The lake of memory

 

At the top of the falls

It is a quiet place where the water

Gathers and placidly flows

To where it conforms

To a gentle S-shaped curve

That bends the light

Of reflected hemlocks and sky

 

From there it drops ledge to ledge

It cascades and explodes

And plummets to where it gathers again

And flows We follow

The water through the forest

The trees do not know us

But they don’t stop us

 

The forest slopes downward

Between the trees far ahead

There is a silvery sheen

Or is it blue? Sometimes blue

Sometimes silver It is

A lake of gently lapping waves

And little wooded islands

 

A lake of memory

The wind on the water

Is quiet and darker

Between two close islands

But out beyond the cove

And the islands the wind

Plays rough with the waves

 

Why did it take me

So long  to return here

And then only by accident

To find myself old 

Standing on the root-knitted shore

With my son 

Downstream from Shelving Rock Falls

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Open Covid letter from a white middle class guy whose luck of birth has run out but that’s OK

My sense is that this winter is going to be very hard on our country and very challenging for each and all of us. I’m talking about the next 4 or 5 months. OK, that is not hard to imagine! But what I am saying is, those who are going to ride this out the best (and are faring the best) are the ones who are applying all the best lessons they have learned over the past 6 months with Covid in our lives. Namely: How bubbles work, how to reduce risk factors, how to eat well (stock up on healthy food to reduce trips to the store), learning new skills (i.e., meditation, [for me, meditation and learning piano], new skills that will facilitate our re-entry into a post-covid world when the threat of covid subsides . . . Using the internet creatively to consolidate new contacts and explore new possibilities, pursue new interests. With more educational programs and taking advantage of trainings on-line it is possible to expand our expertise in certain areas, (for example: interested in wild-crafting? Expand that to studying medicinal properties of plants or cooking with wild plants . . . If art: study color theory or new techniques and media).

Try not to get sucked into ruts, old patterns, dark thoughts about what isn’t working or isn’t possible . . . I am a therapist trained in Jungian dream work: I happen to know there are a lot of great counselors and therapists who are not being utilized and Zoom can work for therapy. It’s not as good as one-on-one, but it is 100% better than self-help books or just thinking positively in a vacuum, and therapists should be reducing their rates. Some might even offer to work for free. (I have been known to do that.) I believe in the benefits of therapy!

This is the time to share our gifts.

What I am saying is, the next 4 months may be the hardest, but they don’t have to be. Even though we are going to see our society stressed to the limit and many people bottoming out, try to look for all the silver linings and possibilities in investing in ourselves and expanding beyond what was possible when we were caught up in our routine pre-covid world. There really is an incredible opportunity to batten down, be good sailors and ride out this gale, and be the better for it come April or May. (It is not the end of the world, but let it be the end of the old provisional world with its old limitations.)

A word on privilege of birth and race, stage in life and occupation: I am a middle class white guy, retired. I cannot pretend that I am somebody else. Any one who has been paying attention to the news and what’s been going on in the streets and communities and cities, state by state, sees that our caste system (systemic racism affecting all sectors of our income-divided opportunity-lopsided economy and society) is less a shadow-problem now than it is a problem of working for and fighting for real change from ground up. Many of us were born lucky. I know from my experience, that luck actually worked for decades of my life and my parents’ and grandparents’ life, but the problem was we were creating a monster of a collective shadow that did enormous damage in our name!

Now that collective shadow has been exposed and we can’t live by luck any more but by waking up to the work of reforming our system so that it works for everyone. But that doesn’t change anything I said above. So I won’t say “good luck” but feed your visions and your dreams, feed you gifts, invest in yourself, create resilient trustworthy bubbles, explore new interests, develop new skills, take care of yourselves and each other, batten down, and above all — stay in touch! We will soon see the light at the end of this tunnel.

That’s a good question followed by brief reflection

When you say That’s a good question
That makes me feel smart for about one second
But really I think it’s a way of saying
That you are smart for recognizing a good question
But it is insulting to me because it insinuates
That my other questions were not very good

And so I ask you and everyone  Please
Stop saying That’s a good question
Say Wow OK I will try and answer that
Or I’ll have to think about that a second
But please don’t expect me to say
That’s a good answer because I expect you

To answer all my questions well
Or to the best of your ability
OK Awesome Oh and another thing
Please don’t say Awesome anymore
What do you mean by Awesome anyway?
Now that really is a good question

………..
Reflection: Chipping away at annoying shortcuts in the English language is not my thing. I actually enjoy falling back on pop-phrases that facilitate conversation between strangers. It helps us feel like we know each other when we use identical or predictable language, like “that’s a good question” which I hear multiple times in interviews along with “awesome”. By the way, I slipped “multiple” in because that is another word I think we have to stop using so much. We could really show off with that one with: numerous, various, sundry, quite a few, myriad, miscellaneous, multifarious, legion (that one has to come at the end of a sentence). I’ll share what legion means: A legion was originally a horde or a large number of people or things. It was originally a term for a military unit. In Roman times, a legion was a large unit of men in the army, and the word is still used in a military context. However, it also means a whole bunch of people doing anything. But, as an adjective, it can refer to things besides people. You can say “His doubts were legion”, but the sense is “hoardes” and so it really connotes “many of a bad thing” like a legion of Romans advancing over the hill, if you were a Celt on the battle field or Republicans if you are a liberal.

We are all to blame followed by reflection

We may ask forgiveness of the bee
The flower in the meadow or that tree
Bulldozed for a highway
For the low-way, the die-way

But we still think we own this place
That we have chosen to erase.
Think what you want to think
But we are teetering on the brink!

We look up and claim the stars
Or down and think it ours.
Nothing in the world can hide
From our narcissistic omnicide!

Our cities only go so high
Before they pierce the lie.
There is only so far for our drills to go
Before they reach the fires below.

The devils have an easy time
Now that we are all to blame.
Everyone’s an easy snatch
Any capitalist’s a fair catch.

We are the masters of extraction
In a world reeling from subtraction.
Climate change is ours to own;
If we survive, we’ll be alone.

What do you think, is it too late
To change our abhorrent fate?
I end by simply asking you,
Does this poem ring false or true?
………..
Reflection:
I had a dream the night before I wrote this poem. Here is an excerpt from the dream exactly as I recorded it:
“We are in a car, driven by a man I don’t know (like an Uber driver, he owns the car). As we clear a rise there is a scene of utter devastation of the land almost as far as I can see. It is like tar-sands, a vast mining and extraction project. . . not just mining, but the corporate entity in charge has fashioned the bedrock of the operation into a city for the industry. I am shocked and over-whelmed by the scale of what I am witnessing. I exclaim in wonder and the driver, even though he sees what I see, is dismissive. He says ‘it’s not really there’. Almost as if he is saying I can choose not to see it, or it is just a vision of a possible future.”

This dream haunted me all day. In my dream, relative to the world depicted by the dream, there was no denying that the devastation was there, but as I thought about it, it is the psychic analog to Tar Sands in Alberta, a gargantuan extractive wasteland roughly 600 kilometers (from east to west) by 70 kilometers (from north to south), in the sense that, I would guess, for most of us, it “isn’t there” because we don’t see it or think about it. But my dream was not letting me off that easy. The driver has to drive us way around this manmade wasteland that’s “not really there”. This poem, “We are all to blame”, was my way of writing about my dilemma of owning up to an environmental catastrophe that is largely being ignored — the “Tar Sands” that is in each of our psyches.

There is more to say: I took a walk with a friend the day after this dream. On this walk we talked about many things. Both of us being counselors and dream workers we shared a fascination with the role of consciousness in healing on both a personal and collective level. Both of us have also been to Peru and worked with indigenous plant spirit-medicines. We are also both familiar with the work of Joanna Macy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanna_Macy) who teaches that we are living in a time when two great cycles of awareness are over-lapping, the age of endings and the age of beginnings which she refers to as The Great Unraveling and The Great Turning. You might say my dream was confronting me with the reality of her teaching.

My friend and I agreed that there is no denying that the world as we know it is ending. And yet we also agree it is equally true that there is another world that we also “know”, or have glimpsed or experienced, that is coming up or beginning. But, I am aware that right now, at this stage in my life, I spend more time in the world of The Unraveling. There are reasons for that that are impossible to ignore, Covid being one of them. On a good day I can skirt some of those reasons, those unraveling-realities, but some, such as the reality of mass extinctions and the reality of over-population and the reality of environmental collapse (in addition to my living with chronic Lyme) are simply too big to ignore. Was it merely a coincidence that my friend and I were getting together to walk and talk the day after this big dream in which I was witness to one of the ugliest examples of The Unraveling — the raping of the physical planet? With that dream front and center in my mind’s eye, I asked him, How do you cope with the Unraveling? His response was,(in essence) he meditates. He explained that meditation can be as simple as breathing mindfully. But as much as anything he said (which was, in fact, very helpful), it was my friend’s composure that most impressed me. He came across as centered to me and comfortable in the moment despite the fact that we were both hyper-aware that the world is unraveling.

I won’t go on and on, but I just want to say that I learned something from this man . . .That shifting from The Unraveling to The Turning is less about some kind of epic revelation or inner transformation. It really is about what we do with our attention and where we focus our energy at any given moment. The Turning is not about turning away from, say, the reality of Tar Sands. I think the Turning can happen even when we are confronting the ugliest truth that The Unraveling can clobber us with, because being the master of our attention is a way of stopping time or at least slowing time. Where else is true healing, not just for ourselves but for the planet, going to happen except in the moment. It isn’t going to happen tomorrow. It happens now at what T.S. Eliot described as “the still point of the turning world”.

One other thought occurs to me, an image actually. Right after Chernobyl blew Joanna Macy travelled to a small village in Ukraine that was directly in the path of the fallout of the Chernobyl meltdown. She was there to help the villagers deal with the trauma of coping with ongoing radioactive exposure and the insult of not having been warned that they were going to be poisoned. Their depression was so profound she was out of ideas until the women mentioned a traditional dance called the Elm Dance (https://vimeo.com/302316072). In this dance, which she teaches at her workshops, men and women form two circles which move in and out and turn clockwise while the dancers sway and lift their arms in unison emulating the branches of an elm blowing in the breeze. Dancing is another form of healing meditation and it is a way of experiencing what it feels like to enact The Turning that is the principle antidote to The Unraveling where, unfortunately many of us spend most of our time these days.

The little fool, followed by brief reflection

I’m hunkered down under a metal garbage can lid
Waiting for my arrow to return to the ground with a thunk
The arrow I had just shot straight into the sky
With as much force as my little boy muscles could muster

And with all my imagination did I picture
It climbing climbing and gradually gracefully
Slowing and eventually stopping Yes stopping
For a millisecond midair I now see it

Dropping dropping backwards and very slowly turning
Turning to point straight downward as it falls
Gaining velocity heading back toward me
Me waiting under my metal shield

What a little fool I was
Foolish to think that I was protected but
How I craved to be targeted by a worthy foe
Who would not hold back or pretend

As I grew older I shot my arrows at targets
Mounted on bales of straw deep deep into the bales
I also taught myself how to throw a knife
And shoot a gun All useless skills Useless
……………..
On the Poetry Foundation website,(https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2020/11/what-comes-back) Michael Torres (in his refection “What comes back”) quotes John Berryman as saying, “You should always be trying to write a poem you lack the technique, the language, the courage to achieve. Otherwise you’re merely imitating yourself, going nowhere, because that’s always easiest.” He also says that there are some images or memories that never completely go away, like a lost dog who (as in a recurrent dream) keeps finding its way back home, home being the reluctant writer’s poetic imagination. That description fits this image of little-boy me crouching under the garbage can lid after having shot an arrow straight up into the sky (with my not-so-little-boy bow) and actually trying to get it to hit my “shield” because that was my way of simulating a real battle where an enemy is actually trying to kill me. What I am saying in the poem, or wishing, is that men (in general) could get this lust for battle and yearning to confront the archetypal foe, out of the way and lived-out at an early age, to clear the deck for learning how to conceive a world without war and without feeding into a culture of violence.

The poem accelerates the passage of time in 5 stanzas to reflect my impatience, not just with my own lack of satisfaction with the world in which I have grown old (so quickly!), but with men. I am not interested in working this poem into a form that is easy to digest. Even after all the life I have lived, there is no consolation in recalling how anxiously I put my life at risk, imagining, from the earliest age, that one had to be a warrior to survive — shooting arrows at the sky and depending on shields. It took me years to come around to seeing myself as a pacifist and finding my center in a life of non-violence.

Dream incubation

Here are some thoughts on Dream Incubation – my own and my wife’s, followed by a 7-step approach to dream incubation. 

My wife, (a minister), gave a sermon on Sophia. (In the Apocryphal books of the Bible, Sophia is the personification of wisdom.) What she said about wisdom made some lights go on for me. I had already been thinking about dream incubation as a topic for a dream group I participate in that has been meeting regularly since March, and when I read what she was saying about Wisdom and about cultivating a healthy relationship with Wisdom, it sounded very much like a healthy relationship with the psyche / or the (Jungian) Self / or the unconscious, where dreams come from.

But before I share my wife’s words I would just like to say that the challenge with dream incubation  is, we must first get out of the framework of our waking mind. An issue or problem (to our waking mind) might look very different to the psyche, which is why I will be elucidating the process of getting our problem or issue as close to the dreaming state as possible before we “sleep on it”, by seeking a lower, slower vibration or frequency for our intention because the brain waves of our sleeping mind are much slower than that of our wide-awake mind. 

When we contemplate an issue or problem it is in relationship to our ego-self, but to the unconscious the issue or problem that we want to resolve is seen from the perspective of the larger or deeper Self, and from that wiser more holistic perspective, the Self (or psyche) might see us as not quite ready to move beyond something that is unpleasant to us. But with dream incubation, it might show us how our issue or problem looks in terms of the larger perspective of, not just who we have been or who we project or think we are, but in terms of who we have it in us to become and who we are at our core. 

From my wife’s sermon: 

Wisdom is a thread that runs very deep in life, and it expects us to go deep as well or at least as deep as we can before we seek wisdom as an oracle. 

Wisdom is a way of being. It is something we embody with our whole selves, if we are truly wise. Wisdom is not just located in the mind, but lives in the heart and in the ways we use our hearts to love (or to steer us through tough times). (True) wisdom (the wisdom that we tap in dreams) permeates every cell and aspect of who we are. Wisdom becomes a part of us, shaping us and forming the ways we live in and interact with the world.

If we will just begin look for Wisdom, she is willing to meet us more than halfway.   (As we enter into dream incubation we might imagine wisdom as she was referred to in the Apocrypha as) waiting for the seeker of wisdom at the gate (of the dream world).

Who hasn’t lain awake at night worrying over one thing or another? . . .a person who lies awake at night consumed with thinking, not about an issue, but about wisdom will soon be set free from worry.

As I puzzled over this, turning it this way and that, trying to understand what it means, I realized that the key is where we focus our attention – whether on wisdom or worry. When we are lying awake trying to figure out what to do in a difficult situation we would do well to spend our energy seeking out the wisdom within that situation rather than playing out the various worries that relate to it. 

Seeking wisdom is not necessarily looking for a specific answer to a specific question. It is more about seeking a deeper understanding of life in general (which is much easier to accomplish when we are about to fall asleep). This deeper approach to life, an approach based on wisdom, becomes so much a part of you that it colors and informs everything else you do. Every decision and choice gets set in the context of this larger wisdom perspective.    (Putting ourselves at the gate of wisdom) has to do with a particular frame of mind. It has to do with setting our hearts and minds on finding wisdom, with being ready and waiting for it, being receptive.

And, even when we don’t know exactly what might be required of us, wisdom teaches us to hold the desire for wisdom in our hearts, to seek it with all that we have.

……………………………………………

Or, picture the process as a cider press, where the juice is what we are after but the peels and the pith are the literal issue or problem that is generated by our brains. Or picture the old way of making wine where the grapes (of our waking consciousness) are gathered into a big vat (our brain) and to make the wine of dreams we tread on the grapes to extract the juice from the pulp.

Now here are the 7 steps for one approach to dream incubation:

1) Pick an issue: Bring the issue or problem to mind throughout the day. 

2) Be certain that you genuinely want to receive a dream that addresses your issue.

3) At bedtime get comfortable, relax however you do that, burn incense, take some relaxing breaths, sink into a semi-meditative state while remaining lucid.

4) Focus on your issue or problem.  Develop a phrase to repeat that expresses the issue. (Hypothetically: I seek healing for my migraines.)

5) Associate the phrase with an emotion (work it down from the head to the heart).

6) Get a visual for the emotion.

7) Fall asleep prepared to recall and record your dream or dreams.

Trump, just another head of the Hydra

A young woman, a friend of the family, called on the night of the election returns, to let us know that she is sad and profoundly unhappy. She is weighted down by thoughts that the country is going to the dogs. I think it would be fair to visualize her dejection in terms of being stuck in a tug-of-war with people who lack vision and compassion. Regardless of who wins the presidency it may be years before we know whether the United States has the potential to be the kind of country that reflects the values of a citizenry of conscience and heart and soul. This young woman is in her thirties and right now she can’t picture a future that doesn’t depress her. I think a lot of our young people feel this way. 

At 69, I have lived through bad times like this before: When John Kennedy was shot (and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King) that was a terrible time. I was 13. When Reagan’s election ushered in the culture of white male (capitalist) elitism I was profoundly dismayed and had to replan my life. (I was 32.) When Bush Jr went into Iraq without just cause, inaugurating the longest war in American history (and to do that his administration fabricated evidence that Iraq had chemical weapons of mass destruction — they lied to the American people and the UN Security Council), resulting in 650,000 Iraqi deaths (according to one survey) I was shocked and incredulous. (I was 51.) But the most depressing chapters in the American saga happened before I was born but rippled through my empathic childhood psyche via my father’s and his father’s experiences, coping with the trauma and fallout of 2 World Wars.

Trump is just another apparition of our dangerously dysfunctional United States of America. But, for the young, I realize that there is no solace in placing Trump into this historic context of chronic dysfunction. To those who came to adulthood during Bush Jr’s second term and Obama’s presidency, Trump is like a nightmare that we can’t shake. He really is like our collective nightmare because, like a real nightmare, he seems to have come out of nowhere, but it’s personal. His appearance is personal and impersonal at the same time. The impersonal part might be expressed by the question: How could I have been so wrong about who my fellow Americans are if people in my own community, my own street, could vote for such a terrible human being? The personal might be expressed by the self-criticism: I should have been more aware, I should have gone into the community. I should have done something to raise consciousness or work for meaningful change.

Some journalist described the boarded up businesses in Washington DC on the eve of the election as what you might expect to see in some country that is at war.

For me it’s sad and depressing but Trump is not the worst I’ve seen, he is just another head of the Hydra.

Now, having aired all this, I can honestly say, even though I am often discouraged and weighted down by current events there is something that has kept me sane and helped me stay on a path for my entire adult life. More than anything else, being a dream-worker has helped me through my 69 years of life in America. The psyche generates dreams that both pull and push. Some dreams want us to revisit our psychic past, to revisit a part of our inner world that needs healing or reclamation. Other dreams, Jung was careful to point out, are teleological, that is, they point to future causes. That’s right — dreams foreshadow possibilities. Often, when we delve into serious dreamwork we are actually becoming engaged in the process of transforming fate (fate defined as living as if we are our history, and history repeats itself) into destiny (destiny defined as who we have it in us to become). Dreams show us what our lives look like from inside out. When we work with our dreams on a regular basis we unfetter ourselves from old patterns, patterns of behavior, patterns of seeing ourselves and others, patterns of how we work, how we play and how we create. Whether we are young, middle-aged, or elderly, whether we are new to experiencing bad and disturbing times and events (that, tragically, monopolize the best and smartest and most human of our compatriots) or, you are like me, seasoned and tempered by decades of disappointment, dreams are what I regard as our secret garden into which we can duck every single night. I do believe in us as a people but I have always felt that we could afford to look deeper into ourselves than we are in the habit of doing. I feel that now that is truer than ever. 

Stranding of the human race: the human / dolphin enigma

I have been reading “Voices in the Ocean” where Susan Casey starts out with a story of how a chance encounter with Spinner dolphins (in Hawaii) changed her life for the better when she was deeply depressed and grieving the recent death of her father. She also painstakingly traces the history of commercial exploitation and abuse of captive dolphins and whales that began with Barnum and Bailey around the turn of the century.

I didn’t have the stomach to read her book cover to cover even though I could tell from scanning the chapters that she is doing dolphins a great service by advocating for a revolution in our treatment of these incredible creatures. She draws parallels between how our money-driven, inherently racist culture has treated indigenous peoples throughout its history of conquest and in-fighting, and the way we treat dolphins (as well as other species with whom we share the planet). Not only is Western culture racist and ethnocentric, but it is pathologically anthropocentric and blind to the inherent rights of other life-forms to flourish in their native habitats unmolested by our malignant ways.

We’re in deep folks.

It is clear that to dig ourselves out of the mess we have created we are going to have to make some profound changes in how we live with nature and how we co-exist with other living creatures. But Casey’s book doesn’t just dwell on the dark-side of human-dolphin relations. She also brings us up to date on research. I learned that, in some ways, whales are more evolved than humans. (Dolphins are small whales.) Their brains are the same size as ours, in fact a little larger, and just as complex but different. We have known this for a while (since the 1960s), but it is only lately that we have gained insight into how dolphin intelligence is different from human intelligence.  For example Dolphins have far more (three times more) von Economo neurons (VENs) than we do. “These are specialized cells that relate to higher notions  like empathy, intuition, communication and self-awareness.”  These “super neurons” play a role in our ability to love and trust each other. In the dolphin’s world trust and love (or Eros, i.e., relatedness) are essential because their social culture is extremely complex and these VENs “help shunt large parcels of information around at high speeds”. (Lori Marino, eminent neuroscientist:) “If you were designing a high-performance computer, you would choose the dolphin’s schematic hands down.”

Add to this that one might say that their culture is fluid,  fluidly three-dimensional and we can begin to understand why we are so helpless to comprehend the dolphin’s nature or universe. Picture a city. We walk down the sidewalk or drive down the street and we meet (or avoid) or greet other people most of whom we don’t know but some of whom we know but we are in a hurry and we greet them with a smile or share a few words, but we are all on the ground, on the same level. People are in buildings overhead but the buildings are big boxes of stacked floors divided up into rooms. People communicate electronically using phones and computers that, incidentally are hurting our cherished brains. Dolphins have other dolphins below them, or around them or above them all the time. They communicate with the “technology” of their highly evolved bodies.

Try to imagine how different the human race would have evolved in a zero-gravity dimension completely exposed on all sides. For just one example of how dolphins have adapted to a fluid world, some experts believe that dolphin sonar translates objects into sonic holograms. Instead of a light field they are manipulating a sound-field to communicate information to each other in 3-D. (Their sonar is so sophisticated that a blind-folded dolphin can distinguish between a copper and aluminum metal plate from a distance.)

Sonar is easy for us to appreciate because we understand it and use it, for example in our nuclear submarines. albeit, for a dolphin our most advanced sonar capabilities are primitive.  What is harder for us to measure is how dolphins communicate feelings and emotions to one another. This is harder for us to grok because we have only begun to delve into the field of our own feelings and emotions; psychology is only 120 years old. Or consider, the human race is only about ½ million years old, whereas dolphins have about 29,000,000 years of evolution on us.

We could use a few more VENs these days. Even with highly advanced communication devices, we all seem to be failing as communicators. When lemmings all go off a cliff together, an image that was seared into my 1950s impressionable brain to represent herd instinct, we were taught that this behavior proved that they were caught up by a collective impulse that totally eclipsed the instinct of self-preservation and these little arctic rodents became the poster animal for any kind of movement that lacked any higher awareness or self-awareness.  When dolphins or whales beach  en mass what is going on, if they are in fact, so intelligent?  Why wouldn’t creatures who can use sonar to tell whether an object behind an underwater curtain is round or square or even square or cubic, and who are in constant communication with each other, why wouldn’t they avoid  any kind of situation that would lead to such a collective catastrophe?

In tackling a question like this we often make the  mistake of setting ourselves up as the gold standard of evolutionary accession, but the closest historic human analogy to a mass beaching would be the mass suicide at Jonestown! In the case of Jonestown (where 909 women, children and men died at the same time) we are looking at a cult following of one charismatic man. With whales (and dolphins) there is no evidence of a whole pod blindly following a leader. We might speculate that they were driven into shallow waters by freak weather or some young ones got in trouble and the whole pod tried to rescue them and became stranded. Or that their brains were temporarily befuddled by a some intense underwater human-produced signal or, more likely, that they were suffering from some neuro-toxin that they picked up from the polluted waters. But it also might have to do with something Casey wrote: “ . . .Dolphins are so tightly bound to their pods that they may be operating with a degree of interconnectedness far deeper than our own. . .

Scientists can’t explain why dolphins and whales strand en masse when only one or two individuals are sick; or why, when they are herded into the coves, (referring to the annual Japanese dolphin slaughter off the island, Taiji) they huddle together and don’t jump the nets (Dolphins can jump up to 20 feet out of the water.). Marino: “There is some sort of cohesiveness in them that I don’t think we get quite yet. . .” (141) (Casey;) “. . .The individual dolphin doesn’t necessarily stop at the perimeter of (its) own body. (Its) awareness, (its) concerns, even its survival instincts extent out into the world around (it). (It) would relate to others in its pod at a level beyond empathy, in a kind of shared existence that we can’t fathom.” (142)

Regardless of why dolphins and the larger whales beach, I think that when people come together to help as many of them as possible back to deep water we are behaving more like advanced beings than when we, for example, swim with them, hoping for some kind of healing or ah-ha moment. The human race has, in so many ways, beached itself. That is how I see us. We have, kind of, given up. Not like the proverbial lemmings of the 1950s and not like the cult-followers at Jonestown but just take what’s happening at face value. We are a very large-brained species that seems, inexplicably, to have given up. The biggest difference between our predicament and the predicament of a stranded pod of dolphins is, no one is going to discover our plight and summon others to the scene of our beaching and cast everything else aside to guide us back to deep water and life. We are going to have to do that for ourselves. My prayer for us is that we do come to our own rescue but in order to do that we will have to fire up some VENS and love each other as never before.

“How real is Bolivia?” followed by reflection

Dreamed of Bolivia last night Not exactly Bolivia but we had just returned and we were about to be interviewed on a talk-show with a live audience I was going to say the cities haven’t been bombed out like European cities so the streets swirl I was trying to find some pants to wear for the interview Pawing through a pile of freshly folded jeans It was almost time for the show The legs were the right length but the waist was all the way up to my chest I would hide the waist with my shirt I started up for the studio rehearsing responses to imaginary questions when in fact I couldn’t even recall for certain if it was Bolivia So how did you find it down there? I could see myself leaping from a ledge in the Andes and grabbing a mountain goat midair Well the living is rough but I love the ambiance I make my coffee and open a book Uncollected Poems By Alan Ginsberg Wait Till I’m Dead It is organized by decades I open to the 60s To the poem To Frank O’Hara & John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch where he writes about the women in the market sitting in the mud hands over their noses selling black potatoes and blue onions But this was not the Bolivia in my dream so maybe I wasn’t in Bolivia or even close But I did wake with a headache as if I really had been up in Ginsburg’s high valley in the Altiplano 

…………….

Reflection:

I sent this to my brother. He emailed back:

Do you know the story? Last year, Evo Morales, probably one of the best national leaders in the world for the past 50 years — a powerful environmentalist and the first indigenous person to lead a modern nation in the so-called “New World,” was overthrown by a US backed military coup and replaced by a classic Latin American dictator. There were protests, in which hundreds of indigenous people were murdered by the military, there were international campaigns calling the cancellation of the fraudulent election that was used to oust Morales and cause him to have to flee the country to Mexico for his life, and the pressure led to a redo of the eleciton, which Morales’ party, led by an ally of his, won by over 52% of the vote yesterday, ruling out the need for a run-off. The conservative party got some 39% and the coup party just 14% — a crushing defeat. Hopefullly the winning party of Morales will be allowed to assume power. Morales opposed oil companies wrecking the country’s Amazon forests, has raised the poor out of poverty, and says that the earth needs to  be saved. 
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/10/19/democracy-has-won-year-after-right-wing-coup-against-evo-morales-socialist-luis-arce

I responded: I did not know all of this, but that doesn’t negate the value of surrealistic poetry. My poem is making fun of my (the dreamer’s) cluelessness, self-absorption and hubris. It is making fun of our over-civilized Hunger Games-style elitist culture. Ginsburg was always wrestling with his own irrelevancy and hedonism but there were flashes of reality in his poetry and he helped a lot of poets come down from the ivory tower to write about real things like addiction, homophobia, world-destructive capitalism, existential isolation, intellectual irrelevancy.   I agree my poem is kind of like a distraction from focusing on real issues, but sometimes I do feel like I am one of those vapid people in the audience at a talk-show, where the host might be interviewing a poet who thinks he might have been in Bolivia, who is wearing his pants up to his chest, quoting Ginsburg in his poem in a desperate attempt to bring it home.  Sometimes it takes a dream to show how much our culture has become like the Hunger Games where people have nothing to do but watch everything fall apart. But I can hear Jung saying, if we can dream it, we stand a chance of owning it.

Should I wear a mask?

Voice 1: Display strength instead of weakness
Hide your fear
Voice 2: Appear to be in control
Voice 3: Wear a mask / Do not wear a mask

Confusion 1: I am wearing a mask
I am afraid

Confusion 2: I hide my mask
I am afraid to appear afraid

Confusion 3: My strength is a mask
Hiding my fear

Confusion 4: I appear to be in control
I display my strength

Confusion 5: I mask my weakness
I control my appearance

Confusion 6: I control my mask
I mask my mask

Confusion 7: I display my mask
I fear to appear

Confusion 8: My weakness is my mask
My mask is my appearance

Confusion 9: Control is my strength
My strength is my weakness

Confusion 10: I hide my mask
I am afraid to appear afraid