This thing I have to do

I’m trying to track my social interaction in real time, using screenshots and text messages, mostly.

The more I go ahead

Source unattributed for lack of consent.
Source unattributed for lack of consent.

I started by sending a text message to both sides of my family. The same message but separately to my mother’s side first and then to my father’s side. Uncle Dick just replied. (5:25 pm, East Coast USA. If I was supercool, I’d publish the longitude and latitude, but that would require learning how to do it.) He’s actually fourth… c o u n t i n g …fifth.  The order I saw them in (from memory): Ed, Jane, Raedyn, Dick, u h oh. That’s only four.  We’ll have to inspect the record to determine the assigned timestamps and see who I’ve forgotten. If anyone. Because in the meantime I was also emailing some friends, and intermittently playing with The Katz. (Implication: more people appeared in my consciousness than there is a record for via screenshots on the iPhone4.0, yes, shame, a previous model.)


The more I see back

What seems more urgent is negotiating consent with my relatives: may I use the screenshots I’ve been taking of our communication? Like, actually publish them here?

I think I’ve asked them in the past. Way way back. Dim memory or wishful thinking, I’m not sure.  Will they forgive me for mentioning them here? What about the evidence in {the photo I just deleted}. At the same time, I’m playing #KRKTR in my heartmind/actions. Which some of you may have heard me talk about in some vague way that didn’t make sense. Or not.

Going to a potluck, hoping to get an assent from a cousin before  leaving so I can publish this with some evidence. Just texted fyi I’ll be late.

Been working this prolly about an hour.

. . .


Am told I can arrive whenever. Good. Will leave soon, unless the wind changes again. No further reply from cousin. Yet.



Amherst, MA
(…it felt funny when I thought it.) ~ pasted in at 17:19 by the M’cAir’s clock. That was approximately when I resumed writing this blogentry after the title and first sentence. It is a quote from whatever I was working on (i.e., had interjected itself into my stream-of-consciousness) some time (minutes? seconds) after I had been diverted from this blogentry by a thought/memory/impulse to send email correspondence [to an unspecified set]. 
Chose to leave it {the quote: “it felt funny when I thought it”) to appear here at the bottom of the entry.  17:20 (copy-pasted in; edited at 18:21 before publishing) 

Crane Talk

Must one inquire into the issues that delay or block resolution? Love must be learned, and learned again and again; there is no end to it…Cranes dance in southwestern petroglyphs. Old Crane Man taught the Tewa how to dance.

”        ”

Graham started this with an empty quotation: he did not even include a period. The rest of him was right out of a Marvel comic – muscles on muscles. “Hey!” someone shouted from a hospital bed, interrupting the researcher who insisted on summarizing the findings eloquently and thoroughly, armed with a gun and a knife and some matches. “Two out of three. You’re doing fantastic.”

On the surface, both “Buying My Condo” and “Living Fully” are fairly straightforward, one point following another just like in sign language interpreting, where everything referring to the present is signed just in front of the body. Indicating sequences into the future, however, requires other maneuvers: how then, quickly, could Sylvester McMonkey McBean put together a very peculiar machine?

Must one inquire into the issues that delay or block resolution? Love must be learned, and learned again and again; there is no end to it. The tofu gains much flavor this way, despite those who mock it as an “open -and- shut case.”  I believe, asserted Fletcher, this is a result of suppressing and ignoring – if I am honest, of actively rejecting – my natural psychic ability to ‘see” beyond the physical world.

“We’ll talk later,” Jack said. “We need to get back to the car before the storm pours buckets on us.” There were students finishing at the school for the deaf who wanted vocational training. Many are capable, of course, of comprehending that conservation of energy does not contradict Newton’s laws, and in fact, is derivable from them, and so from a strictly mathematical point of view it adds nothing to Newtonian physics. The Deaf also know about communication.

When animals and humans still shared the same language, the Cree recount, Rabbit wanted to go to the moon. Rabbit asked the strongest birds to take him, but Eagle was busy and Hawk couldn’t fly so high. Crane said he would help. He told Rabbit to hold onto his legs. Then he went for the moon. The journey was long and Rabbit was heavy. Rabbit’s weight stretched out Crane’s legs and bloodied Rabbit’s paws. but Crane reached the moon, with Rabbit hanging onto him. Rabbit patted Crane in thanks, his hands still bleeding. So Crane got his long legs and blood-red head.

Back then, too, a Cherokee woman was courted by both Hummingbird and Crane. She wanted to marry Hummingbird, because of his great beauty. But Crane proposed a race around the world. The woman agreed, knowing Hummingbird’s speed. She didn’t remember that Crane could fly at night. And, unlike Hummingbird, Crane never tired. Crane flew in straight lines, where Hummingbird flew in every direction. Crane won the race with ease, but the woman still rejected him.

All the humans revered Crane, the great Orator. Where cranes gathered, their speech carried miles. The Aztecs call themselves the Crane People. One of the Anishinaabe clans was named the Cranes—Ajijak or Businassee— the Echo Makers. The Cranes were leaders, voices that called all people together. Crow and Cheyenne carved cranes’  leg bones into hollow flutes, echoing the echo maker.

Latin grus, too, echoed that groan. In Africa, the crowned crane ruled words and thought. The Greek Palamedes invented the letters of the alphabet by watching noisy cranes in flight. In Persian, kurti, in Arabiac, ghurnuq: birds that awaken before the rest of creation, to say their dawn prayers. The Chinese xian-he, the birds of heaven, carried messages on their backs between the sky worlds.

Cranes dance in southwestern petroglyphs. Old Crane Man taught the Tewa how to dance. Australian aborigines tell of a beautiful and aloof woman, the perfect dancer, turned by a sorcerer into a crane.

Apollo came and went in crane form, when visiting the world.The poet Ibycus, in the sixth century B.C., beaten senseless and left for dead, called out to a passing flock of cranes, who followed the assailant to a theatre and hovered over him until he confessed to the astonished crowd.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Hera and Artemis turn Gerania into a crane, to punish the Pygmy queen for her vanity. The Irish hero Finn fell off a cliff and was caught in the air by his grandmother, when she changed into a crane. If cranes circled overhead above American slaves, someone would die. The First Warrior who fought to create ancient Japan took the form of a crane at death and flew away.

Tecumseh tried to unite the scattered nations under the banner of Crane Power, but the Hopi mark for the crane’s foot became the world’s peace symbol. The crane’s foot—pie de gruebecame that genealogist’s mark of branching descent, pedigree.

To make a wish come true, the Japanese must fold a thousand paper cranes. Twelve-year-old Sadako Sasaki, stricken with “atom bomb sickness,” made it to 644. Children worldwide send her thousands, every year.

Cranes help carry a soul to paradise. Pictures of cranes line the windows of mourning houses, and crane-shaped jewelry adorns the dead. Cranes are souls that once were humans and might be again, many lives from now. Or humans are souls that once were cranes and will be again, when the flock is rejoined.

Something in the crane is trapped halfway, in the middle between now and when. A fourteenth-century Vietnamese poet sets the birds forever in the air:

Clouds drift as days pass; Cypress trees are green beside the altar, The heart, a chilly pond under moonlight. Night rain drops tears of flowers. Below the pagoda, grass traces a path. Among the pine trees, cranes remember The music and songs of years ago. In the immensity of sky and sea, How to relive the dream before the lamp of that night?

When animals and people all spoke the same language, crane calls said exactly what they meant. Now we live in unclear echoes. The turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, says Jeremiah. Only people fail to recall the order of the Lord.

They arrived at nightfall, just as lanterns were being lit in the grounds to illuminate the driveway. “We can make this the ‘summer only’ lunch table,” she said, adapting to the circumstances. I am not allowed to have tattoos yet–which is unfair–so for now, I just draw things on my arms so I don’t forget them. Meanwhile, the fairy king took one last look at his daughter and returned to his kingdom beneath the water, knowing he’d better hang up and start reading.

Stitched together from quotes shared on Facebook for International Book Week.
Some are modified, most are not.
FYI: This event seems to have spawned from the Edinburgh International Book Festival:
Bully for them!


When the learning curve is a wall

The hybrid nature of innovative business

The Roundtable on Social Entrepreneurship with Leticia and Victoria Hale that Pamela facilitated was one of the highlights of the conference (although it is hard to generate a ranking because everything was of such high caliber). “Real systems change is not just [the provision of] palliative goods and services,” Pamela explained. Systems change requires forging “partnerships […that…] leverage off each other in the positive sense to create synergies.” Learning how to accomplish this new balance between established modes of doing business (e.g., short-term, bottom line profitability for discrete individuals) with new sustainable modes of doing business (i.e., long-term, continuous resiliency with dispersed community benefits) was the main topic of this roundtable conversation.

Womensphere with Newsweek
Global Summit (Day Two, 25 September 2010)

Manhattan (Goldman Sachs)

Leticia Jáuregui described her experience starting up a business within the rapidly expanding field of social entrepreneurship to Pamela Hartigan, author of The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World.  I cite the whole title of Pamela’s book because I was thrilled to discover such a simple explanation for most of my biography:  I’m unreasonable!  The Global Summit reinvigorated hope that I can leverage this unreasonableness into new market creation which ripples out and contributes to positive changes for the world – especially we people living on earth now  and in the immediate next few generations. I realize this is a species-centric perspective, but there is tremendous potential when such selfishness is coupled within a matrix of relationships. Suddenly your health and well-being is recognizable as deeply intertwined with mine. By extension other living beings and the planet become relevant and valued, too.

The hybrid nature of innovative business

The Roundtable on Social Entrepreneurship with Leticia and Victoria Hale that Pamela facilitated was one of the many highlights of the conference (although it is impossible to generate a ranking because everything was of such high caliber).  “Real systems change is not just [the provision of] palliative goods and services,” Pamela explained. Systems change requires forging “partnerships […that…] leverage off each other in the positive sense to create synergies.” Learning how to accomplish this new balance between established modes of doing business (e.g., short-term, bottom line profitability for discrete individuals) with new sustainable modes of doing business (i.e., long-term, continuous resiliency with dispersed community benefits) was the main topic of this roundtable conversation.

Being (perceived as) unreasonable means one necessarily attracts a lot of negative attention: critiques, people telling you you’re foolish, resistance of all sorts. This can wear you down if you’re not able to apply a productive frame.  “You know you’re on the right path when just about everyone says you’re nuts.”  Victoria matter-of-factly told us about the importance of setbacks, teaching us how to interpret them as a way to “appreciate that the universe is moving.” Rather than viewing resistance and the need to alter or modify plans as a setback, view them as “revelations.”  “You can’t be too much of a fighter, not too committed to ‘my way’,” she told us, otherwise you miss important information about the world that you need to be aware of and adapt to in order to succeed.

“Kill all the Negative People”

Pamela proposed this a bumpersticker, and she’s only half-teasing!  Analisa kept reminding us that leadership and invention do not have to be lonely (at least not persistently and characteristically so), and no one would argue against constructive criticism. But there is a difference between criticism that contributes to one’s understanding about issues relevant to success, and complaints from people whose outlook is systematically negative. “Spend time,” Victoria continued, “with people who get it.” Her work in medical research goes against the grain. “Strategically, we do what the world needs,” and “In R&D, things change.” In practical terms, this means “work[ing] with funders who are very hands-off” and, in Pamela’s words, focusing on “the issue as the unit of development.

Drawing from history, Pamela reminds us, “Many people come together from many different areas to make social movements.”  The challenge, of course, is how to work with the complexity and hybridity of all the various ways difference can cut across contemporary social forms of interaction.  Pamela suggested applying The Three P’s: Passion, Patience, and being with Positive people as a way to assess whether one is “in the right place at the right time.” She distinguished between “entrepreneurs” who don’t stick with bureaucracies for very long, and “intrapreneurs” who chip away from the inside, coming at things from within an organization or institution.

Dismissing the label of “social entrepreneur” as a term that has served its time, Pamela argued that we must begin to distinguish between “value appropriation” and “value creation.” We need “visionary pragmatists” who “refuse to take no for an answer” and thus come up with “fascinating solutions to intractable problems.”

“People are poor, not stupid”

Molly Tschang made this point a bit later in the afternoon during the presentation of Case Studies of Impact of Corporate Investments & Innovations on Global and Local Problems. In a significant way, Molly was talking about the power of “no.” Sometimes, no is the answer which has to be respected! Pamela did not mean “no” is always to be disregarded, she meant “no” should not stop us from persisting – with wisdom and awareness of consequences – in search of the goal. Victoria’s openness was quite beautiful in this regard: “I didn’t know how to ask; I was told.” When we’re working with intercultural differences, we have to become sensitive to nuances along a continuum that spans when it is the difference and when it is our reaction to difference that provides the stimulus for powerful learning.

Victoria, Pamela, and Leticia provided us with living examples from the ground-up of Molly’s top-down challenge regarding, “how to engage the full diversity of resources and bring them to bear on solving issues.”   If the goal is “how to make things work in disadvantaged communities,” then you cannot rely only on top-down policies and institutional vision. Molly insisted “you must adapt” and embrace the fact that “people see where they are” and are able to articulate their daily realities in ways that people from a distance are simply unable to perceive.

Future markets, Peer partnering, and the Wrong Question

Molly told us about a TED Fellow who inquired, “What’s the one thing you want to tell the world?” This, she insisted, is the wrong question.  There is no one thing, “its everything!” We are not, as Pamela put it, “generating the next widget.” We are engaged in behavioral change, systems change, and political processes. Molly encouraged us that the only way forward is to “acknowledge the complexity [rather than] be daunted by it.”  In other words, you’ll know you’re in the right place at the right time when you are aware of multiple realities intersecting in complementary ways.

When you sense the future with a vertical slope of 90-degrees, you are facing the moment described by Pamela as the juncture when “complex problems become opportunities.” You will inevitably be engaged with people who are – in some fundamental way – essentially different than you, and you will consider them peers because the knowledge base they bring is equal and necessarily in proportion with your own experience and skill. Leticia captured the phenomenological experience perfectly: “We started as an idea, got funded as an idea. The reality on the ground? The learning curve is still a wall.”


somewhere between Albuquerque and Amherst

“I keep telling myself that no one can keep my mind from going fuzzy except me.”
~ Elaine J. Kent
20 July 2009

While hanging out with mom last week, I finally asked her about blogging. Did she remember the writings about Uncle Sam? I’ve been weighing whether or not to do this since very soon after the emergency notification posted to my Facebook Wall by my sister-in-law. That day, I blundered my way through the opening of the Bakhtin conference trying to pay attention but distracted with worry. The hospital would tell me nothing because mom had not authorized them to do so. By the time (two days later) that Michael asked me about lying (in relation to the conference topics and his research on blogs), I had a quasi-grip on mom’s medical situation halfway around the world. ChineseLampTree.jpgShe had talked her way out of emergency surgery to tend a bit of emotional/relational business that she simply refused to leave undone in face of the (admittedly very small) risk of dying under anaesthesia. We had spoken, and I cannot recall – ever – her being so clear, direct, and sure of what mattered most and what she needed to do about it. Not only did she convince the hospital psychologists that she was sane, “Sissie” had also convinced her siblings along with me and my brother that this was the way things were going to be. And so they were.
The surgery to remove a large mass from her colon was, wouldn’t you know, only the tip of the iceberg. We’re still waiting results of a bone scan, but we know that chemo of one sort or another lies ahead, and in the meantime – because why have one major ailment when two are possible?! – the vertigo she’d been having for a few months suddenly worsened, and was traced to a 70% blockage in both carotid arteries. She’ll have surgery to clean the plumbing in the left carotid in a few weeks….. the right carotid will get its turn in due time.
While I tried to stay focused on the last month of fieldwork, family members played tag team and kept mom company and in good care. Brother Rich, btw, has just been stellar.
Despite everyone’s love and attention, it felt good to finally lay my own eyes on mom some six weeks after the drama began! After learning results of the first battery of tests, we spent most of our time walking, talking, eating, and just hanging out. Over the weekend we had a wonderful day with my good, longtime friend Laurel, and then mom took the next day just to read. Mom gave me the book after she’d finished, to read on the flight home. “It’s painful in the beginning,” she said, “but stick with it. You’ll like it!”
After our fun day sightseeing I remained in tourist mode, so Laurel and I squeezed in a visit to the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History.prayer.jpg They had an exhibit called The Shape of Time, about Charles Ross’s massive earth/artwork Star Axis, that I wanted to see. The security guard allowed me to take photos of the brief description by museum curators, describing how “star geometry [is] anchored in earth and rock,” enabling viewers to track precession – the 26,000 year cycle of the earth’s shifting axis.

“It is all very beautiful and magical here –
a quality which cannot be described. You have to live it and breathe it, let
the sun bake it into you.
The skies and land are so enormous, and the
detail so precise and exquisite that wherever you are you are
isolated in a glowing world
between the macro and the micro, where
everything is sidewise under you and over you, and even
the clocks stopped long ago.”
Ansel Adams in a letter to Alfred Stieglitz from Ghost Ranch, 1937

Also on display was an incredible collection of black and white photographs by Craig Varjabedian. Ghost Ranch became the home and inspiration of Georgia O’Keefe, who named one her paintings From the Faraway Nearby.

lush and mountains.jpg
Do you ever lie [on the blog]?”
I practically choked. It was not only an inappropriate moment to be forthcoming and blurt fear but also inopportune. At least I’ve learned that over the years of externally processing emotional experiences – and living through the interactive, relational consequences. But there was the question, the challenge, the opportunity, the dare: the crisis, right in my face, immediately. Always – until that very moment – when people asked me about blogging I would explain that I write about the most important thing happening in my immediate subjective world. These things vary considerably, from politics in the world at large to learning about language or cognition or interpretation to microsocial interactions with friends. But in that moment I knew I had to choose along a public/private dimension – would that make it a lie?
No. Yet the dilemma remained. Why do I blog? Why have I kept at it all this time? Do I really believe in my earliest inspirations for doing this public process of developing a consciousness . . . or will I shrink at the sharpest moment?

“To be able to reproduce a feeling so that others could recognize it, and perhaps understand it for the first time, one had to have some idea of what it felt like in reality. To show that one knew meant revealing what one had felt.”

Edward “Linc” Lincoln in Smokescreen, by Dick Francis (1972, p. 82)

Linc, the fictional protagonist in Smokescreen, is describing acting, but I read it as any kind of performance. Performing (such as writing) can also reveal what one has not felt, what one does not know. The first time I had to interpret someone’s grief in American Sign Language (nearly 20 years ago), my mentor said something to the effect of, “Well, it’s obvious that you don’t cry.” (This deficit, fyi, has since been corrected.)

Of course Mom remembers the blogging I did about Uncle Sam.

    Mom, I’ve been wondering whether or not I should – or want – to do some blogging like that about you, about this. How do you feel about it?”

    Well honey I don’t mind. If you think it will help somebody. Or you.

    I don’t know if it will help anyone, mom. It might. It might not.

Of course I am hoping it might.

Remembering Sam, Reflexivity< Limits and Possibilities of Mikhael Bakhtin, Reflexivity
“Don’t flatter yourself.” [about not lying in the blog] Reflexivity
Museum Day, [about Brother Rich] Reflexivity
photo-eye Gallery: Star Axis
The Shape of Time, photo one
The Shape of Time, photo two
to lengthening our shadows (a toast), [about precession] Reflexivity
Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby, Craig Varjabedian
Georgia O’Keefe [a student team project] by James Adkins, Mona Manzanares and Jamie Long
Homage to a Mentor, Reflexivity
Smokescreen, Dick Francis

the last days…

Wilrijk & Middelheim
photos from Brabant,
the European Parliament, and

arbor in Stillewater.jpg


We saw a strange movie the other night. I was wildly amused: although bored at times and put off by some of the surrealism, I recognized much that is familiar in Synecdoche, NY. By “familiar,” I do not mean flattering, but I have to admit that I could see myself, my logic, and some of my life experience reflected in the mangle of enactments and re-enactments. The funniest part, however, was the company with whom I saw the film – I knew they were suffering through on my account and I love them for it. 🙂

Another day:

“You like to fight,” she said, and continued: “I don’t.”

Not really, I thought about the first. I know, about the second.

last castle FB annual event.jpg
“I’m a magnet for conflict,” I told some friends later in the day. “Do you really think so?” they asked. I do. It’s the concept of valence; whether I want to be or not, my attention is drawn to tension. The more others try to get by, pass, or otherwise slide around it, the larger it looms in my consciousness. What, I begin to wonder, is so bad or terrible or fearful or otherwise so undesirable that someone would prefer to ignore it?

Sometimes I feel trapped, as I watch others “read” me, attributing their meanings to what I say, to what I’m doing. I understand that they perceive me making things worse, yet I only say the things that I say because I perceive it as a contribution along a path to resolution.

You have a balanced head,” the photographer said.

“People pick out only one part,” he said, “but the overall, the whole, is balanced.” I never saw this man before, he knows nothing about me and didn’t ask. But I felt seen. “Artists,” a friend later scoffed, teasing me about how easily I was seduced, “they know just what to say to get what they want!” 🙂 Maybe. It was quite an experience, though, in the moment, before and after listening to four piano pieces that sorted, scattered, and then re-organized my consciousness.

my pen.jpgThe concert began with Sonate in sol groot by Franz Schubert (opus 78, D894, 1826), played by Charlotte Otte. The familiar enough romantic classicism enabled my thinking to settle, slowly sorting and separating the intertwined threads of a book review, a job application, an upcoming presentation, the beginnings of the dissertation, and a chapter for an unrelated publication… so many ideas to be placed, positioned in counterpart and harmony, composed to produce a whole…

Then came Schonberg. The dodecaphony destroyed my ability to conceptualize, not that I had been thinking in any concentrated or focused way before, its just that I had been aware of thoughts and now there were none! Jasper Vanpaemel’s rendition of the Cinq pieces pour piano (opus 23, 1923) wrenched me out of myself. Next he played Etude nr 4 (1999) by Pascal Dusapin: the minimalism allowed the neurons in my brain to resume firing in a more-or-less normal manner. Finally, during the last piece, Variationen uber Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (1862) by Franz Liszt, my mind felt whole again, recomposed.

egg sightings and guerilla gardening

  • Sacred comedy offers its own rich twist on these, the lingering last days. What was I doing with my head on the ground, nestled among last fall’s composting leaves and this spring’s still fresh green shoots?!
  • Did I actually hit the right note (!), “consecrating the tonality” of Do, Re, Me as I learned about the socialized difference between 7 and 12 tone scales?
  • How bad/boring is The Sound of Music? (“It’s 50 years old!” Ah, the troubles of teaching (some) young people today – they want to absorb videos passively rather than actually think!)

no conclusions
Interactions with different individuals, across generations, nationalities, and contexts … yet similar themes (or at least references) emerge. I find myself betwixt and between, too aware or completely clueless. Sometimes, paradoxically, both at the same time.

Thanks to all who teach me, reflecting back the many parts of myself.
It isn’t all – or only – narcissim! 🙂
toilet paper graffiti.jpg

Afterword: dead reckoning

“A telling is not an explanation.”
Ursula Le Guin

One of my post-sailing-adventure musings is, what if I had read Longitude shipboard instead of The Telling? 🙂
There’s no way to know, of course, what would have changed or whether those changes might have mattered, in the end. Captain explained how sailors use the variety of sounds from gongs and bells to triangulate position in fog. “Can you really tell what direction the sound is coming from?” I wondered. “In general,” she replied. So there you would be, unable to see sky or shore, listening. Moving (because how can you stop?), and listening. Straining to hear a hint of familiar sound, constructing a mental map against remembered ephemera, calculating where you must be (the reckoning?), and committing yourself to being there – fixed (dead?) – in that moment. Then, you would begin to move the boat in the direction your imagined memory suggests, calculating speed and direction by wind and current with no other reference point except a longed-for next sound.
Fog is an extreme version. (Definitions of “dead reckoning” describe the process of “estimating one’s current position” and then “advancing … based upon [other] known [facts of] speed, elapsed time, and course.”) In lieu of clear vision, i.e., when one must estimate location, not only might audition take prominence, some neuroimaging research shows emotional perception is also affected.
Ok, yes, you caught me – I am making a big metaphorical leap: from the literal to the representational, from the physical to the symbolic. Loss of clear sight from conditions in the external visual environment or due to perturbations in the internal affective state are not exactly the same thing: but the physicality of impaired vision on knowledge of one’s geometrical position in relation to other physical objects can have (I propose!) similar effects as an internal confusion about one’s status, role, or relationship (to name a few social scientific categories) in relation to comparable “position(s)” of others.
Dava Sobel details instances in which, “Too often, the technique of dead reckoning marked [any random sea captain, pre-chronometer] for a dead man” (1995, p. 14). No one died on our journey (Thank god! I hear the Captain exclaim), but we definitely mis-fixed a few crucial reference points along the way, keeping corrective navigation in turmoil.
Discouraging as Anonymous’ judgment is (a pal wrote, “hey, that “anonymous” poster was way outta line! What was that all about??!!), the solution presented by “Rocks and Shoals” (Articles for the Government of the United States Navy, 1930) imposes a severe lack of ambiguity on relative social position/status. While Captain Donald I. Thomas USN (Ret.) defends the justice meted out under the original document as “speedy and fair, with the rights of the accused properly safeguarded,” he ultimately celebrates the code’s demise. Presumably not only because he no longer had to listen to it being read out loud once a month, but because it was a source of abuse:

“We got the message loud and clear that we were expected to throw the book at the accused and leave leniency, if any, to [a particular Base Commander]. This well-understood command influence remained until 1951, when the Uniform Code of Military Justice came into being. One of its provisions was that “no Convening authority or commanding officer could censor, reprimand or admonish any court or member with respect to findings and sentence adjudged by the Court and may not attempt to coerce or influence action of a court in reaching its finding or sentence.”

Under the Uniform Code, continues Capt. Thomas: “The administration of justice took on more of the characteristics of civil law; not surprising since it was drafted by members of Congress, many of them lawyers who had served in the Armed Forces during the War. Under the Uniform Code, greater latitude was given to peremptory challenges, and the finding of guilt required a two-thirds majority in all but capital cases.” (There may be hope for me, yet!) I have no idea what Anonymous’ invocation of the Rocks and Shoals was “all about,” but the thought that someone I met wrote so starkly is a bit disturbing – I enjoyed everyone I met. And, still, I appreciate the food-for-thought. For instance (in combination with other sources of inspiration and some creative sentence-splicing),

“The zero-degree parallel of latitude is fixed by the laws of nature; [while] the placement of the prime meridian [for fixing longitude] is a purely political decision” (Dava Sobel, Longitude, 1995, p. 4).

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the eighties feminist slogan, “the personal is political.” I absorbed this ethos, and attempt to live its significance. After twenty-some years of practice I sometimes feel as if I’m close (the perception never lasts for long!) I triangulate my reference points broadly: from the interpersonal sphere of my friends, to the international relations such friendships draw me into, and this blog in-between. The third axis is time; that curious dialectic between the present and the future. More often than I prefer to acknowledge, my close-up aim fails because of interference from the past.
What obscured the facts? I think it must, at least in part, be how I look – not my generic appearance, but the particular expressions that cross my face, the movements my body makes when I am feeling awkward, uncomfortable, insecure. Or, conversely, when I’m confident, psyched, exuberant! Whatever internal emotion, mood or attitude inspires the viscera, despite whatever skills or talents I’ve nurtured, whichever socialized or conditioned awful habits I’ve tried to reconfigure – I must still be appear visibly only within a certain range of possibility. And that range is associated with every previous time I “looked” that way, and potentially even with other people who appear/have appeared similarly – whether for the same or different reasons, under alternative or familiar conditions.
Despite my ambition, I am a follower. I “follow” what I perceive, reacting when caught off guard, responding when my act has a little more room to maneuver into a way to fit together. It’s impossible to establish a temporally causal relationship (first this, then that) – I am not attempting such linearity. I am trying to explicate how I get caught playing into roles (behaviors, actions, attitudes) that diverge from intention and desire. How is it, in other words, that I keep appearing in certain ways that invite responses which lead me to feeling unseen?
‘Tis a puzzle, no? 🙂

Forty-five going on…..45?!?

so ready!.jpg

First encounter this morning:

I was looking for you, then you turned around and I realized, “You cut your hair! I’ll never be able to find you again!”

I’m peaceful. No regrets! (Ok, a twinge, I admit, at the fact: now I blend in, I have “conformed” — as an honest man described the look.)

Hey! Today is a FULL MOON!

I’d been aware of the growing relaxation/stress factor over the past month. I’ve got to learn how to transform the numerator’s size so it can keep up when the denominator starts to increase. By Saturday, I was just about too busy with details and planning and riding the momentum of one serious event after another, day in and day out for the past few weeks. Heroes (cough), of course, are not supposed to get casual or careless or otherwise make the kind of clumsy stumbles that sent my cell phone into the washing machine. Not that I rely on text messages as the firmament of my social world or anything like that!

This is it. I recognized the value – the meaningfulness possible as a rescue to a momentary lapse: I shifted into the realm of fantasy. Not only is the future unknown, unpredictable, and uncertain – even its shape has been lifted from perception and any chance of managing it reduced to immediate responsive actions in the here and now.
As I told the new roomie, this is classic: a war of good and evil. The team is separated by circumstances, misfortune, bad luck. Actually, the team doesn’t even know that its a team! All that’s left is do my part and trust that others will do theirs. Do the others know what their part is? In fact, do they even know that they have a part?!
What could I do but keep plugging away at mine? Every few hours I reassembled the drying cell phone. the scroll wheel wouldn’t work, so all I would get was the opening screen: “you missed a call.” Thanks. I could also see the message count climb: 3, 7, 9, 12. After the party it was even worse: 25! Oh dear :-/

Second Encounter (with a neighbor who I’d invited):

I saw you and other people going back into the woods; I saw the signs, I wondered, “What’s going on back there?” but thought, “Uh unh, I gotta work in the morning! I ain’t getting all swollen up with poison ivy!”

Scissor Ceremony (that way).jpg

No one could tell I was stressed. Ha. The early arrivals were good sports: “What are we doing, they kept asking. “I’m not sure.” A fog of anxiety enveloped me; spreading in ripples….”We’ve got to make the path.” “Dhara will be here in a minute, can you wait?” “Sarbjeet hasn’t heard from me in hours!” “But can you wait?” “Oh great, I forgot the markers.” “For the arrows?” Heehee – where is it that I’m suggesting people might want to go?! What was I thinking when I conceived this stupendously embarrassing idea?
“Steph, what can I do to help you? You seem a little stressed.” Dhara stepped up. Meanwhile, was The Doer of the Deed ever going to arrive?! She got lost. Called me. I didn’t answer! What the &*^%? She went to the police. The POLICE! 🙂 But guess what? She showed up. (Score!)

Third Encounter (another neighbor):

“You are so ready to move!
All that old energy is gone.”

(with the caveat, “I get psychic when I’m drunk.”)

Language as Motion

I wrote this piece, Language as Motion, as an example of the “Self-in-Contradiction” essay that is one of the options for the “personal/identity narrative” assigned to students in the introductory level writing course I’m currently teaching. There are a couple of friends who will recognize themselves in this piece (thank you), and I have to give some credit to Just-in-Time, who got us lost in traffic yesterday in Boston. While we were discussing writing as a craft, another part of my brain was mulling this attempt.
I am also conscious of the timing. Language set-in-motion through the last several semesters of blogging and constructing public writing environments for students is coming to some kind of turning point. The theory of language-as-action meets with (a) practical reality of language-in-use.