Saturday, January 31, 2009

dostoevsky's x files

This segment from Crime and Punishment is my idea of sci-fi, perhaps one of the spookiest vignettes ever written:

"Some new trichinae had appeared, microscopic creatures that lodged themselves in men's bodies. But these creatures were spirits, endowed with reason and will. Those who received them into themselves immediately became possessed and mad. But never, never had people considered themselves so intelligent and unshakeable in the truth as did these infected ones. Never had they thought their judgments, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions and beliefs more unshakeable. Entire settlements, entire cities and nations would be infected and go mad. Everyone became anxious, and no one understood anyone else. Each thought the truth was contained in himself alone. They did not know whom or how to judge, could not agree on what to regard as evil, what as good. They did not know whom to accuse, whom to vindicate. People killed each other in some sort of meaningless spite. They gathered into whole armies against each other, but, already on the march, the armies would suddenly begin destroying themselves, the ranks would break up, the soldiers would fall upon one another, stabbing and cutting, biting and eating one another. In the cities the bells rang all day long. Everyone was being summoned, but no one knew who was summoning them or why. The most ordinary trades ceased, because everyone offered his own ideas, his own corrections, and no one could agree. Here and there people would band together, agree among themselves to do something, swear never to part--but immediately begin something completely different from what they themselves had just suggested, begin accusing one another, fighting, stabbing. Fires broke out. Famine broke out. Everyone and everything was perishing. The pestilence grew and spread further and further. Only a few people in the whole world could be saved. They were pure and chosen, destined to begin a new generation of people and a new life, to renew and purify the earth. But no one had seen these people anywhere. No one had heard their words or voices." 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

what the f*ck is reactionary music?

Among the Chinese hegemonists' reasons for the renewed military violence in Tibet is that some Tibetans allegedly have "reactionary music" on their phones. Of course, any idiot in China knows that the recent "crackdown on crime" is China's way of defusing any political action during the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese invasion. What exactly is reactionary music? Radiohead, maybe? But isn't Radiohead revolutionary? I've been wracking my brain trying to think of what the Chinese must consider anti-revolutionary/reactionary. I mean, do they still listen to Madame Mao's kitsch operas in Beijing?

Tibet is the Algeria of the 21st century. Maybe the Chinese would do well to read Fanon, who reminded us that the colonial world is a Manichean world. China insists that it is the savior of Tibet. Those of us who actually read revolutionary literature beg to disagree.

Here is Fanon, in The Wretched of the Earth: "It is not enough for the settler to delimit physically, that is to say with the help of the army and the police force, the place of the native. As if to show the totalitarian character of colonial exploitation, the settler paints the native as a sort of quintessence of evil. Native society is not simply described as a society lacking in values. It is not enough for the colonist to affirm that those values have disappeared from, or still better never existed in, the colonial world. The native is declared insensible to ethics; he presents not only the absence of values, but also the negation of values. He is, let us dare to admit, the enemy of values, and in this sense he is the absolute evil."

Read all about it here:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

on difficult times

Whoever lives sincerely and encounters much trouble and disappointment, but is not bowed by them, is worth more than one who has always sailed before the wind and has only known relative prosperity. One must never trust the times when one is without difficulties. -- Vincent van Gogh, 1877

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

almost zen

Keeping ten paces away,
why does the moon on the water
avoid my gaze? It’s hard to tell
which of us is reflection
and which is real.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

twelve buddhist curses

Actually, I don't think I know of any Buddhist curses except the one that goes, "May you live in interesting times!" We certainly do. This poem lists the various hells depicted in the Bardo Thotrol. It came about when I asked myself what would be the Buddhist equivalent of "Go to hell." If anything, a word of caution as the ox harrows through the next lunar cycle. Be good.

Twelve Buddhist Curses

May your journey head east towards cold;
may you never see the sun or the moon.

May you face a wind of flying knives.

May your heart be so bitter
it will take a thousand years to burn.

May your ashes never be found.

May you lie on a bed of swords.

May the bed you sleep on be your last.

May your skin be stripped in winter,
may you be clad in iron in summer.

May you use your tongue to plow the land.

May your thirst be endless
in a land without water.
May all you quaff turn to molten brass.

May your enemies be small and worthless.
May your quarrels never end.

May you wake in a tank of urine and manure.

May your teeth be sawed in a land of plenty.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

on happiness

To happiness the same applies as to truth: one does not have it, but is in it. Indeed, happiness is nothing other than being encompassed, an after-image of the shelter within the mother. But for this reason no one who is happy can know that he is so. To see happiness, he would have to pass out of it: to be as if already born. He who says he is happy is lying, and in invoking happiness, sins against it. He alone keeps faith who says: I was happy. The only relation of consciousness to happiness is gratitude: here lies its incomparable dignity. -- Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia

Friday, January 23, 2009

landscape with melting snow, nyc

the blank canvas

If one wants to be active, one must not be afraid of failures, one must not be afraid of making mistakes. Many people think they will become good by doing no harm. That's a lie. It leads to stagnation, to mediocrity. Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real passionate painter who dares. Life too always turns towards a man an infinitely vacant, discouraging, hopeless blank side on which nothing is written. But however vacant and vain and dead life may present itself, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, does not let himself be led astray. -- Vincent van Gogh, 1883

Thursday, January 22, 2009

my inaugural poem

I think once a year
the earth really wants to die
like this, in the cold reservoir
of beauty, winter afternoon
at 4 PM.

Which is why the sky
opens like a bullet
wound, wrapped
in golden blood.

Which is why so few of us
are here, and only
by accident.

The sparrows are plump
and pecking through
the snow. The branches are mesmerized
by their own stark shadows.

Some grace must come from all that waiting.

I think the earth is trying to tell me
this is so but no doubt
it’s just me
and my hubris,

my mind talking to me.

And when I come home
I will write this poem
because that is the only way I know
how to seek company.

And the words will lie still on the page
with the frozen stare of loneliness
which I refuse,
because the day has been good to me.