“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” ~ Anne Sexton

  

   

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.”~ Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
Barbara Kingsolver, author

 

Wow. Can I just tell you how good it felt to put up a  post yesterday? I know that I didn’t exactly reveal any great truths or ponder any of life’s deep mysteries; nevertheless, it felt good to write something. Since my computer died, I’ve been spending more time on tumblr, reblogging other people’s pictures and quotes, which is always nice as far as finding new things,  but just isn’t the same as moving some words around the page.  

So much has been happening on the political front, but I’m not in the mood to castigate Neanderthal thinking tonight. Instead, I thought that I might just write and see what comes to me—open the window, so to speak, to allow whatever thoughts are drifting by to coast inside and cogitate a bit.  

“You see, I am a poet, and not quite right in the head, darling. It’s only that.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet

 

I found out yesterday that Brett hasn’t been taking his medication, not for about five days. I am of mixed feelings about this. I mean, he seems to be doing okay, and perhaps without the steady stream of stress from school he really is feeling balanced at the moment. However, he starts college in less than a month and a half, and if that’s isn’t a stress inducer, I don’t know what is.  

I do understand his desire to be off medication, to be normal, as it were. I often think of being without medication (not pain medication, but the other kind). I know that as far as writing, creating, it is easier without medication than with. I know from  times past that the highs and lows, the keen sense of soaring when things are good, and the abysmal sense of falling when they are not—these undulating moods can be like a drug to the one who is being tossed about on the waves.  

Pain can be addictive. Pain can make the sufferer feel more alive. Pain separates the anguished from the even; the heady ride into the unknowing can be positively euphoric when compared to notions of normalcy. The years that I spent without medication, immersed in my grief and pain were some of my most prolific as far as churning out pages and pages of angst. But really, how much of it was good, was readable? How much of it would I put out there for public consumption? I do not think that I can answer that honestly, and certainly not without bias.  

“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes. ~ André Gide, Journals, 1894
Andre Gidé, author (LIFE 1947)

 

Those of you who have never ridden these waves probably find me incomprehensible. How could anyone possibly enjoy suffering? Well, enjoy is not the best word. I don’t think that anyone enjoys suffering (well, almost anyone). It’s more that the suffering becomes so entwined in the very fiber of being that to be without it feel as if a hollow has replaced the niches in which the pain and suffering resided.  

Consider Emily Dickinson. Hers was a life of complex solitude that led to pages and pages of contemplation about life, death, grief, spirituality, hope, and pain. Dickinson’s poems often expound on the idea of what life must be like for other people—their dreams, sorrows, etc.:  

I measure every grief I meet
   With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
   Or has an easier size.  

I wonder if they bore it long,
   Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
   It feels so old a pain.  

I wonder if it hurts to live,
   And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
   They would not rather die.  

That no one found the poet’s written pages until after her death reflects her intense need for privacy. Perhaps Dickinson believed that no one else would be able to comprehend that of which she spoke, that no one else would care to share her intimate thoughts. Of course, many years later Dickinson has become a mainstay in the American literature canon.  

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
Anne Sexton, Poet

 

Does the individual need to be mad to be an artist? Of course not. Is there a tinge of madness in many artistic souls? Probably.  

I think that it, this kinship with madness, comes from feeling too much, that there must be something in the artistic temperament that makes bearing witness to life and death, love and hate, elation and despair—that makes the knowing too hard to be left untold. Hence, reams and reams of poetry and prose, canvases awash with emotion, photographs that capture that absolute essence of a moment in time, songs that run so deep that listeners weep upon the hearing; sculptures, carvings, tapestries, mosaics, and architecture that reflect a connection with beauty, a knowledge of pain, a reflection of loss.  

It’s all here. It always has been, ever since the first person took a finger, dipped it in blood or berry juice, and began to draw on a cave wall, ever since someone else took a rock with a sharp edge and hewed into a larger stone. The need to translate what is felt into something tangible is as ancient as time.  

“The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person.” ~ Frank Barron
Pablo Neruda, poet

 

So, the question perhaps is whether or not to medicate the artistic mind. To what end? To allow that person to become more normal? To bring that person some sense of peace? Who decides just what is acceptable, what is normal? Can peace of mind be induced chemically?  

Or is the call for medication more for those around the artist so that the surrounding family, friends, whatever, can live life with fewer disruptions caused by the shifting moods of the odd one? You know, the one who doesn’t really fit in, who has never really fit in—the outsider.  

But consider this: Often when not medicated, the artistic individual will turn to other sources for calming or for stimulation. Alcohol? Heroin? All of it? How many creative geniuses has society lost to the vices employed as balms to the tortured soul?  

  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning (opium)
  • Ernest Hemingway (alcohol)
  • Beethoven (alcohol)
  • William S. Burroughs (heroin)
  • Kurt Cobain (heroin)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay (alcohol)
  • Tennessee Williams (alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates)
  • Charlie Parker (heroin)
  • Jack Kerouac (alcohol)
  • Hunter S. Thompson (anything and everything)

And then, of course, are the artists who were depressed, suicidal, and/or addicted: Anne Sexton, Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, James Wright, and many, many others. Would Van Gogh have painted “Starry Night” if he were on lithium? Could he have even envisioned those passionate swirls with all of their intense aching if were pumped full of prozac?  

Just wondering. More later. Peace.  

                                                                                                               

VII  

 

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”  

~ Pablo Neruda from Still Another Day  

                                                                                                              

Music by  Neko Case, “Furnace Room Lullabye”  

  

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“Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.” ~ James Bryce

   

Happy Independence Day Wherever You Are!   

    

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” ~ José Narosky

With the number of people calling for a second American revolution  increasing, I felt it important to remind everyone of the very real cost of war. I visited several sites to try to get the most accurate information possible.   

Operation Iraqi Freedom

American Deaths (from antiwar.com)
DATE TOTAL IN COMBAT
Since war began (3/19/03) 4409 3491
Since “Mission Accomplished” (5/1/03) (the list) 4270 3382
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03) 3948 3184
Since Handover (6/29/04) 3550 2857
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09) 181 86
 
American Wounded Official Estimated
  31,865 Over 100,000

     

Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan):   

It’s a bit harder to find an exact figure for total US casualties in and around Afghanistan (includes Pakistan and Uzbekistan) since 2001. Once source (icasualties.org) listed 1,073 as the total number of US fatalities. The Washington Post lists 1,125 as the total number of US service members who were killed (as of June 27, 2010). Antiwar.com lists the total number of US fatalities as 1,149. But all sources agree that June 2010 was the worst month for US casualties, and 2010 has been the worst year to date in Afghanistan. In 2009, the total number of US casualties was 317; to date in 2010, the number is 203.   

The United States has been in a state of war since 2001. Aside from the financial burden, the emotional toil has been vast. The numbers I listed above do not include civilian casualties, Iraqi or Afghani casualties, coalition casualties, or casualties in the Press.   

“It is easier to lead men to combat, stirring up their passions, than to restrain them and direct them toward the patient labors of peace.” ~ André Gide, Journals, 13 September 1938

Those who are alluding to and openly calling for a revolution in this country have no idea as to what it is they are condoning: armed resistance that would result in the dissolution of this 234-year-old democracy, increased acts of domestic terrorism, possible military rule, deaths of countless Americans—those are just the most obvious expected results.  Without fail, the people who condone this action cull sections from the  Thomas Jefferson quote about tyranny:   

“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty . . . . And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”   

Lest you think I am being an alarmist. Here are some verified instances in which people are calling for armed resistance to the government:   

  • A new billboard off Interstate 70 in Missouri provides a short “citizens guide to REVOLUTION of a corrupt government” and issues a call to “PREPARE FOR WAR.” It reads:
    1. Starve the Beast. Keep your money.
    2. Vote out incumbents.
    3. If steps 1 & 2 fail….
  • Bob Basso, a former actor, is making a name for himself by dressing up in period costume and calling for a second America revolution. His videos have gone viral:
  • ResistNet.com posted the following in October 2009: “In 5 months, we will STOP working at our jobs, paying our bills, watching tv, buying things, and otherwise supporting the Empire of the United States (note the flag with gold tassle trim) that is, the bankers, corporations and politicians which have taken over our once free republic. They’ve replaced it with a socialist/fascist, taxing, warring, credit-based, fake-money regime which has taken most of our American freedoms and liberties away. We will gather in Washington indefinitely, to insist our government provide us with real homeland security by: repealing the Federal Reserve Act, regaining control of our monetary policy and economy, returning to non-interventionist foreign policy, and recalling our troops from so many war-ridden places in the world.” That was nine months ago . . .
  • Sharron Angles, republican nominee for Congress (Nevada), has said, “I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.”
  • Speaking to the Reno Gazette in May of this year, Angles said, “The nation is arming. What are they arming for, if it isn’t that they are so distrustful of their government? They’re afraid they’ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways? That’s why I look at this as almost an imperative. If we don’t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?”
“Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills, and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all.” ~ John W. Gardner
  • In a March interview, Rep. Michele Bachmann said, “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing, and the people—we the people—are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.”
  • In Glenn Beck’s War Room broadcast of February 23, Beck and friends discussed a potential future (2014) in which there has been a complete financial meltdown, taxes are near the 95 percent rate, rampant crime has made cities uninhabitable, and civil liberties have been trashed. Says Beck, “Some people will listen to the government, but others—and I’m seeing it already—they know the Constitution. They know the writings of the founders, and they feel that the government, or they will in this scenario, and I think we’re on this road—the government has betrayed the Constitution. And so they will see themselves as people who are standing up for the Constitution . . . This is the scenario that would tear this country apart, and spiral us into something that maybe we have never even seen before, including the civil war.”
  • At a How To Take Back America Conference last September, conservative speaker Kitty Werthmann (right hand to Phyllis don’t-ever-call-me-a-feminist Schlafly) had this to say: “If we had our guns, we would have fought a bloody battle to the last person. So, keep your guns, and buy more guns, and buy ammunition . . . Take back America. Don’t let them take the country into Socialism. And I refer again, Hitler’s party was National Socialism . . . And that’s what we are having here right now, which is bordering on Marxism.”
  • And finally, there are the Oath Keepers, one of the fastest-growing “patriot” organizations on the right. Founded last April the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan are among the well-known names who praise the group, which consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. Members have vowed to disobey “unconstitutional” orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government. In the belief that the government is already turning on its citizens, Oath Keeper members are recruiting military buddies, stashing weapons, running drills, and outlining a plan of action.
“At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.” ~ Aldous Huxley
  


      

You may wonder what this post has to do with the 4th of July, Independence Day. Two things: Many patriot groups plan to use this day to speak about their perceived current state of affairs, one in which President Obama is planning a coup sometime in the future, and we (American citizens) are at risk of losing our civil liberties.   

My other reason for focusing my post on this idea of a second revolution is that too many people dismiss this kind of talk as “ranting,” or “crazy talk,” or “posturing by right-wing crackpots.” Just remember, the founding fathers, who first began to make noise when England thought to extend its arm to her colonies as a source of revenue, were considered traitors, their actions treasonous. This is the exact comparison that many of the individuals involved in this movement love to bring up when justifying their ilk.   

I, myself, often dismiss people like Bachmann or Palin as being loony and think that no one out there could possibly take either of them seriously. This is a mistake. None of us should ever forget that hate speech and rhetoric, if left unchecked, can blossom into violence. Eugene Robinson, columnist for The Washington Post put it this way in a March 2010 column:   

For decades now, the most serious threat of domestic terrorism has come from the growing ranks of paranoid, anti-government hate groups that draw their inspiration, vocabulary and anger from the far right . . . It is disingenuous for mainstream purveyors of incendiary far-right rhetoric to dismiss groups such as the Hutaree by saying that there are “crazies on both sides.” This simply is not true  . . . There has been explosive growth among far-right, militia-type groups that identify themselves as white supremacists, “constitutionalists,” tax protesters and religious soldiers determined to kill people to uphold “Christian” values.   

The vitriolic, anti-government hate speech that is spewed on talk radio every day—and, quite regularly, at Tea Party rallies—is calibrated not to inform but to incite. Demagogues scream at people that their government is illegitimate, that their country has been “taken away,” that their elected officials are “traitors” and that their freedom is at risk.   

Crazy, paranoid, fringe, or whatever—these people have a right to speak, but they do not speak for me. My own failure to at least acknowledge that the threat is real would be foolish. This movement is real. How much momentum it gains depends upon those of us who look on but do not take sides, hoping that it will dissipate on its own.   

It won’t. At least not while so much hatred, bigotry, racism, and animus continues to pervade those vocal segments of our society, the ones among the gathering storm. Jefferson’s quote can be read in two ways: the perceived call to arms, or the admonishment not to sit idly by in silence while things around you are going to hell.  

More later. Peace.   

Music by Simon and Garfunkel (Concert in Central Park), “American Tune”