Transformation always has to do with understanding the world as process.
Transformation always has to do with understanding the world as process.
A clean house is a cheerless place to live.
on the closet door of Pentti Linkola
There have always been two of him—an appropriate fate for a man who has spent his life preaching that human beings tend to split everything into twos.
We are preparing to interview a candidate at work. We are holding the interview in a play area, like you would see at a Chuck E. Cheese’s or at a Pump It Up. Except this play area is behind a locked door and wire mesh fencing (or, maybe, they’re all like that these days). There’s a surveillance camera above the door and a doorbell button on the wall to the right it. Everything feels dirty, like an old bowling alley.
I am standing by the door and can see a co-worker (J.) through the wire mesh, gesturing to me that the interview will be starting soon. I’m about to ring the doorbell, to get in, when another co-worker approaches the door and inserts a key into a lock. I didn’t notice the lock before. He opens the door and I tailgate into the play area. It’s full of kids and mothers. I’m not sure how we’ll conduct an interview in this noisy environment. One of the mothers wants to stand up but needs someone’s hand to pull on. I offer her my hand. She makes a remark about how husbands no longer fulfill their duties, as she pulls herself up from the pile of colorful beanbags. I see J. in the distance, walking towards another play area around the corner. I follow him into a smaller, quieter play area, where there are no children. All the walls are painted dark red, and the lighting is dim.
I see two young men—boys, in fact—sitting at a picnic bench in the far end of the room. Both appear nervous, and both are avoiding eye contact, especially with each other. They’re just sitting there, silent; nothing is happening, and I assume we’re just waiting for the other interviewers to arrive. But then I learn that it’s more complicated than that. I learn that both of these boys are here for the same interview, after receiving the same appointment via email. After receiving the same email. Somehow, both of them have the same email address. I ask, How is that possible? It must have been a glitch in the system. Oh, no, one of the boys replies, it’s very easy to do, if you know the technical details. But, I answer, that would mean someone did it intentionally. Someone hacked the email system? One of you? . . .
Then I understand why there’s tension in the air. We’re not waiting for the other interviewers. We’re waiting for the police to arrive.
Dolce & Gabbana announced the launch of a unisex perfume for newborns, inspired by the freshness of their breath. “D&G say their scent ‘smells of baby,’” said fragrance expert Vanessa Musson, “but a baby already smells like a baby.” Frito-Lay announced the release of Taco Bell Doritos, which will taste like Taco Bell Doritos Loco tacos, which taste like Doritos.
—Harper’s Weekly Review
I am on a family trip, in a town I’ve visited before (Victoria, B.C.?). I am in a secondhand store. It is a huge building, like a warehouse or an airplane hanger for commercial jets, with large windows all around the top of it, allowing the sunlight to pour in. And it’s full of beautiful old books and other vintage items. I am with one of my daughters. I’m looking for an old black metal rotary lead pointer, similar to the one I had purchased from this same shop twenty years ago. In fact, I find the same worn out card table on which I had found the item. It still has a lead pointer on it, but of a different color and model. For some reason, I very desperately want another lead pointer of the same model. On the table, I see an empty box for one, but I don’t see the model anywhere. I find the owner of the shop, sitting in a rocking chair, an older woman who resembles Mama Jeanne in the film Hugo. I approach her and explain my dilemma. She tells me coldly that she only has what is on display. I repeat my entreaty, only this time, tears well up in my eyes.
You see, I explain to the woman, my wife and I had visited this shop twenty years ago, and I had fallen in love with all of it—the vintage books and antique furniture and all of the old mechanical curiosities. I wanted to live in this place for the rest of my life. And I had told myself that when I retire, I would open a shop just like this one. But twenty years have passed, and I have not even taken one small step towards this dream, and I feel like a miserable failure. While I am telling her this between my sobbing, I notice that my wife is trying to reach me on my iPhone. Her name is flashing on the display in Google colors. I ignore her call and finish telling the owner my pathetic story.
When I finish, her face softens into an expression of sympathy. She smiles in an attempt to comfort me. She tells me that she really doesn’t have the lead pointer I seek. However, she suggests that I may find what I want in another shop that carries antique architecture and scientific supplies. She tells me the owner is known as KCC. I should be able to find the place by searching for “KCC” on the Internet. A sense of hope brings a smile to my teary face as I thank her profusely. She tells me that her husband had passed away years ago, that this shop had been his lifelong dream and, now, it is all that she has that’s left of him. My youngest daughter has been standing beside me this whole time, and tells me that we should be going, to join the rest of our family. I thank the owner once again, and my daughter and I head towards the shop’s glass entrance.
When I awake, I feel empty, for some reason.
War is the unfolding of miscalculations.
Is ambivalence a bad thing? Well, yes and no. . . .
Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion
I came upon this book by serendipity, in a town that I’ve visited only once and will probably never have the opportunity to visit again—Ketchikan, Alaska. The family and I were on our first—and likely last—Disney Cruise. Ketchikan was one of the ports of call. By this time, none of kids wanted to leave the ship, and the two youngest ones preferred watching the Disney Channel on our cabin’s television set. So it was just the wife and I, strolling along the town’s peaceful streets. Using my handy-dandy iPhone, I searched for bookstores in the area and found only one: Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore established in 1985 (according to the owner Maggie Freitag’s business card).
While browsing the store’s shelves, I came upon a book by Wendell Berry entitled Harlan Hubbard. I had never heard of this book, and I thought I had owned everything (at least, nonfiction) written by Wendell Berry. I flipped through the pages and came upon these lines:
The mind tries to live by the artificial structure of the world, but the body will have none of it, holding to primeval forces. . . . He would not live by mind alone, and he would not put his body and his bodily life under the rule of abstract ideas or monetary values. In its willingness to do that, and so to use the world and its goods without love or care, modern civilization denies the life both of the body and of the spirit.
And that was my introduction to Mr. Harlan Hubbard.
Payne Hollow is a book by Hubbard, about the years he and his wife Anna had spent building a house by the Ohio River in Kentucky, and living there to avoid the pitfalls of the modern world. This was after they had already lived on a homemade shantyboat, drifting down that same river for seven years. Payne Hollow is reminiscent of Thoreau’s Walden, but perhaps written less pedantically and with more humility. I am also tempted to add this book to my collection of “husbands and wives getting back to nature” books, which include The Good Life, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough, and Green Was the Earth on the Seventh Day. Reading its pages can open your eyes to the possibilities of what it means to have “much in little.” And you may find yourself noticing just how abstract and disconnected the modern world can get—and why you may occasionally feel empty inside.
What remains of people is what media can store and communicate. What counts are not the messages or the content with which they equip so-called souls for the duration of a technological era, but rather . . . their circuits, the very schematism of perceptibility.
Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
I am in the garage of our prior house. An old and beaten pickup truck sits obliquely in it. I am facing the front of it from a distance. The late afternoon sunlight illuminates the garage from a small window. For reasons unknown, I make a Jedi gesture towards it, pushing the palm of my hand at it, tensing my fingers and arm. When I do, the truck’s windshield fogs up. Again for reasons unknown, I ask the truck a question then repeat my Jedi gesture. The windshield fogs, and a simple image appears within it, as if a little child had drawn a picture with her finger. The image is the answer to my question. I now realize that a spirit possesses the truck. Is the spirit good or evil? I am both frightened and intrigued by either possibility. I ask it other questions. Each question receives an answer in the form of an image—a child beneath the sun, a radio tower surrounded by trees, a house with part of its roof torn away….
Playing with Wood Camera. I wish I could take the best features from all of my camera apps and turn them into one perfect camera app.
It is a cold and foggy morning. I am with an old schoolmate at her mountain cabin. She has written a novel that has just been published. We are sitting at her dining table. A copy of her book sits on it, bound in black textured leather, like a volume of scripture. I hold it in my hands. It feels heavy. I open the book and see that it’s printed like a Bible, with books, chapters and verses. It’s even printed on that thin Bible paper. What a novel idea, I think to myself. There are also diagrams in the book: maps, illustrations, visual explanations of foreign language characters. It has all the makings for an interesting read. And I can’t wait to start.
What if all good comes from suffering?
It seems that a man who is nothing but a man has lost the very qualities which make it possible for others to treat him as a fellow man.
sui ge·ner·is \ˌsü-ē-ˈge-nə-rəs\ adj. constituting a class alone
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition