Tag Archives: LiveJournal

Wow, I almost died

Seriously. Literally.

An hour ago (8:45 AM PT) at the intersection of West Lake Sammamish and Interstate 90, one of those double dump trucks (technically called, I now see, a Transfer Dump Truck) owned by Pacific Topsoils started to pull out from 90 across Lake Sammish. I was traveling north.

The truck started to pull out in front of me. I hit my brakes and the horn. The truck stopped.

By the time I had stopped, I was half-way across the front of the truck.

If it hadn’t stopped I wouldn’t have been able to stop in time and would’ve hit it. And, those trucks are so wide that there’s no way I could’ve swerved.

And those things are big enough that if I hit it, it wouldn’t move, really. It would be the proverbial hitting a brick wall.

I would’ve died, I do think.

So, that’s more than a little freaky. My eye is twitching now and my hands are shaking. That’s the closest I’ve ever actually come to dying, truly.

I’ve said for a while that just as you can’t realistically live like there’s no tomorrow, you also can’t live like there will always be one either.

I almost didn’t have a tomorrow. The lunch I have planned with my wife tomorrow: wouldn’t have happened. On Friday, our traditional pizza night: wouldn’t have happened. The trip we’ve got planned for the UK: wouldn’t have happened.

If that idiot hadn’t stopped, the only thing left to happen for me would’ve been for me to be put in a furnace and turned into ash.

Yeah, you can say I’m more than a little freaked out by this.

Oh, it’s coming!

I’m trying to keep on more positive notes in my posts here.

Season 3 teaser for Battlestar Galactica!

That says it all!

Oh, and I was listening to the fan podcast, Galactica Actual this morning…turns out they’re working on a prequel now, too, Caprica, set 50 years before the current series:
http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?category=2&id=35773

The Hauntings of Music

You may laugh, but I was drawn from bed by a need to listen again to my latest music acquisition: the soundtrack from the new Battlestar Galactica.

Gods bless them for the series and it’s music.

It is truly haunting in its stark beauty.

It may be some of the most innovative music in quite some time.

I find it does to me what the soundtrack to the Mahabharata did to me all those years ago: spawns thinking and imagination. And, makes me want to find a way to write about things that inspire people to do those things that are hard and more difficult….that help goad them to evolve and grow.

I am a true Nietzschean in that regard still: I believe that the goal of human life is to seek each day to become something greater than one was the day before.

I admit, I’ve been on quite a music kick lately….just devouring things as quickly as I can get them (and running up rather a tab with iTunes to boot).

But, you know, I have to say, it is rather like a part of me has reawakened. When I was younger, in high school and college, I would stay up late at night listening to music and surrounded by the free floating thoughts that it would evoke. And I feel like that’s what’s happening once again.

I confess, I think that cassettes has something that CDs lacked and we’re only rediscovering with the iPod: the portability factor. I love CDs for their quality but you have to admit, they’re damned bulky. And, I think they’re bulky in a way that defeats the benefits you had with the classic walkman.

WIth my iPod, I find, I can walk and think and mull in that way that I used to before. And all of that creativity I had when I was younger is coming back.

Indeed the challenge isn’t having ideas….it’s how to channel them and use them. I have idea falling to the floor every day now.

Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far…

So, Syd Barrett died:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13814051/

Updated with additional obit:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2265488,00.html

Not all that surprising,especially given Syd’s background.  Indeed, in some ways I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did.

But, it’s still cause for pause.

One thing I’ll note: the boomer generation seems to be fairing poorly in terms of longevity.  My mother died in her 50’s.  My father died younger, not even making it out of his 40’s.

But, it’s funny to think about this.  I’ve been on a music kick lately and, in some ways, my music kick is taking me back to times like when I was in college and graduate school as those were times I listed to more music and engaged more in these flights of imaginative free thinking with music.

And, unsurprising, Pink Floyd is one of those that I’ve been returning to.

And so, returning to music of your youth and then hearing about the death of someone who’s associated with it (I never listed to a lot of he Barrett-era Floyd) gives cause for pause.

I know, I know: we’re all going to die and that’s not that big a surprise.  And, in truth, I’ve been grappling acutely with questions or mortality in the years since my mother’s death (whose anniversary is coming up: 23 July 2002) and questions about what it means to live your life and what you’re going to do with it.

Rambling: yes I know.

Sigh.

Bulls 7 Humans 0: Go Bulls!

So, I say to people at times that I’m not a nice person.

I am a firm unsentimental believer in the laws of Karma and that what you sow you will reap.

So, when people do cruel things and experience just retribution for it, I give a cheer, frankly.  Most especially when it’s people being cruel to animals.

For instance, if I were God Emperor, anyone I caught involved in dog or cock fighting would find themselves swiftly consigned for the rest of their days to the gladiatorial arena. That being how they can best experience what they inflicted on animals.

So, in this vein, it was with some degree of grim satisfaction that I read this today:

http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/14993055.htm

Especially when you read things like this:
Ducharme was injured in what is known as a vaquilla, an event separate from the bull run in which hundreds of people chase five cows around a bull ring, pulling their ears and tails.

I mean, what “sport” is there in that?  That’s simply inflicting pain and suffering needlessly on one weaker than you or unable to defend themselves. I find it hard to feel anything but a sense that the Fates spoke justly in this instance.

Sigh.  What is wrong with people.  I mean, really.

The Smooth Touch of Silk

Somewhere near the bottom of the footlocker of our everyday lexicon is a phrase that nearly everyone has heard at least once: “the Silk Road“.

And, for a popular culture that suffers from a terrible lack of knowledge about history, most people manage to get some vague idea about what it was right.  Most people know that it was an overland trading route between Europe and China and that it played some role in prompting Columbus on his voyage. Oh, and that there were camels and silk.

Considering that most people keep trying to put Vietnam as the southern neighbor of Canada and the western neighbor of Iraq, that’s not too bad!

And so, in our popular understanding, this turn of phrase calls forth some of that exotic orientalism of old: mental images of camels, chinese silk clothes, deserts, Marco Polo, Kubla Khan, and maybe Xanadu (no, not the Olivia Newton John version).

Until a couple of years ago, that was roughly where my understanding was, though my history has always been pretty good, so tilt me more historical information and less poetical.

In the past couple of years, though, I slowly stumbled my way into reading about first Afghanistan and from there more and more about Inner Asia. And, like one of the explorers of the Silk Road that I’ve read about, the more I dig and find, the most I’m left simply speechless at the beauty and diversity that I’ve found.

For it turns out that this very simple and pithy phrase (coined by Ferdinand von Richthofen uncle of the Red Baron of World War I) really labels not so much a simple road or path but, really, a juncture; a juncture that sits in the middle of the largest land mass on the earth and knits together the four major spheres of settled civilizations on that land mass: the civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean; the civilizations of China and South East Asia; the Civilizations of Persia, the Near East and the Mediterranean; and the civilizations of India and the surrounding regions.

Into and across this juncture come elements, goods (yes, including silk), peoples, thoughts and languages. A huge expanse of land mass that serves essentially as a cultural superhighway transmitting things between all of those civilizations. Paper from China finds its way to the Muslim world and eventually to Europe. Gunpowder, silk, cannons, alphabets: all of these circulate across this superhighway.

And ideas. Perhaps most important, ideas. Buddhism from India to China. Manicheanism (best know because of Saint Augustine) can be found everywhere, all the way from Europe to China. Writing: many scripts of medieval central asia use a script derived from the Sogdian Language which was an Iranian language that used an Aramaic script.

Perhaps most interesting, especially in today’s multicultural world of mass movement and travel, peoples and languages. From the Indo-European Scythians, Sarmatians, Goths, Sogdians, and Tocharians to the Turkic Koks, Huns, Kazaks, Uzbeks, Turkmen and Turks of Turkey to the Mongolian Mongols, Tartars, and Manchus the Silk Road and the Steppes represent the worlds greatest melting pot, ever.

Spend any time studying the Steppes and the “”Aryans”” (meaning the early Indo-European peoples) on it and you realize just how thoroughly ludicrous racial purity theories are, most especially ones focused on Germanic identity: the Goths (perhaps the strongest and most successful of the early German tribes) were strongly intermixed and influenced by the Huns, a Turkic people. Genetic scientists claim that perhaps 1 in 200 people carry DNA from Genghis Khan. Through migrations, trade, and war, among other things, the the Steppes and the Silk Road took those isolated spheres of  genes and ethnic identity and mixed it all up.

Perhaps there is no better example to explode these compartmentalized ideas of history, culture and ethnic identify than a picture. This is a picture of Buddhist monks from the 9th Century CE. It comes from Bezaklik which is located in the Tarim Basin (here is a map to help you see where that is. The image really speaks for itself.

Another example of the incredibly interesting mix of cultures and history is the tale of Baron Roman Ungern von Sternberg, also known as the “”Bloody Baron””. A Russian General who played a major role in the Russian Civil War. He was a liberator of Mongolia from China who saw himself as a reincarnation of Genghis Khan, and declared to be a Mahakala incarnation by the Dalai Lama XIII.

I am a history person.  I always have been and I always will be.  I’ve always been particularly drawn to lesser known, more obscure history. And so, in many ways, I have found a true treasure trove for my interest in this region. It’s only a couple of years since I found my way into this region but I know this will be a lifelong interest as it unites so many interests including a desire to someday write a history about the role of the horse on Indo-European cultures.

And so, we see, there is so much buried in this one phrase, “”the Silk Road””. A lifetime of pleasant study, at the very least. But also, a very key element in the history of humanity and one that we could stand to study more because it can influence and guide us both as our current world becomes ever more connected and fluid and as we move (as we surely will) into the broad expanse of space. I firmly believe that our experience of space will be very like our experience on the Eurasian landmass: pockets of civilization joined by a fluid, open juncture.

If you’ve made it this far, then you’re probably interested in learning more.  So, here’s some places to go:

The Silk Road Foundation has great resources and articles, though the site is clunky: http://www.silk-road.com/toc/index.html
The Silk Road Project is a wonderful musical project: http://www.silkroadproject.org/
The International Dunhuang Project is simply incredible for information and resources: http://idp.bl.uk/

Moods

Moods are powerful things.

Kierkegaard once remarked on how looking at brain matter through a microscope tells you nothing about consciousness.

While I rather deplore where he landed with all that, the fact is that the observation was, and remains, astute. We just don’t have really any more of an understanding of what it is that makes the human experience of consciousness now than we did then.

And, indeed, for all the supposed “advancements” of science, in some ways our clinical approach makes our experience worse rather than better. For, while we may be more accurate to no longer suppose that demons or other spirits are to blame, the loss of that explanation removes a point of view of externality regarding moods.

And, in so doing, puts a burden of self-healing on everyone.

“Oh, you’re just in a bad mood, pull yourself out of it”

Were that it were that simple. Were that moods were truly internal and responsive to command and control.

One of my interests is in manic-depressive illness (MDI) because, to a degree, I suffer a mild case of it. More prone to depression than mania and mania episodes are what we call “hypomanic” meaning they’re very light. Put it this way, I’ve never yet gone on a shopping spree that puts me in danger of bankruptcy: instead, I buy 3 books I probably don’t need. But, the swings are there and I feel them, like today.

And, any review of the history of those who suffer MDI shows that these “moods” will not heel or obey. Sufferers use a variety of methaphors and similes to explain it, and there’s nearly always an element of externality.

Me being me, my favorite is Churchill’s “black dog” metaphor. For me, I’ve viewed it as rather a demonic spirit, looking like a Quasit from the old AD&D monster manual with long claws that it can drive into my skull at the worst of times.

I suppose I should be glad that, over time, I’ve come to recognize what it is and how it behaves. I know when I have to accept the Fates’ decree that I have to grit my teeth, feel the agony pass slowly with hours seeming like days and wait for it to pass, in time.

I am glad to know that it will pass. But, the time is painful nonetheless. And so, there are moments like right now when I lament the fact that moods do not act the way we’re told they’re supposed to, when I wish that I could simply decide I feel better and have it be so.

But, then, as Nietzsche said so famously : that which does not destroy you makes you stronger. And, I am so very, very strong now.

Reflections

“How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life”
– James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

So, I prove my “Geeky” score on OKCupid here by using this quote. But, that’s OK because geeky though it is, it’s a good thought-provoking quote. And, too, where it comes from has some significance for me in my personal history that makes it all the more relevant really.

With the news that one of our cats has what they believe to be a tumor that may be cancerous, I find myself back in that place of dealing with questions of life and death that I last was in with the sickness and death of my mother.  And, while we don’t yet know for sure if it is cancer and if it is cancer, what kind it is, the mere possibility is enough to require me to look once again at the question of how to deal with such things.

It would seem on many levels there is much that is changing with me. Indeed, I think that the changes may be coming more quickly now, things falling one after the other to the floor as I cast them off. And it would seem the question of how I deal with death is another one that is changing.

Regardless of what this turns out to be, I realize that I am going to deal with death differently than I did with my mother.  Quite simply, I’m not going to dwell on it. I realize that my mother’s illness and death essentially shortened my own life by 2+ years as I basically put myself in a place where I viewed my life as on hold and in a land of darkness until it was over. Some of it was out of a sense of duty, that it’s inappropriate for someone who’s mother (and only remaining blood relative) to be anything but in a state of perpetual near-mourning. To do otherwise would be akin to one who laughs and smiles and jokes at a funeral. Or so it seemed to me. Other of it was the natural pain of losing the one person who had been the center of my universe for so long. As Kate Bush says, “Mother stands for comfort”.

But, aside from the “whys”, the fact remains that I lost those years of my life by living in this very deep and dark place. And, I realize increasingly that I myself only have so much longer left. And so I simply don’t have the time to waste going back into that place for years at a time once again.

And so I won’t go there. One of the key things that seems to be changing is that I believe on some level more and more in my ability to fashion my world. Perhaps an element of the pagan sorcerer that my friend Cinnamon says she sees in me. And so I am determined to use that ability to change how I deal with death.

And so as I’ve been ruminating on this question these past two days, the old Star Trek quote came to mind. And then I realized that it is imbued with an element of magic since I first saw that movie in the theater with my mother and seeing that with her is one of those very strong memories I have of her.  I remember her crying hard at the end with the scene where Spock, dying, bids farewell to Kirk. She always cried easily at movies. And, I always felt that it was important when she was crying for me to not be upset: that it was important for me to support her and tamp down my own upset. And so, though I was choked by the scene, true to the pattern that characterized so much of our relationship, I swallowed my feelings.

When I was going through this with my mother, I complained bitterly that we deal so very poorly with death in our culture. We basically approach it from the point of view that everybody lives forever, until they don’t anymore. There is no planning, no thought, no realistic non-morbid awareness of death. And, there’s certainly no attempt to find ways to view it as a positive, natural thing.

I find my thoughts returning to that fact again. And somewhere in the back of my head I wonder if I should sit down and write “The Pagan Book of Living and Dying”?

Something to think on.

The hidden pull of gravity

How do we explain rationally those moments where things seem to come together in an uncanny way?

I confess, I simply don’t know.

I do know, though, that there are times when things seem to be more than they simply appear. That there is some latent energy lurking just under the surface, if you can only be still and let yourself sense it.

For example, today is “dies meretricum”, a day sacred to Venus of Eryx, a mountain in Siciliy that is associated with the Carthaginians and their worship of Astarte (Ishtar). In the past week Eryx has come up two books I’ve been reading, Robert Kaplan’s Mediteranean Winters and Robert Graves’ Daughter of Homer. Prior to Kaplan (I read it first) I’d not really heard of Eryx. Now, in a week it has come up three times.

The fact that there is a Graves connection too has an uncanny quality. There are things about Graves that make him someone I feel some commonality with, mainly around the life pattern of being very upright and traditional in youth and then increasingly pagan and independent in later life. And, the role of the Goddess in his works and views is a point of commonality for me too. And, too, the interest I have in historical fiction writing has put me on quite the Graves buying spree as I load up on stuff he’s done in that genre.

One thing in these things I’ve learned is that it’s enough to simply note the presence of that uncanny energy. Looking for a linear “meaning” really doesn’t work and does violence to it anyway. Sensing it is there and cultivating that when you do sense it is, I think, the proper approach.

*smile*

I am indeed getting flakier as I get older. I’m glad for that, actually.