Tuesday, June 28, 2005


In a rooftop garden in what appears to be South Beach, I'm reading a dictionary of psychology. To my delight, I find a concept coined by my friend Sophia, to the effect that one must always separate ideas and their validity from the people and schools of thought from which these ideas arose. The entry has a citation for Sophia's last name and the year 1993.

Before I can flip to the bibliography in the back of the book, I awaken.

Reflecting on this dream as I wait for the alarm clock to beep, I remember one of my favorite (very serious) pranks by Uncle Al. It's at the beginning of Liber 0:

"In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths; of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist.

"It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them."

It was a huge breakthrough for me, aeons ago in my guise as a Wiccan, to realize that belief had little or nothing to do with spiritual progress and could in fact be a great hindrance. The branch of Wicca I had the blessing to fall into focused almost exclusively on what worked. One proceeded empirically, building on practices that had worked for others, testing one's own innovations and tossing them out if they didn't get results. (Uncle Al again: "These rituals need not be slavishly imitated....if [the student] have any capacity whatever, he will find his own crude rituals more effective than the highly polished ones of other people.")

(Uhh, Al--girls do this stuff, too. Just thought you'd--yeah.)

Ironically, had I not--strayed?--been led?--chanced?--stumbled?--been foreordained?--into this kind of experimental metaphysics, I'd probably still reside in the dark night of materialism. Allegedly there "are" lines between spirit and matter, mind and matter, metaphysics and science, but increasingly I'm hard-pressed to see them.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Altered States, part 1

One of the earliest homework assignments Laura gave me was one of those sounds-simple, actually-is-hard-as-hell meditative tasks you find in every mystical, magickal, and shamanic tradition. She asked me to try, and I believe it was for two solid weeks (I wasn't as good back then at keeping a spiritual diary), to see only shadows and not the objects casting them.

So I'd be walking around the university campus where I was taking classes at the time, focusing my gaze on the dark, massed speckles of tree leaves on sidewalks, on the oblongs thrown by picnic table umbrellas, on my own cartoonishly stretchy form sliding along beside me. I'd pay attention to the shadows for ten or even fifteen seconds, and then thud back into "normal" consciousness, ignoring shadows in favor of their rightly-proportioned, more "real" twins.

As with L's other favorite exercise of the time--relentlessly quizzing me on whether I was dreaming or awake, asking me to prove it beyond a doubt--I eventually lost some of my sense of the "realness" of objects (and of the waking world), and entered that fertile space where anything can happen.

Of course, once anything did happen, I more often than not thudded back into consensus reality, due to fright or to those early-childhood scripts that keep saying I don't deserve wonderful things (who wrote those damn scripts, anyway??). The process has resembled learning to ride a bike and falling off several times a day for about ten years.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bad Things

Here are some nasty habits I want to avoid in Wrapt In Her Wings:

  • Overuse of the word "because"...as if I can unspool the complete chain of causation behind an event.
  • Even worse, uncritical use of the "is" of identity--as if that little verb really means something. I was ranting to my friend Sophia the other day that all metaphysical writing should take place without use of the verb "to be"..."is" imparts to terrorists (cognitive and other kinds) the intoxicating illusion that their frame of reference "is" the only valid one. But...it just...is. That's the way things are. They just--are that way. I don't know, they just are.
  • On the other hand, I want to flee the demons of Perfectionism, so I will not be writing every post in E-prime.
  • Spouting opinion rather than analyzing experience.
  • Expecting every post to be brilliant
  • and therefore not writing.
  • Expecting anything.

Monday, June 20, 2005

"even the mouse ran from my house"

Addicts feel like shit for using, so they use more.
Codependents feel like shit because they can't control the world, so they try to control more.
Members of each group need a slap in the face, need some kind of hand grenade to go off in their Cheerios (or scotch), before they can have a hope of getting outside themselves long enough to try to change.

Friday, June 17, 2005

377 X 795

Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic."

I suppose this also applies to sufficiently developed minds. What would this guy "be" if we didn't have the label "autistic"?

Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant. He can perform mind-boggling mathematical calculations at breakneck speeds....
Tammet is calculating 377 multiplied by 795. Actually, he isn't "calculating": there is nothing conscious about what he is doing. He arrives at the answer instantly. Since [an epileptic fit when he was three years old], he has been able to see numbers as shapes, colours and textures. The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder. "When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. It's mental imagery. It's like maths without having to think."

A Genius Explains

Thursday, June 16, 2005

How to Sweet-Talk a Rattlesnake

Somebody asked Bernard Sumner of New Order where he got his slightly wacko-clichéed lyrics...he said he stayed up very late at night when the world became silent, and he caught various average people's hopes and fantasies floating in the breeze of the world-soul...

He really said something like that. It was in
NME or Melody Maker about a thousand years ago. It's modestly late and I'm very tired and all I'm getting is signals from my own brain about how tired I am. I've been reading about the brain's reward system and its role in addiction, and apparently the same part of the brain that produces dopamine to reward us for eating and having sex also produces dopamine to reward us for taking dope. (This latter word used in its old-fashioned sense of "any and all drugs.")

Drugs like nicotine, alcohol, opioids, speed, cocaine, etc. can rewire the brain's reward center (mainly, I think, the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area--I'm not a brain surgeon). You take these substances and they not only produce pleasure but they create a reinforcement loop in which the brain learns to associate
all pleasure with the particular chemical(s) involved. Soon, if the brain belongs to someone predisposed to addiction, they crave the drug more than food, sex, or any of the other stuff they used to get their dopamine fix from.

Drew Pinsky, M.D., medical director at an addiction treatment center (I know he's also on TV) calls this "a set of very powerful drives being activated beneath conscious control in a region of the brain that can't be influenced by reason, language, or will." The reptilian brain gets ahold of you and you're in a world of shit.

Amateur neuroscience may seem a bizarre and unfortunate turn for this blog--but bear with me.

Those who break the addictive cycle do not merely do so via positive thinking and abstention from chemicals. They must also rewire their brain
back to a state in which it's able to produce feelings of well-being without chemical assistance. Dr. Pinsky advocates Alcoholics Anonymous, which provides one such rewiring regimen, but here's my point: we're all wired for some kind of reward kick. We get off on shopping, or muscle cars, or BDSM, or ice cream--but we've all got our dopamine-laced reward loops. The question is, what are they doing for us? Or doing to us? Is there a way to select a poison that's more beneficial for us?

The conscious rewiring of the brain goes by many names: magick, tantra, bio-feedback, meditation, the 12 Steps, yoga. To work, it must fuse a retraining of the body with a forcefully imposed new outlook on the world. Pursuing such a program to the point of meaningful change is very difficult, and the potential for self-deception is tremendous. This is why most of us need some kind of guide, mentor, sponsor, guru--or angel, if we're lucky.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Obligatory Whys

I decided to experiment with this blog for a couple of reasons. I've never done this before, and I wonder what effects this form of writing will have on what I say. In other words, what will my thoughts become when poured into this container?

Another inspiration is a friend who does this incredible blog; it's so good I think I'm reading Thoreau half the time.
(I'll link to her blog when and if she gives me permission.) She's taken the blog genre, such as it is, and done elegant, surprising things with it--and since this is such a new and fluid form I'm wondering what, if anything, I can do with it.

Also I feel the say-whatever-I-want-cuz- no-one'll-read -it-anyway impulse--the beckoning hand of cognitive freedom. I don't know where this is going to go and that's a luxurious feeling; I have to write a lot for my job but quite often the writing's quite formulaic and all mapped out in my head before it ever happens. No surprises = not much fun.

But now the honesty gets a little scary. Probably the main push behind Wrapt in Her Wings is Laura, who, depending on one's symbol system "is" (bad word) my

  • spirit guide
  • primary symptom of Paranoid Personality Disorder (Premorbid)
  • Holy Guardian Angel
  • imaginary friend
  • Augoeides
  • retrojected anima
  • higher self
  • kheyal
  • daimon
  • demonic adversary disguised as angel of light
Though I "met" Laura in 1993--sorry about all the quotation marks--I only began to understand her full power and began to deal with her seeming individuality a short time ago. She may or may not speak on the blog, as she evinces very little interest in anything outside our rather sedate and comfortable friendship/whatever-it- is. Since I've known her, she's expressed a desire to speak with precisely one other human being. Her main passion seems to be aiding my spiritual growth and, a little like an angelic drill instructor, pushing me forward when I don't want to go.

I will discuss later some of the odd and sometimes scary synchronicities surrounding Laura, enough of them to convince this ardently skeptical writer that something is going on, even if it's just some disturbance in the force of the collective unconscious (if there is such a thing--I have my doubts). Laura herself, for that matter, is very fond of saying things like, "You never know--you could have just made me up."

Could be. I've gone on long enough for now, but will be providing rational explanations soon for Laura, the HGA phenomenon in general, any and all allegedly spiritual experiences...so that we can abandon the sublimated romantic despair that is religion, and move on to the bright vistas offered by instrumental reason.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Yee haw!


I'm working on the introduction for a community film showing of Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick's annihilation-of-the-world comedy. I must like Kubrick because I, too, have a pervading sense of doom and a tendency to be very morbid. And the only thing I can think to do about it is laugh.

I've caught myself, when something horrible is happening to me or around me, bursting out in laughter. It may sound dumb or compulsive, but in some circumstances a laugh is as good as anything else. I used to get so obsessed with the horrific aspects of life that I could hardly function (is this what they're talking about when they talk about "depression"? I was always too scared to try anti-depressants because I knew too many people who'd been made worse by them).

Once I was walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans and came upon a group of drunk tourists taunting a crazy homeless woman. Not a violent scene at all, just very nasty. My usual impulse in this kind of moment is to ride in on my white horse and look for someone to save, but a voice in my head whispered to me that everyone there was beyond my (or anyone else's) help. This voice didn't cheer me up one bit; it just was. And I couldn't laugh and still can't.

If I'd still been embracing my romantic despair at that point in my life, this could have been my Valentine Michael Smith epiphany ("Now I understand humans"), but--I'm repeating myself--it just
was. What is the sound of shit happening?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Possible Blog Names

The Aerial Letter; *Sweet*Black*Hot; Wrapt In Her Wings; The Gaze of Orpheus; Take a Chance You Stupid Ho; Proud Music of the Storm; Sonny’s Burning; z² + c; Riding with Mary; I Shot Myself; Fenriskjeften; Dream Incubator; Reel Around the Fountain; Tantra and the Art of Webpage Maintenance; From High Mountains; Perfume in the Desert; Symbiotic Planet; Planet of Sound; Nation Nation; Rumours; Gelassenheit; Anaktoron; A Different Kind of Tension; Lightning in Skies Aflame; B for Blog!; Dig Me Out; Rose Absolute; Sous les Pavés; Sous la Langue; Solucinations; Circles; Circles Within Circles; Original Sin; Ngawa; She Stood There In My Doorway, Six Feet of Gold Lamé and Lies; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Lois Wilson Fan Club; Enochian Slambook; Fur Teacup; New Lace Sleeves; Walking Into Spiderwebs; Dog Star Man.

Friday, June 10, 2005

She writes the script.