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Entries in liberation (7)

Sunday
Jan012012

Kelli's Grand Entrance +10

kelli in high schoolKelli in high school

As I've written on this blog before there are many ways to count my time with Kelli. Sunday school as kids? Maybe. Youth group at church, starting in 1990? Good start that we can both agree on. But this day ten years ago is a pivotal one where we essentially crossed the Rubicon into our present relationship. Prior postings have detailed the scene that led us toward this. Kelli has always been a person that I trusted in with my inner life. That part always felt safe to let out, even as she has been my crying shoulder or my venting ear over the years, telling tales of lost love, lost relations, hurt and dysfunction of one sort or another. I can't say I've done so well for her, but there has usually been some flow between us in the conversations we've had as we figured out what it was to grow up in a screwed up culture with families that weren't what we thought we were entitled to, and to be linked up with partners that didn't work out for whatever reasons. Over eleven and a half years, we were friendly in this way, even though there were sometimes rather notable periods of silence or physical distance due to life happening. But when that broke, we'd be telling our stories to each other, catching up on all the vital turmoil, and rediscovering each other yet again.

But as 2001 closed, we got closer in all ways, even as we'd sort of dabbled in on a couple of occasions in the years prior. After the surreal December night that brought the Blue Light Special written about just a couple posts back, Kelli must have been warming to me even more than I was warming to her.

Out With The Old...

On the 31st of December, 2001 I was returning from a rave concert in Las Vegas where Phil Cole and I were supplying part of the audio system for a sports arena show. We were using a 24' truck that I got to drive most of the way home during the morning and early afternoon on New Year's Eve. Since the show went on till about 4 am, we didn't get out till about 7 am. I had gotten some rest earlier on and was back in the concert arena by about 4 am, but Phil was up all night or something. At any rate, we got back here in the early afternoon and my "proper" night's sleep was had from about 2-10 pm! I was two hours from having missed the NYE turnover. I got up and scrambled to get ready for... something. Anything? I had a vague idea that Kelli would be with her lush friend Amy, an effervescent Irish lass who could drink like a fish. I got the okay that they'd be at her place and I could come along. I had the hots for Amy, and maybe or maybe not I stood a chance with her? I wasn't sure, but I was willing to show up. At that point, after almost a perfect five years (just two days away) from my breakup with Robin (and minimal encounters since), I was quite lapping at the chance to be with a girl again. Of course, there was no real substance to any such encounter Amy, but at that time, that was the appeal. Still, I went to her place where Kelli was and that was good enough. At least New Years Eve would not be a total throwaway occasion. Something interesting might happen, right?

The hour or so we had before midnight was one of a bit of preparing and debating whether to hit the bar across the street (the Lancer), or to hit up another joint. So Amy, Kelli, me, and some guy who later turned out to be the reason I wasn't gonna be with Amy that night all got into the car and we zipped along Park Blvd. and El Cajon Blvd. looking for an appropriate place to slurp some booze for the night. That was kind of silly and after one or two stops and some amusing attempts to decide what to do, we ended up back at the Lancer, just across from Amy's place. Late. Yup, the ball dropped while we were in the car! Oh well. Finally it was easier to just embrace our place at the Lancer. There I did get to feeling a bit rosy with a few beers, and Amy was looking rather nice herself—to this other guy. As the beers were imbibed, he told me he was her ex, or in some uncertain state with her. Well, that was a bit of a bummer but I was content to still be rather flirtatious with Amy. It might have been a useless pursuit at that point but it was fun and maybe I'd never see her again anyway.

Around closing time we headed back to Amy's place and were joined by some other mysterious dude who walked in from down the street. Amy and her guy knew him but Kelli and I didn't. At first he seemed like a bit of an eccentric, bohemian kind of guy who added a bit of interest to the talk, and for a while we were all on the upstairs porch, carrying on. Then eventually Amy got tired and slipped to bed. Kelli slipped away too, not being a true party animal or anything. Or maybe she had another agenda. But however all that worked, what happened was that we three guys were left there on the porch, and the conversation turned to something about a black market in lampshades made of the skins of Holocaust Jews. I forget who was repulsed by it totally and who was offering that he'd buy one just to take it off the market. The other then said that was supporting it and was accusing the guy that his purchase would drive up demand and turn it into a desirable item. It got real circular and started to lose me. These guys obviously had enough history to allow this kind of conversation. Eventually Amy's dude called it a night and went to bed with Amy and I was left on the porch with the one guy, trying to figure out what in the world we might talk about next, considering it was 3 am on New Year's morning and I didn't know this guy at all, and we were at the house of a girl I'd like to get with, and she was laying with her ex in the other room.

The thing was, Kelli was asleep on the bed, and Amy and her guy were getting it on while on the floor right beneath her! And I was stuck with this strange dude and his odd talk. Kelli was asleep so there was really nothing to do but finally shake off this guy and head home at about 3:30 am. What a start to the year!

In With The New...

The next morning I woke up uncharacteristically early, around 10 am, and was prompted to pick up my guitar and plug into my smaller Mesa amp in my bedroom. Out of nowhere came the riff to what became Return To Zero, a rocking little number with shifting meters and a strange mode in a harmonic minor scale. As I was bracing for making music suitable for a trio or quartet, it was a pleasantly Tool or Led Zep influenced thing that excited me a great deal after having not made much music during 2001. Within some weeks, the trio of Dom Piscopo and Whit Harrington made the recording offered above. It was a great thing to start the year with. But it was to be quite upstaged by the history making day that followed.

Realizing the night before left some unfinished business, I called Kelli to see how things played out after I left. She was able to remember something about the lampshade talk but nothing much after that. She drove home in the morning but I think she had in mind that maybe I should have taken her home myself. Hmm, that was a new way to do things with her. We talked about getting together in the evening for a movie. After being cockblocked by Amy's man, and realizing Amy wasn't really anything I needed to pursue further, it started to make better sense to just forget it. The here and now was here and Kelli was timidly making her way over to me. So we got together for a movie, The Majestic with Jim Carey, and that's how we got our year off to a start. And, as things followed that night, the decade to come.

I know it sounds odd to tell this as though Kelli was second choice for me. It's just that for all the time prior to this date, I never thought of her seriously as partner material. In some ways that could be taken as a negative, but really, given our history, and certainly my own sense of readiness, and in some ways her own, it was safer for us to carry on as friends, initially linked up through church but more so away from there. For a lot of years, Kelli was a bit like a sister but obviously that simile runs into a dead end as our relationship got more physical. (But I think a discerning mind can figure out what I'm talking about.) In some ways, since Kelli had been my oasis and a person of refuge for me, I sort of shied away from the idea of ever pairing up with her. She seemed too important, and during a few years of some line-blurring encounters between friends and partners, I always had in my mind the question, 'where would I go and what would I do if things bombed out with Kelli?' Knowing myself, I was plenty aware that she'd be a better friend to keep than a lover to lose, so for some years, I was not keen on really going forward, even though back in 1998, none other than her own mom made some talk that maybe I should ask Kelli out, and that "she really liked" me. In 1998 that seemed a little forward and off-putting, even as it was a bit flattering. Finally, three years later, it was something that made better sense.

The five years between the end of Robin and the start of the Kelli era was, aside from being a pretty vast "dry spell," was filled with some awful times on the personal front. What I had to face was that things wouldn't have to be that way with Kelli, and that Kelli is far more mature than all that, and has demonstrated herself as someone I've trusted for a long time. And so the first of January, 2002 was the start of letting myself go with that, and Kelli having been ready to do so as well.

Friends With Benefits

Usually people use that term to say that they are blurring a line between their "platonic" friends and their sexualized relations. I never felt comfortable with that term, especially with Kelli, because it would suggest an agreement or a pattern that we never really kept. It would also suggest something that could be taken for granted. And that I didn't do. But having moved into a new type of relationship with Kelli in late 2001/early 2002, what unfolded from that was a bit unexpected.

Daniel and Kelli at her promDaniel and Kelli at her prom

I Married a Nice Church Girl

Only about a week or two after we kicked off this new thing at the start of the year, I found myself ready to return to church after something like a decade. I suppose it was prompted by the Christmas Eve gathering at a church member's house after worship that night; an event that made my old church scene safe for me again. It was a welcome relief from all the weight that the decade before had piled upon me, and that I had not really been able to offload. But it was more than that. In the post-9/11 world, and after Daniel's murder a month before that, and a year of family drama and death, I was beyond my means to process any of it without resorting to a larger paradigm of understanding. I was 28, and in the way that spiritual paradox works, the world was simultaneously falling apart and coming together for me.

Kelli had long been my lifeline to the church community that I left sometime during 1991-1992. She kept me informed on who was doing what, and in some cases it was alarming to hear who had divorced, or who had gotten swept up in some underworld stuff, or who was essentially something vastly different than I thought I knew. She had a mind for politics, theology, and spirituality that was intriguing and intimidating. I guess I was feeling ready to return after my own decade of wandering the strange avenues of life. Whatever thought system I had to that point was on the verge of collapse and it was clearly time to do something new. I recalled that Jerry, pastor and friend of some years prior to my departure, was able to talk big ideas that had some persuasive appeal to me now.

In one of the first two weeks we were together, I decided to get back to church after something like a decade. For some months though, we didn't carry on as a couple. At least not openly. But we didn't seem to have people fooled. By the time we did "come out" as a couple, people had already put two and two together. Oh, was it that we both appeared on the same days and with wet hair and within minutes of each other? The church community was different. Our peers were gone but that might have been okay since I was always a bit removed from them anyway, and typically favored the company and support of adults there. Their parents might have been divorced, or maybe not attending the same as before. I met some new faces and befriended them. Some of the old faces were there and friendly but somehow I didn't connect with them. But I was glad to be back in the fold. Jerry's sermons, things that I once could not understand, started to shine like beacons for me. There was some feeling of homecoming and wholeness. My name carried some cache there since Virginia Lucas, my grandmother, was among the founding members, and the last of that bunch to pass away less than a year before my return. In some ways, I guess I was trying to reclaim a small bit of family life by getting back to church. It was something with some anchoring potential, and I was feeling it was my time to particpate with some adult conviction.

Kelli at the tidepoolsKelli at the tidepools

But even more so, what I have to report on is how Kelli in this new role was cause for turning me toward life at a whole different level than ever. I remember that on the second week we went to church together, we went to the tidepools in Point Loma. It was mid January when the sun is low in the sky, and it's bright on the water and with the Santa Ana weather, it's rather warm and clear. I still have a memory of knowing life was going to be different with Kelli. As we were looking at the cliffs and the critters in the pools, a world of wonder opened up to me. The whole scene conspired to change me. Kelli's goofy and playful manner, childlike and wonder-filled, was available to me like water at a desert oasis. And I drank of it. The sense of togetherness I felt with her was rich. It wasn't that I just got a new girlfriend. In fact, I think I refrained from calling her that for many months. It was far more than that. It was like being connected to life again. It was the safe space that let me move away little by little from the jaded and overly cynical self I had come to embrace as if it was something worth claiming as myself. Something about her disarmed me and made me human again. What can one say? When the time comes to tell the short story about us, that is it.

Phil walks Kelli down the aisle, 2004Phil walks Kelli down the aisle, 2004. Despite a general loathing of patriarchal practice, Kelli by this point had lost her father and step father, and Phil has taken both of us in like family, particularly after his son Daniel was murdered in 2001.

Proper

Another way that I felt reconnected to life was that along with Kelli came her mom Kay, and for the first ten months of 2002, her partner Rod. For Kelli and I there was none of the formality of taking me home to meet her family; her mom had already prodded us toward each other and was delighted at our joining forces. In that early part of 2002, Kay and Rod were living at a ranch up in Descanso, in a tiny, tiny cabin. (I mean, tiny). Kelli and I made a number of trips up to their place in those months, and our Friday night road trips there were great fun. There was a town hall movie showing in a funky wooden town hall that I fantasized about recording my new trio in; pizza at a funky place that served insanely oily pizza; a super intimate bit of storytelling and hot drinks in the cabin while the fire was lit in a defense against the winter mountain air; and a generally happy feeling of togetherness. Kelli unlocked a part of me that was looking for a chance to be set free. With her and her mom, that side has a chance to open up and breathe. The times early that year were exciting. This was before Kelli's car accident in March, and before Kay and Rod made their way east to Florida in a fateful trip that revealed his cancer, a trip that turned into one of their last adventures together before Rod died in October and left Kay a wreck. And, from Kelli's perspective, she lost her second father figure.

ed and kelli at home, 2003, kelli wrapped around ed's shoulders in the office room2002-2003

The benefits were greater than just having an old friend become my new girlfriend. Even though we ostensibly were "dating," I never really though of it that way. In so many regards, it never seemed that way. It was a holistic thing from the start. To the extent that one might use the D-word, it was approximately suitable in that it was over two years before we got engaged and before she moved in with me. But dating it was not. We already knew a lot about each other. I remember telling my roommate one night that Kelli was marriage material, and I think this was only a couple months in. Somehow I knew. I thought of it as feeling "proper." Even though it wasn't love at first sight, it was grounded in reality in a way that nothing else was, in a way that no one else ever approximated. It was as comfortable as an old coat. I can't say we've ever been a wine/roses/chocolates/love letters couple either; not to say none of that applies, but it just isn't what others make it out to be. What moves between us is far greater than all that. Those things seem like distractions that only point to and aspire to what we have. Some of those things I used to feel were needed if I were to get anywhere with one partner or the other; but with Kelli, it seems that we're tapped in at some other level. It might not come to anyone's surprise who reads this blog, but words flowed in letters to any of my prior interests, maybe because I was constructing the relationship in that form since in some ways the actual living relationship could not reach that far, at least at the ages involved. But with Kelli I have barely written anything. I feel I can't do so lest it seem hopelessly contrived and quite unnecessary. Things between us don't warrant it, and the lines of communication have generally been open enough to work for us in daily life. All the former investment of time and imagination spent writing in years past has generally been able to be channeled directly to the relationship itself.

ed on kelli's shoulder, all loving and velvety focused in 2004, not long before our wedding2004, not long before our wedding

It's hard to indicate how much the world changed in January 2002. It was a new year among new years. A life of hurt didn't go away, but it was met with its opposite. But what was turning out to be clear was that my first true partner was alongside me, and where it was safe to be myself at so many intersecting and sometimes conflicting places. Kelli's been versatile in so many ways when it comes to that. I could just call her my wife now but it's better to think of her as partner. In the early months of the Kelli era, I was not working that much, thanks to a bruising economic downturn in the wake of 9/11. But even some offers were not worth taking if I had already gotten a plan together with Kelli for a given evening. Or even with the band. I was tired of being a whore for the music industry that never really inspired greatness in me. Finally, Kelli's arrival on the scene gave me an out. All the years I was in the biz, I never had a relationship that sustained me like this. I was burnt on it, and it was so much more important to feed this part of my life. So I turned down gigs even though sometimes it was a bit troubling. But the feeling of assertiveness was a welcome change.

ed and kelli at mt. san jacinto forest with big look at each other. real cute.Mt. San Jacinto Park, 2011

Ten years is a big time when you look around you and see the wreckage I've seen. We've surpassed the durations of prior relationships of our own, and even those of our parents and their partners. But time alone doesn't mean much. Being rooted in deeper stuff does, and I think we both are equipped to wonder and marvel at what it means that we're together. One thing that has always accompanied this is a feeling that Kelli and I, as a unit, is a larger entity than either Kelli or me. Seeing things this way is liberating. The fact that she's into theology and spirituality like she is has made it safe to embrace the vocabulary from those disciplines and to get out of the smaller left brain way of seeing things. I've said it before: our head start of about eleven years was helpful but not even that is grounds for keeping us together. Both feeling battered and bruised by the level of hurt and dysfunction in family life and as citizens of the empire has left us wanting for more and wanting for better. We see each other as allies in the fight. That took some doing. That took some overcoming since both of us came from our respective places of a lot of broken trust. Our relationship isn't successful because we've been together for ten years. It's successful because each day we keep at it and are helped along by grace in equal or greater measure by a forgiving and loving presence in our lives that feeds our sense of wonder each day.

Wednesday
Aug102011

Independence Day Inheritance Iconoclasm

gramps in his chair, early 80s or so.My grandfather in his native habitat

My grandfather Norman died 15 years ago on Independence Day—it wasn't unknown to me at the time that a man who was always identified as a Navy Man and patriot died on the very day that the nation he so loved celebrates its birthday. Independence Day for him connotes all that but it was also was the day he was liberated from a body that was on a long slow decline. I think I have written about this here before. I don't have terribly much to add to that part of it. The new development is letting go of stuff that perhaps I clung to a bit much after both grandparents died, but most certainly after I lost the house in 2005 and the furniture and other items they used were still imbued with some sense of their presence. Today things have mellowed and it isn't so urgent to hang on like my life depended on this.

Astute readers of TAPKAE.com know that this year has been one to spill more beans and tell a fuller story of things. This chair episode has another dimension to it that I've discussed only in recent years with Kelli. I have to say that as the official family archivist and historian now, with everyone dead and gone, I can finally get on with saying things as clearly as I can, in a way to reflect my experience and that which I can put together from the scraps of memorabilia I have available to me. I am not in love with all the Lucas mythology, which like all families' mythology, glorifies the good stuff and minimizes the bad stuff. In some ways, TAPKAE.com is my exercise in iconoclasm. Not everyone gets a chance to do this. I don't feel there is much to lose, and any attempt to argue otherwise might be manipulation.

I have to remind everyone that I was given a pretty white-bread, sheltered idea of life in Clairemont, a giant suburb that I end up finding more and more of a dark side to (particularly since discovering the Facebook group). I don't know what all went into the founding of my family but I have my doubts that it was as wholesome as it was portrayed. My grandmother holds up to the most scrutiny but I suspect there are things she turned a blind eye to, and certainly behind-the-scenes kind of dealing between her son and her husband that suited them, and not all involved. These were salt of the earth people from the Midwest; only my old man and I were born in California. Virginia was a city girl, Norman was a farm boy who went to the Navy because it was more exciting than farm life. There was the death of their 12 year old son David and World War Two to shape their younger years. They did work hard. They did believe in goodness and the American Way. They went to church for better or for worse. They bought a house in the suburbs. Typical stuff, right?

My grandmother was always the one who kept the faith in as authentic a way as was demonstrated to me. My grandfather always was the one who was social and cordial at church but I don't have any great sense that he was a man of faith. He was definitely one of the tag-along husbands there. I think the Navy was his religion. My old man went to church intermittently in my youth, but more times than not, he kept away and later scoffed at church and religion. Needless, fruitless effort it might have seemed to him. I gather he was made to go to more church than he wanted to when younger and just abandoned it when given the chance. There were some times when he and stepmom Eda took me to church at the Community Congregational Church of Pacific Beach where my grandfolks were founding members from the late 50s, and of course where my life has had many a church experience in baptism, teen age years, wedding and periods of being a church officer and archivist. More typically though I went with my grandfolks as a young child, and sometimes more specifically with my grandmother, who probably took it upon herself to introduce me to church life, faith, spirituality with more urgency, knowing I was her last hope after her husband and son were drifting from such a tradition as she wanted to live out of.

Norman tended to drive his own car to and from church. Virginia stayed later and filled her roles at church and drove her own car too. Norman liked to head home for the game on the TV. He wasn't into sports as an athlete but he liked to watch whatever football or baseball game was on. I don't even remember him being a fan or going to many sporting events, if any. But it seemed that he was content doing that. After church grandma used to take me to Der Wienerschnitzel on Garnet Avenue for two corn dogs. We'd come back and eat and would always wash the dogs down with diet Pepsi from a glass bottle. Sometimes we'd sit on the patio out back. It was a nice little ritual that was in itself unmarred by consciousness of any concerns that I later bring to these kinds of memoirs. After lunch, about two in the afternoon, she'd retire to her room to take a nap. She closed her door. We might not see her for a couple of hours. It was just gramps and me until either my folks got me or the grandfolks took me home the few miles across Clairemont.

The details I am about to divulge take place when I was five years old, and therabouts. There were a few such instances but I don't recall them one from another. With such an empty and quiet house it doesn't take a lot of imagination as to what would happen next, though I do want to be clear and not to sensationalize it. To the extent that it is abusive, I recognize that, but I also have to contend that the stuff that left me in clear pain and anguish didn't stem from this. I suppose some depth psychologist could extract something from this, but I have to be clear that a lot more conscious pain has been generated at the decisions and policies that were my old man's. But in some ways, you can perhaps understand something else about where his mind was shaped.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I was invited or simply attracted to sit on the chair with Norman. He was my grandfather after all, and I was five years old. (He was about 66 at this point.) On some number of occasions he drew out his penis and invited and encouraged me to masturbate him until he ejaculated. Ostensibly it was an anatomy lesson scaled to a five year old. There was a kind of narrative, teaching tone to it all. In fact, this was when I learned the word penis in the first place. Of this I am clear beacuse it was such a novel word. (Of all the things to remember from youth!) Yes, it was one of those this will be our little secret, won't it? times that seems to be the code word in these situations. I was told not to tell anyone though I don't think I was threatened with reprisals. It was self evident that I'd not want to cross him. Certainly a mind of a child like that is just a sponge, and people who practice these things know that and leave the kid to be the one to sort out the conflicting messages later on. There was never penetration of any sort, so this was one of those transparent exchanges that leaves no marks for the family or friends or teachers to see. 

I suppose that while I don't look to this experience to mark the beginning of one pain or another, it does bespeak the pathos that lurked under all the wholesome stuff. In my Family gallery, I wrote the following as a caption to this letter:

Letter, 1/30/08
Another chickenshit letter delivered to me not by the mail man or any of that. After a year or more of silence between he and I, and particularly after a hot period at the end of 2007/early 2008, my father dropped this off at the church (where I had since departed a year before) and told my former pastor that it needed to get to me. So Jerry sent it to me. This is an excellent display of thought distortion. He loves his Manichean colors of black and white thinking. Here he wishes to make the point that my Lucas family taught me love, and that my mother taught me hate. And to pile ridiculous on top of ridiculous, he wants to make a point that my marriage now is founded on this glorious Lucas past. Ahem, that is the domain of much effort between Kelli and me, and a good load of grace! Almost everything I learned about marriage has been from admitting what a failure I can be and trying to repent of that at each turn. Only my grandparents at 61 years of marriage can be said to be a family influence upon me. My father seems to confuse my candor with hate. Calling a spade a spade is not calling it evil or hating it.

I might have to call this "fam-washing;" the thing he does when he wants to badmouth my mom's side of the family, and to clearly butter up his own. It is a way of carrying on like a five year old with a polar mind that something can only be black or white, or any other set of opposites. (It seems to get worse with age.) As I said, I have never told this story to anyone but Kelli (on July 26, 2008 while walking the dog that night). No one at church has heard it and neither has it been brought up at several years of therapy. No one but Kelli heard this before this journal was released. My old man might turn on the denial. But what can he deny? What does he know about it except the chance that he might have his own experience to add to it? His polar argument over the years is flimsy, and breaks under the weight of this kind of news. Sure, Norman and Virginia did show me a thing or two about love, mainly in their 61 years of marriage. (Though I don't kid myself, there has to be some shit that went on. My mom always used that as her ammunition to puncture my Lucas balloon. I've heard about adultery from her version of the story.) The propaganda will backfire for each as I eventually expose what the other has said, and occasionally add layers of my own experience and interpretation. Along those lines, the expose of my old man's antics with my older sister in 1973 makes more sense and maybe I'll investigate that more.

I feel like quoting some of King Crimson's song Epitaph. My understanding is that it is a swipe at organized religion and its mythology, but I think it can be seen as an iconoclastic jab at authority figures and institutions that shout their conflicting tales of who is right and wrong and who has the truth, but ultimately leave the mess for the individual to clean up with his or her life.

When every man is torn apart
With nightmares and with dreams
Will no one lay the laurel wreath
When silence drowns the screams
...
Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh
But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying
...
Knowledge is a deadly friend
If no one sets the rules

the chair he had when he died, now 15 years later set on the street for giveawayThe chair itself is liberated on Independence Day, 2011

I told Kelli that one night that I didn't want to turn this into a major deal, but it has been a long guarded vault that has gone unopened. It won't do my grandfather harm anymore. My grandmother probably never knew about this but certainly had to cope with other antics. They're both gone. Part of my inheritance was material stuff that was useful and nice to keep while I could do so. That was pretty hard to think of getting rid of. But this has been in my mind, never too far from ready access, for years. It too is inheritance that only I got. Or maybe there was enough for everyone. Funny how that goes. I could have used a roof over my head. Instead I got this. Now I am giving it away, piece by piece.

Tuesday
Oct052010

Technomessiahs, Redux

A week ago on my local PBS radio station I heard this show on Geoengineering—the range of ideas concerning global efforts to take some mighty heroic measures to combat the looming prospects of damage from climate change. Anytime I have heard this topic come up in the last year or so, my skin crawls and my stomach feels ill. It presents itself to me as science fiction, and dangerous fiction at that. To me it smacks of hubris on a level not ever seen before, except in some parallel movements in genetics and economics which are pushing into dangerous territory once regarded as the domain of the divine. It seems the kind of ambitious technological overreach that elicited a response from the Lord in Genesis, who watched humans building the great tower, something which was met with the confounding of language, meant to at least make it hard to get such ideas off the ground.

The technological genie has been out of the bottle for a couple of centuries now. Geoengineering is one more prayer for what I call the "technomessiah" to come and save us from, ironically, the other technomessiahs who have come in ever-accelerating fashion. The soul work associated with loosing ourselves from the technological straitjacket is too hard to do, it seems, so the de facto answer is to keep charging ahead into the same thing we desperately need to escape. I think I encountered the idea in Richard Heinberg's work, that civilization is one big unintended consequence of our first dabblings in toolmaking. The makers of flint axes could not have imagined our dilemma today, but it was a slow climb up a long ladder for millennia, with a quite noticable acceleration in the last 250 years ago, and certainly in the last century. What does it take to dare look down in preparation for a retreat from these dizzying heights?

Today the news let me know about the red tide of toxic sludge flowing through Hungary. The devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is still wreaking its havok. These are just two examples of humanity not having control over its technology. We're adolescents still, thrilled with our ability to make stuff, but seemingly unable to harness it. To be clear, I am not against technology per se, nor am I against invention and progress. I should be clear about that. But I do criticize the automatic reaction to meet problems with more advanced technology in lieu of maybe stepping back and changing priorities. Appropriate technology for a job is quite fine, but it takes discernment to know what that is, and not to automatically run to whatever is the latest and (supposedly) greatest. What I think has been a dangerous combination is how technological development has been taken to market for mass production even before we have a chance to understand what could follow. Most of the things we use now have no big impact if they were the only ones of their kind, but they are not—they are mass produced consumer goods that draw down resources and when used by individuals according to individual priorities, and not social vision, will bring us to where we are now.

The answer that keeps presenting itself to me is to revisit and learn from the great spiritual traditions that guide us in how to relate to one another, to creation, to our creator. What is needed is literally a counter-cultural response to our great dilemmas. A counter-cultural response might emerge from any of the great traditions that predate our love affair with our technological development in the industrial age; those traditions have a memory of a life before the creative explosion that has paradoxically led us to the crisis of our time that is being met in certain circles with the grandiose ideas of geoengineering. Those traditions are the only things that frame life as inherently hard, and that instruct people in possible ways to move gracefully nonetheless. Our love affair with technology has much to do with our aversion to difficulty. I guess one thing that bothers me about the geoengineering ideas is that they presume an inability to change the fundamentals. They don't require the soul work to change the underlying problem. We might embark on a project like that with the unbridled expectation of economic growth, even though that has been the leading cause of our greatest problems.

The soul work of relinquishment, humility, love for others is all hard work but I feel it is the work that will draw us back from our dangerous place. Tapping into that consciousness will be the liberation we need from the thought structures that have brought us here, a place of neurosis, unable to cope properly with the technological genie we have loosed on the world. We're really quite miserable this way. Isn't it time for something else?

Saturday
May292010

Ritual

I guess I've had too much to say lately, and that is why I've not said anything.

I don't know where to start.

It is all so important.

Lots of new experiences and realizations.

Elicits apophatic and kataphatic responses.

Inner and outer.

Earth and Sky.

Blood, shit, semen, water.

Knowing and unknowing.

Abandonment and reclamation.

Lover, Warrior, Magician, King, Christ.

Brothers.

Rhythmic Catharsis.

Life.

Saturday
Dec082007

Say Rah!

Rah Rah Say Rah Rah
A Hippo Birdie Two Ewe
Bad Beau Peeps Nigh Nate

Thursday
Nov222007

Thanks

Thanks for Caleb and John.

Thanks for family of choice.

Thanks for Buber the Dog.

Thanks for a full plate whether I need it or not.

Thanks for the plants that grow in the back yard.

Thanks for the Toyota that still runs.

Thanks for the metanoia.

Thanks for the return of the swine.

Thanks for the fire crews who saved a city.

Thanks for those who don't give up.

Thanks for the flying colors.

Thanks for holy moments in unholy places.

Thanks for gay marriage, abortion, the homeless, and athiests.

Thanks for the story.

Thanks for the glass whether it is half or half.

Thanks for the house of mirrors.

Thanks for the empty nest.

Thanks for the market crash.

Thanks for the end of the world as we know it.

Thanks for El Cotixan and Satan's.

Thanks for opportunities to get it right.

Thanks for forgiveness when we get it wrong.

Thanks for the Sabbath.

Thanks for peak oil and global warming.

Thanks for heartbreak.

Thanks for loss.

Thanks for a role in the play.

Thanks for midnight.

Thanks for love.

Thanks for compost.

Thanks for the magician.

Thanks for mystery.

Thanks for wonder.

Thanks for a loving wife.

Wednesday
Oct192005

Relentless Tenderness

Well, as I said, I am not a book reviewer, or even an avid reader. However, in preparation for the time when the lights, CD players, computers, and other electronic artifacts become superfluous luxury items for working stiffs such as myself, I have been putting my head in books more often, and getting more from them than I usually expected. I find myself purchasing books in twos and threes, sometimes just on the fly, a new phenom that is more remarkable than the way I used to buy CDs. I walk into a store now, and go out $50 poorer, barely even knowing what I walked out with! I flock to non fiction as a rule; stuff that fascinates me usually covers matters of our present world mess (9/11, peak oil, corporate funny business), cultural renewal, liberal and progressive looks at religion, humanities, and stuff.

One such book is one by a Franciscan priest and genuinely amazing Christian human being named Brennan Manning. The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus is one of the books I just got and have been digging into it with glee. In defiance to all the discriminatory and egotistical bullshit that seems to be eminating from so-called Christian circles today (Pat Robertson makes me wish for some decidedly UN-Xtian things, you know), TRTOJ just strips all that shit away and deals with the core message that seems too easily forgotten: Jesus was here to tell us we are loved, and no matter what, that won't change, and most importantly, that we are all welcome to the table. All we have to do is accept that we are welcome and worthy, and to live accordingly, in thanks for the gift. Forget the system of merit. We are granted a gift. Period. A gift that only needs to be honored by living in thankfulness.

Gandhi spoke for a lot of us when he commented, 'I like your Christ but I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.' And so we have had that image. And, for people like me who would like to see that observation lose its validity (I won't challenge the man, he was right in a lot of cases, and would be equally so right now), we need all we can get to remind us of what really is at the heart of the faith. The sad fact of the matter is that Xtianity early on got warped. Jesus wasn't out to make people worship him as much as he was out to model the ultimate in complete human living. So the church, as it institutionalized, became more about Jesus worship, damn the business of doing all the nice things he did for people. It explains well enough our current gross misunderstanding and misappropriation of Christianity.

Manning himself seems to be the real article. His bio blurb at the end of the book says he's done some hard missionary work in different parts of the world, living among the poor and destitute. He even volunteered (!) to be a prison inmate in a Swiss jail, this scheme only known to the staff. I got the idea that the man maybe had spent his life being a real disciple, so his words really just resonated with me, especially when I read a few chapters aloud to my wife, who herself is a seminary student and is immersed in all sorts of theological literature and history now. She gave it a wild thumbs up for just cutting to the core of what it's all about. I found myself overwhelmed at a lot of it. Sometimes a ray of light shines into our jail cells we call life, you know?

For a guy like me who is keen on peak oil as a reality, it's hard to not get drawn into all the crookedness and outright evil that has a stranglehold on things in the geopolitical realm, or just the sheer enormity of the peak oil issue. I am often depressed about it, so I rely on messages like this book has in it to just remind me that maybe the complicated life is not all its cracked up to be. It helps ease me into understanding that maybe collapse is necessary and possibly desirable.

Tonight I transcribed a sermon from church that was given three years ago on thankgiving weekend. I didn't need to do it; I just did it because I needed that kind of stuff in my head. In the case of this sermon and the Manning book, I needed to know it was alright to be poor. I needed to hear that even in Auschwitz, prisoners could still be thankful for a crust of bread and community. Or that in parts of Latin America, the destitute can still have thanksgiving celebrations that stand in defiance of oppression and hatred, fear and poverty. What can drive a person to be thankful in the face of all this? Well, grace. Being thankful for anything we have I guess can lessen the sting of losing or not having something at all. We thank because we are all given a gift. Either we can be arrogant about it and run off with it, or we can reflect and acknowledge. In the age of peak oil and decline, with fortunes on the wane, populations in decline, and what promises to be a likely "four horsemen" scenario for the civilized western world, a lot of hearts are going to be broken. Will we remember that we still have life, and will we celebrate it? Or are we dead as soon as the market crashes, and the cars stop running?

I've been allowing myself to separate from certain values commonly held by my generation, or letting older ones creep into my life. Kelli and I say grace at meals (more and more—we still forget too often), I actually take Sundays off work (to the irritation of my company). I eschew TV, video games, and a lot of other things so I can be more dedicated to things that are just more important to me. I know I try not to take things for granted as much as before. I still drive an 11 year old truck that I have not washed in over a year. I curse having to buy new tires for it, given that they might do little good for me but to keep me safe for another rainy season. There are a lot of things that I want to get out of the habit of doing, partly because I anticipate that these habits will HAVE to be broken, but also because when one stops to think of what is really important, a lot of things we do every day just don't seem to matter any more.

I find materialism frustrating as hell now. I am bracing for possibly having to lose most of my material possessions either to sale abandonment, or theft. All my precious music gear sits in a room at my dad's house, unused for over two months there alone, and another month or so before I moved. I am contemplating selling it all, but it's a gut wrenching decision. But then I feel bad that I should be so attached to such things, given the enormity of life today. I find myself buying tools instead of music gear. Books instead of CDs. Clothing instead of gasoline. Broccoli instead of cookies.

I find myself appreciating clear speech instead of sarcasm and faux irony. I find the company of my wife to be far more satisfying than anything I commonly do. I prefer darkness in the house. I find my time at work spent thinking of how much I hate it, and how much I wish I could run off and check out of society for a few weeks at a time and do some things that would better prepare me for a post carbon life. Others want to go to Vegas, Hawaii, or the desert to race ATVs. I want to go to learn how to live without oil or easy transportation, or just to be outside of life for a bit so I can find myself again. I read about Manning's time doing hard labor in poor nations, and find myself inadequate but interested. I reason that I shouldn't go off and do that now because soon enough my own nation will be living out of garbage pits, and maybe I could just prepare for that and not bother to learn a new language. The crisis will come to me soon enough. Manning says that poverty is not so bad. Being willfully poor is easier than having it heaped upon oneself. It's sort of a turning-the-other-cheek thing. Or giving thanks for a crust of bread in the concentration camp. It is meant to diffuse the oppression and indignity of it all. It's a notion of mastery on one's own terms.

You may not be a subscriber to the peak oil and global energy crisis school of thought, but if the world has you down and you are hip to what Christianity is supposed to be about, check out this book. It's $13 well spent, as far as I care.