a defined space that one can really belong, and be the unique person that you are. The place of an outsider, but not of self-pity. Rather, of self-definition, or the never ending attempts at such. A place not unlike the little rooms that are prepared for K in Kafka's The Castle. Rooms which are cozy and inviting, but rooms which he sadly rejects as he continues his futile search for the castle.

Ugu the Shoemaker, in L. Frank Baum's The Lost Princess of Oz, has created for himself such a saturnine space. But unlike K, Ugu does not want to leave it. He wants to strengthen it with all the magic that he can gather. But Ugu crosses a line. He begins to desire to impose his will on others. In the moment he impulsively kidnaps Ozma, his plan fails. He is not emotionally mature enough to deal with the introduction of this uncontrolable, random element into his lair.

Ugu has a great heritage in the city of Herku, his family had been users of magic for centuries. But he was cut off from this heritage, and forced to make a living as a shoemaker. We are all born with a fantastic heritage of art and literature, but life compels us to find a job, to make a living and be a productive member of society. Ugu discovers his heritage, and upon absorbing its implications, desires not to enrich his fellow citizens, but to flee and make an island unto himself.

In one night, Ugu gathers all the important magic of Oz, including one "item" not on his list, but probably the most important magical force in Oz, Ozma herself. He has planned for non-sentient magical items, what is he to do with a real magical being? He cannot deal with her, he cannot fit her in to his world-view, so he, being afraid, "disposes" of her.

At this point in the story, my imagination leapt into action. What should have Ugu done? What could have Ugu accomplished? So, for a brief time, I became a Ugu/Ozma shipper. a little three act play took shape in my mind.

Scene 1--Ugu's Study--Ugu reflects on his painful past as shoemaker, and on his recent accomplishments, obtaining the Magic Dishpan, various magic tools, Glinda's Book, and the Magic Picture. But there is also Ozma---what is he to do with her? He knows a rescue party is coming. Ozma is trapped. She sees that Ugu is a "bold and clever magician" but at this point can do nothing to oppose him. A typical Oz solution might occur to him--Ugu:"You will wash my dishes and clean my clothes!" Ozma:"Humph...I might as well be your wife!" Ugu:"AHA!"---and he goes off in the Magic Dishpan to gather a wedding party.

Scene 2--Ugu's Study--The kidnapped wedding party huddles together in fear. Carlo Luigi, the fat old Pontifex Maximus of Ev, is mopping his brow. Two inventors, William Ding XXI (whose ancestor invented the "Bill-Ding") and Arthur Q. Tillery, Esq. (who is working on a sort of tube-gun at the moment), cower behind a table. Then Ugu and Ozma enter in all their wedding finery. As the visitors gape in wonder at Ozma's beauty, Ugu lays out the situation. Carlo Luigi will perform the wedding ceremony and the two inventors will witness it. With much comic fumbling, the ceremony is performed, and the new couple withdraws from the assembled company.

Scene 3--Ugu's Study--The "guests" have been sent home and Ugu is back to work studying his magical books. But Ozma emerges in her nightgown, now strangely eager to assume her wifely duties. In fact, she just wont leave poor Ugu alone! Finally, the exasperated magician enchants his new bride into a peach and collapses on his chair.

Both in the canonical story and my frivilous contortion, Ugu cannot accept the physical manifestation of magic--Ozma--into his world view. Since he cannot come to terms with her, he is doomed to fail. There is something Jungian here, but I will not persue it. Just be careful with whom you bring into your lair.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Throughout my library lie the bleached bones of obsessions past, still waiting for the time when I will bring them to life again. The issue is, how many of these bones can I return to the masoleum of human thought & experience? And how many will I visit again, if I am granted future years of exploration?

Why did I fail to create a paracosm? Deity knows, I tried. I pull from the corner of the room a map of Iargalon. At 34"x 102", it is (almost) the largest work I have ever created. In fact, it was even bigger once....

At first, I tried to place myself into the stories that I was reading. There is still a log somewhere of all the miles I walked in Middle-Earth. As a "mary sue" i did not place myself with any of the main characters. I wanted to have my own adventures, and explore interesting parts of the map. So i did actually walk all of those miles arould the grounds of the chlidrens' home where I lived. But the adventures took place all in my imagination.

With Dante's Commedia, my experience was similar. I explored Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven (aided, to be sure, by the illustrations of Gustav Dore). But, again, I had my own adventure, seeing people I wanted to see...envisioning them in Dante's landscape. With each of there authors, JRRT and Dante, I performed the magick of conjuring the world through their words, and entered therein to explore. Here it can be clearly seen that I was not strong enough to pull away and create my own unique world, my paracosm.

In high school, I tried to break free from my influences. A poem called Protogenesis was created, destroyed, and re-created, as I went through phases of "enchurchment." A re-casting of the basic Bible narrative, with Tolkenian touches, this work focused on the loss of parental guidance, and the desire to find a new Eden in a cruel world. Only the apocalypse could bring in the longer-for new world.

Later, the Rand/Wissar narrative was also heavily JRRT influenced. The more detailed sucessor to this, the Iargalon World, presented kingdoms expanding to subdue indigenous peoples and set up new realms all over the world. The Iargalon map got so big because the expansion continued unabated, untill it became impossible to continue, due to the size of the map. Iargalon was basically a Biblical-type kingdom set in a map of New England, which was attached to S.France/NE Spain. Greece was attached to Italy.... From the original kingdom crusader armies set out to explore and conquer, only stopping when larger empires blocked their way.

The last narrative paracosm I attempted was Irland/Ladakha. This started as an island realm, based on Ireland being conquered by Anglo-Saxon types. They set up kingdoms, were converted to "Christianity," and were then themselves conquered by invaders. I later transported this whole realm to the area of Tibet and re-wrote it, as works supposedly surviving from the "fall" of the imagined kingdom. This book was a huge influence.

Finally, since the time I read about the Bronte family and their paracosm Angria/Gondal, I have wanted to try to create a world with someone else. A few years ago I tried this with a person whom I had known for a long time, who had a great imagination, and who would not be freaked out by the proposal. She wanted to do it, so I started a story and gave her a note-book. But after a month, she gave it back to me and said she could not do it. I was really crushed by this, because, at my age, I don't see any other person with the vision and acceptance of imagination coming along to make the attempt. But I had to accept this failure and move on.

Even now I am drawn in to the worlds created by others. And there are so many more of them manga, anime, movies, video games, books &c My personality leads me to be drawn in to them, to conjur them in my mind, rather than to create my own world. My last hope was the shared world, a world created by two people accountable to one another, and, sadly, that moment has passed. So this is the story of my paracosm fail...I will always wish to be a JRRT or Henry Darger, but in reality I will always be stuck in the dreams of others.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Time to Think

While I am at home on vacation, I have time to think. On a normal weekend, Saturday is spent recovering from the work-week past, and Sunday is spent worrying about the work-week to come. This is why I believe in the 3-day-weekend...i need that pure, untouched day in the middle, unconnected with making a living.... let that concept go hand in hand with property tax reform, politicians! and social justice for non-traditional-americans! aah, but i don't want to soap-box least not till fall...

How do we view the world around us? We take in signifiers from our surrounding society and modify them as we add our own experiences. I'm not saying this as an absolute, but as an explorer of human consciousness. We create models and destroy them, but all the models show a facet of truth. Right now I am fascinated by Lakoff &Johnsons' books on metaphoric thought. How many have I used so far...."have time"--possession of an object, "(time)spent"--time as money, "concepts (going) hand in hand"----well, you get the idea.

The world view of some is shaped by the paracosm(s) they create. Wikipedia defines paracosm as an imaginary world--developed during childhood--and continuing over time. Paracosms are a bit different from fantasy worlds because the person who creates them does so for survival, rather than for entertainment. The elements of a paracosm arise out of one's everyday experiences with the society around us, but these experiences are woven on a faerie loom. This loom contains the desire to create, as well as the desire to reshape and control. Those of us who create paracosms do so because we are unsatisfied with the world as it is. This can be for a variety of reasons...the death/departure of a parent, or a close friend, illness, injury, betrayal... The key, I believe, is having the knowledge that YOU can re-write the narrative, you can use the words, the ideas, the elements around you to bring about the world that you desire, and having the will to do so. The Brontes' did it, Henry Darger did it, as did JRRT, William Blake and Dante Aligheri.

A key to this do you read a text? To gather information? To be entertained? Or to live? In my own experience, reading is an act of magick. By that I mean that the words on a page are a conjuration of thoughts, they "become real" in the very act of reading them. I believe that this is how writing was viewed by society when the art was first invented. As the writing "becomes real" it is like a seed planted in the mind. We each have our own ideas and histories about what the words mean, so these seeds will grow in a variety of ways according to the hearers' experiences. What this brings forth in us depends on our personality. Some wish to re-create what they are reading by acting out, by writing our own version, like a fanfiction, but some use what they have read to re-create the world as they see it. This truly is high magick.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Birthday it birthday again. I'm..well..old, but not that old. 30 years out of high school does seem like a long time, but only when you say it out loud. My concept of the time continuum has collapsed in a decidedly postmodern way...anything that happened before last Thursday has the feel of 100 years ago. Experiencing self has (temporarily) triumphed over remembering self..... Begone, self-defeating narratives! Ha! If it were only that easy.

Anyway, it's back to Oz for now. When I loved JRRT, I thought Oz was quite puerile. But now I feel that the very realism of Tolkeins works stifled my own creative imagination. For me his world was just too real. The Oz books are full of whimsy and contradiction, qualities that I can appreciate more now. The desire to know the exact details of the imaginary world dominated my thoughts when I explored the worlds of Middle-Earth and Dante's Commedia. Now as I explore Oz, I seek not for detail and consistency, but the experience of the moment.