08 November 2003

this post falls apart at the end.

i just got back from the mall in san juan (its raining). it was fucking crazy- the auto show was on, so many people, so much spanish, and there was a marching band- a whole high school fucking marching band- inside the mall, their pressurized trumpets and gastrointestinal bass drums turning the usually distinct edges of my thoughts into so much dimly warming gelatin. the book store, though, was home to one of the largest and most comprehensive philiosophy/metaphysics sections i have ever seen, brimming over with obscure texts by people like quine, names ive seen but have no beraings on, all the more impressive because it was bilinigual, all the more the more impressive because it was in no apparent order, the spanish and english and philosophy and divination guides all lumped together in a sprawling double aisle. all the more the more the more impressive because while they had absolutely no copies of "conversations with god", a channeling text that jdk once recommended, they did have over a hundred copies of "conversiciones con dios dos" (though, again, none of uno). these dispursed randomly throughout the rest of the section, in small clusters of four or five. i felt a bit overwhelmed, thumbed through some alan watts, then some foucalt and derrida, starting feeling like an asshole, ran to the counter to pick up stephen kings new dark tower book so id feel less like an asshole and more like a dork, (by the way, if i can convince even one of you, even one of you that these dark tower books are masterpieces, poetic flights of imagination, thrilling pieces of metaphysical fantasy that are the heir to cs lewis and jrr tolkein, and demand your attention, i would be happy. by my count, only two people potentially reading this thing have read these books. they are at my house and i give anyone permission to go and steal them), then returned and bought some wittgenstein, which im certain i will read about twenty pages of before throwing overboad.

i thought to myself, what i would really like is a book that tells me how to deal wth this:

this morning the coast guard inspected the ship. this means: we had to wait in our cabins, in uniform, until the alarm sounded (an hour later then planned), then don our lifejackets and proceed to our emergency stations. my station is in the photo lab, amidst many attractively framed portaits of happy cruisers (why not put your photograph onto a canvas?) i am to guide guests to their muster stations, then help divide the group of 463 guests who are to gather in my muster station (station B) into lifeboat capacity sized groups of 146. which clearly isnt going to work in a real emergency. but anyway, for the drill, which is of course guestless (today is embarkation day), once we get to our positions, we have to stand there, for a very long time, while the fire crews put out simulated fires in the galley and hypothetical men overboard are rescued (the code for man overboard, by the way, is "OSCAR OSCAR"), each lifeboat station reports to the bridge, blah blah blah. the upshot being that we had to stand in our positions, in lifejackets, for nearly an hour; then, we were told to return to our cabins for another drill, in which we did the same thing, only now the fire was in the print shop. all in all, a good two hours of quiet, uncomfortable standing.

so there i am, standing. i am very aware of the ship crews general proclivity for complaining, which i seem to be alone in finding intimately distasteful. i really dont like complaining. i really, really dont like it. i dont like talking about things that are unfair or stupid or irritating. bitching. i find it deeply unattractive. so i am accepting the situation, but am yet still in the situation. i feel time around me. and so my brain occupies itself, first with random thought, then with careful metathought about what i am thinking about, then with self-concious attempts at no thought. most of these consisted of staring at a spot on the starfish patterned carpet until my retinas started to pulse and give the floor that hallucinogenic breathing whirling effect that all of you lsd users know all to well (which, by the way, is another reason that i am more and more accepting of jc's reaction to having an out of body experence once on college while on lsd. i asked him what he thought of the experience, in spiritual/consciousness terms, and he said "i think i took too much lsd". i really, really love the empiricism of non francisco sometimes). so im doing these things, and then i start dancing a little, im smiling, i drum my fingers a little, et cetera. time. tick. and then after a while i just cant anymore, and it is humid and my lifejacket is heavy and chaffing and my legs hurt and sleep is still in my eyes and i am dehydrated, and i feel trapped, ludicrous, a pawn in an evil uncompassionate world. why cant i sit? i know the answer and find it wanting. i am hungry. these feelings are real. a smile remains, but now it feels like a facade. my pants itch.

but should i externalize these feelings? will a scowl, a bored half face like those i see around me, improve the situaution? is honesty more important then an attempt to improve?

here we seem to have a split in opinion. there are those that would ask me to embrace these honest feeling as true, acknowledge my rage and frustration, live in it and vent it. otherwise it may fester and cause stress in all sorts of seemingly unrealted ways. my problem with this is that when i find other people doing this i find it unattractive. i want to have nothing to do with those people. on the other hand, there are those that would ask me to continue emptying my mind, take the situation as an opportunity for meditation, reject the ideas of good and bad and recognize this as simply an experience which doesnt need to be qualified, realize that this is samsara and feel compassionate towards the people that are doing this to me. im a little more in line with this point of view, first off i definitely feel compassion, my rage is directed at a situation rather then any individuals, truly, and i am indeed making the most of my time and not sinking into the unattractiveness of negativity and complaint. i am not pissed off. but in the end, this approach strikes me as somewhat dishonest.

so the bookstore. while standing at boat drill, i started wondering how the dali lama would respond. or thich nat hahn. (while sitting here, i am wondering if i have spelled either of those names correctly). and today, at the bookstore, i started looking for that book. the book that talks about how to endure physical discomfort. and awkward bus conversations. and unrepentant waiters. and irritating airplane travellers. and stagnant dmv lines. because thats what i really need, now. a couse of action. so much theory, so many ideas, wonderful, beautiful, but i still live my life, and understanding something, giving something words, doesnt really give me insight into how to respond. how to act. wordless acts. how to position my eyes. the posture to assume. the tone of my voice. the angle of my smile. the color of my thoughts.

and then i stopped. i stopped looking for this book, for a reason i already knew, just forget sometimes.

it is same reason that i dislike string theory. string theory is an attempt to reconcile certain impossibilities that occur when quantum physics (the science of the very small) and relativity (the science of the large) intersect. an attempt to explain everything with one equation, one set of rules that will explain the movements of electrons and stars. ive read a couple books on this, and the writing is ludicrous. lud-i-crous. now the theory itself is pretty intersting, as a cool sci-fi concept, it says that the smallest thing in the universe is not a zero-dimensional point but rather a one-dimensional loop of vibrating string, (not literally string, though a four year old at my preschool found that idea irresistibly delightful), thus rejecting the idea of the infinitely small and taking all the limits approaching zero out of the denominators. thats neat. but the way they talk about this theory, oh man. they talk as if finding it could "explain everything". could make us "masters of the universe". could let us "see into the mind of god".

i mean, there are only so many words. we love words, we depend on them, they alone seem to make things real and transferable, but there are only so many. and they are so inadequate, so small, so barely a part of existence. all of these attempts at translation, all of these scientific theories and philosophical ideas and spiritual speculation are just woefully inadequate translations of indescribale, unrepeatable, untransferable experinces. yes? and if i become god tomorrow, ill never be able to let you know, because you cant feel my head. you dont know my memories or my heart rate, the feeling of the roof of my mouth that affects my every thought, and ive only got a few thousand words...it just wont ever work. an equation will not answer anything. and a buddhist text wont either. im not even gonna take my standby line and give music special status here; it may be wordless, but it still cant accurately, dependably transfer experience. you cant transfer the experience of knowing god, understanding the universe, because transfer is an act of translation, which is an act of language (even musical) and the retranslation will always be inaccurate because its being done by someone elses brain.

but the real crux is, is there even a question?

i mean the question is words too. the question. any question. the question only happens if you use words. you cant ask a question without them. how do we explain the universe? thats a six word quesion. you cant answer it without defining those six words, and you cant define those words without using other words. which are ultimately artifcial. representations of things that are subjective and unsharable. oh these words! its so cyclical...words only solve the problems that words themselves create.

so i know theres no book that tells me how to live in this situation. and i know that the dali lama couldnt tell me if i asked him point blank. and even if he could, (this is a whole nother story), but i think even if he could it wouldnt be some secret that transforms a bad experience into a good one. these dmv lines are real, and they are, and they are not prefered, and that is all. even if i could levitate. im still here. it doesnt really have anything to do with my spiritual path. there are no tricks.

though i still think complaining about it is unattractive.

though----this just occured to me---- does anyone remember that scene in hesse's demian when they are in sunday school and demian just kind of trances out, his eyes roll back, and hes just kind of gone? is that something? now wait. thats a good trick. should i learn how to do that?

oh now i dont know.


maybe im just not a good enough meditator.

i wish the dali lama was reading this. does anyone have his email address?

my legs did hurt. now they dont.
i will not talk about it again.

damn i wish i was a bird!