Friday, March 25, 2011


I’ve been reading a lot of writings by and about Medieval and Renaissance alchemists and magicians. I was struck by something in Johannes Trithemius’ “Apologia”, which is a defense of his “Stenographia” and “Polygraphiae”, two works on cryptography that were viewed as demonic by the Church. He insists that his works are not demonic at all, and within the purview of Church doctrine. He deliberately hides the truths in his writing as codes, so that average folk won’t be able to discern their meaning.

Whether Trithemius’ writings are truly “occult” or not (I think the conclusion is that they are, especially since Agrippa was one of his students), the idea of hiding truths from “common people” is the thing of interest.

Since we are talking about “occult” things (and occult means “hidden”), you might think I’m re-stating the obvious. So, I think I should back up and talk about why this is of interest.

In recent years, a new theory of religion has emerged, suggesting that religion is a form of “terror management”. The unknown is frightening, especially the final unknown of what happens after we die. On the simplest level, we could say that believing in a beneficent being that will make sure we are happy after we die as long as we follow a set of rules is a comfort to many people.

Go beyond that—and consider that the God of the Western world is often fearful. We are warned that there are dire consequences for making certain choices, choices that God wouldn’t want. (Whatever those are—you often find that those choices are the ones that those giving the warnings wouldn’t make themselves). God Him/Her/Itself is something to be feared.

This leads to confusion and contradiction in most believers. How can a God who loves us also be so strict about punishing us for transgressions? Why would God “save” people in one form of religion and not another?

Welcome to the conundrum that is “popular” religion. This doesn’t just exist in the West; there are plenty of believers in the Buddhist faith that believe Buddha is a god, and that they will experience ill luck or a bad life if they don’t follow certain rituals. Et cetera.

Now, go visit a monastery or contemplative community. Talk with those who have renounced the world, or read their writings, and you will get a much less contradictory view of religion. The more you pursue your path, the more you realize that God isn’t a “person” at all—it is a personification of a Mystery. I run the risk of oversimplification here, but the bottom line is that “popular” religion is much different from “contemplative” religion. This is not news, and I’m sure I’ve blogged about it before.

What about all those rules? They’re designed to keep a social order within a specific community. Some modern communities like to borrow those rules. Some are obvious, like don’t kill or steal. Others don’t seem suited to the modern community—which is a problem if you’re Christian, since most churches take an all-or-none view of their rulebook, the Bible.

In any event, believing that “God” is the rule-maker, and trying to minimize your anxiety about the unknown, you may choose to simply go along with what you’re told the rules are, bending the smaller ones here and there because, hey, you’re human.

Now we turn to the occult. Just as your catechism class doesn’t teach you what the contemplatives will teach you, your Church is not likely to look kindly on occult philosophy—especially since it more or less says that most “rules” can go out the window (not that there are no guidelines for dealing with life successfully). As I mentioned in my last post, the Church was not necessarily opposed to the occult teachings; its problem was that the “untrained” would not know the difference between what is angelic and what is demonic. There was also the danger that magicians would use magic for material ends, and to control others (what Walker calls “transitive” magic).

Two things to think about here. First—occult ideas not only stand on the fringes of religion, they also stand on the fringes of science, without entirely belonging to either camp. Modern medicine and psychology are outgrowths of alchemy. But most religious clergy AND scientists today would reject occult teachings, either because they could lead to the “demonic”, or because they are “irrational”. The second thing to think about is the birth of religious literalism. Whatever other doctrinal issues existed prior to the 1500s, Biblical literalism became an issue AFTER that time, when you had both the printing press and the translation of the Bible into languages like English. Oh yes, and that minor event known as the Protestant Reformation. The authority of the text became primary, and the Church had the same objection to the masses being able to read the Bible that Lao Tzu had to letting the masses read the law—they would read it out of context.

Add to the mix the fact that most people have very materialistic aims—to make money, have a nice house, have a nice car, have some worldly prestige. Nothing wrong with this per se, but combined with a lack of understanding of either themselves or the nature of Consciousness, and it might not be difficult to imagine why “occult” knowledge is preferred to remain “occult”. There is less of a danger of being possessed by any outside demons (though their existence has been assumed since at least the 12th century in Catholicism, and long before that in some form), and more of a danger of being possessed by the inner ones.

The occult spiritual path is designed to bring a direct experience of the Mystery, and to bring the magician knowledge. It has to be approached with full understanding of oneself, and with humility. One does not have to deal with demonic evocation to be a magician, but one does have to be aware of their own demons. And we all have them, regardless of religion or non-religion. They are part of the mind. If one isn’t willing to do the work involved to prepare, then it should be left alone.

The secrets of the occult are the secrets of the Unconscious. It doesn’t take much to recognize the power of the Unconscious. Just think of a time when you were coolly moving along, and someone said something to you that made you burst into tears or get very angry and lash out. On a larger scale, think about serious addictions or obsessive behaviors that control the person, rather than the other way around. Whether it’s the personal or collective Unconscious, it still affects everything you do. It is good to explore it, albeit carefully.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


When my politicians tell me to rest assured, I usually start to worry. If anything, I can rest assured that my views will be ignored, unless they match the view of the politician. I'm hearing that a lot from my Congress representatives lately, and it's a bit unsettling.

Life is a bit unsettled these days. Spring begins, and we promptly have a week of snow. Car trouble (now fixed), the sudden prospect of surgery--it reminds you that things can change at any moment. I remind myself that things could be worse--look at the situation in Japan, for instance, and what those affected by the tsunami, the nuclear difficulties, and the shortages have to deal with. It's back to the story of the angel and the field of rocks (a man complains to an angel that his life burden is too heavy. The angel shows him a field of rocks and tells him he can choose any of them as his "burden". He picks the smallest pebble he can find, only to be told that this was the burden he'd just put down). My friend Phil's father told that story. To which Phil's mother retorted, "Don't minimize my burden."

It's not the big things that get us, it's the little things. Physiologically, our bodies jump into action and everything just flows when big things go wrong. But little things are like a paper cut--minor, but still hugely annoying, and more painful than serious wounds.

Being the strange person that I am, I'm unwinding this week by reading D.P. Walker's "Spiritual and Demonic Magic." He starts with two articles on Marsilio Ficino and his works on magic. Ficino was a philosopher at the time of the early Italian Renaissance, and is one of main threads in the continuation of a magical tradition that starts with the Hermetica and Hermes Trismegistus. Walker notes Ficinio and Giovanni Pico's distinction between "good astrology" and "bad astrology", with similar distinctions regarding magical practice. The difference revolved around whether either practice "safeguarded or infringed human responsibility and divine providence." (p. 55).

It is interesting that the Church used to allow such a distinction, and allowed the practice of certain types of magic and astrology. Ficino suggests that magic should be reserved for those who are more educated and holy, as the poor and common folk would tend towards demonic magic and materialistic aims. (I am reminded of the introduction to Geosophia here, and the reason for goetia's ill reputation). Walker gives the original Latin in the notes, and the word for demon is "daemon". The translation as "demon" is interesting--you may think it's evident, but not really. We think of demons as agents of Hell, minions of Satan. But "daemon" had a different meaning in classical times. Plato defined "daemon" as a beneficent spirit, existing between mortals and gods. It would be interesting to know the history of the word and its connotation by the time of the Renaissance. (Can any linguists out there offer any insight?)

In any case, the ambiguity of the word makes me wonder about the author's premise. I generally agree with his conclusions, but I'm not sure I agree that "daemon" refers to demons. Of course, if we're talking Catholicism--the doctrine is that any spirit not in Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory is necessarily demonic. Since Ficino was a Catholic, it may not be a stretch to assume this meaning. But--if certain types of magic were acceptable at that time, that may also throw the "daemon as demon" idea into doubt.

Walker devotes a great deal of the first section to idea of music in magic, referring in particular to the Orphic Hymns. It's not strange to any magical practitioner that one would use incenses, colors, stones, and talismans related to the planetary influence they are trying to evoke. Ficino adds music to the mix, though he is unable to give any kind of practical advice on its use.

Here is a modern interpretation of one of the Orphic Hymns:

In thinking about music and magic, I found myself listening again to "Voices of Thelema" by K-11 (Pietro Riparbelli). Riparbelli's work is fascinating. He records short-wave radio signals inside various places--cathedrals, parks, and in the case of the CD I was listening to, Crowley's Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu. He then took those short-wave signals and made them into compositions. Here is a sample from "The Sacred Wood":

You can check out more of Riparbelli's work and philosophy here.

That's all from me until next time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sounds of Everything

I've written before about vibrations, and the vibrations of things. I've written about how sonar can kill a person. This post is a collection of things that sing--on Earth, in space, everywhere.

Singing Sands:

Singing Trees:

Singing Planets:

Singing Rocks:

Ocean Sounds:

Cicadas Singing:

Earth Singing:

Sun Singing:

Stars Singing:

Toute chante.

Friday, March 18, 2011

New Story Published, and My St. Patrick's Day

Let's start with some good news. A new story of mine, "Magna Mater", has been published in Uninvited Press's "Open Magazine", issue 1. This is the fourth story to be published in the archetype series; others are still pending responses. Here is the complete short list of what's available:

Magna Mater



Senex is not available anymore--after some consideration, I decided not to ask Writing Raw to repost it. I am hoping to finish the series and publish them all in an anthology next year.

Moving on to other adventures...

I've never understood St. Patrick's Day. It's supposed to be an Irish celebration, even though St. Patrick was not Irish. In school I'd learned he was from Italy, but a friend of mine corrected me, showing that more recent research suggests he was Welsh, and was captured and brought to Rome before coming to Ireland. Still, Welsh is not Irish. You might get past that, saying that St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, which is why he's celebrated. Why he is celebrated by reinforcing every negative Irish stereotype is beyond me. I like a good Guinness as much as the next person, but really, I can drink that anytime. And probably not in Ireland; I hear that they water it down there. Which is why everyone there drinks Budweiser. A sign of truly desperate times.

Anyway, I started my St. Patrick's Day the way anyone should, with a mammogram and breast ultrasound. I had an early appointment, and I sat in a very nice waiting room listening to a radio station that seemed to consist entirely of castrated male singers. Either castrated or total wusses--sometimes it's hard to distinguish when it comes to music. In any event, this is not my music of choice, so I was actually happy when they brought me to the mammogram room. You know that music is bad when you prefer getting your boobs squished to having to listen to it.

In a previous blog posting, I described getting a mammogram as "having your boob slammed between two metal plates". I stand corrected on this--you get your boob slammed between two PLASTIC plates. Even better is when they take nipple shots; they use a smaller plate, and as the technician said, "just to warn you, the smaller the plate, the nastier it is, so brace yourself". To her credit, she never took more than 10 seconds to take a picture and release the plates. I asked her how flat-chested women fared during the process. She said, "Oh, it's much worse; you're practically scraping their rib cage." She also noted that women who see her in the grocery store tend to run the other way. As if they expect her to give them a mammogram RIGHT THERE in the cereal aisle.

The mammogram showed nothing, but the ultrasound revealed a small tumor, likely a fibrous adenoma, which is benign. I have to meet with a surgeon, but it's likely I'll just have them take the whole thing out rather than do a needle biopsy. Idle tumors are the devil's workshop. Or, something like that. Anyway, I don't want any cells living in my body that are not natural born citizens. Sometimes they start uprisings.

When I mentioned my results to my friends, a lot of people were worried. I've had a tumor like this before, and it's really not a big deal. However, this is the second tumor that will have to be extracted from my left boob. I don't believe in a personal god, but if there happens to be one, I want a refund on that boob, as it's obviously defective.

Speaking of defective, my car is acting up again. I had a problem over the weekend where the whole car would start to shudder, first when braking, then it would happen during acceleration as well. The mechanic looked at it, and naturally found nothing. A tune-up made it run well for exactly 2 days, and then it started the same thing that afternoon. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, as my car has 255,000 miles on it. But I have this ominous feeling that I will have to get another car, something I really can't afford. Everything I've researched on my problem suggests a variety of possible problems (water in the tank, fuel injection problems, spark plugs, distributor cap, etc.), but usually the problem isn't fixed even after fixing those things, and not even with a new transmission. I unfortunately need a reliable car for all of my travels, so I'm going to have to find a way to get another one in the not too distant future.

I did stop at the local Irish pub for lunch, and was just about ready for that Guinness after such a fun-filled day. I didn't go there because it was St. Patrick's Day; I went because it was close and I was craving their food (which is excellent). I went fairly early to avoid crowds, but was still surprised to see about 50 people in a restaurant that normally has maybe 5 people at lunchtime. The owner popped in and asked me why I didn't order corned beef and cabbage. I told her that 1. I hate cabbage even more than I hate Don Henley, and 2. corned beef and cabbage are not Irish. Seriously. Go to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day, and try to find corned beef and cabbage in a restaurant. I assure you that you won't. They'll probably be eating lambburgers and drinking Budweiser, a gastronic ritual that I'd prefer to avoid.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wild Flag at RCMH, March 8, 2011

Tuesday night I went to New York City to see Wild Flag. I've delayed my review of the show due to the weather. Really. We're expecting 3-5 inches of rain here today, which means my basement will have its own tidal flow if I don't prepare. So, I've been replacing broken pumps, moving the cats' beds and such to higher ground, and making other preparations. I am ridiculously exhausted, but I wanted to slip in this post before things get chaotic.

Okay. First--Wild Flag was opening for Bright Eyes. I know absolutely nothing about Bright Eyes, and I did not stay for their set, nor for Superchunk, who also played after Wild Flag. The show was at Radio City Music Hall. At first I was grateful for this, because I am getting to be an old lady and I like to sit, but quickly I realized this was not the best arrangement. You should not be forced to listen to Wild Flag sitting down; their music requires a crowd and a venue that I can only describe as "New York Sleater Kinney". Anyone who ever went to a New York Sleater Kinney show knows what I mean.

I'm not looking to compare Wild Flag to Sleater Kinney--they're not doing the same kind of thing. That said, Wild Flag really kicks ass. It's hard to put a label on their style--it's a bit punk/psychedelic/experimental, which is what you would expect given the band members. Most, if not all, members of the band are known for musical experimentation.

A writer from Brooklyn Vegan got to see them at the Rock Shop, and has some good clips of the band, which you can see here.

I could not find a setlist for this show, and because the band has no album, I can't identify all of the songs in order. I did find setlists for other shows, which probably consist of the same songs in a different order. You can look at the setlist for Brighton Hall here.

The only song I knew going in was "Glass Tambourine", which I put up a couple of blog posts back, streamed on NPR's site. One advantage of Radio City was the acoustics--it was amazing to hear the band without being too close to the speakers (a perennial problem of small venues). I thought they sounded pretty good when I heard the streamed song, but the live experience is different entirely. I haven't figured out exactly what it is--whether it's watching Janet Weiss play drums, or the interactions of Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony onstage, or just the music itself--there's something indescribable, but it's like having an ecstatic experience. The music just gets under your skin and takes over; and, like great sex, you find yourself wanting more once it's finished. Carrie seemed more comfortable onstage than she did in the past, even though she noted they were used to playing living-room sized places (or actual living rooms). You find yourself walking out with your jaw on the floor, and all you can think is "holy f**king sh*t. I think I've seen God."

Yes, they're really that good, which is something I did and didn't expect. I approached Wild Flag with the same trepidation I used to have with a new Sleater Kinney album--I was terrified that it would not be as awesome as I thought it would be given the band members, or given the last album. And of course, every time, I am amazed at how well-crafted all of the songs are, and how they affect me.

I left the venue after Wild Flag played its short 30-minute set. Nothing anyone could play after that could have topped it. And I find myself strangely unsatisfied by the thought of a 7" single coming out next month--I'm craving an album. I am hoping I won't have to wait too long.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Clarification (Rant)

A word of warning--this is a rant. If you don't want to read a rant, go visit another blog for today.

I have to wonder if Ergot fungus is on the rise again in our grain supply. Being a conservative lawmaker is one thing, but some of the things being proposed can only reasonably be accounted for if the proposers were having demonic hallucinations. So, here's a reality check.

1. Abortion is LEGAL in this country and should REMAIN legal. Yes, abortion is a sad choice to make. No, women do not make that choice lightly. Any woman that would use abortion as a form of regular birth control is as psycho as someone who would have their internal organs removed for fun. You forget that WOMEN bear the brunt of the social, health, and financial consequences of having a baby. Perhaps the man involved could be on the hook financially, but he doesn't typically suffer other consequences. As a woman, I am offended by the notion that an unborn blob of cells has more rights, or at least as many rights, as I do. You can talk about making abortion illegal when you've also guaranteed that rape and incest will never ever occur again, or that a woman's life will never be in danger during a pregnancy, and that every child will be wanted by society and fully paid for. Oh yes, and that men are always as fully accountable for a birth as a woman in all respects. When you can guarantee all that, we'll talk.

In the meantime, don't talk to me about the "preciousness of life" when you introduce legislation allowing for the murder of abortion doctors, and criminalizing miscarriage by making women who miscarry eligible for the death penalty. You're going to deal with what you believe to be the taking of a life by taking another life and you call yourself pro-life? Explain to me how that works. And clearly you are a psychotic freak if you advocate such a law for miscarriage. Most women I've known who miscarry actually WANT their children, and have severe fertility issues that bring about the miscarriage. Or, they have an accident, and the miscarriage occurs (this is where this legislation is really sketchy). And you're going to treat someone already grieving for the loss as a criminal? I think whatever brilliant legislators suggested this law ought to be taken away in straitjackets. You don't criminalize miscarriage; you stop treating pregnant women like they're a burden and making reproductive choices ridiculously expensive.

2. Speaking of, the same miscreant party that suggested the foregoing is also keen on eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood. We are not living in a Margaret Atwood novel. Women are not here as breeding slaves. You don't like abortion, but you also don't want to provide any pregnancy prevention, nor do you care about women's reproductive health. We are taxpaying citizens, and we have our own needs and rights. You don't tell me what to do with my body, or who I can sleep with under what circumstances. And don't trivialize our special health issues--insurance companies do enough of that. I can only conclude that conservative Congresspeople hate women who are not barefoot, pregnant, and subservient.

3. Stop attacking workers' unions, and acting like they're the cause of your economic problems. Your unwillingness to tax the wealthy and big business are the cause of our financial problems. My accountant told me last week that I pay 25% tax in my tax bracket. When I hear that billion-dollar corporations don't pay anything, I have to scratch my head. Make those greedy twits pay their fair share, and stop chipping away at the little I have to maintain my middle-class lifestyle. Don't give me a lot of BS about "working hard"--I work no less than 3 jobs most of the time. And forget about "trickle-down economics"--that DOESN'T WORK. And stop referring to teachers' jobs as "cushy" because they only work 9 months out of the year. They work 9 months and don't get paid for the other 3, and are often looking for employment during those other 3 months. And during those 9 months, they're working double or triple hours compared to a normal 9 to 5 job. Add that to all the psychological evaluations, assessment, and extracurricular work they have to do (and keeping up with the latest crushing barrage of educational standards), and they don't make nearly enough. People have this habit of looking at other jobs dismissively and saying, "oh, they have it easy". I hear that in the library world all the time as well. And to those people--I challenge you to do the job of a teacher or a librarian for a week and see just how "easy" it is. They don't require a buttload of education and training in these jobs for nothing. I would bet money you'd be over your head and begging to get out before the first day is over.

4. Stop trying to get rid of public broadcasting. I do not want to get my "news" from corporate toadies. I want a non-partisan, publicly funded news option that is unbiased. If we're going to get into broadcasting laws, we should have one like Canada's. I was pleased to see that Fox News was kept out of Canada by a law that says news broadcasters cannot report "false or misleading news". Even more interesting is that Canada's right-wing PM tried to get around this by CHANGING the law (he wasn't successful). Fox didn't even try to fight back by saying they were truthful and unbiased. They know they're a bunch of liars. If I want to be lied to, I can go stand at the bar during just about any happy hour. If I want news, I go to NPR or PBS (or BBC).

5. Trying to bully the public into accepting your hateful legislation does not make you "dedicated" or " a strong leader", it makes you a power-hungry sleazebag, with less morality and integrity than a slime mold. (Maybe we should vote for slime molds; apparently they're better at making decisions). You don't win votes by abusing your constituents. The use of force of any kind against the populace demonstrates your inability to lead.

Lastly, a reality check for citizens--stop voting for these morons who are swindling you. Obama may not be a perfect President, but he's not the Antichrist, and he's not Hitler. Trying to get people their fair share and trying to guarantee things like jobs and health care do not constitute totalitarianism. News outlets that promote this view are usually paid for by corporate billionaires who would like to take all of your money and see you with nothing, because they couldn't care less about you. You're a means to an end. And don't talk to me about religion, either. People who start spouting Christian rhetoric clearly have missed the part about compassion and serving the least of your brothers. If you're going to spout this selfish nonsense in the name of Jesus, all I can say is that you'd better HOPE your religion is wrong, or you're in trouble.

If there's a silver lining to all of this, I would imagine that it is unlikely the Republicans will take over in 2012. If "democracy requires vigilance", then you're going to see any angry populace fight back against this kind of insult to our rights and intelligence. I know I've had it. As an old friend of mine would say, "Stop the madness!"

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Seriously Not Seriously

Clear and warming days do a lot for my sense of clarity, and my productiveness. Seven and eight foot mountains of snow have been decimated in this weather, thus proving that winter really does end in spite of all previous evidence to the contrary.

I’ve been told not to focus on the future, but sometimes the present is discouraging. This is especially true if you want to start on some project or goal, but can’t yet do so. Sometimes you don’t have all the resources you need, you haven’t heard from all necessary parties, and can’t begin no matter how revved up you are to get going.

These are cases where the unknown is my friend, as things often end up much differently from how they presently look. The Trickster is not always the bad guy.

Europe is more heavily on my mind these days. I will be in London again in another month, and I’m discovering doctoral programs in France, England, and Holland that are so precisely in line with my studies, they are difficult to ignore as future possibilities. Not only that, but jobs exist in my subject area, which is shocking. The same old problems remain of what to do with the house, the cats, finding the funds—but there is no need for an immediate solution, as one will present itself if it is “in the cards” for me, as they say.

In the midst of everything I’m working on, I feel like my attempts to brush up in French are sadly lacking. Therefore, I am going to try to do one blog posting a week in French. If I don’t keep up with reading and writing, I’m not going to gain the proficiency that I would like to have. Of course, this will also mean getting software for my Mac that actually recognizes diacritics; the ones on my Macbook do not work for some reason.

But that is all about work, and it is the weekend. I am having difficulty focusing on serious things, so why bother?

Here are some links for the weekend:

Bobcats (from The Oatmeal)

Sneaky Hate Spiral (from Hyperbole and a Half. Not new, but still funny)

Some Kumail Nanjiani standup.
He's one of the newer comedians that I think is hilarious.

Did You Read?
Another sketch from the Portlandia TV show on IFC.

Jimmy Kimmel combines Charlie Sheen with Charlie Brown
(from the Jimmy Kimmel Show)

These are not humorous, but they are entertaining:

Fire waterfall at Yosemite National Park

A review of "The Man Who Collected Machen", which looks like a great horror read.

6 Ways That Crows Are Smarter Than You
from Good thing I only throw breadcrumbs for the crows that nest outside my house.

And, finally--

The first single from Wild Flag, "Glass Tambourine"
. I will be going to see these ladies on Tuesday in New York.

Enjoy the weekend! I will post again tomorrow. Or not.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Depletion, or, The Struggle for Balance

Wisconsin 14. Fred Phelps. Ohio. Koch Brothers. Libya. Gaddafi. Rising oil prices. No real reason for rising oil prices. Boycotts. Demonstrations. Donations. MoveOn. Credo. Progressives. AFL-CIO. Petitions, petitions, petitions. Planned Parenthood. NPR. PBS. No funding. Making miscarriage criminal. Making murder of abortion doctors legal. Anti-labor. Anti-woman. Greed.

The preceding have been circling my mail inbox, my Facebook page, and my Twitter feeds for some time now. I’ve signed more petitions, sent more letters to my congress representatives than I have in my entire life. I have no money to donate. I’m anxious about the outcomes of these things. I think I’m stunned at how the greedy, selfish, and entitled don’t even try to hide what they’re doing anymore. They don’t try to cloak it in respectable language. They just give the poor, the middle class, all women, and anyone who has to work for a living the middle finger and call them vile names. Even more incredible is how many people go along with them. Ever since Obama took office, the undercurrent of hatred in this country has risen to the surface like scum on boiling pot of turkey soup. It’s not news that I’ve been feeling a lot like I live in one of those horror movies where the family ends up in a strange town where everyone turns out to be vampires. Or perhaps like Carnival of Souls, only I’m hoping that I’m not actually dead myself.

It’s no wonder that I’m more interested in burying myself in reading and writing. There’s something Lovecraftian about it—if I stare at the horror for too long I will go mad. There’s no point in reiterating the ironies of everything. You can lead zombies to facts, but you can’t make them think.

In other news, the prevalent theme has been breaking things into small pieces. Things can only be achieved by taking small steps. When I look at the projects I have at hand, they’re daunting. I have self-imposed deadlines, and can only meet them by doing a little bit each day. I’m tempted to plan tasks far in advance, but I know I can’t plan for more than a week at a time realistically. My energy level after work is unpredictable at best—you’re often lucky to get a blog post out of me. And even though I write every day—I don’t always like what I’ve written.

Writing happens in fits and starts; you have days when you can charge ahead and get multiple chapters written, and then there are other days where you can barely get through one chapter and you hate every word you’ve committed to the doc file.
I suppose these are not new complaints—I sound like every writer at some time or another. But between the pressure to produce and the external pressures of democracy these days, it’s no wonder I’m on edge a lot of the time.

My days are punctuated by some fun and social events, but also by obligatory doctors’ appointments. I scheduled my mammogram yesterday, and the receptionist noted that I’d scheduled it for St. Patrick’s Day.

“Yes,” I told her. “By the time you’re finished with me, I’ll need to go out for a Guinness. Hopefully they’ll be having specials.”

There’s very little I hate more than getting a mammogram. For those of you who have not experienced this—they take your boob and basically mush it between two metal plates, vice-style. Then they take x-rays of it. Boob size does not matter—it’s painful whether you’re barely endowed or well-endowed. I had a friend who once said you could practice for it by slamming your boobs in either a. a doorframe, or b. the Oxford English Dictionary. I’ve been told that’s an exaggeration, but I really don’t think so. In any case, I am sure I will need a drink after it’s all over.

Today is the International Day of Peace. You are supposed to celebrate by refraining from disrespectful thoughts and actions towards anyone. That will be tough. I may have to stay home and not log onto my computer. I certainly shouldn’t go out driving. Someone always does something so ridiculously inconsiderate and absurd, it’s hard not to bring out the choice words to describe them. I don’t know if I’d be able to restrain myself for “Peace Day”. The only way I could not get annoyed at someone while driving is to be totally distracted while I’m behind the wheel. Which, as you might imagine, would not be a great alternative.

On the way home from work yesterday, I passed a driving school student. I recalled being a driving school student, more than 22 years ago now. My first teacher was a woman who was very nice, but only showed up once. She continually blew off our appointments. My brother was sick at the time—very sick, and I missed seeing him in the hospital because I had driving lessons. Then she would never show up. And then he died while I was home waiting for her another time.

The driving school gave me another instructor when my mother complained, but it was too late by then. I don't really blame them, ultimately. I don't think I was meant to see his last days.

2 years later I had my first breast tumor. It's always frightening when you're not experienced with the frequency of benign cysts and tumors. In the face of recent young death, it didn't seem irrational to worry about more terminal illness.

Sleep might make me peaceful, unless the cat switches off the thermostat again. His new attention-getting tactic is to sit on top of the sofa and wrap his paws around the thermostat. The other day he knocked the cover off. I put it back on, but I didn’t notice that he’d flipped the switch from “heat” to “off”. I sure noticed it at 4 am when it was 50 degrees in the house.

Cats are different, though. When they do bad things, forgiving them and forgetting takes mere hours. Whereas with humans it could take a lifetime, and you may never do either.

I am reminded of the story where the god Shiva scolds Brahma and Vishnu for believing that they are responsible for their own attainment. Attainment, says Shiva, comes from grace and detachment. Grace is the natural outcome of surrender.

Speaking of—yesterday was Mahashivaratri. May Shiva bless all who celebrate. And all who don’t.