From the Witch’s Bedtable


The lustrous craft of such [Jungian] writers — from Joseph Campbell to Marie-Louise von Franz, from the visionary psychologist James Hillman to Shaw’s early mentor, the poet-bard Robert Bly — had brought a nourishing wildness into contemporary psychology, a sense that even today the human mind is secretly and steadily fed by a glamour of conflicting energies, daemonic powers seething in the inexhaustible deep of our collective psyche.  Yet there was the rub; most all of these writers assumed that the tumult of forces revealed in the old, oral stores resided somewhere inside us — that the gods, goddesses, demons, and spirits afoot in the tales could be traced to power that lurk within the largely unconscious depth of the collective human interior, and hence that the tales had real relevance only to human persons and not to the spider weaving its web in the near corner of the room, or to the raucous crows hollering outside the window, much less to the hordes of salmon that once muscled their way upstream, or clear-cut mountainsides and dripping glaciers, or the thunderclouds now massing on the horizon.

David Abram’s Foreword to Scatterings:  Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia by Martin Shaw

Returning home from the war, he returned to memory.  He returned to the time of his own life that he felt to be continuous from long before his birth until long past his death.  He came back tot he old place and its constant reminding, awakening memories and memories of memories as he walked in and across the tracks of those who had preceded him.  He knew then how his own comings and going were woven into the invisible fabric of the land’s history and its human life.

A Place in Time:  Twenty Stories of Port William by Wendell Berry

Sometimes I don’t know why I do the things I do.  Even after all this time, it’s still a new thing for me not to know, not to have orders to follow from one moment to the next.  So I can’t explain to you why I stopped and with one foot lifted the naked shoulder so I could see the person’s face.

Frozen, bruised, and bloody as she was, I knew her.  Her name was Seivarden Vendaai, and a long time ago, she had been one of my officers, a young lieutenant, eventually promoted to her own command, another ship.  I had bought her a thousand years dead, but she was, undeniably, here.  I crouched down and felt for a pulse, for the faintest stir of breath.

Still alive.

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch Book 1) by Anne Beckie

nb: This is probably the most interesting book about gender, identity, and politics that I’ve ever read.

Picture found here.


Friday Afternoon Potpourri


I have two things to say today:

  1.  If you use a credit card today; if you spend cash at a mall today; if you acquiesce in the lie of “just buy stuff to show your love,” you are guilty.  You are sending the message to fascists and those who would oppose them that you are going to make fascism the “new normal.”  Nothing to see here; move along.  Everyone will continue to buy and behave.  As Wendell Berry wrote:  “When they want you to buy something/they will call you./When they want you/to die for profit they will let you know.”

I don’t care if what you use your credit card for today is to buy a lovely, handmade bit of artisanship from a nice Pagan.  You’ve sent the message that you will be a good consumer, even under a fascist regime.  And it’s disingenuous to say, “Oh, we’re not encouraging anyone to buy today.  We’re just saying that if you do comply today, well, here are some nice things to buy.”  Bullshit.

2.  This.

Picture found here.



Imagine that you live in a room with just one window.  It looks out onto a rather normal scene:  a bit of lawn, a strip of flowers alongside the road, a maple tree in the middle.  The scene changes a bit with the seasons, of course.  In winter, there are no flowers, no leaves on the tree, and snow covers the grass.  In autumn, the tree turns a brilliant orange, the sun casts long shadows, Queen Anne’s lace blooms at the edge.  In spite of these small variations, whenever you look out the window, you see essentially the same scene and that’s what’s “normal” to you and to everyone who lives with you.

One night, without your even really noticing, someone comes and moves the window a  few inches to the right.  When you wake up and look out, things look pretty much the same as they did yesterday:  spring leaves on the tree, bright green grass on the ground, a few daffodils and tulips along the street.  (That garden strip.  It’s always changing.  Spring flowers now; daisies and black-eyed-susans later.  That’s the way of the world.)  Well, just off to the right edge of the window, there’s the corner of a three-story building, but it’s not too visible.  You’re busy getting dressed and your mind is on your personal concerns.  Maybe that building was always there and you just never noticed.  A bit later, some other people come at night and move the window a few more inches to the right.  Now, the tree is no longer in the middle of the scene that you see every day; it’s decidedly off to the left.  And that building, well, it’s nearly front and center.  It’s always been there, though; you’ve been seeing it for weeks.  This happens a few more times and, a year later, the normal view out your window is of a busy street, a three-story building, and part of a five-story building.  If someone mentions that there used to be trees, and flowers, and grass, everyone laughs, or gasps, or gets upset.  Of course those things are impossible!  Just look out the window!  What’s normal is what’s out the window:  buildings and asphalt.

And that, as we all know, is how the Overton Window works.  Ideas, from either the Left or the Right, fall somewhere on a spectrum:

  • Unthinkable
  • Radical
  • Acceptable
  • Sensible
  • Popular
  • Policy
  • Popular
  • Sensible
  • Acceptable
  • Radical
  • Unthinkable

But if I can yank the window in one direction, so that what was once radical now occupies the position that was once  acceptable — everyone says it; we all know it’s true; we’ve been hearing it for years — then I can move policy in the direction I want.

The Right is much better at this game than the Left.  Note how no one on the Right ever criticizes even the more extreme members of the Right:  Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, Breitbart, and, now, even people on CNN questioning whether Jews are people.  And, then, those ideas are “out there,” and, suddenly, we’ve stopped discussing whether we should help parents pay for day care and we’re running around insisting that, yes, of course, Jews are people.  OK, sure, everyone is entitled to their point of view and, agreed, both sides are kind of to blame here, but, wait, no, internment camps aren’t legal (What’s the big deal?  The Right told us for years that Obama was going to put our grannies in death camps.  Camps are normal now!), no, hold on, you can’t make people wear stars and,  . . . .

Even when they “lose” the argument, the Right wins by shifting the range of what’s normal.

One thing to notice about the Overton Window is that the way that the Right manipulates the window is very similar to what an abusive partner does.  At first, he’s charming and wonderful.  Then, there’s that one odd little demand:  you ARE going to hang up all his shirts in color-coded order in the closet.  And, really, what’s so difficult about that? It’s a simple demand and it’s just not worth making him angry over it.  Some of your foibles probably seem odd to him, too.  You know, the one where you don’t want to hand over your paycheck without any information or conditions.  And then there’s the day when you misjudge which yellow shirt is lighter than the other one and he smacks you.  Later, he’s very sorry and wishes you hadn’t made him do that, but the window just shifted.  Now, it isn’t acceding to an odd demand that’s the new normal; getting smacked is the new normal.  In a few days when he says he doesn’t like your best friend, it’s just easier to stop seeing her than to deal with getting smacked.  Eventually, it will, on the Overton scale, be “unthinkable” for you to expect to get through a day without getting smacked for something.  A good day is a day with only a few smacks.  But this all started out over how you hung up the shirts when you (natch) did the laundry.

Con artists do the same thing.  They get you to say yes to some very small request; something you’d be embarrassed to refuse.  Will you loan them a dollar to cover their share of the lunch tab?  Once you say yes to that little thing, it can become more difficult to draw the line.  Last week, you were happy to lend them five dollars; why are you balking over six dollars this week?  What kind of cheapskate won’t lend a friend a dollar extra this week?  OK, they’ll forgive you for being so cheap last week and will even give you a chance to show that you’re sorry; here’s an investment opportunity you can’t refuse.

The Left has been losing the Overton Window game for decades and now we’ve got a fascist president-elect and CNN and the New York Times are essentially becoming his propaganda machines.  What’s to be done?  Here are a few suggestions.

  1.  Recognize and call out what’s going on.  “Hey!  CNN just let a Nazi question whether Jews are people!  That’s batshit insane!  They’re letting fascists manipulate the Overton Window!”
  2. Start pulling in the other direction.  There’s a huge temptation to just react to what the fascists are doing.  Reject that. Don’t talk about how we can “save” Social Security by cutting benefits.  Talk about the need for everyone to receive a basic income.  Don’t talk about a carbon tax; talk about leaving it all in the ground.  Don’t talk about whether some abortion restrictions are reasonable; talk about providing free birth control to high school students.
  3. Work to overturn Citizens United.  It’s not the only reason, but one reason that most members of the Left are far more timid than most members of the right is that the Left has to get funding from large corporations, too.  And large corporations favor fascist forms of government.  Most members of the media have to get advertising dollars from large corporations.  And large corporations favor fascist forms of government.
  4. Stop the fucking purity wars.  The Left has, for decades, been much more involved in purging anyone who is — by your definition/my definition/some great man of history’s definition/the most radical socialist’s definition — insufficiently “pure,” than it has been at, for example, winning the Overton Window war.  Anyone who is willing to stand up to fascists is my ally at the moment.  Later, when we’ve moved into that grand and glorious ectopia that I once hoped to live to see, we can have a debate about who was most hurt when they called out fascism and not everyone immediately saw how brilliant they were.  If you simply can’t support something another Leftist does or says, you can at least not call the police just to show the Right how decent you are.  They won’t do that for you.

Feel free to add your own ideas in comments.

Picture found here.


Words for Wednesday

I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war
don’t lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you’re older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity
just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice
he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally
it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop
he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England
as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry
he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention
I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t
you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write.
Picture found here.

Full Catastrophe


Omega Institute used to offer a course called, if memory serves, Full Catastrophe Living.  The title fascinated me when I was a young adult, perhaps because I often felt as if I were always juggling way too much, living in the midst of one full catastrophe after another.  (Think of Adrienne Rich’s poem:  “we take on/everything at once before we’ve even begun/to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin/in the midst of the hardest movement,/the one already sounding as we are born.”)  But the course description made clear it was really “just” a course about living mindfully in order to deal with, for example, physical pain or illness, and, so, I never took the course.

But when I awake like a bolt, as I have every morning since our great national tragedy, at 3:00 am and stare into the future with dread, I keep remembering that course title and thinking:  “And, now, here we are.  And I could really use a course that would teach me how to live through a Full Catastrophe.”  How do you plan your life when an erratic, mentally unstable man-child has his finger on the nuclear button, the economy, angry and emboldened crowds of racist, anti-semetic fascist wannabes?  How do you live as every progressive program and win from the last century or so is undone?  How does a decent person live in these times?

I’ve also been remembering something that I once read in (what I think was) a magazine article about women who survived attacks by serial killers.  I think the focus was on what these women may have done that allowed them to escape when others didn’t.  And I remember one woman saying that although you may think that, in such a situation, fear will simply incapacitate you, might leave you like in those dreams where you are terrified and struggle to scream out and can’t even make a sound due to the terror, in fact, at the time, whatever is happening is “just what’s happening in your life right then” and you just deal with it.  You don’t have time to realize that you should be frozen in fear of this man.  And I wonder if what I’m doing to myself at 3:00 am is surrendering that ability, worrying so much ahead of time about how horrible it will be that I may incapacitate myself when the horror that is coming, in and of itself, should simply embolden me.  I want to be like the woman in the article who, when her attacker had raped her and told her to stay in bed while he went into her kitchen to get a knife, did not lie there in fear but simply waited until he left the room, wrapped a sheet around herself, and left the apartment, running away down twisting halls and alerting a nearby policeman.  Her chances were infinitely better outside the apartment than in and she had to envision that in order to escape.

Others are wondering the same thing.  In an email, Joanna Powell Colbert writes:  “Since the election, I have been sitting with the question of whether or not the work that I do — helping people become more deeply whole by guiding them into soul work — is even worth doing anymore.  Shall I set that work aside and instead become a full time, volunteer activist, as a retired friend of mine will be doing? I have been asking myself: What is my part in resisting the dominant paradigm, now to become even more dominant than ever? What is the best use of my time? How shall I now live? ”  She’s offering an online course that will focus on the coming season of darkness.

This post, which a friend shared with me, is a bit new-agey, but still makes important points about the end of Patriarchy.  I especially agree with these:

  1. Attend to the Shadow Feminine, who is also losing her shit.  The wounded feminine is just as freaked out right now as the wounded masculine.  Consider, though, that our shadow aspects are simply disenfranchised parts of our power—so where the feminine has been wounded, her powers of righteous anger and interdependence can easily devolve into self-righteous rage and co-dependence.  Be mindful of that delicate line. Creatively express and move the energy of righteous rage through body-work, dance, and sound.  Keep an eye on co-dependent tendencies by being vigilant to the agenda behind your words and actions, asking questions like: Is this really what I want?  Or am I just trying to please or keep the peace?  [I see the women who voted for Trump in this category.]
  2. Affirm the healing presence of the Sacred Masculine.    As it feels safe to do so, consider recognizing and inviting in Sacred Masculine presence—either physically in the form of people with a more pronounced masculinity, energetically through clear boundaries and a consistent daily schedule, or spiritually through prayer and meditation.  My recent experience with the Divine Masculine presence has been deeply spiritual—a felt sense of a tender, steady, holding presence, one that I can rest into and be held.

And, finally, I’ve been remembering my first boyfriend, who used to love to quote Crosby, Stills, and Nash: “Rejoice, rejoice.  We have no choice, but to carry on.”

Adrianne Rich thought about this problem, too:

From Contradictions

The problem, unstated till now, is how
to live in a damaged body
in a world where pain is meant to be gagged
uncured          ungrieved over          The problem is
to connect, without hysteria, the pain
of any one’s body with the pain of the body’s world
For it is the body’s world
they are trying to destroy for ever
The best world is the body’s world
filled with creatures          filled with dread
misshapen so          yet the best we have
our raft among the abstract worlds
and how I longed to live on this earth
walking her boundaries          never counting the cost

From an Atlas of the Difficult World

What are you remembering at 3:00 am?

Picture found here.


Monday at the Movies

They may have messed this up.

Sunday Ballet Blogging