Tag Archives: history
Evolve Or Die, an opening manifesto…
I was thinking about stuff, in my weird way, which I often do, because I’m basically weird, stuff like religion and politics and war and peace and men and women and money and love and power and all that kind of stuff, the giant, sometimes-incomprehensible stuff that most people don’t appear to think about all that much, except in a purely academic way, and only if they can get some money or some fame or some power out of it. So why aren’t we all thinking about things which, logically, are very, very important and create so much human suffering, much of it perfectly avoidable with reasonable effort?
The whole situation we find ourselves in right now really bothers me because, if the average human is THINKING about these problems, problems which appear to have been with us for the entire course of human history, problems which seem as though they are perfectly amenable to being SOLVED, then those average humans should be TALKING about them a lot more, and trying to be part of the solution! Because people are really stupid to be fighting all these goddamned, fucking, idiotic wars, wars that kill people and destroy stuff and hurt children and scar children and make sure children grow up to pass that war meme, that war memory, that war “tradition” along to the next generation, and so on and so on ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
Which makes my stomach hurt, sometimes BADLY. And then I remember how people in the United States of America seem to have given up voting! Talk about my stomach hurting!
And, all of my weird thinking seemed rather quietly and suddenly to coalesce, to interweave, to assemble itself into an idea bigger than me. An inspired idea. An idea from the Muse; from the Universe; from God; from Spirit. You know, that watcher, or presence, or soul, or place within yourself which is all-at-once creative… imaginative… passionate… compassionate… serene… silly… serious… sad… sublime… that place? If you don’t know that place, at all, then I feel sad for you. Not “sorry” for you – that word seems to me that it implies judgment and a consequent feeling of superiority or power which is unhealthy – but sad for you. The simple sadness a two year old feels when seeing another two year old fall down, scrape a knee, and burst into tears. That feeling. Do you remember it? If you cannot remember it, I feel sad for you again. It is a feeling we should all remember. It is the sadness you feel when your mother is ill; the sadness you feel when your dear pet is ill; when your child is ill; when you are ill; when the world is ill.
You know, history is important. So is IMAGINATION. Liberal/Conservative, Democrat/Republican, Progressive/Reactionary, Labor/Capital, Open-minded/Dogmatic… call the differences in human outlook whatever you like! One side fears, or dislikes, or opposes change; the other side accepts, or likes, or promotes change. That is the essence, the nut, the essential oil, which creates the varietal, sometimes minor, sometimes dangerous differences in our human culture/temperament/society/milieu. We must start thinking as one planet, one species: not separated by physical characteristics… or wealth… or religion… or language… or country… or region… or clan… or tribe… or any of the myriad ways groups of human beings have managed to “quarantine” themselves from “infection” by other groups! We are not microbes! We are not supposed to attack each other without mercy. Survival of the fittest does not mean the survivors survive because they kill everything else; it means evolve, or die.
Human beings are on the doorstep of radical change. No shit! Look at our history: though an individual lifetime may, or may not, feel to that specific individual as being lived on the doorstep of radical change, remember, as a species, we have OFTEN been on the doorstep of radical change. We are always living within – not at the end of – human history. Which is why respecting the lessons of our past must ALWAYS go hand-in-hand with a thoughtful and imaginative look ahead, to our future! We are in the process of evolving into another human species. Don’t forget that! We are on the continuous “ride” of evolution, of change, of metamorphosis into another species of “human being” – hopefully, this time, a more “humane” human being who is truly wiser than we are, who stops jeopardizing human survival by an unthinking disregard for physical, social, and cultural environments yet who remains flexible enough to survive the inexorable process of change in those environments!
How to evolve? I’m not sure. I can rattle off the first things I think of. Read books. A lot of them. Spend some time outside, the more the better. Spend some time thinking seriously about your life, and the life of every other human being. Don’t hoard planetary resources which, by simple birthright, also belong to billions of other humans, your (admittedly distant, yet undeniably related) COUSINS through our common ancestors. Relax, nobody’s asking you to give up the internet. Simply treat others the way you would like to be treated. Speak some encouraging words to those who need them. Help some people in need. Protect children from harm. What do you think? Feel free to edit the list! We’re all in this TOGETHER. But, for mercy’s sake… MAKE YOURSELF A LIST.
Heads of Caracalla, a poem
There are three of the ancient busts on display
in the Louvre. Poor soul: he only controlled
his great empire for six years. I’ve been married
for seven, and though it isn’t like ruling Rome,
it’s hard enough. Thus, I can’t imagine how
he managed, even if he could imprison or execute
at will. Maybe stress did him in at twenty-nine.
True enough, during the heated third century
after Christ, the common man was too often dead
by thirty, teeth rotted away to stumps,
complexion scarred and worn, creased deep
like pegged and scraped hides drying in the sun.
Surely Caracalla’s own hands were soft,
languorous and pudgy, with those meticulous
shiny nails? Perhaps he was afflicted
with diabetes, or simply poisoned by his lovely
but illiterate wife. Will anyone wonder
what carried me off after a thousand years —
or even ten? During three decades on earth,
sculptors recorded all his secrets: first the pretty
baby, innocent and round-cheeked as any three-year-old,
blunt-cut curls springing away from his tender forehead
like the petals of an iris. Around the time
of his ascension, he had become sullen, his eyes
impenetrable, glassy, his torso clumsy, thick-necked,
his full, full lips bowed with palpable cruelty.
I must admit, by the year of his death, he’d grown
into his flesh — he looks wise, even kind,
and his drilled marble eyes are lively, holding
a gleam of curiosity for something outside his own
imperial body. I place my finger against the hard marble
cheek, hearing my own frail life tapping its brisk heels.
Suffering Jets, Bowling Litionists, and Peace Knicks, a fable
My mom’s always trying to teach me History. She says it’s important for us kids to know all the bad stuff that happened in the olden days so we won’t be as stupid as all those olden people were. My mom seems really mad at those olden people. She says human beings could have lived in a “paradise-on-earth” if it wasn’t for a whole bunch of bad ideas they thought up and then were stupid enough to get stuck on. Just as if they were GOOD ideas! My mom thinks good ideas are real important. I’m not so sure because I can’t always tell the difference between one of her “good” ideas and one of the olden people’s “bad” ideas, but I’d never tell her that because if I did I think she’d go nutsy-futsy just like Nadine Houck’s dad did, and then I’d be pretty much alone except for that mean bunch of kids living on that hill up from the lake. They’re not mean so much as they are just pissed because nobody’s really around to care for them and make them read their schoolbooks every morning.
Anyway, my mom’s always trying to teach me History, and so I try to learn it. Like today, she got started on the “god-damned East-West mutual suicide pact.” She says that back when there were lots of olden people, (she says there were BILLIONS, but that nutso-futso and I don’t believe her), everybody actually KNEW what would happen if there was “an all-scale nuclear confrontation.” Like, they made TV shows and movies about it, and people wrote all kinds of books and stuff, and they had big “world conferences” and all, and lots of people even made stuff for people to buy so that when the “all-scale nuclear confrontation” came, they’d have water to drink and canned peas and tuna fish and EVERYTHING.
And like people even built bomb shelters in their yards and stuff. My mom says this is “evidence of the world-group insanity” of the early twenty-hundreds and that I should mark it WELL in my soul. So anyways, all the olden people actually KNEW what could happen and all. Which is real hard for me to believe sometimes. Like if my Mom and me actually KNEW that the roof of our house was going to fall in, and so we bought big steel umbrellas and helmets and stuff, and kept living right in the SAME actual house but all the time acting real worried about the roof caving in and talking like MAD about how to prevent it and all, but really not doing anything to brace the ceiling. And EVEN having some guy show us pictures of what our blood would look like spread all over the floor. But then we’d just buy bigger steel umbrellas and harder helmets but we STILL wouldn’t leave the house. Damn, isn’t it hard to believe that those dumb olden people could actually ACT like that?
So anyway, the whole of Earth really, really KNEW that they were in a big pile of trouble. But people did ALL sorts of stuff to “distract their lunatic sensibilities,” my mom says, and they’d do stuff like jump out of big airplanes to feel what it was like while all the time they just kept stocking up on the god-damned steel umbrellas and helmets.
My mom said that one time in the middle of the twentieth century and towards the 70’s some olden people actually and truly came to their senses and try to yell loud at all the “sleeping fools,” my mom says. She says that she read all about them in college and always wondered why they quit yelling. She says that groups of good people would get together all down in history, but that as soon as they had “achieved their one objective goal,” they would trickle down and eventually dry up. She talks about the Suffering Jets and the Bowling Litionists and the New York Peace Knicks and that they all lost their momentum in the end.
Anyway, my mom says that HER theory of what in HELL happened to people is they had plenty of guilt, but no feeling of responsibility to go along with it. Like they felt bad about their “sins of omission” and all, and they hung their heads about it, but what it REALLY was, was just “crocodile tears.” Like they would say, “Gee, I feel SO guilty, but gee, if I felt guilty about every bad thing in the world I wouldn’t be able to SLEEP at night and my face would break out and I wouldn’t be having FUN and stuff.” Like they had a mental maturity age “of about three,” my mom says.
The Defenestration of Prague
(originally published in Snakeskin)
When my father was six, the other children teased him,
calling him a dirty Bohunk. My grandfather promptly
changed the family name. By this he collaborated
with the enemy, he repudiated the family tradition.
Thus you don’t know how resistant we have been.
You have no idea of the damage we can cause.
Sure, we look like anybody else, but those children
sensed something amiss. I myself want to throw
people out the window all the time, even after I know
they don’t deserve it. I come from a long line
of defenestrators. We take our frustrations seriously,
we live for the dark moments of the soul, we are the truly
evil people, we upset the apple cart time and time again.
Our closest neighbors have always hated us. Thanks to
Grandpapa, I can pass for educated, empowered, lucky.
I have respect for the less fortunate because they have
respect for me. However misguided, they know precisely
when to ask for favors, they never ask too much.
Back home in Prague, 17th century, only the priests were
allowed to drink the blood of Christ. The children never knew
why the grownups were so upset. The children didn’t care
about the bread and the wine, they didn’t know how
they were being insulted, they didn’t know they were being
treated like children, all they wanted was to be talked to,
played with, tickled under the chin. They only wanted to eat
bread and chocolate, get nuts and oranges every Christmas.
But my ancestor Greguska Pomikala threw two Habsburg
representatives out a third story window, unwittingly setting
off the Thirty Years’ War. He was frustrated when he threw
them over the wide marble sill — so cold as his fingers
pried their fingers off. He took nothing with a grain of salt.
I am familiar with how he felt at the victims’ moment of takeoff.
Sometimes I wish I’d followed in his footsteps. He felt
as if he’d married the most beautiful woman in the world
only to be told, You can’t touch her. Greguska wanted to drink
the wine, too. He wasn’t happy being given bread alone.
Neither am I. I am taking back the family name, the family
traditions. Don’t ever cross me and expect to stand
alone, with me, in a room with windows.