One leg of my birthday excursion took me to Morro Bay where I met the star of Judy’s new work-in-progress, Pelican Dreams. I’ve been hearing about this particular bird for months, and it was a real pleasure to make his acquaintance. The weather was California nice. We hung out in the backyard and compared notes.
Archive for November, 2011
It tends to surprise people when I tell them that I’m about to turn 60 (in three days). I don’t feel 60. I feel like I’m around 35. When I was young, I thought the fear of aging (as in the song “hope I die before I get old”) was ridiculous. I’ve always assumed it was a good thing to experience all the different stages of life. I still feel that way. I would not want to be 21 again. It was a time of too much anxiety and confusion. Judy and I are going for a short trip to Big Sur to celebrate. When we get back, I’ll start working on part 2 of the Three Views of Existence—a subject near and dear to my heart.
During my recent bout with the flu, I spent a good deal of time lying in bed, thinking. At one point, my thoughts landed on the subject of the three fundamental views of existence, which are 1) the creator god view, 2) the scientific/materialist view, and 3) the pantheistic, or everything-is-god, view.
To elaborate a little, the creator god, or monotheistic, view is what most people in this culture think of when they hear the word “religion.” It’s the idea that there is a god who exists apart from his creation. There are many different schools of thought within the fundamental view, ranging from followers of intellectuals like Augustine to populist evangelicals. The scientific/materialist view maintains that there is no spiritual realm whatsoever. There is only the material plane, and consciousness arises out of the workings of chemistry and physics. These first two views are currently duking it out. They barely recognize the existence of the third view, the pantheistic view, which says that the entire universe is god. (I used to assume pantheism meant “nature religion,” that the “pan” referred to the Greek god Pan—or something. But “pan” means “all,” as in “Pan American.” So Pan-theism is “everything is god.”) We are god. The rocks are god. The trees are god. It says that the material realm arises from the spiritual, that everything is mind. It includes schools of thought and tribes that range from serious, committed Buddhists to frivolous New Agers. (While Jesus is seen as representing the creator god view, I believe he was actually teaching the pantheist view. But more on that later.)
Each of these views affect how we live and respond to events—even if we’re not very serious in them. For example, if you believe in the scientific/materialist view, which I think is currently the most popular and widespread view, then there is no such thing as “wisdom.” There is only knowledge. A people that sees knowledge as the be-all and end-all of life also sees material and scientific progress as essential to our growth as a species. We are currently entering an era where we are hitting the limits to material progress—the end of growth. I’m seeing constantly that whenever this idea is brought up in public, the materialists become angry or despairing. There will be no reason to live! But it’s not like that—not at all. We will never truly start living until we get past our present-day obsession with money, possessions, and scientific progress. We’ve committed ourselves to an enormous misunderstanding of what the material plane is. And I’ll get into that in part 2.
I just returned from a four-day trip to Boston. For a long time, Boston has been on my list of places I’d like to see, and it did not disappoint. I was especially enthusiastic about the bookstores. I love bookstores, and Boston still has good ones. The Harvard Bookstore and The Raven (quality used books), both in Cambridge, were my two favorites. I also spent time in the North End taking in the old buildings and graveyards.
I’m feeling fresh, I’m working on my book, and I’m ready to start posting here again. Unless something especially strange comes up in the news—always a possibility nowadays—I know what my next topic is going to be.
I’ve liked to write since the second grade. Poetry and short stories initially. Later, songs. Before The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, I’d never attempted anything longer than 20 pages. I’ve found book writing to be one of the most unhealthy labors I’ve ever taken up. When I started Parrots, I was bicyclist-thin. But over the course of the seven years it took to finish the book, I put on a tremendous amount of weight. (I was three years into the manuscript at the time the documentary was made, and you can see the weight I’ve gained.) I’m five and a half years—more or less—into Street Song. About a year ago I started feeling noticeable stress—mostly having to do with the length of the project. The stress was manageable, so I ignored it, and soldiered on. As the stress increased, some of my attitudes toward what I was doing went through changes. I started wanting to get rid of the goddam thing. Just get it done. My recent illness was a direct result of that stress and my funkier attitude. But once the illness finally passed, I dove right back into the work and my bad attitudes.
I have finally hit a wall. In the last week I’ve been looking at what I need to do to get my health (mental and physical) back. I’ve decided that I have to remove all stress and change my attitudes. One of the sources of stress is this blog. I like writing here, but I get into a trip where I tell myself, “Geez, I haven’t written anything in over a week,” and I start forcing myself to come up with something. So, once again, I’m taking a hiatus. I don’t expect it to be long. The situation is not drastic. But I can’t continue doing this in my current frame of mind. The main thing is, as always, that I want to like my book when I’m done with it. My attention and care have to go there first.
Just to let you know.