Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Etymology of a Metaphor


If I think about the tree—like any other verdant metaphor—it runs deep into my mind with its roots.

I say this all because I know the tree in Winter is a tree. This tree is not a metaphor.

Rather the Platonic Form of Tree lends itself to metaphor quite nicely, which is what the Theory of Forms seems to be all about. Plato’s Tree is rich with meaning, because it appeals to our senses and our entire conceptual framework.

Right now, this tree does not look like it did in the summer. Because it is naked.

Why did I say naked? Bereft of clothing is only the beginning and you should be wondering why I said bereft and not liberated. The tree would only have shame if I projected it upon the tree. I usually prefer taking off all my clothes in Summer, so the projection of luxe, calme volupté won’t work either.

Even the act of projecting is a metaphor, because I am not throwing anything forward… but then again, do I even consider the etymology of project (pro=forward + ject, from iactus= throw) when I use the word? No. Something else is going on, a shortcut. which is another…. Well, you get the idea now.

There is the idea of multiplicity. In my metaphor of the Winter tree, I can think of the absent leaves, or the many branches and apply these to the vagaries of life. Because life is less of a journey, no matter what psychologists, Hollywood, and creative writing teachers tell us. Rather it is a wandering. Vagary comes from the same language as vague: id est when I stroll, ramble or wander around in Latin, vago.

But I am forgetting myself (and the tree) in multiplicities. That is more-than-one. Mathematicians may argue with me, but this distinction is crucial. More-than-one does not mean much until we really stop to think about it. When one is being chased by more-than-one wolf, one is not concerned about the neurological-mental structure that allows for more-than-one. One isn’t even really thinking that wolf is still important and ancient enough to be inflected in English when there is more than one. Especially when they are chasing you.

Of multiplicities and branching thoughts and axons, I can only say that it keeps me from thinking about the Next Year. Another concept I hold in contempt when I don’t really want to think about it, which of course, I am.

There are many ways I could go with this. This tree—which is beautiful and has been growing here longer than I have been on this earth—may very well be pulled down by developers. Another reason to leave Seattle, perhaps. And no, the words are not connected, save by paronomasia. But that still counts for something.

And there is always going to be some movement. Crossing the river we live in means just that (because prepositions are always misleading) and we ferry those things across that help us understand what life is like on the other bank. Or, to translate: metaphor, which carries the same meaning as translate.

And on and on it goes, growing into the glowing sky of the late tomorrow.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A bowl full of noodles

She is alone. Younger than I am. The age does not really matter: she may be the kind of young woman who says "age is just a number" and she may eventually become the kind of older woman who says that as well.

She was in line behind me. That is where I noticed her. She was tall, slender. Her hair was black. I am not sure what she was ordering but a poached egg, some wakame, appeared to be toppings. Her bowl of udon was not steaming, so I could only guess she was having the cold style with sauce—appropriate for the season.

Because it was summer. I was eating noodles with scallions and ginger. A bit of daikon radish and umeboshi.

I had sat down to think. The noodles in the bowl were slippery and long. Delicious and obviously, sensuously asking to be transformed into metaphor—always memory and the viscosity of the past.

She carried the tray over to the window seat and sat down to eat. Her legs were long so she took up the two seats there. Perhaps a trained tactic to ward off creeps. It made sense. She was an attractive woman.

I wanted to tell her that it wasn't only the creeps at the noodle shop. The sick men on dating sites who stalk. The rapists with their dick-pics right there on her phone.
Watch out for that professor, the one you go after. He might wreck your career.
Watch out for the handsome guy in Germany who says all the right things, feeds your lust for travel and sex, takes it from you and leaves you with pelvic inflammatory disease and no chance of ever having children.
Or the one who wastes your time and you slowly learn to hate. Watch out for him. 
How boring and awful I would be to tell her that. She might even be polite enough to listen. Perhaps there would be a shred of parallelism or synchronicity.

But really, it wasn't fair because what I wanted... I wanted to be 23 again. To start over with sovereignty, a bare arm and a bowl full of noodles.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Leaning against the Pillar of Truth

If I were famous, then I could do famous things. Famously would be an adverb attached to my actions and perhaps even my adjectives. I would be generally known for doing something. Instead, on a personal level it is a matter of annoying habit. “There she goes again” and that sort of thing. “That sort of thing” is a phrase I overuse, for example. Perhaps I am not famous enough to warrant its blessings.

The end of the year is entirely arbitrary. 

As a creature of habit, I say this every year, the irony of which is not lost on me.

But the world is changing. The climate, both in atmospheric science, and in the wider realms of metaphor. But it has been changing for a while and this fact is ensconced in antinomy: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même.

To me, change is where and when you finally see it.

For most of my life, the nation in which I live has been moving toward an aristocratic form of government. As the Aristocracy (who maintain their privilege through generations by legal casuistry, but they do it nonetheless) consolidates its power, the middle class degrades. The panem et circenses Juvenal describes in the 10th Satire exist as strongly as ever, feeding us.

The change? Much of America has finally embraced the truth: the billionaires are no longer running things behind the scenes but have taken manifest power. Their children inherit wealth, names and titles. How is this not de facto Aristocracy?

A land that has been fed princesses and princes since childhood needs the rule of the landed few.

I lean against the Pillar of Truth and wonder if I should go work for them: as an artist now. Since our rulers have brought Renaissance Nepotism back into fashion, perhaps I can land a job as an edifying scrivener. Shakespeare did it, after all, fawning over his own “1%-er” and I like to think I can find a patron too. After all “public” support for the arts is disappearing anyway, and then I might actually have a place to live.

But there are dangers. In the Renaissance I know I would have at best been a courtesan: a learned hole and that’s about it. Still, considering the people in power now, I wouldn’t be surprised if that job title saw resurgence if it hasn’t already under another name.

The Pillar doesn’t feel quite as strong. At best it supports the suspicion that the Good Old Days Never Were and We’re Living In Them Now.

Maybe I’ll even be famous once I’m dead.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The death of a god


It's a time of year when gods are discovered, and sometimes die.

Iconoclasty occurred again just the other day. Andrew is a barista at my local coffeehouse. He is absolutely beautiful and at least 16 years younger than I am. He looks somewhat like Daniel Henney.

There, that is enough to go on.

Yes, I have had a crush on him for quite some time. I don't think he feels the same way. I'm certain of it. Perhaps elsewhere I will show you, but here I will tell you. I projected, I wished, I desired. I colored his attentions with the tapestries and trompe l'oeil artwork of volition, of interest and desire.

I needed faith: The way he said my name. How beautiful he would feel behind me, slowly waking up on Sunday mornings. Even sharing the profound responsibility to our dream of an open road and a full tank of gas. I needed that faith more than anything, save, perhaps for the coffee.

I read Internet articles about dating younger men. I had my nails done. I actually had someone else cut my bangs. He complimented me on these changes in a general way. Our connection seemed to be growing.

"Ada, it's called customer service, not love. He just wants a good tip. That's all," my illustrator offered one time I took him to see Andrew, as if Andrew was a orchid of some exotic extraction in a hand thrown artisan bowl. "It may not even be contrived," David continued. "He just likes people and customer service and it brings its own rewards. If I was gay, I'd have a crush on him too, if that helps."

It didn't.

No, I had to see him with her, walking through Seattle University. She was beautiful, young and a bit shorter than him. (Which I am not). They were holding each other's hand in that stiff, romantic way when both people are cold and they are walking quickly together to warm up. At one point, they turned and kissed.

Then he saw me, and waved. They came over. She asked him something I couldn't hear.

"Oh she's a customer that comes into the store all of the time. June, this is Ada."

He said it with honesty, sweetness. She looked at me, so in love with him and having nothing to worry about from a 46-year-old-maid-stork-of-a-woman, that she smiled at me as well.

"Hi, nice to meet you."  She wasn't even jealous. I used to be able to do that sometimes and it was gone too. But ironically it wouldn't have worked anyway because Andrew is in love with June and he would never cheat on her. That very quality is something I adored. If he wanted to cheat on his lover with me, he wouldn't be someone I would want. I told myself this prayer often.

They walked off, presumably into the sunset which is where lovers always go.

I thought about June. I had thought about her before, but I didn't have a name. Before, she was a complex abstraction. The younger woman he was with invariably because she is closer to his age. She has a smaller nose. She isn't tall and skinny. She won't bore him to death talking Foucault and Spaghetti Westerns. He won't have to politely "enjoy" her modal jazz collection.

Beneath all, she is a confirmation of fear. I never had to really open myself up to him. We can't do such things in the world. I will get my heart broken. Again.

So instead I had faith in June. I believed she existed even though I had never seen her. And then, finally, empirical proof stood before me and said hello. I walked away, diametric to their course.

My god, of whom I was bereft, lay there on the pavement bleeding into oblivion. The bells of the St. Ignatius chapel mourned him, for like Mary, I had given him birth and therefore killed him.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Illusion and Tea


The Master had surrounded himself with books and students, and yet Simplicity was the by-word for his school.

"The tree. Do you know it for its leaves? Or the snow?" the Master asked. When no one had said a word, he closed his eyes. After a minute, he finally said: "All is illusion."

"Especially if you put it like that," his Wife added, yelling from the kitchen. I am with her because I am a woman and supposedly incapable of philosophy.

“If he wanted simplicity, why did he marry me? His wife asks. She stands in the kitchen and knows a few things. She pours tea, the same tea, but into different cups. Hers is a tall, ceramic beaker the color of jade and yet it is chipped.

My tea is in a beautifully turned wooden bowl. But one there are bite marks on.

“The child will bite the cup from which it drinks.” I said this, looking at it.

“Yes, he’s famous for that one.” Together, we sat down and pulled feathers from a pair of old dead chickens who cannot lay eggs. I wonder if the act is metaphorically important: a point the woman means to bring home.

“But you know, there is only one bowl. That one you are drinking from. It’s made out of maple. I remember the tree when I was a little girl. It was cut down and the wood was full of such complexity that my father had it cut up and cured. Later, they made things out of it and sold much of it to rich bureaucrats and merchants. I only have a few pieces left. The ordinary things you see here.

“But you see,” she continued “it’s one of the only three, but my son, he was teething and used to bite on this bowl. The “master” out there then makes some sort of grand statement about it. He leaves out all the particulars. His students like that you know. It’s easier to think about rather than trying to imagine my son.

“But they don’t know how fast his hair grew. They don’t know his smell back then, or how he blew on his breakfast to cool it off. And each morning, the congee was different. So were the breaths he used. What he was thinking. Even my son can’t remember my son anymore. Not what he was.”

“But I do," she finally added with a touch of melancholy.

“This tea. We drink it from different cups, but it’s the same, isn’t it?” I ask.

“Careful. The Wise Monkey Turd out there will steal that one as well.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Platonic Form (of Bed)

Considering Plato (a highly entitled specimen)
One of the first philosophical ideas that most students must grapple with is Plato's legendary Theory of Forms. One interesting aspect is that while Plato had a theory of forms, there is no such thing as a Platonic Form of Interpretation of Plato's Theory.

Should I even dare summarize it here? Throw out an oft-heard, but ultimately misleading sort of generalization such as the standard "Hegelian 101" process of ascribing to Hegel the idea of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. (Again, it was Fichte)

There is one constellation of thoughts that people glean: that what we see in the world are imperfect copies of what is, in principle the "perfect form" of something.

The Platonic Form of Bed is the everlasting principle of bed. The problem herein is that I'm using a word for a fairly concrete thing and you're probably thinking of your bed. Is it wide? Narrow? Hard? Soft? On the Floor? Is it a couch? Or are you heading off into the more abstract usages such as "nail bed" (at least two meanings there!) or river bed?

For me, I find it helps to think beyond sight. The visual sense is one that supplies us with form, usually in the "form" of geometry. A bed is square, etc. Unless it's a heart-shaped bed and then you are usually having sex upon that bed in some cheap hotel.

This presupposes a human bed. A dog bed is round. Or is the human bed the dog's version as well? The human bed make become the symbol of perfection, that once attained usually requires the Dog to lie across it at an perpendicular angel which takes up most of the room (and crowding me off the edge).

But what of the other senses? What is their "shape" of the Platonic Form of bed. I have been aquainted with several dogs that were never very happy when their beds were washed, presumably because the complex olfactory worlds were disturbed. Perhaps it's even akin to dumping out all the books in a library and then proclaiming "but look how clean the shelves are now."

Touch is one we can all understand. For myself, in the Winter, my bed reaches a Platonic Form of perfection. Usually around 6:00 in the morning when I wake up. It is warm, but not hot. My pajamas feel just right as well because I am not sweating. Nor am I cold. There is a warm softness to the flannel so that my feet feel like they are being lovingly caressed. It is profoundly dark and cold, even in my room outside, which offers a thermal chiaroscuro to the nest I find myself in. My mind, shut off from sight and in the quiet of the morning, sinks back deeply into this most complex, and primal of Forms.

Unless there is a dog crowding me.

Monday, December 5, 2016

In the Garden


Where did it all begin? How did it begin and with what words may I tell you?

These words are thoughts which are like ants along a trail. They scurry and bump into one another, but they have some sense of purpose it seems. The whole of them, when viewed from outside appear to be one organism. Entailed within this metaphor, mapped on it by pheromonal equivalencies and the randominium of axonic connectivity, is the will for structure.

But does that desire actually think? Who thought of that first? Why?

Consider the concept of Unity. I am not sure I believe in "unity" as existing outside of mind, but within that garden, it certainly maintains a beloved throne, usually at the center of our temples' concentric mandalic rings. Grand concepts always seem to move toward Unity as their ultimate goal, again, like so many ladders to other floors, being thrown aside.

Does a concept actually move? Again, I am being literal to make a point. Growth is a metaphor I can actually handle because when I go to sleep, the ground cover is one size, one volume. The next day it has spread. More intrusive. More invasive. Ideas do this as well, but usually they must have some sort of soil to grow in. That soil is language. It covers a lot of ground.

Ants, gardens, ground cover: one may find all of these ideas together. Fortunately, they are actual objects, things, perhaps even beings depending on your definition of that word, but I will leave that for elsewhere.

Generalizations are something else. A principle of sufficient reason and recognized patterns that our minds craft and what is there beyond that? Will. Desire. Potency. I glean these from the different things I see, but I am always making them up. The only thing I am not making up are these words. True, I am arranging them, but that is no more different than a house. A carpenter built it, but trees are wood: they grow. We have simply forgotten that. Perhaps because we do not climb in them anymore.

This all raises questions—questions about whether the doxographer is trying to explain the explainer. The difference always seems to be: confusing why with how. There are people who need explanations because they must explain much themselves. Why suggests causality, and time. How can work anywhen. What does it all mean? Do the ants in the garden somehow know differently in their mass because the angels converse with them?

Perhaps. I'll think about it.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A small event


Know that in this bleak afternoon, when the monsters gather in their pride and the world goes forever beyond the horizon: at the crossroads of here—where all of us seem to be—for a moment you lift the mask we all must wear in this place.

And you allow the shadow of your smile to fall upon the Earth and make a solace, a refuge from the light, a subjunctive somewhere for remembrance, a small event of beauty.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Straight to my arms


December. That means Seattle is reaching its apogee of rain, dark and gray. I sit in the café and listen to the music they are playing here. It's Astral Weeks.

Van Morrison is perfect for this weather. Especially the melancholy of "Madame George" and "Cypress Avenue." But it's another song that resurrects the lost time.

I remember.

I remember lying there after sex and you are caressing my forehead, brushing my hair back from my face. It was summer and the air felt more like apricots, honey and forever.

"Were you ever a ballerina?" You asked me.
"Is it because of this song?"
"Yeah, but it's your legs, your body. You're beautiful, Ada. You look like a ballerina."
"No…" and I couldn't say anymore, but in the light of that late morning in August, I danced in your arms.

Now, I think it is so strange that there can be such moments of love in my life—even then, when I could not love you every moment of the day. Nor you me. I cannot blame us. We did not know ourselves and that sorrow upstages ordinary regret at such moments.

It did not last. We know this. I do not even know where you really are.

If the World is Will and Representation, which is that day? Which is Astral Weeks?

Still, my heels click and clack.