Neither Truth nor Consequence

digital collageTo capture the kind of innocence that little ones have would be a scientific coup beyond what even our best magicians could hope to conjure. How is it that such jaded minds and dedicated tragedians as adults can be made from the raw childhood materials of clear-eyed honesty and untouched truth and light? As an artist and writer, even simply as a grownup who believes that honesty and reality have far more forms than the dull quotidian ones in which we grownups generally clothe them to fit our fusty adult needs for blandness to feel safe, I search the boundaries between worlds endlessly in hope.

Sometimes I wonder if I have been cheating when I don’t follow precisely that stern old caveat that warns me to always Write about What You Know—that I should stay fixed in the firmament of my own particular universe, my peculiar range and realm of reality. Of course, I know that no beautiful fantasy and very little romance would ever get written by anyone if this rule were strictly adhered to in every way; what’s more, I remind myself as I write that every word I put down on the page is true, just not always for me and my own experience: perhaps it’s something I’ve known of believed or felt, translated into another person’s events, and sometimes it is perhaps best described as true of (or for) another person who herself or himself is not known on this modest three-dimensional earthly and human plane. Anyway, I am reassured that I bend the Rule a little but I never wholly break it; I tend to wander further from the truth only when I must–in order to make the truth of the matter most apparent.digital collage

Joy in the Morning

digital painting from a photoMorning, Waking

Starting anew with a fresh clean slate

I feel a sense of freedom, youth

A breathing moment where the truth

Is not unlikely, not too late

I have arisen and begun

Not just by law but for desire

Alit with unaccustomed fire

From some oft-hidden ray of sun

These days when age most often stings

The simple joys right out of me

I slake my thirst with ecstasy

When a rare morning-welcome singsphoto montage

Clarity (Klart Blikk)

photoLet me make one thing crystal clear: all of my world is seen through my filters, colored by my way of thinking, its perspective all my point of view. And that’s not either strange or bad. It’s how we all operate. It’s just important that I always remember that simple reality.digital image from a photo

I finally had time to sit down today and go through a backlog of seemingly gargantuan proportions in my email inbox. Among the items that were most enjoyable to unearth, there was a note from my sister carrying a link to another blogger’s post about her son’s (our nephew’s) band Honningbarna’s first gig in Dublin, with the requisite embedded YouTube clips of their performance there–which, in turn, linked to other Honningbarna clips, including a couple of very informal interviews between a young journalist in Germany, if I recall, and nephew Christoffer and his bandmate Edvard Valberg, the band’s cellist and frontman. Besides that I get a kick out of seeing our relative as a successful rocker and hearing the band’s wildly kinetic and screamingly energetic punk/metal performances, I am reminded every time I see and hear them that Honningbarna represents a particular brand of cynical idealism that only the irrepressible and wiseacre young can so ably embody.digital image from a photo

Like many a punk band before them, they sing/shout about the wrongs and stupidity and injustice in the world, calling attention to it all and making us want to clarify, if just a little, our own view or stance on such things. One of their biggest hits, to date, is in fact a number called ‘Klart Blikk‘–it translates, approximately, to ‘Clear View’–a call to stop being passive about the world’s imperfections, to get up and ask bold questions, to act. The link on the song title right here is, wonderfully, a Norwegian 5th-graders’ video workshop animation of the song, a perfect (and artfully executed) answer to this very call to intelligent response. And I think it a wonderful, if laughable, serendipity that my computer’s auto-correct recommendation today for ‘properly’ spelling Honningbarna is ‘Housecleaning‘.

Update: blogger/reviewer Andy Barnes has just posted an additional critique of Honningbarna and the band’s debut album, the source of ‘Klart Blikk’.photo

There’s obviously no single thing that can always serve to make any situation clear, let alone ‘cure’ it. Collecting all the facts and information and evidence and being fully honest with them can help, but sometimes perfectly diligent research and full disclosure do not constitute reformation or restitution. We’re all human. And only human. We stay muddled.photo

And some things really are a matter of opinion. The glass is half full; the glass is half empty. I like things the way they are, or I don’t.digital image from a photoNow, occasionally, providing a sharp contrast to the point under debate is just the nudge needed to push our minds toward a firmer understanding or acceptance of the longed-for truth. Sometimes, the discovery of new evidence can shed brighter light and move us to choose and accept a more accurate reality. It’s even possible, from time to time, to elucidate and pinpoint the ‘right’ merely by simplifying–by paring away all that isn’t, bit by bit, with thoughtful and insightful explication.photo

None of that, still, stops us from being opinionated, stubborn, sometimes truly stupid, and occasionally outright determinedly wrong. It’s where we derive a lot of our mortal variety, our strange human brand of exoticism, our color, if you will. It’s okay to be ridiculous and bull-headed, even when the Truth is staring us right in the face and can’t be ignored, because it’s really part of who and what we are.photo

No matter what a charming song it makes, everything does not necessarily look ‘worse in black and white‘–and light and clarity are certainly discernible, even brilliant, when we stop being so saturated with peripheral influences like our feelings and hopes and desires. But there’s so much sheer wonder in our colorful world, I say, Why not revel in it, even if it sometimes distracts us from the seriousness at hand. After all, that will always be with us and will push its way forward again eventually, even if it takes a bunch of young Punks yelling at us to get us to pay attention.digital image from a photo

The Library for People Who Don’t Read and Other Miracles

Perspective. Point of view. Scientific experimentation. Verifiable, empirical knowledge. Assumptions. Imagination. Proof.

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The School for Skeptics always has room for more . . . but should we be listening?

Who gets to define these? How, why, and for how long? How many centuries did it take for the earth to “become” round? I learned a wonderful thing about Truth and reality from my grandma when Alzheimer’s disease changed her from an ordinary human into a particular and new to me kind of visionary. I suppose I’d been around plenty of people before who, whether through illness or anomaly, through some life episode or misadventure or merely through the self-guided development of ingenious discovery or delusional ideation, saw the world and its verities quite differently from the majority of us others. But I don’t think I’d paid very close attention to what that might mean, before ‘meeting’ the new and different version of Grandma.

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Grandma grew blurry . . . or was it only that the borderlands between our reality and another began to thin perceptibly?

She had already been moved into a lovely and much safer residence than her solo apartment, a place where she was fed properly, kept safe from rambling until lost, and tended like a well-loved family member, and she had begun very tenuously to adopt it as her home when I went along with my parents to visit her. Since she had acquired a roommate now and their quarters were modestly scaled, the other four of us strolled down to a pleasant sitting room nicely made for visiting. That is to say, Mom and Dad and I strolled, and Grandma rolled, now that she had completely forgotten she knew how to walk–except for rare occasions when, the staff informed us, she would simply get up and do whatever it was she wanted to do, then go back to her wheelchair and promptly forget again that she was quite fully ambulatory.

In the sitting room, which was comfortable and softly lit, there were several wing chairs and a small table with side chairs where guests could set cups of coffee or tea while socializing or perhaps play a game of cards if they wished; there were old-fashioned painting reproductions on the walls and dated but sweet wallpaper and there was a little arrangement of eternal, artificial flowers. There was also a bookcase, a fairly small one but basically empty, possibly because the residents in the dementia ward of the home didn’t quite know how to handle books gently enough any more or simply wandered off with them. We were curious and a little nonplussed by the place’s bothering to keep an empty bookcase around, but my grandmother wasn’t the least bit disconcerted. It was a quiet room and had an empty bookshelf because it was a Library for People Who Don’t Read. And that was that. It was funny, yes, but in addition it seemed, well, a little bit childish and decidedly more discombobulated than anything my former grandma, my actual grandma, would ever have said and I felt slightly embarrassed and more than a little sad.

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There are innumerable soft places for landing, but dare we visit them? Dare we stay?

She chattered a little, mostly in a nonsensical stream of short non-sequiturs, and eventually, grew a bit tired and weary and disappeared from the effort of conversation more and more until we thought she might just be falling asleep. So it was time for us to toddle off down the hallway to her own room again and make her cozy there. Her identification of the family photos on the wall was tenuous at best, and wholly disconnected from anyone in the room who happened to be represented in the photos. She told short stories that were part memory of long-ago times, part yesterday’s lunch, and part spontaneous fiction. She was quite taken with the tall evergreen outside her second story window. It turned out, she was mostly attracted to the man she saw sitting up in its branches there.

By then I was very tired too. It was mighty hard to follow these oddly disjointed and intermingled sentences and thoughts enough to attempt interaction with her anymore, and I was already sure that any comments I made or efforts to connect with what she was saying or thinking were pointless and soon forgotten anyway. I was very unhappy with myself for being so impatient and distracted and unable to just love this new and strange person living in Grandma’s shell. When the man outside her window was clearly more interesting to her than to me, I also became glumly frustrated with her lack of presence in reality.

It was then that I realized that Mom and Dad carried on the conversation with Grandma pretty much as though they could see the man up there too. They didn’t necessarily bait her or make things up willy-nilly, but they gently followed where she led and made no move to contradict her anywhere along the way.

I’m no genius. I think I’ve made that abundantly clear many and many a time. But it did finally occur to me that there was a perfectly reasonable reason to treat this whole interaction as though it were the most logical and natural thing in the whole wide world. Gently, my parents confirmed this bit of cosmic brilliance that had accidentally leaked into my small and putty-like brain. Which is, very simply, that we have no proof that there wasn’t a fella up in that cedar tree that Grandma could see, maybe even converse with somehow. Our failure to see him or understand what he was working to make known to us may very well have been purely a symptom of our being limited to our dimension or aspect of reality or interpretation of the universe, whereas my changed grandmother was now free to traverse the tesseract, leap the boundaries and see through the veil of human limitation at will.

Are all of the people who see, hear and believe things that others cannot see, hear or believe by definition wrong or damaged? Or is it just possible that there are realities and truths that we ordinary mortals of the majority haven’t the proper senses necessary for apprehending, that we can’t yet comprehend those particular particles? Something tells me it’s about time we come to our senses and allow that there may be a whole lot more going on than meets the human eye.

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What do you see, now that you are so far away?

Skipping thro’ the Birchen Wood, I Thought I Spied a Whale

acrylic on canvas

Here in the forests of my imagination . . .

What wondrous light through yonder branches gleams? Would that it were the opalescent glow of glimmering brilliance coming to infiltrate my idle brain. Or perhaps, an itinerant faerie spirit heading my way, jeweled sceptre alit with inspirational powers to be bestowed on my waiting brow with only the lightest of touches. Even the wan incandescent light that flickers in welcome warmth when someone stops by and drawls, ‘Whooooa, cool poem, dude!‘ is an apparition that I welcome in these woods.

But left to my own devices, I am often content to play hide-and-seek with the absurd and ridiculous denizens with whom I myself people the copses and clearings. It’s hard to be bored when in the world of my imaginings I might just as well see a party of rhinoceri dining daintily on macarons and sipping mimosas as find the standard woodland chirpy-birds and curly-tailed possums. And of course I can find plenty of entertainment in the latter, should my rare white rhino friends fail to materialize on the occasion.

The who-what-when-where-why approach of old-time journalism is hardly limited, but so often is put to service in creating dull worlds that have no scintillation or silver-lined possibility of their own. Why should I merely recount the facts, if my friends and compatriots have the same at their own fingertips or floating in the ether encircling their own fevered brows? I feel much more compelled, drawn (and quartered) by the fantastical and unreal, and that doesn’t mean that I must limit my contact with the quotidian. In my view, the real world and everyday experience are both bursting with nonsense and bizarre occurrences that would challenge the sanity of anyone willing to look just slightly under the surface, a tiny bit off of the center of the frame. It’s this singing netherworld of oddity and mystery, of hilarity and not-yet-discovered realms of the heart and mind, that pulls me into its mystical swirl and mesmerizes me.

I am astounded when I hear tell of people admonishing artists and creative folk to give up their wastrel ways and do something Productive. Where these same critics expect inventions or discoveries of import, let alone life-enhancing pleasures and spiritual inspirations, to emerge if not from creative work and play I am unable to guess.

I’ve long since left it to others to describe what they tout as Fact and confirmed Truth. There are endless phalanxes of politicians and scientists and religious leaders, hover-parents and bosses, dictators and dullards, all of whom readily offer their convictions of reality whether I ask them to or not, so I learned that I’d much rather stick to my own version of reality and just see where it takes me.

Does this approach expose me to ridicule and censure? Of course it does. Anything anyone else tells you ought to be taken with an entire inland sea of salt, if it keeps you from swallowing nonsense wholesale. I certainly don’t believe everything I say!

But I did learn, when I bundled up my outsized cravings for outside affirmation in the dense wrappings of uneasy reality and flung them all out the casement, that any reality is somewhat overrated. That the lilac scented porpoises leaping in my own candy-colored seas were not only good company but sometimes took me along to actual places of learning and wholesome connection with genuine people willing to dive into alternate worlds too. And that I grew more deeply convinced that nobody is in such dire need of the strictly factual that their lives can’t be enriched, like mine, by the meandering, iridescent, depthless, deathless joys of curiosity and invention and hope.

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. . . and away I swam, bathing in the limpid phosphorescence of wonderment . . .