Deep in the Heart

Biowillie posterAbove: Detail from one of the hand-painted tanks at “Carl’s Corner,”
a truck stop that sells biodiesel fuel in Texas, on Interstate 35
between Dallas and Waco. Carl (Cornelius) himself is a friend
of Willie Nelson, who first persuaded him to convert to biodiesel
rather than selling his business and retiring.
"We want to create an alternate fuel city,” says Carl now.
“Wind power, diesel power, solar power, soybeans, sunflower seeds,
mustard seeds -- all kinds of alternate fuels."

Listening to NPR this morning ... yes, I'm one of those people who wakes up to NPR! It's idling-engine speed is just right for me, to carry me out of wherever it is I've been while I was sleeping as I amble towards the kitchen to perform the kettle / water / cup / filter / coffee (very strong) ritual, and thence to my minimalist breakfast, maximalist shower, and the official start of my day.


Listening to NPR this morning, I was reminded how my brother Bill takes every opportunity to make people aware that George W. is NOT -- repeat, NOT -- a Texan. A wannabe, maybe -- imported from Connecticut at a vulnreable age and suffering from massive inferiority complex ever since -- but the man is not a Texan.

My brother is. I am too, deep down in my heart -- a fact that generally escapes people's notice till they get to know me. So is Ann Richards, a Texan. (God, I hope I have that woman's wrinkles when I'm her age, they are magnificent.) The Dixie Chicks. Willie Nelson -- he's got good wrinkles too. Kinky "Why the hell not?" Friedman, who's presently running as an Independent for governor on a "compassionate redneck" platform. Janis Joplin, Lyndon Baines Johnson ... and Billy Lee Brammer, his onetime press secretary, who afterwards wrote what most critics consider to be the only truly great American political novel, The Gay Place. (As in F. Scott Fitzgerald, not as in "we're here, we're queer.") Larry McMurtry, who I could go on and on about, and whose brilliant statement about what cowboys really represent I unfortunately can't locate right now.

Etcetera, on and on -- any Who's Who of Great American Eccentrics would have a disproportionate number of Texans on it, is my guess.

For the NPR story that provoked this sudden outburst of homesickness and Texan-identification, go here. The excuse for the story is biodiesel fuel -- who's behind it, selling it, how it's made, etc. It includes music, great characters, humor, a bit of science, and a charming drawl. The real story is about what lies deep in the heart of Texas. If we can ever rescue it from the trauma it's suffered at the hands of that Connecticut interloper and his pathetic toadies, and restore it to its rightful place, the healing of the entire "heartland" will surely follow close behind.

I'll be back.



Today, despite my best-laid plans and anticipations, evolved into what was mostly a Relationship Day. Incoming emails, phone calls, “do lists,” chats with friends over lunch … all converged around that one eternally human and compelling theme. And, typically – what “relationship” doesn’t lead to it, in one way or another? – now that it’s over I feel a bit exhausted, and not much in a mood to do anything but brush my teeth and go to bed, trusting in the “another day”-ness of tomorrow.

But before I can do that, I am compelled to share the fruits of the best and brightest gift that came my way from a friend who offhand suggested I put “quirkyalone” (one word) into Google and see what came up. My favorites were as follows:

“The Original Essay” – by Sasha Cagen. Who wraps a rather nice essay around a rather nice quote from Rilke, as follows:

I recommend reading the patron saint of solitude: German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Even 100 years after its publication, Letters to a Young Poet still feels like it was written for us: "You should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is something in you that wants to break out of it," Rilke writes. "People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of easy, but it is clear that we must hold to that which is difficult."

2) The questionnaire on Sasha’s blog,
“To Do List”. Look for the August 3 post and accept the invitation to fill out the questionnaire. One of my guilty pleasures is filling out questionnaires and surveys – partly because I have a kind of horror fascination with the intractable and unanswerable assumptions they usually contain. But this one was truly a pleasure – as free from “envelope” as circumstantially possible, and I was provoked to really look at myself in ways I haven’t done in a while. Check it out. It’s fun.

All of which led to another gift, which is from an out-of-print work by Osho, A Tongue-Tip Taste of Tao (more or less represented in a book that is in print thanks to St. Martin's Press, called Love, Freedom, Aloneness):

The most fundamental state is that of aloneness. Everything else is later on, everything else is an addition, but the foundation of our being is utter aloneness. We come in the world alone; then of course many kinds of relationships arise, which are beautiful. We form many friendships, love affairs -- that is all good -- but one should not forget the basic aloneness, otherwise one gets lost in the crowd. And one day we have to leave alone, again, and then nobody is going to be with us. Alone we come, alone we go.

That aloneness has not to be forgotten. One who keeps constantly rooted in that aloneness remains in the world and yet remains unaffected by it. Then there is a kind of centering which continuously remains. One can be in the marketplace but the meditation continues. One can move in a love relationship but the relationship does not become a confusion, a cloud, a darkness, never -- the inner light goes on burning.

And when you know that you are alone your love has a totally different quality to it; then you are never dependent. You can share, you can give, you can take -- you are free to take and to give and to share -- but you are never dependent. Whenever love becomes dependent it becomes ugly; then one starts clinging. Whenever love becomes dependent one is afraid that if one loses the other, one will be alone. And one is afraid of being alone -- so cling, be possessive, be jealous, close all the doors so the other cannot escape.

That kills the other, and you cannot love a dead person.

This is the dilemma of love: we can love only a free person, because whenever out of his freedom he gives love there is beauty. But we don't leave him free; we close all the doors to his freedom. We make him a prisoner, and then we are surprised -- where has the love disappeared to? Even if he loves it is the love of a slave; it is a kind of duty to be fulfilled. Then there is no joy in it, no thrill. You don't feel enhanced, ecstatic about it. That's what all lovers go on doing: they want the other to give love with total freedom and yet they don't leave the other free. This is a double-bind.

To come out of it only one thing can help and that is to remember one's absolute aloneness. If you really start remembering it and being it, you will be surprised: no love can be so fulfilling as this experience of aloneness is. It is not scary... in the beginning of course it is, but the deeper you go into it, it becomes more and more beautiful, more and more peaceful. And whenever out of that rootedness you come and share your love, it is a tremendous gift. Whosoever will get it will feel blessed, and in return love showers on you a thousandfold.

The real lover is one who knows how to be alone.

I’ll be back.



This morning I woke up to a message from one of my assortment of oddball friends, with this cartoon attached. Unfortunately he didn't include a credit - so I post it here with apologies to the creator, and a promise to rectify the situation should he/she discover it and quite rightfully want to be identified.

My friend used it as his "proof of the existence of global warming."

I, on the other hand, offer it as evidence that people might be more prepared than we think for naked air travel. (See end of last night's post.)

More later.


Difficult Beginnings

I kept thinking, Gosh, how do I start this. Or, rather, “How does one start a blog for godsake?” Because the nature of my particular paralysis – not just around starting a blog but around any other thing I haven’t already done at least once – is the Desire to Get It Right the First Time. Which of course arises out of all sorts of internalized judgments, educational mishaps, inherent character flaws, ego disguised as humbleness, and an unhealthy obsession with unearthing the most elusive nuances of my own motivations (not to mention the motivations of others, but for some reason those always seem much easier to see than my own). Combined with astrological accidents and the fact my kindergarten teacher told me “nice girls don’t shout.” You get the drift.

Besides the psychobabble dynamics, there are two kinds of writers, I’ve noticed – and by writers I mean people who actually write for public consumption rather than in diaries, or gossipy emails, or letters to family and friends. (1) Those who have trouble starting, and (2) those who have trouble wrapping it up. And I’m the first type, obviously.

Those who have trouble with the middle, by the way, aren’t really writers. To be a real writer, you have to give up thinking at some point. Having trouble with the middle is a symptom of the inability to stop thinking.

Whew! Now I’ve got that out of the way, I can start.

Why “Shredding the Envelope”?

Because you can push for a lifetime, but you’ll still be trapped inside the confines of an envelope. And that very envelope is what’s got us all trapped – individually and collectively – in the messes we’re in. The envelope is our most cherished ideas and assumptions, the inherited truths of our upbringing. It’s the place where culture and counter-culture clash, and words are used more to define opposites than to acknowledge complementaries. Envelopes are designed as a background for labels, expected to have destinations, categories, a limited specificity of content. The only mystery that exists in an envelope is from the outside of it, before it gets opened. And these days, most of that mystery has disappeared. When's the last time you got an envelope in the mail that didn't tell you quite plainly, even when it was trying to be tricky about it, exactly what was inside? If you’re into bodybuilding, you can keep pushing the envelope. If you want to fly free of labels and categories and inherited content, you gotta shred it.

Besides, I’ve always had an affection for the shredder from the first time I used one. What better way to dispose of a bunch of boring and mostly burdensome paper than to transform it into stuff that suggests a tickertape parade or a piƱata, and can even be used to protect delicate and fragile things from breaking … like Christmas ornaments. You can have whatever feelings and opinions you like about Christmas, from Scroogeish to Fundamentalish, but don’t tell me your favorite bit isn’t the ornaments and lights.

Momentary Distraction

I started to wonder who invented the first paper shredder, and just found this:

1908 • An American, A.A. Low, is credited with inventing the first paper shredder - his 'Waste Paper Receptacle' - which was issued a patent in 1908. Utilizing a feeder and a roller with blades, paper could be reduced by use of either a hand crank or an electric motor. This, however, is neither the beginning nor end of the story of the shredder. It is also thought that an earlier version of the paper shredder was invented by an Austrian military officer in 1898, who used a foot-powered machine to destroy ballistics designs. A.A. Low never went as far as bringing his 1908 patent to manufacture, and so the first commercially produced paper shredder was produced in 1936 by a German, Adolf Ehinger, whose insipration came from a kitchen pasta maker.
Austrian military officer… German named Adolf in 1936… ah, one could get even further distracted, but one will restrain oneself for the moment.

From the Time Line of Waste
By the way, the above history of the paper shredder comes from a charming and informative
Time Line of Waste –created by the English, of course. All the American entries on the subject appearing in the first couple pages of Google results were essentially “infomercials” for paper-shredder vendors. This one comes from St Andrews University, and the opening page of the timeline, which goes all the way back to the 11th century, has this very cool image as a link to even more American WWII posters that will remind you to wonder if “keep on shopping” is really the most creative push of the wartime patriotism envelope that the Bushniks could come up with.

Which leads me to Today’s Contribution to News Punditry:

Ultimate Airline Security:
Starting September 1, 2006 all passengers will be required to check their luggage 24 hours prior to departure for shipment on an unmanned cargo drone to their intended destination. At the time of check-in, all passengers shall be required to disrobe. All clothing, shoes and accessories to be donated to a faith-based charitable organization. No passenger or crew member will be cleared through security or seated on the plane unless they are completely naked. Oh, and don't forget to pack your arrival costume on top.

Don’t laugh. Once a critical mass of experienced naked air travelers is reached, I’m betting on world peace (and an end to pornography) to be just around the corner.

I’ll be back.



Thanks to Karla, my sometime acting buddy, for inspiration. To my brother Bill for being able to read my mind even when I'm not thinking. And to every mystery that refuses to be analyzed, dissected, and put in an envelope.