Monthly Archives: May 2017

Little Big Man – Into the Whirlwind – By Tom Engelhardt (a reblog)

I know, most are really getting tired of hearing about “The Donald” and US political troubles, or squabbles, but nobody writes up a good exposé as does Tom Englehart.  So, if you have a few minutes to spare, have a look.  (Sha’Tara)

Message (Re-Blog)

 Little Big Man 

Into the Whirlwind 
By Tom Engelhardt

He’s huge. Outsized. He fills the news hole at any moment of any day. His over-tanned face glows unceasingly in living rooms across America. Never has a president been quite so big. So absolutely monstrous. Or quite so small.

He’s our Little Big Man.

I know, I know… he induces panic, fear, anxiety, insomnia.  Shrinks in liberal America will tell you that, since November 2016, their patients are more heavily medicated and in worse shape.  He’s a nightmare, a unique monster.  It’s been almost two years since he first entered the presidential race and in all that time I doubt there’s been a moment when the cameras haven’t been trained on him, when he wasn’t “breaking news.”  (By May 2016, he had already reportedly received the equivalent in “earned media” of nearly $3 billion in free advertising.)  He and his endless controversial statements, flubs, tweets, lies, insults, boasts, tales from outer space, and over-the-moon adjectives are covered daily the way, once upon a time, only Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination was.

Think of him as the end of the world as we, or maybe anyone, including Vladimir Putin, knew it.  To me, that means one thing, even though most of you won’t agree: I think we owe Donald Trump a small bow of thanks and a genuine debt of gratitude.  He’s teaching us something invaluable, something we probably wouldn’t have grasped without him.  He’s teaching us just how deeply disturbed our American world actually is, or he wouldn’t be where he is.

A Quagmire Country

Think of him as a messenger from the gods, the deities of empire gone astray.  They sent us a man without a center, undoubtedly because 17 years into the twenty-first century our country lacks a center, and a man without a fixed opinion or a single conviction, except about himself and his family, because this country is now a swirling mess of contradictory beliefs and groups at each other’s throats.  They sent us our first billionaire president who left countless people holding the bag in his various, often failed, business dealings.  He brings to mind that classic phrase “those that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind” just as we’re now reaping the results of the 1% politics that gained such traction in recent years; and of a kind of war-making, American style, that initially seemed aimed at global supremacy, but now seems to have no conceivable goal.  We’re evidently destined to go on killing ever more people, producing ever more refugees, cracking open ever more nations, and spreading ever more terror movements until the end of time.  They sent a man ready to build a vanity wall on the Mexican border and pour more money into the U.S. military at a time when it’s becoming harder for Americans to imagine investing in anything but an ever-more powerful national security state, even as the country’s infrastructure begins to crumble.  They sent a billionaire who once deep-sixed a startling number of his businesses to save a country that couldn’t be more powerful and yet has proven incapable of building a single mile of high-speed rail.

Into this quagmire, the gods dispatched the man who loves MOAB, who drools over “my generals,” who wants to build a “big, fat, beautiful wall” on our southern border, but was beyond clueless about where power actually lay in Washington.

He’s a man with a history but without a sense of history, a man for whom anything is imaginable and everything is mutable, including the past.  In this, too, he’s symptomatic of the nation he now “leads.”  Who among us even remembers the set of Washington officials who, only a decade and a half ago, had such glorious dreams about establishing a global Pax Americana and who led us so unerringly into an unending hell in the Greater Middle East?  Who remembers that those officials of the George W. Bush administration had another dream as well — of a Pax Republicana, a one-party imperial state that would stretch across the American South deep into the Midwest, Southwest, and parts of the West, kneecapping the Democratic Party for an eternity and leaving that artifact of a two-party past confined to the country’s coastal areas.  Their dream — and it couldn’t have been more immodest — was to rule the world and its great remaining superpower for… well… more or less ever.

They were to dominate America and America was to dominate everything else in a way no country in history — not the Romans, not the British — had ever done.  As they saw it, in the wake of the implosion of the Soviet Union, there would be no other superpower, nor even a bloc of great powers, capable of obstructing America’s destined future.  They and their successors would see to that.

The United States would be the land of wealth and power in a previously unimaginable fashion.  It would be the land that made everything that went bang in the night — and in that (and perhaps that alone) their dreams would be fulfilled.  To this day, Hollywood and its action films dominate planetary screens, while American arms merchants have a near monopoly on selling the world their dangerous toys.  As our new president recently put it, their energies and those of the U.S. government should remain focused on getting countries across the globe to engage in “the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment.” Indeed.

As for the rest of their dream of geopolitical dominance, it began to come a cropper remarkably quickly.  As it turned out, the military that American presidents regularly hailed in these years as the “greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known” or “the finest fighting force in the history of the world” couldn’t even win wars against lightly armed insurgents or deal with enemies employing roadside bombs that could be built off the Internet for the price of a pizza.  The U.S. military (and its allied warrior corporations) turned out not to be a force for eternal order and triumph but, at least across the Greater Middle East and Africa, for eternal chaos and the spread of terror movements.  They were the whirlwind, which meant that neither that “pax” nor that “Americana” would come to pass.

While Rome Burned…

Meanwhile, back at home, a gerrymandered, near-one-party state did indeed come into existence as the Republicans swept most governorships, gained control of a significant majority of state legislatures, nailed down the House and the Senate, and finally, when Little Big Man entered the Oval Office, took it all.  It was a feat for the history books — or so it briefly seemed.  Instead, the result has been chaos, thanks in part to a Republican Party that is actually three or four parties and a president barely associated with it, as a war of all against all broke out.  None of this should have been surprising, given a congressional party that had honed its skills not on ruling but on blocking rule.  In the last months, it has largely proved incapable even of ruling itself, no less the wild man and his unpredictable team of advisers in the White House.

From his “big, fat, beautiful wall” to his “big league,” “phenomenal” tax plan to his “insurance for everybody” healthcare program, the president promises to be the living proof that the long dreamed of Pax Republicana is just another form of war without end on the domestic front.

His victory was, in a sense, a revelation that both political parties had been hollowed out, as every Republican presidential candidate except him was swept unceremoniously off stage and out of contention in a hail of insults.  Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, by now a remarkably mindless (and spineless) political machine without much to underpin it, came to seem ever more like the domestic equivalent of those failed states the war on terror was creating in the Greater Middle East.  In short, American politics was visibly faltering and, in the whirlwind that deposited Little Big Man in office, a far wider range of Americans seemed in danger of going down, too, including Medicaid users, Obamacare enrollees, meals-on-wheels seniors, and food stamp recipients in what could become a slow-motion collapse of livable lives amid a proliferation of billionaires.  Think of us as a nation in the process of consuming itself, even as our president turns the White House into a private business.  If this is imperial “decline,” it’s certainly a curious version of it.

It was into the growing hell that passed for the planet’s “sole superpower” that those gods dispatched Little Big Man — not a shape-shifting creature but a man without shape and lacking all fixed ideas (except about himself).  He was perfectly capable of saying anything in any situation, and then, in altered circumstances, of saying the opposite without blinking or evidently even noticing.  His recent trip to Saudi Arabia was a classic case of just that.  Gone were the election campaign denunciations of the Saudis for their human rights record and for possibly being behind the 9/11 attacks, as well as of Islam as a religion that “hates us”; gone was his criticism of Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf on her visit to Riyadh (Melania and Ivanka did the same), and of Barack Obama for bowing to a Saudi king (he did, too).  Out the window went his previous insistence that any self-respecting American politician must use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” which he carefully avoided.  And none of this was different from, say, swearing on the campaign trail that he would never touch Medicaid and then, in his first budget, offering plans to slash $880 billion from that program over the next decade.

Admittedly, Donald Trump — and yes, that’s the first time I’ve used his name, but there was no need, was there? — has yet to appoint his horse (or perhaps his golf cart) as a senator or, as far as we know, commit acts of incest in the tradition of Caligula, the first mad Roman emperor.  Yet in many ways, doesn’t he feel something like an updated version of that figure or perhaps of Nero who so famously fiddled — actually, according to historian Mary Beard in her book SPQR, played the lyre — while Rome burned?

Fortunately, unlike every psychiatrist in town, I’m not bound by the “Goldwater Rule,” which prohibits a diagnosis of a public figure you haven’t personally examined. While I have no expertise in whether Donald Trump has a “narcissistic personality disorder,” I see no reason not to say the obvious: he’s a distinctly disturbed individual. That he was nonetheless elected president tells us a good deal about where we are as a country today. As Tony Schwartz, who actually wrote his bestselling book The Art of the Deal, put it recently, “Trump was equally clear with me that he didn’t value — nor even necessarily recognize — the qualities that tend to emerge as people grow more secure, such as empathy, generosity, reflectiveness, the capacity to delay gratification or, above all, a conscience, an inner sense of right and wrong.”

Now, that should be frightening. After all, given who he is, given his fear of “losing,” of rejection, of not being loved (or more accurately, adulated), of in short being obliterated, who knows what such a man might do in a crisis, including obliterating the rest of us. After all, he already lives in a world without fixed boundaries, definitions, or history, which is why nothing he says has real meaning.  And yet he couldn’t be more meaningful. He’s a message, a warning of the first order, and if that were all he were, he would just be an inadvertent teacher about the nature of our American world and we could indeed thank him and do our best to move on.

Unfortunately, there’s another factor to take into account. Humanity had, in the years before his arrival, come up with two quite different and devastating ways of doing ourselves in, one an instant Armageddon, the other a slow-motion trip to hell. Each of them threatens to cripple or destroy the very planet that has nurtured us these tens of thousands of years. It was not, of course, Donald Trump who put us in this peril. He’s just a particularly grim reminder of how dangerous our world has truly become.

After all, Little Big Man now has unparalleled access to the most “beautiful” weapons of all and he’s eager to update and expand an already vast U.S. arsenal of them. I’m talking, of course, about nuclear weapons. Any president we elect has, since the 1950s, had the power to take out the planet. Only once have we come truly close.  Nonetheless, for the control over such weaponry to be in the hands of a deeply unpredictable and visibly disturbed president is obviously a danger to us all.

It could be assumed that the gods who sent him into the Oval Office at such a moment have a perverse sense of humor. Certainly, on the second of those deadly dangers, climate change, he’s already taken action based on another of his fantasies: that making America great again means taking it back to the fossil-fueled 1950s. His ignorance about, and actions to increase the effects of, climate change have already taken the U.S., the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, out of the climate change sweepstakes and into uncharted territory. These acts and the desire to promote fossil fuels in every way imaginable will someday undoubtedly be seen as crimes against humanity. But by then they will already have done their dirty deed.

If luck doesn’t hold, Donald Trump may end up making Caligula and Nero look like statesmen.  If luck doesn’t hold he may be the Littlest Big Man of all.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt

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What’s the good of Freedom to the Ignorant?

                     [thoughts from   ~burning woman~   ]

“What’s the good of freedom to the ignorant?” (Ursula K. LeGuin, “Powers”)

A critical question that should be endlessly considered by those who claim to live in freedom; who claim to live within democracies.  Are these people intelligently educated, and are they, in fact, free?  To the intelligently educated, the word “freedom” conveys an endless number of meanings, and shades of meaning, constantly being internally debated.

But what does it mean to an ignorant lout?  A redneck?  A “fool” who lives at the beck and call of guts and brawn?  To the consummate shopper?  To the assembly line worker mind-numbed and beaten by endless, meaningless labour? To the denizen of the computerized cube farm? 

Raised in “relative poverty” (Canadian style, meaning we almost always had enough to eat, and enough clothing and housing to survive the harsh elements of a northern clime – nobody froze to death) I remember only too well having to interact with braggart, illiterate ignorance in grade school.  Later, standing alongside never stopping feed belts in canneries, numbed by the repetitiveness and clanking, hissing noise, checking, adjusting, clearing, stacking… I remember my quickly fading choices.  Was this back-breaking, brain-numbing work going to be my life?

To the ignorant, such situations call for camaraderie: misery loves company, and there was a lot of company; too much company.  These are also great opportunities for ass-kissers and bullies to rise quickly to their own levels of incompetence, loved by higher levels of managers because they consider this loyalty to the company, hence to themselves.  These are the people who snitch and prevent rebellions and talk of unionization, or who management encourages in seditious talk against unions to other employees in hopes of de-certification.  

And so, the ignorant are the great base, the pedestal upon which the masters wine and dine themselves, taking, taking and taking, never having to give any account to anyone because they have their ignorant base to walk over; to dance on. 

In America, the world just witnessed the “election” of a thorough boor, elected and to this moment, supported, by the ignorant masses who fear freedom above anything else, because they know that freedom entails responsibility and responsibility demands the kind of commitment they aren’t willing to put their minds into.  The chains worn by the consumer society do not seem so onerous to bear.

“The wall of forgetting was down.  I was able to think, to speak, to remember.  I was free.  Freedom was unspeakable anguish.” (Ursula K. LeGuin, “Powers”)

In such a morally depraved civilization as this, if “it” is making you feel safe, comfortable, happy, “it” isn’t freedom.  If it is making you rich, with power over others, “it” isn’t freedom.  If if demands that you arm yourselves to the teeth to go and oppress and exploit others in their own countries, to force them to your ways and to take their resources and labour, “it” certainly isn’t freedom.  Conversely, if “it” is dispossessing you; pushing you into deeper debt; into poverty; unto the street to survive by begging or crime, then obviously “it” isn’t freedom. 

Freedom neither gives, nor requires, any of those things.  Freedom can only be given, and shared, freely between willing participants.  This is what the promoters of “freedom and democracy” western style fear anyone learning about. 

To forestall such a thing becoming too common knowledge they invented the now practically global public school system, unofficially known as Official Brainwashing.  At the end of twelve years, give or take, of this waste of youthful years ooze the drones: workers, believers, consumers, hoarders, spectators, whiners, bitchers, complainers, addicts, gamblers, inmates and voters: the entitled to freedom, western style. 

For those who continue seeking after greater official ignorance comes Academic Higher Ignorance.  At the end of that, degrees indicating successful completion of various courses in Official Master Ignorance are handed out.  Having proved themselves adept at rising to their own level of State Approve Ignorance,  these may then be able to go into various channels of rip-off industry, including banking, politics, drugs, medical business, law, corporate engineering, technology and scientific research and through it all, the military, or Official Murder Industry.  Less prevalent today, but always eager to make a sudden come-back is Religion.  It too demands its slate of Officially Mandated leadership in Statutory Ignorance. 

To ensure only a minimal number ever wake up long enough to realize the massive scam they’ve been led into,  the System saddles their Worthy Ignorant with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of “student debt”, another euphemism for the slave collar. 

You can’t be rebellious when you need a position to repay your debts, buy a house, and try to match the lifestyle of other Officially Ignorant in your line of pretend expertise.  And if you are not rebelling, you are acquiescing, and if you are acquiescing, you are supporting, and if you are supporting, you are a slave along with the others in your slave quarters.  And your greatest curse is that a part of you is always aware of this fact; a fact that can only be borne by an endless stream of distractions.  Enter the entertainment, news and social Media, organized Sports and spectator politics.  And war.  Ultimately, was is the greatest distraction of them all.  That’s why it’s unofficial title is The Endless War.

Freedom?  Of course I’m free.  I’m free to be an ignorant slave.  No anguish; no moral issues; no agonizing conundrums; no worries.  The “House” will take care of us and all our needs, for the “House” owns us all, amen!  

Perhaps, why Romantic Love Fails

{a change of topic, though perhaps not so alien to my usual posts in meaning.  Think: self-empowerment… again or at least, serious choice.}

The title, then, is:  “Perhaps, why Romantic Love Fails”  and let’s be generous and add “most of the time, not always, not automatically.”  

Bracing myself here, this should, or could, bring “romantic love” experts out of the woodwork to offer their own experiences, or beliefs, to praise or castigate, and all of that is totally fine by me.

 “Oh love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me. I’ll be anybody you want me to be.” — Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters.

Imagine the amount of energy it takes to keep this up, to be “anything you want me to be” to someone, just for the fleeting sensual moment of feeling loved. Who then is really being loved when the ploy works? The pretender, the imitator, the parrot, the ghost: an elaborate illusion.  Not me, not the real me, just the character played by the actress. 

Any wonder romantic love so often fails?  

He isn’t loving me, he’s loving the pretence I serve him from morning ‘til night and the moment I can no longer sustain the illusion, he loses interest and perhaps rightfully, blames me for his disinterest.

“You’ve changed,” he’ll say. And right he is. Under the pressure of time and expectations, I gradually drop the illusion with which I ensnared him and I become myself, someone he’d never had a chance to get to know.

Perhaps if I hadn’t been so eager to “get him” and satisfy my longing by serving him with an illusion?

Perhaps if I had had the wisdom to look into the future to those times and event when I could see the illusion would be unsustainable; perhaps if I’d been courageous enough to show him who I really was, he may have loved me for myself, and we might have had something more than a staged performance…

Perhaps, and that’s the saddest realization of all, if he’d seen the real me he may have loved me for myself and never experienced disillusionment.  

Perhaps, like so many in my situation, I’ve been an idiot, turning myself out as a zip-lock bag of bait instead of the solid full meal deal I could have been; that I really was.

Perhaps, but perhaps is a lot like “if” and as Roger Whittaker sang, “No, I don’t believe in if anymore, if’s an illusion, if’s an illusion!”

So, I let the illusion go and live alone.  It’s not so bad once you get used to it and you have a few friends who don’t live in expectations of you pulling rabbits out of fancy hats.  Also, I must admit, love, however ephemeral, did have its compensations.  I had some really good times.  

I choose to remember the good loving times.  As to the separations, and I’ve known a few, the first was extremely bitter, then each one after that became easier, more natural, rather expected.  The thing about us is, we can get used to anything, even learning to enjoy experiences that at the outset appear unthinkable and disastrous.  

Looking back and thinking, if I were a few decades younger, would I fall in love again? Oh yes, definitely, for a great evening of being taken out to dinner, dancing, or the opera; for a night of pure heedless bliss with or without a full moon, and a sweet goodbye in the morning.  

Oh yes, I would fall in love… and fall in love… and fall in love… and make each fall redemptive.  In between, I would live alone in a world that is all mine. 

 

This n’ That and the Wisdom of Frank Herbert

                             [thoughts from  ~burning woman~   ]

Let me see, now: there is work, rest, and somewhere in between, everything else, the jumble of life.  I’ve been very tired these last few weeks, mostly due to work, I realize that, but we also experience a deeper tiredness that comes from an accumulation of worn out time, year after year after year, “time passes” and to the observant, it produces a strange, disquieting litany of thoughts that run over the sands of the mind, like runnels of sand blown off the top of dunes and sliding down the sides to settle, but never for long, at the base.  The wind changes direction, comes again, picks up the sand and flings it into a sky already filled with brown dust.  Somewhere in that floating, parched wildness my thoughts float, forming a part of it, and somewhere further, as the future chooses, some of those thoughts will again form the uncertain and ever-changing top of another dune.  The wind “dies down” then the wind returns and the dance of thoughts begins anew.

I like the imagery.  Somewhere in a dimmed, distant past, beyond these times, in another galaxy, a different world, I existed on a desert planet.  I sense this more than I remember it.  The awareness of sand, not only as a symbol but as gritty reality, is as much a part of my life as is the beating of this Earthian heart.  I think of Frank Herbert’s masterpiece science fiction series, starting with the book, “Dune” – the sand and rock desert planet that would have remained unknown to the Empire were it not for the fact that it produced a substance known as “Spice” which prolonged life and allowed individuals to see through space and time.  All imperial space traffic depended on the spice, hence Dune, like Earth’s Middle East, was a planet constantly being fought over for its one and only resource, a resource without which the Empire could not hold.  Ah, but Frank Herbert was a great prophet and few realize it even today.   I will return to this thought.

Terrible, horrible man-made events are taking place all over this world.  Some of us, the ones lucky or unlucky enough to have been born with, or somehow developed, the sense of empathy, feel these things, perhaps too deeply.  They are more than troublesome, they are life-destroying.  Now thinking as an intelligent, sentient, being: is there a greater crime than that of destroying life?  I cannot think of one and yet it is a crime that Earthians have always indulged in fully, and continue to plunge themselves into in a never-ending cycle of bloody violence fed by greed, fear and lust.  A global Madness but since 99% of the asylum’s denizens are certifiable, then their madness is what passes as the norm.   

I should not be the one feeling tired from being immersed in this madness.  Surely every single ISSA (intelligent, sentient, self-aware) Earthian on this world should be equally tired, maybe even sick to death, of the bloodshed.  But no, those who are not actually cheering it on, or participating in it, are plunged so deeply into their own methods of denial that nothing disturbs them.  That remains utterly shocking to me.  Some whose conscience can still be tweaked with a shiver of awareness, blame their leaders, then return to their little, mindless motions, pretending to be alive.  

What I find so terribly sad isn’t so much the tens of thousands sacrificed daily to profit and pleasure, but the billions who are so brain dead, heart-cauterized and blind that they cannot honestly, without blame or self-justification, enter into the agony of earth and feel it burn.  Hoping it will not come to them, they ignore it and the closer it appears to their own doorstep, the deeper their head buries itself in the sands of oblivion. 

This brings me back to Frank Herbert.  Here are a few quotes I picked out of his third novel on “Dune” titled “Children of Dune.”

“If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments.  When you believe something is right or wrong, true or false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments.  Such assumptions are often full of holes but remain most precious to the convinced.”

“Because of the one pointed Time awareness in which the conventional mind remains immersed, humans tend to think in a sequential, word oriented framework.  This mental trap produces very short-termed concepts of effectiveness and consequences, a condition of constant, unplanned, response to crisis.”

“To learn patience [in the Bene Gesserit Way] you must begin by recognizing the essential, raw instability of our universe.  We call nature – meaning this totality in all of its manifestations – the Ultimate Non-Absolute.”

“Time is a measure of space, just as a range-finder is a measure of space, but measuring locks us into the place we measure.”

“The malady of indifference is what destroys many things.”

“It is said that there is nothing firm, nothing balanced, nothing durable in all the universe – that nothing remains in its state, that each day, each hour, brings change.”

And finally, “Every judgment teeters on the brink of error.  To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous.  Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.”

The Interpreter

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

Who wants to read this, hear this, I was thinking.  Then again, does it matter?  I need to write these thoughts or they will remain undigested in my mind and slowly poison it.

I’ve noticed over the last few years that when I sit with another person, or a few people, as they speak and as I listen, my eyes wander off, their line of sight moving deliberately away from the speaker.  They will lock onto some object and hold it.  I know it’s not the object they are observing but rather desperately trying to see that which is within, or behind, the object: that which is invisible, yet very much there.  This focusing effect is so powerful that often I notice everybody else turned and staring in the same direction I am.  “Nothing, nothing, I’m just listening,” I’ll say, because they seem convinced I am looking at something they all should be able to see.  If I told them I was looking at a chair leg shadow, or an upside-down book spine on a shelf, they’d think I was simply bored with the conversation. 

What is it that attracts the eyes thus?  I think I know now, and I have a new “name” or description for that invisible visitor: the Interpreter. 

When people speak, they speak of their lives; of events within their world; of information they have garnered, usually very recently, from the news media, or social media and supplying their personal interpretations of such.  Of course they are not speaking just words as if one were reading a book, or listening to a lecture.  They are telling a story that exposes who they really are.  Do they want to be heard on such a deep level?  Usually not.

Much of what takes place here is subconscious.  Usually we only listen to the sounds the speaker makes: her words.  Either we do not want to, or we do not know how, to listen to the real story.  Perhaps, we are afraid of entering into a space that will demand some personal commitment when we move past the hearing part to the listening.  Or we are afraid of the power to “read minds” as some call it, of intrusion, and we think, what if I’m wrong?

That’s where the Interpreter comes in.  

I don’t know if everyone is accompanied by an Interpreter or whether it comes only to those who seek to interact with their world compassionately.  I suspect the latter.  I suspect that most conversations remain on the purely physical level, with hearers focusing on the speaker, her tone of voice, her facial expressions, the movement of her hands, or entire body.  And of course there is often the sexual aspect coming into it, as the speaker morphs into a sex object to some.  Though usually vehemently denied, especially by women, that is often one of the effects the speaker wishes to achieve.  That’s the physically-centered Earthian species and no Interpreter needed on this level.

The Interpreter which the eyes desperately desire to bring into focus so it can be made a part of the usual façade cannot be so tricked.  If a hearer truly seeks to become a Listener, the Interpreter will take her into a sort of trance where the speaker’s true motives for speaking are exposed.  The speaker’s story is then heard on two levels: the shallow, normal word level, and the speaker’s life level. 

To listen this way is socially risky and one needs to learn to remain quiet as this very personal information is digested.  You can’t respond to the deep “stuff” directly, so you learn to respond to the surface expressions, keeping the deeper awareness for a later time… or for never, using it only for your own edification. 

That too, I file into the expanding realm of self-empowerment.  Unless it can be knowingly used for healing, or comforting, no one needs to hear what I learned of a speaker from the Interpreter.  It can remain on the observer level. 

 

For Lisa P – Something Else

[very brief thoughts from a tired   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

It’s 8:45 (at the moment), or 20:45 if you will and I’m too tired to really write anything coherent, but my mind won’t stop churning.  It’s like some crazed voice saying, “Write it, write it, write it!” and each inflection louder than the next.   

“What?”  Meaning, write what in particular?  As usual, unless I’m taken over by the muse to write fiction (what’s fiction again?) I have a dozen ideas floating in my mind from all the impressions I get of a world in turmoil, gone made, over the deep end and of a group-think mindset that generally speaking, doesn’t have a clue and couldn’t care less.

Do I want to talk about that?  No.  There’s enough of that everywhere I turn and tune. 

What then, my feelings about it all?  Why should my feelings matter so much they need to be superimposed over those of someone else?  They don’t, they really don’t.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this one life, and I’m old enough to know this, it’s that what I think and feel is just as important as what everybody else thinks and feels, and vice versa.  I’m just as special as everyone else, and so are my feelings. 

So, that’s me out of the way (like that’s even possible!) so what does the crazy voice want me to write about? 

I know, of course I know: it wants me to write about Something Else.  And I will, or I would, if only I had the language to express it but my languages only know Something Else as just that: something else.  Not even capitalized, just something else, so much so, I am leaving this “uncategorized.”

At least I can close with this: I know how you feel now, Lisa Palmer.  

Listening in Time

(short story,  by Sha’Tara)

“I know you are keen, and willing.  Good traits in a researcher.  But you are missing the key ingredients.  You must sit quietly, by yourself, for hours, maybe days, and listen in time.  Listen to the voices of the dead, and the pre-incarnate.  They are in the voices of “others” and in the sounds of the earth: the wind, the cracking soil, the moving grains of sand, the patter of the rain on scrabbly hard-pan soil.  They come on the heat waves.  Sometimes they get playful and paint mirages which tell stories from within your own heart and soul which your tired and bleary eyes will translate into images of desires.  

If you do not learn to listen, all you will accomplish in these places as you sift through dirt and rubble is collect garbage.  It will be recognizable as works of the people but it will reveal no stories, no myths, no history.  These you will have to create from your own imagination and trust me on this, it will not be the same stories as what was, even if the entire world should buy your interpretations.  Honest archaeologists are a rare breed but there is nothing written, either in this desert or in mountains, that says you can not be one of that small group.  When you teach yourself the secret of time listening the people who made and used the objects you unearth, they will tell you their stories.  Some will seem strange and some will be, to your modern understanding, quite unbelievable, but just listen.  It is not your call to re-interpret the lives of others according to your current knowledge: that is sacrilege.  Let the ghosts speak; let them tell their story, and accept it at face value.  It may be that they lie to you, but let it be: do not add insult to injury by adding to the lies.  After all, as you will discover in time, all of your history is lies.  There is no truth to be found on this world, or in this universe.  We know, we’ve been looking for millions of your years and there is no such chimera.”

I was young then, and I’d been experimenting with the local flora under the auspices of a would-be witch doctor who called himself George but whose real name was an unpronounceable Mexican word that sounded like apple-cotle or aptly cotli.  This particular drug induced “time dreams” he had told me, and… “You should only smoke a small amount at sunset.  Sit against a rock, or a tree if you can find one, and set your mind free to roam.  Do not try anything, just let it all go.  It is the time of the spirits and sometimes one of them will notice you and approach you with a story, or some advice.  Just listen and do not try to make any judgment about what you hear, or think you hear.  Put your own thoughts aside and just absorb.” 

I smoked slowly, not eagerly, trying to practice “wisdom” in my folly.  How long I sat against the rock that dug into my back, feeling the sand getting cold beneath me, I don’t know.  Darkness came and the sky exploded with myriads of pin-points of lights: star, planets, meteors, even satellites and flashing lights of planes.  Time passed and I no longer felt the cold, nor the loneliness or that deep fear of the dark unknown.  I “slept” with eyes open, hearing and learning to listen.  I heard small animals squeaking to one-another, some unrecognizable insects repeating endless calls; owls, even one loud shriek of what could only be some wild cat, cougar perhaps.  It didn’t matter.

It seemed as if I’d become a part of the landscape, an extension of the rock I leaned against.  I felt a deep well-being; a thoroughly unfamiliar certainty.  I was “here” and “here” was where I belonged.  This was “home” like nothing had ever been.  “Here I sit, and here I remain,” I thought, against all common sense.  I felt the cold, hunger and thirst but it did not matter to this “me” that was being absorbed by the land, the air, the sky, the universe, the cosmos.  In that time I was no longer a body-centered, or physical being.  I was a member of the cosmic races, with a part of me resting upon a planet called earth – a very small, very strange planet. 

That’s when the voice came to my mind; when I heard the words I quoted above. 

I have been digging up history in this part of the world for almost fifty years now.  I’ve become old and bent.  My skin is like that of a lizard, dry and scaly, with brown spots.  I’ve loved being naked in the sun and it has left its marks on my body but I don’t care.  He was my lover and I cherish his touch still.  I haven’t become famous.  No best seller came from my notes; no following.  People came here to dig with me, and left to seek fame and fortune.  Some managed it, returning to tell me about it.  Some even provided funds so I could remain here, on my wind-swept plateaus digging up ghost stories; me, the crazy Canadian who should have been more at home on the snowy wilds of northern Canada, than here. 

To the local people, I am “loca perdida” or the crazy one, though many come just to be with me, or to listen to my stories.  They come to get me sometimes, either with a jeep, or even a donkey, and take me to a village feast so they can hear some of my stories about their ancient peoples.  They seem to have no difficulty believing me, and I have wondered about that.  Do they also listen in time? They “pay” me in food, or in new blankets for my tents or shelters.  Good people, all of them.  I’ve always felt safe here; not sure I could have managed that in cities where people crowd unhappily together, hardly ever getting to know each other though rubbing shoulders every day.  How sad is that life, I think.

Here I remain.  Here I belong for my body’s time being.  Here I taught myself to listen in time and it is here that I will die so another archaeologist, another time listener, can find bits and pieces of my presence in this place and unearth my own story – a story that will have meaning only to her and the few who carry our vision of living in time.  

How I wish I could express, in words, how blessed my life has been and how much I look forward to new digs out there in the stars, knowing that when I sit down and look up I will see more stars.