Squeezing

More Life into Life

Without

Squeezing

the Life Out of It

 

 

A SELF-HELP BOOK

For people who can’t be helped.

 

by

SparkEye

(H. Alan Tansson)

2007


Contents

Contents. 2

INTRODUCTION.. 3

This Book is about Fun and Pleasure. 4

That old Gambit, the oldest Dare. 6

Chap.1         Grooving. 7

Squeezeplay. 7

The GEEK GODS Need Praise. 9

Living Life to the Hilt 11

Twelve Buzzards. 11

Pleasure and Meaning. 13

A Philosopher of Pleasure and Another of Pain. 14

Self-Actualization and Contentedness. 15

Chap.2         Squeezeplay Strategies. 15

An Emotional Card-Game. 17

Playing your Senses like Cards. 18

Packaging Emotional Life. 21

Events. 21

Walking towards the Mirage of Truth. 22

Making the Most of What you Have. 26

The Magical Point 27

Chap.3         Over the Edge. 30

JUST TELLING STORIES. 30

ONE MORE DRINK.. 31

Intoxication’s Lure…... 32

Consider yourself Lucky You Made it to the Bathroom.. 33

Chap.4         Love-Affear with Death. 36

Response Abilities. 36

VERY SOLID DREAMS. 37

Fragility. 38

Our Love-Affeair with Death. 38

Losing Your Memory. 38

The Hypnotist Show…... 39

…at the Cusp of Self-Consciousness. 40

The Death-Wish. 44

A Bad Liver (*Le Mauvaise Foi). 44

Discipline and Faith. 48

Chap.5         The Woof and the Warp – Thought and Memory - on the Loom of Experience  50

THOUGHT vs ACTION.. 50

Engaging all Your Senses. 52

Memory Music. 52

MEMORIES. 54

Fast Metabolisms, Big Appetities. 54

High Achievers. 55

Art Imitates Life Imitating Art 57

Chap.6         Values. 62

New Values Create New Wealth. 62

Serenity, or The Emotional Economics of Sustainable Pleasure. 62

TECHNOLOGY'S HELPING HAND.. 64

 


INTRODUCTION

Most of us do more with our time than any group of people has ever done in history.   Shouldn’t it follow that we are more fulfilled than any time in history?

Now it is quite possible that a larger percentage of the population is fulfilled and contented today than at any other period of history.  But the premise of this book is not exactly about self-fulfillment or contentedness.  It is about doing things.  It is about recreation, amusement, creativity, and accomplishments.  It is about “living life to the fullest.”  It is about squeezing more life into life without squeezing the life out of it.

That is, the premise of this book is about the premise of our culture, which would have us believe that to do more is to be more – and that to be everything you were ever meant to be is to be everything that humans might ever aspire to be.  The premise that one can do it all, have it all and then some, and that every day of your life can be as packed with surprises and decisions and laughs as a half-hour sitcom or reality show.   After all, our culture believes in a world that insures diversity of beliefs, multiplicity of paths, and a cornucopia of products, stocked with an abundance that overflows the aisles of life.   And it is true that today we get more things done with less and less effort.  We can squeeze in music, literature and telephone conversations while we're driving to work or waiting to pick up the kids.  We can give a carpenter directions or schedule to have our grass cut from anywhere in the world.   See an ad for a vacation cruise in a waiting room, book it with an 800-number, a cell-phone and a credit card.  Download the most appropriate music to go with your campfire at Yosemite.  A generation ago not even a Rockefeller could do this, nor could the richest men in the world do it at any time in history.

The premise of squeezing more life into life is not about consumption.  It is about the ease with which any of us can perform all kinds of activities, get work done, leverage information and wealth, or be trained for, and find ourselves in wholly new realms of experience. It is about processes rather than things, and about quality rather than quantity.

In today’s culture, in fact, learning, growing, exercising and expanding oneself has become a recreational sport.  Recreation can be self-development in its most original sense: re-creation.  Our entrepreneurial culture has recognized that the more things people enjoy, the more mini-industries are created to cater to them.   Kitchen and cooking stores are not simply around because we have a richer economy, they are around because we all have developed richer tastes.  And even if we work longer hours at the job than the wealthy classes of days gone by, we have learned to squeeze more into the time we have left.  

Squeezing more life into life is about careful packing and planning techniques, but it is also about braiding the strings of feeling, passing more threads through the keyhole of each moment, and strengthening experience by adding more meaning and value to it.  

This sounds about right, doesn’t it?  The incredible thing is, it’s possible:  and at the level of the senses.   This means that pleasure can be made more pleasurable.    And if this sounds too good to be true, I’ll challenge you to read the book and find out why I say so.  I won’t forward you to reams of references on the cognitive psychology shelf, but will tell you like it is and you’ll realize you’ve had similar enough experiences to know that what I’m suggesting is very possibly true.  You can learn to make pleasure more pleasurable – which is more than simply appreciating your pleasures more – it is having higher highs, longer highs, and physically more exciting and pleasurable highs.  But even with that said we are left with the fundamental question:  “how good is good enough?”   How much pleasure can we squeeze in before we are squeezing the life out of everything?

On Fun and Pleasure

Once upon a time there was an old guy working out at the gym on a “spinning machine” (otherwise known as a fixed-position bicycle).  He had an Internet connection on the cross-bars and was trading stock.  There was a cell-phone in his ear and he was reassuring all his clients that their schedules were under control.  His favorite music was on, and he was savoring the tail end of his very personal trainer, hoping the Viagra would kick in before the session he had scheduled with her.  With every possible sense in-gear, there he was, trying to get on more.

This guy never existed.  He is pure fantasy, and obviously the lead-up to a joke.  But the whole premise of squeezing more into our lives than ever before is not a joke.   Doing more with less.  Getting more for less.   But that old club owner who told me what he was expecting from my book might be somewhat let down. What he envisioned was a handbook of ways to have more fun in our hi-tech world, rather like a cross-indexed Whole Earth Catalogue of amusement technologies for obsessively multi-tasking individuals.

Nothing of the sort really exists to date, even though the engine driving our current culture is Recreation with a capital “R.”  Unfortunately, I am not a specialist in this line, but rather credit any of my expertise in the matter to a three or four-year stint I once entitled “Debauchery or Bust.”

Recreation is, as Dewey said, about play, exercise, and discovery of the self – it is essentially “self re-creation.”  It is a way to feed our mental health. 

Of course, recreation includes all kinds of activities - some of them alone, some with people; pretty much anything you can think of that’s not work or fulfilling our primary physical needs, or doing something against our will.  But doing something against our better judgment is a different story. There are hundreds of ways to goof off at work, ego-games or  mind-games to play at school or in the pokey.  Simply walking down the street may be recreational, or standing on the corner watching all the girls go by.  Not to confuse anything pleasurable with recreation, since what is recreational may have lost its pleasure long ago, and our primary physical needs are sometimes intensely pleasurable – though generally only eating, napping, and having sex are listed in the recreational catalogue.

Loosely speaking, an activity becomes recreational when it breaks us away from necessity and throws in a free radical – often letting our attention cruise around to hook up with something with an energy and dynamic of its own.  And it’s that moment of disengagement from current events that makes us confuse having fun with “being free,” and even more confusing to consider the option for disengagement as one of our priorities on the ladder of our needs and wants.

There are thousands of ways to squeeze more life into life – and thousands of self-help titles to show you how.  In the same breath, squeezing the life out of life is also possible, and this seems to be a variable of the disengagement.    It is an interesting possibility to look at carefully, for squeezing the life out of life often comes on subtly, without realizing what is taking place. 

An addiction, for example, can start as a simple recreational event, which provides an intriguing enough kick to repeat over and over again – ostensibly to explore the territory of this new experience.  But if it becomes a habit around which one’s other activities are then regulated, it has assumed a life of its own that will slowly dull the rest of experience, sucking up life around it, and cutting a swath of destruction through families and friends. 

Life through an addiction  – whether to cocaine or body-building or (I will stretch your imagination) music – provides a two-dimensional life of a comic-book, and your greatest wish were that the rest of life might conform –transforming itself into two-dimensions.  Meanwhile, the subtle confusion which sees disengagement as either fun or freedom tip-toes a fine line between the need for psychological coherence and the potential for disintegrative anarchy.  The whole enterprise of squeezing more life into life can be powerfully delusional, and the claims of those who would entice us with new freedoms or new coherence to our personal world can quickly take us over the line - “squeezing the life out of life.”

So it would seem that in a self-centered culture like our own, where achieving self-fulfillment is considered everyone’s fundamental right, the simple constraints on squeezing more life into life WITHOUT squeezing the life out of it might provide us with a fundamental constraint on which a self-centered social ethics can be based.   This is to say, self-centered constraints on having fun and pleasure ARE a set of “rules” which have nothing to do with other people, or with social ethics in general – but are simply the structurally imposed constraints on squeezing more life into life without squeezing the life out of it.  Of course, being the structurally-imposed rules on self-centeredness, these are ALSO the same “rules” pertaining to self-knowledge and growth.

Which leads me to this apocalyptic and revolutionary pronouncement:

Until we can discuss the rules for fun and pleasure in the same breath as those for self-knowledge and growth – until recreation is accepted as the natural sibling of self-actualization and lifelong learning, I don’t believe we’ll be successful with any positive cultural or social cause which demands most peoples’ attention. 

Whether the contented ‘haves’ or the frustrated have-nots are being asked to weigh-in on priorities, those who truly wish to create a better world shall not be able to challenge any higher claims to social ends or political direction than those of the selfish individual.  

But if we understand that we are essentially fighting for a recreational culture it is a different story, and I believe we can begin to look in this direction for a new kind of consensus-building in the struggle to regulate ourselves as a social species.

That old Gambit, the oldest Dare

One of the oldest maneuvers in squeezing more life into life is to learn every possible trick of squeezing out of obligations and promises which one takes on during the natural course of ‘doing one’s thing.’  Some people call it “being irresponsible,” and they tell us it will always backfire, because we get caught.  Or, like the prodigal son stories – we blow through our wad and come back home contrite and on our knees asking for forgiveness and a job.  Unfortunately, many children catch on to the fact that plenty of people don’t get caught, make no apologies, and seem to get away with it.  The cleverest don’t brag much, but keep smug and silent not to blow their cover.  The cleverest keep their secret well.

We have grown up, watching many movies about guys and gals of this sort, thinking that there really are people who’ve caught on to the little secret.  We have the impression that there really are ways to squeeze in more fun while squeezing out the promises and obligations that come along with everything else.

And the first clue we have as kids is that obligations can be handled with money.  The more money you have, the more obligations you can take on at any given time, and the easier it is to sidestep your promises if anyone takes you to task.  Money is the grease to keep the fun-machine going – money is freedom from tedious work, freedom from having to want anything that can’t be fulfilled.   Money – for those without it, seems to be the source of fulfillmenbt.  Of course it isn’t – but don’t tell the newly-wealthy that. 

Most of us have an inkling that no matter how talented we are, how fabulous a movie star, powerful a mogul, or clever a scam artist –even when we confuse ourselves with the gods sometimes - it comes down to the fact that we’re humans, and there must be boundaries to the nature of experience and the possibilities for happiness. 

The oldest gambit for squeezing more into life is to pay for it with money, and the oldest dare is to walk out on your obligations.

I will not consider either the gambit or the dare in this book, for in fact, they belong in another volume which I intend to entitle Bellybuttons.  It is about what it takes to build a sustainable entrepreneurial society, about the shadow world of black-markets and crime, of risk-taking and insurance and credit, of business cycles and society.   The point is, if you are looking to the old gambit or that good old dare as your ticket to fun and pleasure, you’re not alone, and willy-nilly will be swallowed up by a much bigger and more powerful culture and belief system than the one I am suggesting exists for a culture of recreation.  And if you get screwed along the way to taking the dare, or playing out your gambit, don’t get resentful.   That world won’t help you find any kind of happiness, because of course, the happiness has to exist within you yourself.

And so in this here book we will begin by considering the feeling of being content – of living within a coherent universe; and will compare these with the feelings of momentary pleasures.  We consider why the problem poses a very significant challenge in a world in which hi-tech simulated environments and chemically-modified feelings compete with the haphazardness of Nature and social events.  Then we will take a look at theory – and possible techniques for amplifying our experiences naturally, which you could extrapolate to “unnaturally” if you chose to stop reading here.  This is a game I’ve dubbed “Squeezeplay” after the baseball play also known as “suicide squeeze.”  This is Chapter Two.

C hapters 3 and 4 consider different forms of intoxication, obsessions, and addictions which can eventually kill the fun, and the tightrope we must always walk, as we play with our emotional structure to keep balanced.    Chapter 5 addre3sses the problem I mentioned at the beginning – even if we can increase our pleasures in life in a healthy balanced manner, how much is enough?  Is it Quantity or Quality?    I offer some tentative suggestions to the meaning of this riddle – hinging around another supposed ridde – the distinction between life and art:  or rather, the countinuum between art and life.

Finally, Chapter 6 takes a look at what a true “recreational culture” might consist of, and its implications on the cultural coherence of today.

It is an old dictum for writing books that one does not write the “Introduction” until you are finished with the rest of the book.  I have gone against this rule, for as I write this, the book is only half-complete.  Wish me luck!

 

The Author

Chap.1                       Grooving

Squeezeplay

Maybe I’m writing this book because my mom used to pride herself on packing more stops into a family vacation than any of her friends – and she had a habit of killing every family outing that way.

Her technique seems to have caught up with me.  For my own pleasure and disintegration I spent the first five of my last ten years trying to squeeze more experiences into the time I had, and more fun and pleasure into the experiences I had.  This is the game I call “Squeezeplay.” 

I didn’t really invent it, of course, since there are thousands of people like me with a seemingly infinite lust for life, who just can’t get enough. 

Just before I started this book I flew to Florida on business.  It was a packed 4-day week-end with corporate credit-card.  Of course, being an ‘exempt’ employee you are only paid for a 40-hour week, which I had already completed by Wednesday of the previous week.  So if I forget about the 75 hours spent inside the grey-green walls of a few factory offices between Friday evening and Monday morning, I can tell you I squeezed more life and fun into the short hours I should've been sleeping than I usually get into half a year.  If I had 20 minutes for breakfast, I took 5 minutes of it in the pool under the palms, 5 minutes in the whirlpool bath, and 10 minutes having a leisurely breakfast of eggs, sausage & bacon, coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, fresh-squeezed milk, homefries, grits, fried peppers and corn-bread.  And when I had 4 hours to catch some sleep before starting up the next morning, I made sure to stop in the local strip club for 10 minutes and get a squeeze or two in before heading off to bed.  And when I got off work early one night, at 9 pm, I made sure to drive up to Palm Beach and look up this chick I'd met in New Jersey a few months back, and we did the fanciest hotel and a few clubs where the famous hang out before I headed back at 1:30.  And she was as foxy as the famous (at least any of the famous around me in Palm Beach that night), so I got to feeling pretty flush.

Who needs sleep when you're pretending to be someone else than you really are?

Yet it was me.  And I packed in a lot of memories.  I don't know if I could've ever kept it up but I spent the next three years trying, and broke up my family in the process.

The question comes down to this. I don't know if the memories would've amounted to much after the first month of this kind of stuff.  And, frankly, I know that what was a high point of my year is pretty normal fare for some people.  And I also know that normal fare is normal fare, and that it's reaching for those high points, and grabbing onto them, that I dream of. Probably just like the star-studded dream of.  It's just as hard for all of us, even when we have lots of cash or credit to grease the cracks when we're trying to squeeze a little more life into our lives.

But it's not all relative. You'd like me to say that whether we're among the rich and beautiful or the mediocre and struggling, everybody has the same shot at happiness.  But if you are playing the game of exploring the world of experience and finding your real potential, as well as yourself, I won't say this because it's not true.  Everyone does not have the same shot at it.  When it comes to exploring the world of experience, “experiencing the world,” some people have a seat next to the backboard, and some of us are in the last row of the bleachers.  And the highs and lows that come with living your experiences may be positively manic - like the stereotyped spoiled rich kid.  But they also may be as slow and regular as the seasons, like the ebbs and flows for an old peasant farmer.

The potential for satisfaction which the rich kid or the farmer takes from it cannot be compared, and so I won’t say that each has an equal shot at satisfaction.  As to “pleasure,” this is a truly different term for different people. 

Our romantic image of the old peasant farmer, doubtless a 19th century throw-back, attributes to him entirely different kinds of pleasures. We would talk about them if more of us could live on a 19th century farm, without TV or internet or magazines.  Whether he exists or not is anyone’s guess, though some of us would like to believe that his kind of happiness and pleasure was still available to us all --- even in the center of Manhattan.

But we live in the 21st century, and are surrounded with a potpourri of potential flavors and tastes and experiences for the taking – and as you walk across the parking lot to get in the unemployment line you know damn well that we are born with very different cards in our hands, different skills in our deck, and different wallets in our parents' pockets.

And the economy is hitched to the manic rich kids:  it is the game of Squeezeplay that our culture continually markets to us in every ad, and nearly every film or TV show.  And you’ve bought into the game whether you are scheduling your life around bungee jumps and NASCAR races or packing in a full life of string quartets, plays, and fine wines.

“Squeeze play” is a baseball term.  It’s a rather special situation in baseball – both a dare and a bluff, where the batter taunts the pitcher, letting him know that everyone knows that he’s going to bunt no matter what is thrown at him.

“I got a man on third base who will get home in the time it takes you to fumble my bunt!” 

Bunts can be hard to field¾giving the runner a chance at making the run.  But a squeezeplay generally doesn’t work, and the batter is nearly always thrown out.  There is another name for a squeezeplay in baseball, which is “the suicide squeeze.” 

This is where the name of my cultural game derives from.  It is usually pretty obvious to those around us that we’re squeezing in everything we can, signaling that we’ve got a man on third and we’re ready to score whether it kills us or not.  And our wives and husbands know exactly what every spare minute in the week will consist of – an obsession to squeeze in “one more” of our chosen poison.

When I decided on the game of squeezeplay I knew what the chances of success would be.  I had taken my ideals straight from television commercials – I took them all at face value and set out to get some of that fun and excitement and glitz for myself.  And even though there was little chance of its working, I got my man home – in fact, lots of men home, beyond my expectations.  But it may have cost me the game, and this is something the umpire is still trying to render a decision on.

From the start (but usually only at the start) our intuition throws hints at us that the game of Squeezeplay has some blatant drawbacks.  In my case, at about the time I was sweeping myself up with the desiccated remains of good times, I wrote a narrative entitled The Middle-Aged Strategic Self-Indulgence Initiative, in which I described some of these. 

On the other hand, as the book in your hands will prove, there really are some ways to squeeze more experience and fun into the time we have.  It is merely a matter of objective analysis – as you shall see.

We can stuff pleasures and experiences into our lives in more ways than you can pack a suitcase.  

If you pack haphazardly, without even thinking to fold things, you won’t get much in, no matter how hard you squeeze.  Packing cleverly – with every bit of empty space filled – you can get lots more in.   It’s pretty amazing how Himalayan climbers pack, if you want to know how to squeeze the most valuable stuff into the smallest, lightest backpack. Not only does a careful packer think of how to pack, but the value of what they’re packing in is worked out to the smallest details.  

But I will tell you right off that when it comes to squeezing things in, the suitcase metaphor doesn’t do.  Leave talk of ‘squeezing’ to “squeezing something out,” whether toothpaste or food-waste.  It is not “squeezing something in.”  The mere idea of squeezing is just where the problem lies – for the real game is about weaving.

Pleasures and experiences can be woven into our lives in innumerable ways – as many ways as you can weave a blanket or a straw hat or a white napkin with embossed initials.

Take this book, for example; it is a weave of stories, analysis and chatter, and represents my own experience on the matter. Weaving is a much more productive analogy, illustrating our potentials for skill at this game, as well as our limits.  For weaving is, first and foremost, an issue of cycles – a full cloth integrated through repetitive play of all kinds of shuttles and warps and woofs and bobbins and contraptions.

 I am referring to our personal sensory make-up, which it takes a long time to get the feel of.   “Know thyself” is not just an old aphorism or ethical injunction but an invitation to study a unique and complex fabric as well as the loom – which is unique to each of us - and all of its workings.  To succeed at Squeezeplay and the pleasure and experience game may be one thing – which you can excel at without knowing a thing about yourself except perhaps your preferences for colors – but when it comes to winning the game or finding lasting happiness – sustainability requires understanding your uniquely personal emotional ecology: including loom, threads, source of energy, etc.

But the Squeezeplay problem was the motivation for this book, and it is especially relevant to us all today because:

The GEEK GODS Need Praise

The creators of new technologies continually improve what we can do with our limited time and resources -- and the commercializers and advertisers will keep promising us more – getting each of us closer to achieving our potential as human beings.  This is the theory.

Once the theory is proven, it will be the engineers, the “geeks,” who deserve praise, and it scares us how much they deserve, because we don’t want to make them into gods. 

The mission statement of human progress seems to be to give as many of us humans as much freedom and as many tools as possible - to live longer and sandwich more experience into our lives than ever before.  

There is a little myth in circulation that when the brain scientists and pharmaceutical companies figure out how to simulate the stimulation of our senses and appetites, we can just lay around and groove... listening to heavenly music as we morph from one experiential state of bliss to another.  Wired for satisfaction in our hooked-up mind.   A little cortical and hormonal stimulation, a few pictures and sounds - and the rest is the work of creative imagery of our minds.  Eating peaches and dates on a hillside as we watch the hummingbirds and deer, with wolves and lions cuddling their young nearby.  Entranced for hours on end, glowing spiritual ecstasy, or if you choose, 360-second orgasms without real sex for just a hundred and twenty bucks.  Satisfaction.

OK. So drop the 360-second orgasms. In that Brave New World Order we may be able to buy the true contentment of laying on the beach, diving through the waves, enjoying the pleasures of a good book, or an evening listening to crickets under the old apple tree.  After all, a lot of people I’ve known used pharmacopia specifically for the fragrant and subtle joys of becoming absorbed in a picture or a spider web, the curl of smoke in the fireplace – because without drugs they’d be nervous and stressed-out, channel-surfing the tube. 

There are so many engineers and scientists and companies with big seductive profits to fund them towards such goals.  Satisfaction of any sort could be provided homogeneously, democratically and systematically.  With ads ad nauseum.  Play and entertainment sold in the same breath as "experience and learning":   and buying into the craze for health and long life, we'll create bodies fit enough to do more and absorb more ....  More and more.   

Of course, I’m just tweeking your thing.  If we were to follow today’s trends to their conclusion, the geeks would provide the businessmen with techniques to hook us all up; simulating every sensory rush, exhilaration, mood or vision that the artists and bioengineers among them might point to.  How they will manage to pull it off is anyone's guess ....  but it will be accomplished for the sake of pleasure, experience and wisdom.  For mass mental peace, contentment and one assumes, social peace.  

You may argue with me if you wish, but this will be the argument of the geeks who wish to create a sabbath for mankind.   Social peace.  Technological Sabbath for all….  To be spent in praise of the Geek Gods.

Get self-righteous and stand on a platform and yell - "Technology is luring our souls into self-hypnosis and gluttony!!" 

Go ahead.  But that's just silly.  It may be true - but it is definitely a silly thing to yell.

This is why you should be really interested in the game of Squeezeplay.  For I believe this game is the unspoken premise driving entrepreneurial development.  Our society doesn’t provide healthcare or education for all, rather, the normative standard is to provide recreation for all.  Recreation means “re-creation,” self-development, culture, exercise and healthy growth as well as watching sports and just recreationally goofing off.  It’s got quite a lot going for it in the way of freedom and equality.  It is not all goofing off.

But Squeezeplay raises many good questions.  The engineers are constantly working on the question “How can we squeeze more life into life?” but they don’t ask the last half of the question, “without squeezing the life out of it?”  They forget about my mother killing every family trip.  But even more critically, they are not interested in what to do with the 17.3% of all recreational froth which decays into scum, with the worst of it becoming the vortex of disintegrative energies that proceed to rip apart the social fabric.   This is not their problem.[1] 

I shall propose a thought experiment.  It is devoid of any social merit.

If one could simply switch from excitement to ecstasy to orgasm to overwhelming taste sensation, to sheer religious awe, reverence and serenity…. Back and forth, on and on, day after day with new objects of our curiosity adoration and mirth, what would be the purpose? 

Why wouldn’t anyone want it?

Why would anyone want it?

Living Life to the Hilt

When I say "squeezing more life into life" I don't mean being the perennial teenager, screeching your tires to prove you know how to live.  I might be thinking of someone who goes to stamp-collecting conventions in the morning, raises prize dahlias in the afternoon and attends community theatre practice every third night. 

I would like to suggest being like those amazing regular people you find on the front page of the Living section of the Sunday paper, with inconceivable and incredible hobbies who also work on the volunteer rescue squad.  Thinking about such wonderful people simply depresses me, making me feel like an insignificant failure.  But I console myself with the idea that even with such pure and complex lives, they may be experiencing things either fully or partially.

It is also possible that they're not experiencing things at all; they're not in the least bit engaged in anything but their damned hobbies and their respective schedules.

In fact, there is a very strong possibility they are not experiencing anything but stress about how they look.... good grownups who were good kids - innocent products of the pretensions of their culture, getting applause and awards for well-executed shows of how good they were.  And they still are well-executed shows, and there is no telling if their appreciation of life was killed from the start.

Let’s switch to the other extreme - the outcasts - the no-goods and drop-outs - for whom living life to the hilt means a few beers and wings, a quick one with their chick in the parking lot, and a riotous late night drive to the casino to blow a few hundred. Then with two twenties left, at 5:30 am (since the chick is now off with an ex-boyfriend she met at Caesar's) the guy calls in sick to work and takes off hunting in the mountains with a new-found friend, who he also met at Caesar's.  Of course I always picture the guys' side of this, cause the drop-out n'er do well girl often has another reputation just because she’s a girl, and I should have to draw a more careful picture to make the point.

Yet, while this is our picture of care-free "on the road" life, it is also very possible that our guy and his chick are not experiencing things at all either - any more than the person at dahlia practice; they may not be engaged in anything but the damned story they're going to tell for the next couple weeks, or months, or years.  Just telling about it qualifies them as knowing how to live life to the hilt.

Twelve Buzzards

One crisp autumn morning a while back, I pulled to the side of the road on my way to work to look at 12 turkey vultures – that is, what locals call ‘buzzards’ sitting up on a broken-down silo.  They were waking up in the sun, stretching their wings out straight… big, black, wider than my arm span.  The sun had already burnt through the mist, and the dew was still glistening on the grass, and probably on their wings, too. 

It would have been clear to anyone how they must’ve felt.  They were having an age-old communion with the sun and the morning air.   I got out of my car and walked into the sun myself, over on the wet grass below them.  It was thrilling to watch them, and have a feeling of how those ancient buzzards felt in a ritual as old as their species.  Yawning, stretching, feeling like that day and that sun were made to be felt by them alone.

Hold that thought a moment.

Paddling out on the lake today  I passed this fisherman who had just caught 4 bass, and he greeted me with,

"Beautiful day!. This is what life's all about isn't it?"

I thought it was a rather silly simplification, considering such a big book I was writing on the very same subject. But then I remembered them buzzards.

Orange-bellied swallows were whistling and dipping for flies around the canoe, white tail deer were flicking their tails on the shore, a flock of geese were floating through the reedy shallows, a fisher hawk circled high above and I heard the splash of a fish catching a bug.  The hawk took a dive, and after a brief hesitation I answered,

"When a day is this beautiful, I guess it IS what life's about!"

As much to us as to them pre-historic buzzards on the silo.

And here’s the question.  It’s one we’ve all thought of.  It’s a real curious one, in three parts:  A) How is it that we can have a feeling so strong and all-pervasive – that has us convinced we understand it, and that it is here to stay.  B) Yet it can disappear as suddenly as it came on.  C) And while we believe we need only to think of it to remember it, and bring it back…. Once we describe it, the feeling has already been lost?  Which is to say:  1x(A + B + C)=?.

Sitting out there on the lake with that fisherman I knew just how quickly that feeling of communion can come and go.  So you gotta ask yourself, "What is fulfillment?  Right after I think I'm fulfilled and happy, it disappears and I'm a wreck again.!”   I know it ain’t just me.  It happens to us all.

So what is it that feels so good and disappears so easily? Early in my quest to find the secret to a perfect squeezeplay, I found myself at a retired priest’s house.  I’m not about to turn this into a religious book, but this happy curmudgeon turned me onto a word that I found quite helpful… and since it was not a particularly religious word I will introduce it here.  The word was “participation.”

I had met this priest on a long train-ride from Chicago, in the bar-car,  and he had invited me to stop by if I was every passing through his town in Ohio.  Well, about a year later I was stopping by and spilled a pot of coffee in the kitchen, and we pulled out the stove and cleaned behind it.  After we retired to the porch he commenced a lecture on one of the saints who believed that it all had to do with communion.  It was a washed-out summer morning, and the dew was still on the grass from the day I had spent with the buzzards.   I was in a hurry to go, but we got talking of many things.  And when he talked about communion, he specifically used the word “participation with God,” or “participation in God” but I wouldn’t know the difference though this kind of distinction makes a big difference to religious talkers.  What is important, however, is that prayer seemed to be about this kind of communion, as well as love.

So now I can continue my earlier question.  Is this the same as participation with nature?  Could the saint’s interpretation of “communion” actually mean “grooving with”?  So the buzzards were actually grooving on that silo, and I was grooving with them.  The fisherman was grooving on a wonderful day, and I was grooving with my canoe.

If you substitute “Grooving” for “Communion,” what does it mean?   Is it possible, as the Prime Minister who lives up the block suggests, that such communions and confirmations can come and go with an easy regularity, and that looking for a state of complete fulfillment is random nonsense, vanity, and arrogance?   One cannot groove at all times and places of life, but must slog around outside of the groove much of the time.

“To Groove” is a metaphor borrowed from old-time records, when a needle held in the groove of the record would travel around and round and pick up all the vibrations to make an incredible number of sounds.  All the harmonies were contained in the grooves.

Why shouldn’t a true communion like the buzzards were having with the sun be the same as grooving with something, or “participation” in something much more general?  Like participating with celestial music, hot music, awesome sounds, on a 70-minute CD?   Or participation in the realities of our fellow-travelers on this earth?  ¾ our co-workers, classmates, families… the local masseuse?  I felt this needed verification.

Why shouldn’t you be able to have at least some communion by grooving with anything outside yourself, or outside your current picture of yourself?

The idea of grooving with something, really getting OUT of yourself and fully participating in it, in fact, seemed like a pretty good way to get the experiment going.   Also, by putting the question of in such a way, I had posed a definite challenge to self-indulgence, of stuffing my life full of learning, experience, and pleasures great and small. 

I did so at my own peril, for this kind of participation and grooviness is not altogether approved of outside of talk-shows.  There are many stern authorities who still insist that the only participation that holds water is when we groove on a purpose greater than ourselves, such as the purpose laid out in olden times, and in the days of the prophets.  Many others will insist that the only groove you need concern yourself with is when we are dying; even worse, after we’ve kicked the bucket! 

Enough of this.  Our chief purpose is to find out what it is to groove, how we might groove better, and why grooving can disappear into thin air so easily. 

Squeeze-Play is about squeezing more life into life without squeezing the life out of it.   If we were allowed to squeeze the life out of it in the process, there should be no challenge at all, and I could tell you straightaways how to go about tying on a stupendously happy sensory overload leaving you serene, calm, and quietly pushing up daisies.

If we were allowed to squeeze all the life out of life – that is, if we were allowed to die with no other adverse consequences, there would be no problem whatsoever.  I could tell right off if you were dead or alive.  For if you were laying around the back yard looking particularly gruesome, I would just call that big Victorian house on the corner with the big front lawn, and they’d come and put you in a box, and call us when it was time to walk by and say “why, you look better than you did when you were alive!” 

Pleasure and Meaning

Sometimes the only way you can define things is by their opposites… or by their boundaries, however uncertain you are of those boundaries.  As you know by my title, we are not concerned with life and death, but rather with living with no life at all – an empty, stagnant bitter shell of life, which as I’ve suggested, is what is left when our life has disintegrated.

I’ve brought up these particular challenges to “Squeezing more life into life…. Etc,” – because there are two issues --- one of squeezing, and one of meaning.--- how to squeeze stuff in, and the meaning it has to you once it's there.... i.e. the life in it.  Life with a grand and capital "L":  LIFE the whole Shabang.   But I suppose you intuitively knew this is what I meant when you read the title – “Squeezing more life into life…. Etc., etc.”

Does pleasure have anything to do with meaning?   That's  one aspect of the question I was trying to figure out when I decided to go out and have a good time.  It is a very scholarly question.  And so, while I was having a good time exploring my tolerance level to wine women and song, I found an interesting description of the problem by a fellow named Walter Kerr, in a book called The Decline of Pleasure from way back in 1962, proving that I did look at few books in the ten years it has taken me to write my own.

Mr. Kerr suggests that the problem of "pleasure" is that when you try hard to have it you usually fail, and when you aren't paying it much attention that's when the real pleasure sneaks in. He also notes that when someone is utterly exhausted, there are still certain types of experiences which stimulate one to greater levels of appetite and energy.  For example, he describes being totally wasted after a day of strenuous touring of Italy, then miraculously recovering his strength in a room full of sculpture by Donatello (we might asay something about his taste, but I will agree with him in principle, for I can be similarly stimulated back to life by a room full of young women wearing only feather boas.)

Mr. Kerr goes on to elaborate about how pleasure cannot be strived after, nor rationally squeezed into a 10-minute interval between meeting with a Cabinet Minister and your Press Secretary, even with an intern.   "Pleasure", Mr. Kerr asserts is something which just "comes" through absorption of you, the subject into the object.

Luckily for us, Mr. Kerr's book doesn't apply to anything nowadays anyway.  Pleasure was on the decline during the Cold War .  It was written before the hippies, and long before computers solved all of the problems of obtaining knowledge and special effects.  It was written when Utilitarianism ruled, when natural resources weren't being liberated from Siberia and elsewhere by hoodlum bosses, flooding the industrialized world with the raw materials for more cheap goods than anyone could use.  Neither had the Federal Reserve learned to sustain economic growth.

So I can tell Mr. Kerr straightaways that there is nothing mysterious about the pleasure problem as he states it.  For it is the same cognitive effect which takes place when we can't remember a person's name no matter how we try, but as soon as we stop trying it pops into our head.  They both happen this way because connections are made by our passive receptors and not by pointing at them.  Because our bodies recognize patterns not by logical dissection, but by the work of many different sensory faculties in parallel.  Pleasure happens when we are not looking for it because that real happiness kind of pleasure is just the kind of connection that is the work of many different sensory faculties at once. 

What I can't exactly explain to him is why this happens to feel so good and natural that we believe we have the answers to nature's question within us.  We often feel so good we become Nature's answer itself!  It is that particular absorption which goes beyond our conscious and critical faculties which takes us outside of ourselves, into some kind of participation with the object - engaging us in a connection full of subtle pulses, sensory sparks, or the wonderful shocks of natural electricity.

Ah the bliss.  The tranquility.  The joy.

It is a disengagement that seems to re-connect us at the same time.

According to Mr. Kerr, you can't force it.  I disagree, since know many ways to throw myself off-guard, allowing me to enjoy myself quite accidentally anyway.  Of course I have awakened after such pleasurable accidents to find my ATM account had been accidentally deleted.  Which is to say it can be very difficult to recuperate from such engaging disengagements.  Nevertheless, it is these dis-engaging engagements which are often quite pleasurable.

A Philosopher of Pleasure and Another of Pain

A book in English[2] about pleasure which did not mention the Greek philosopher Epicurus would be missing one of the more important, if neglected, discussions in the Western tradition.  I will only mention him briefly, for his few writings have been the subject of a lot of controversy for many centuries, and none of this could help out this book.

LECTOR:   I was getting worried for a minute.

AUCTOR:  You should look him up on the Internet.  He’s coming back into vogue.  The last big fad for quoting Epicurus was in the Renaissance.  And with all the cooking shows on T.V., the founder of Epicureanism should be a hit again today.

There is an interesting connection to Epicurus which I doubt you will find on the Internet.  He was the best-known student of Democritus, the father of atomic theory, the man who named atoms “atoms.”

There is a story attributed to Democritus, that he was visited one day by Hippocrates, the supposed father of medicine, who found him busy dissecting animals, with a book in hand.  When asked what he was doing, he replied he was looking for the bodily source of mental disease, otherwise, psychological disorders, or what was to be known as “melancholy.”

Democritus the Younger tells this story in the introduction to his famous book entitled “The Anatomy of Melancholy.”  It was published in 1617 by Robert Burton who took the pseudonym “Democritus the Younger” to justify carrying out Democritus’ lost project.  This is another book which is due for its second resurgence in popularity – it is a highly analytical treatment, with many conversational digressions, about the sources of psychological pain.

It is quite interesting that both Burton and Epicurus take the senses for granted as contributing to our emotional life.  Burton was a manic-depressive and opens his book with a funny poem that suggests that the same things that cause him the greatest joys and pleasures are, at different times, the cause of his greatest sufferings and depths of hell.  That his joys go by in a blink of an eye, and his pain drags him slowly through time. 

LECTOR:  You are getting ready to tell me that the higher I go up, the lower I’ll come down, right?

AUCTOR:  No, I was not going to say that.  I was going to say that Burton’s observations are easier to interpret than Epicurus.’  By considering any emotional extreme as potentially painful, while he does not pretend to offer a philosophy of pleasure, if we substitute Burton’s “melancholy” for Epicurus’ “pain,”  Epicurus’ supposed philosophy of maximizing pleasure is not what many people suppose – for pleasure is defined as the “absence of pain.”

LECTOR:  You were going to spare us.

AUCTOR:  I needed to give an explanation of “pleasure” which Burton might have supported – because Burton knows the symptoms of squeezing the life out of life, and he offers cures.

LECTOR:  How to squeeze more life into life AFTER you’ve squeezed the life out of it?

AUCTOR:  Yep. 

LECTOR[u1] :  What about pleasure?

AUCTOR:  Once you’ve squeezed all the emotional highs out of life, all that is left of pleasure is serenity.  But what is even more interesting is the fact that in 1617 Burton was already a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, because AA wasn’t invented until the 1930’s.

Self-Actualization and Contentedness

The 7 States of Buddhists

 

Chap.2                       Squeezeplay Strategies

Why should anyone want more life than we have in the first place?  It’s a question of interpretation:  both about interpreting life and interpreting our experiences of it. 

When something tastes good, why does it take more of it to be satisfied?  Must we stuff ourselves?  When we feel undernourished, and are jealous of our neighbor’s happiness, can’t we simply be thankful for what we have and leave it at that?  What is this “more” we want so much of?

Writers, singers, and all-seeing media – who generally define the times - give us the tools for interpreting what counts for experience. They also tell us what and where and who we want to be – and in some cases, make sure we want to keep the economic engine running.  So, face it, some of the gluttony is not our fault, it’s simply programmed by the conspiracy of big business that convinces us what we need to self-actualize, and to keep buying.

In any case, the churches provide us with the necessary balance.  Churches tell us there is an entirely different kind of experience out there that counts.  If you want some of those material benefits of life, like food and clothes, simply keep in mind that it is faith you want more of…. The rest will come.

There seems to be a big hitch in the assumptions, and in the way you ask the question. In any case, before we tackle the part about grooving, or just how it can quickly and quietly vanish away,

I will provide you with the simplest answers to the question that goes– “How can we squeeze more life into life….”   For if you equate life with “experience:”

 

 

You can avoid experiences that take up your time, and substitute what makes you happier

Always be somewhere else  [not good, you waste more time running]

Ignore your obligations, deny all promises, or act dumb [not good, you waste time with too many arguments]

Don’t commit to anything in the first place  [alright, but difficult to maintain indefinitely]

Pay people to take all your commitments and obligations [it works if you’ve got the scratch].

You can squeeze more experiences into the time you have;

You can do things faster  [Not so good]

You can give yourself more time by following a self-help book on time-management,  [Alright]

You move a richer texture of experience through the time you have, thereby squeezing more separate strands of experience into the time you have [Best option, recommended by this book!]

You can squeeze more time into time,

You can focus harder, squeezing more separate pieces of experience into the time we have… squeezing more time into time by lengthening the time we have;

You can squeeze more pleasure into the experiences you have;

more heightened feelings into one’s pleasure… and

We can add new appreciations to what we experience

We can integrate our experiences in a wide range of ways - as ensembles of memories, sense associations, dreams, fantasies, songs, or stories – and this list goes on.

there is quite a bit you can do to squeeze more meaning into each experience.

On the Self-Help shelf at your nearest bookstore you will find this much out.  The only problem is, as easily as these techniques are stated, every word in every sentence is loaded - each word will mean twenty different things to twenty different people, and you are one of the twenty.  

An underlying reason is because the word “Life” does NOT exactly equal “experience,” and experience is rather broad. But let’s unpack a few pieces anyhow.  

It may be obvious that some people get more opportunities for pleasurable experiences… but it is less obvious that some people really do enjoy things with much more pleasure than others.

 

An Emotional Card-Game

Card games are based on choices you make in sorting your cards into their different relationships, trying to find the best options of play; discarding, re-picking your cards, and finding entirely new ways to sort them based on whatever one chance card you just picked up.  The metaphor of combinations of cards as combinations of senses works because in different card games entirely different relationships are considered winners.  This means that there might be different ways to play your senses and win – like you’ll get entirely different pleasurable feelings because it’s a different game.  Each experience – that is, each discrete activity in your life played out in time is like a new game, and each moment may be a new hand.

I take it you’re smart enough to realize that pleasures ain’t all the same, Eating lemon meringue donuts isn’t the same as sliding down a water slide.  And you ought to be able to think through this distinction if you are eight years old or eighty-six.

We all know how sometimes time seems to stretch out forever.   Like it's when we're incredibly bored or deeply engrossed in something, like being eaten alive by fire ants. [3]

In any case whether you insist that time cannot be made shorter or longer, the feelings are real, and if our adrenalin is pumping and our thouths move fast enough to pack an extra 40 thoughts into each second our moments become longer.  Even if the hands on the clock tell us otherwise. 

And I am quite convinced that we can fall into states with a sped-up rate that compares to that of a fast-moving animal like a hummingbird perhaps – making every beat of a wing seem like a second, giving us the feeling of 40 seconds in the space of just one measely normal human second.  I am almost sure of this, like I said.

Everyone this side of 3 years old knows we can doze off and have a good long dream that fills up a whole day. But when we wake up the clock hand hasn't moved 10 minutes.   And if you're like me, I will doze off again and throw another day into my dream... a new dream with new characters at a different time in my life entirely... and I can get it all in before having to get up for breakfast.  Real breakfast chewed with my teeth, tasted with my tongue, and drunk with my gullet.  Which gets me thinking of some pleasurable feelings in life that are over in just a few seconds.  Wow do I wish my body would let me feel them in dream-time!! - But I'm afraid I would lose a commensurate amount of brain cells in the process, and I'm already down to 12.

So where were we?  What have we got in the way of the Squeezing More Life into Life?  How to better the propensity for a pleasurable life?  I must apologize, of course, for reminding the reader that this life is not always pleasurable like beer commercials, and that the same ways we use to squeeze more ecstasies in may also let in some agonies.  But let us proceed.

We've already listed several options.  Added to this list we now have:

Possibility 1) You can shuffle faster - and put more moments into clock-time.  Different people shuffle and deal at different speeds. Adrenalin can grease this machinery, and practice also helps. Clarified chemical lubricants such as morphine or cocaine have been tried, but they may substantially redefine the individual playing the game, altering the definition of a winning hand.

Possibility 2) You can add more games to your repertoire - with new and different combinations of senses and "winning hands" - adding pleasures to your game, and thus up your chances of winning. There is much more to the world than steak sandwiches and pizza.  Add to your appetites, and increase the chance of fitting rewarding experiences into any available moments that may come your way. This is the most conservative, Betty Crocker approach.  You can take up new hobbies,  like wind-surfing, spelunking, star-gazing, opera-going, hunting, bird-watching, Renaissance Faires or Civil War re-enacting; you can learn sign-language and help the deaf, or learn nursing and join a rescue squad.  There are innumerable ways to add to your appetites and appreciation of things…but they take a little patience, as you add to your repertoire of sensory skills – weaving new fabrics of what makes sense, adding new meaningfulness to new games…and new pleasures to your emotional deck.

Possibility 3)  You can alter the deck- focus on only a few possible games, and up your chances of emotional highs.  This also narrows the types of emotion possible. Some people call this "concentration,"  It makes clock-time go by faster, but you don't notice since you're concentrating your senses and actually lengthening the feel of each moment. You can heighten the emotions you get since you get more concentration of experience into each "moment".   This is what some of us used to do when we sat for hours absorbed in some make-believe play alone in the sandbox, carefully crayoning, or setting up dolls or battle figurines.  It is what some of us still get when we are filtering out everything but the senses contributing to our sexuality.  So you see, I am not knocking sexuality….but I’m suggesting that much of its pleasure is comparable to the narrowing the senses necessary when listening to a complex piece of music, or the absolute focus required for a fast-moving video game.

Possibility 4) Alternate all three of the above game strategies to hedge your bets. 

There may be more basic strategies which you may come up with now that I've shown you the basic options.  If you come up with any, I'd be interested to know unless I am already dead and have no bets to hedge.

The only thing I neglected to tell you is that you’ll be out there playing with card sharks.   And if you're on a paddlewheel steamer going up the Mississippi, there's usually a gun hidden around somewhere.  It ain't all a game of roses and perfume.  There's real life on the table restin' on them chips.  So you should probably hedge your bets.

That is, all the hands you draw aren't necessarily winning hands of pleasurable experience.  Every hand you might ever choose to look at is a different emotional state.  A lot of them you don't even look at. …and some of them you don’t want to look at.

 We have to have something like emotions to help give the complexity of our sensory activity some definition.  Of course if you still want to believe that we've only got five senses - as if our nervous system only works with five bell ropes instead of a whole orchestra - you are welcome to be everlastingly traditional like that.   Because I will make you admit that even your five giant cathedral bells can make incredibly complex harmonies and overtones.  These senses of ours will not stay simple, no matter how traditional you must insist on being.

This, then, is the stuff we are playing the game of Squeezeplay with - our many senses.  But our emotions and feelings are also what we are playing FOR, and this is really the reason why squeezeplay can’t work as we’d expect.  

Playing your Senses like Cards

So.  We can squeeze more experience into the moments of time we have.  We can do this either by running around faster and frantically,  We can do this by stuffing our mental suitcases a lot harder.  Or we can do this by restructuring our experience to change the way time is working for us. 

We can squeeze more pleasure into the experiences we already have.  We can do this by finding all the experiences that take up the most time in our lives, and substitute things which will give us more pleasure.  This is basically called more efficient packing.  But we can also increase the number of things that give us pleasure, making it easier to pack efficiently. 

We can also make our pleasures more pleasurable. 

Our senses are like a pack of cards that we're always shuffling and dealing and checking out. 

I'm sure that most readers will insist on sticking with just five senses, so I'll add a suit - stars - and let each suit be a sense. I know you are traditional and insist on only having those five senses (remembering of course what we learned in our nursery rhyme logic course?  They are: seeing, hearing , touching, tasting, smelling).  We inherited this notion of five senses from Old Middle English, when the TV-sets and record-players only had five knobs or less, and we didn't have 4 remotes next to us on the couch each with 30+ function keys to change the channel with.   Anyway, if you're wondering what all the cards are in each suit, let me suggest that living bodies are at least as complicated as a VCR-player, and might have some extra components thrown into each of those 5 senses.

  Actually, I'd put my bets on having at least as many senses as cards in the deck, but this would sound extreme.  I might even say we have as many senses as there are nerves and sensory paths which team up in particularly functional ways, yet this may be going much too far.

For example, I believe that whoever first called the "sense of balance"  a sense was right.  And the same goes for the sense of rhythm, which is all on its own.  Rhythm is a cousin to the sense of cycles and the sense of "now".

What I'm getting at is that any composite of nerves in our nervous system could work for us like an independent sense.  Not only that, but if there are so many senses being shuffled and dealt to us all through the day, then there are even more possible "hands" that you can draw, and even more games you can play to make different hands winning ones.

This is the card-playing metaphor for our senses:  suggesting that different hands are different feelings and that there are many different sensory games to choose from.  There are also many outcomes and strategies to playing cards.   But the metaphor of the card game is also based on the idea that in most card games you rely on random collections of cards, on shuffling, on picking, and choosing. 

 

The games of life we play for emotional gratification are predominantly inside us.  They utilize our sensory fabric. Life takes place using our minds and our memories, our bodies and behavioral habits. 

 

I once knew a tough old neighborhood guy who says that when he was young on the corner, if anyone said they had “feelings” they’d be beat up and left as a sissy.  “Feelings” and “emotions” were not the stuff of their life.  Immediate gut responses, with clear-cut rules of behavior were the only macho mode to life.  Emotions and feelings, hah. 

For this fellow’s sake, we will not suggest that experience has any components at all.  Experience is simple raw cause with a raw response according to simple god-given rules of macho effects.  Like playing just with spade.  But for the rest of us, experience has more subtle components that we are capable of sorting out and acting on with some response ability, “playing our cards.”  I suggested there were many of them, but for simplicity sake, I compared them to five suites of cards.  We won’t believe in five senses anymore, however, but maybe 52 or 152 or 1052:

There are the physical feelings, otherwise known as raw senses. Then,

There are several levels of integration of our raw senses – each level of integration is a signal to the next level up.  Yawns, laughs, various grunts, exclamations such as ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’,’ yelps of excitement, etc. These signals are often just ‘tags,’ assigned adhoc meanings.  It appears that we must become conscious of them before we can do anything with them.

It is not true, of course, that we must become conscious of them to do anything with them.  A huge quantity of our interaction with ourselves goes on below consciousness.  But at some level of activity, sensory experience is communicated to us with a signal.  This signal is a tag with “tentative” meanings, which is not the same as random meaning.  In many cases, however, we choose the closest tag at hand, but when it comes to signals like yawns and laughs and cries, the signal is a tentative tag.  A yawn is a signal to ‘turn off,’  which is to tell us about lack of sleep or boredom.  And the same signals that make us conscious of something are the ones that let others know of our feelings.  These signals are the “emotive feelings,” which are not always the same as the emotions, but always masquerade as them. 

Body language is particularly emotive, but we usually aren’t as aware of our own body language as other people are. My old street acquaintance would turn red and tighten all his neck and shoulder muscles as he was getting ready to throttle someone.  We often knew it before either of them saw it coming, even if this particular fellow denied the existence of emotions or feelings. 

I know a chatterbox little 8 year old who simply says everything she is doing as if it is a novel thought, and part of a new and interesting story about life.  She has grown up around college-bred parents, and thus has a broad vocabulary of pseudo-psychology, which comes pouring forth to explain every giggle and step and request she makes.  And if you tell her not to put her hand on the hot stove she acknowledges you and goes back to talking about something else, and as she is talking she wanders over to the stove and puts her hand on it and screams.  She heard the word “stove,” and became curious about it and without thinking reached out to touch it to confirm her curiousity with a scream. She doesn’t need body language.

Emotive feelings are a big piece of what we count for experience, for it is the collection of these feelings that we turn into stories.  And  this seems to be the next layer of integration.

We integrate emotive feelings into strings of cause and effect, beginnings and ends - which are nothing more than giving them tentative boundaries. These are the stories which we use to consciously assign meanings, much the way our other senses are integrated in an ad hoc manner.  Thus stories function as signals to the next higher level, which is naturally, the feeling of an integrated self.

The “highest” level of integration of inchoate feelings, tags, and stories over time  - is usually apparent to us as a raw sense.  This is because each level of integration functions with the same processes of pointing sorting and assembling an integrated pattern which the raw senses use to function.  The feeling of an integrated self is rather pervasive, and it is quite possible that many different sensory locales in the brain are capable of processing this integration for us – simply because it is in the general structure of the brain (any brain in any creature), to allow cross-talk and adhoc integrated tags to form. 

Consciousness is the term we’ve given this integration. But if these tentative suggestions of mine have any physical weight in practice, then there must be many different mixes of consciousness, and many possible recipes and intensities of integration. 

Obviously, coming from the culture which most of us share, we are most interested in the highest and most intense levels of integration.  As this is at the apex of the entire construction, it would seem to be the focal point, “the purpose of it all.”

Grooving is a special case of consciousness in which the integrated self (inchoate feelings, tags, and stories) coincides with its surroundings, “becoming one with” its immediate world of inchoate feelings, tags, and stories.  There are as many permutations of happiness as there are people.

This is all just a geeky generalization produced in an office cubicle.  It was originally the specification for a computer game manufacturer in orer to manipulate the consciousness of its players.  It is purely materialistic and was reproduced here for your convenience rather than any assertion of life’s truth.

$$$

Packaging Emotional Life

Life is perceived as emotional life, whether we are rational all of our waking moments or not.  I am of the opinion, in fact, that rational mind is no different than the emotions – it is just the integration of the senses of extrapolation and pattern checking. It is sets itself up as the master of emotions because this is basically the same primitive process that all the senses use.

Emotional life is the gross representation of sensory experience the way the “Gross National Product” is a representation of all of the economic transactions going on in a certain country within a certain time-frame.  There are emotional events and there is overall emotional health.  There are laughs, sighs, angry curses and ecstatic ejaculations.  – but many of us picked up this book to understand why we can’t seem to get a handle on our emotional health simply by filling our experience up with fun and excitement.  And others of us picked up this book as we grappled with a more intangible problem:  how to control irrational demands and desires when we are fully productive and believe ourselves happy?  What kind of experience do we need to add to the mix –what can we squeeze in -that won’t spoil the taste or kick the living shit out of us?

QUALIFICATIONS NEEDED

Emotions are the way our senses represent experience. Emotions are all about ourselves and time. Emotions are the inter-relationships of sensory signals to tentative hypothetical contexts of duration.

Events

Emotions are sensory events – and events are a partial representation of the conundrum of time. 

I became aware of the problem of event representation when I was developing a computerized video touchpad.  The goal for our prototype was an interface that allowed the customer tag a baseball game as they were watching it, so that the final stored video would let either the coach or the player automatically splice out events for future recall.  If I wanted to compare all the fast inside pitches that Max threw in August, sorted by inning, by swings and misses, by hits to right field, left field, and bunts…. I could do it.  It should merely be a matter of assigning known, fixed attributes such as inning, swings, hits, etcetera, to events. 

The problem was, when the viewer is watching the game and tagging the action, they cannot be sure what may some day be important.  What is the “event” we are going to splice out for comparison?

Is it the batter going into his stance?  Is it the pitcher winding up and throwing?  Is it the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt or getting fouled into the inside bleachers?  Is it the umpire’s tendency to mis-call low inside pitches?

Please accept my apologies for this apparently ridiculous digression.  What does the consumer analysis of American Baseball have to do with finding happiness and well-being !?!  Bear in mind we are not talking about baseball, but about the problem which our senses must face when they are taking signals and sorting them into meaningful pieces – that is, interpreting events in our life. Because we, too, must have memories.

For baseball, this is a solvable problem.  Once you have worked out all the possible interactions of people and actions in the game, since this game has a very limited number of rules, you have essentially created the grammar of all possible events in baseball, which lets you decide where things start and where things finish. 

Given a viewer’s limited reactions to the game, as well as the response times for watching team play, you can put in an instruction to place the “start event” marker back at a video frame within a second of the start-time.  As in many sports, end-times for certain activities are fairly well-defined and easy to mark.   It would seem easy for baseball, and therefore I will ask your tolerance, because what seems easy for baseball in fact, has some hidden problems – which clarify our own problem with identifying the meaning of any event in our lives.  Our need to review the data over and over, with slight differences in the telling, exemplifies the difficulty we have with establishing the meanings of events within the larger whole.

When you are designing a product for public consumption, you must be very clear to identify the possible uses to which it will be put. This will determine what is “meaningful” information.  In the case of a video database of baseball games, or football games, or whatever – all of those games will eventually accumulate over the years. Video recordings of the same game, viewed by different viewers and encoded by many different cameras will be thrown into the same video database.  Players will be traded, and pieces of databases will need to be extracted and merged for the new coaches.  A video record of every at-bat, every pitch, every fielded play could eventually exist for every player – from the time they began playing in the Babe Ruth League.   So you see, the baseball problem about  “determining events” is also about constructing stories about ourselves.  It is these stories which project the meaning in our lives.

Walking towards the Mirage of Truth

 

Mirages have been shown to exist – they are not a figment of a dream, or projected imagination of what you want to see.  Mirages never occurred in jungles, for instance, but on deserts.  They are images of far-away things piped between layers of heat gradients over the hot desert sand. 

What we are looking for is actually there, but not exactly where we believe it to be.  We are walking towards something real –with no way to guess how far off it really is.  The quivering disappearing image of….

LECTOR:  You are being awfully hard on ‘turth’ here.

AUCTOR:  No.  I am being hard on our sense of truth.  For in fact, we sometimes get there, and it’s got everything we are looking for.  It’s not heaven, mind you, but it’s fulfilling and complete.

…. a convenience store on the horizon! 

 

Exhausted, and hardly knowing we are there when we finally arrive, unable to grasp that this is the place we saw.  

We awake from the mindless haze when we throw our faces in the water trough (you only find metaphorical watering troughs at metaphorical convenience stores in beer commercials).  We are immediately refreshed.  We find ourselves, reintegrate our bodies and our minds into functional wholes, become the structures that Nature built us to be.

So many of us have thirsted so long, putting one foot after another, slugging our bodies against the air, trance-like, obedient to our wills to live.  Some of us have seen the mirage on the horizon for so long, and though we stare at it, it has ceased to make sense or have any meaning. 

Yet it is there, and we need only remember what it might feel like to be refreshed... to throw our faces into the waters of our memories, to shower under a hundred streams of thought, where thousands of moments of experience come back at us.  

We want to close our eyes and open our mouths and drink, scrub clean of dust and sweat, and sing.

LECTOR:  Waters of your memory, eh?  Are you aware of how many analogies you have used for memory so far in this book?

AUCTOR:  No.

LECTOR:  Well, let me tell you. This is important, because all of us get as confused when it comes to the concept of a ‘memory:’

1. Memory of experience as something which has many functions, like water, which we drink and swim in, and wash our clothes with.

2. Memory of experience as digital disk, taking snapshots of experiences we otherwise aren't paying attention to.

3. Memory of experience captured as recorded music, made up of sound textures, intervals of tone, timbre, rhythm. Memories which can replay for us as music, and integrated as art.

4. Memory of experience as fabric, woven from different strands of sensory inputs taken altogether.  Different people use different weaves and raw materials to achieve the same result.

5. Memory of experience as something which nourishes us like food (presumably when we get the film developed and go through the snapshots).

I suppose you think you've got a pretty airtight system here?  You weave the fabrics, wash them in water, close your eyes, throw in some developer, fixer and wash and get great snapshots to print on your t-shirts.    If you weren't writing me, I'd take the credit for all this nonsense.  But there is something else which is much more important.  And you forgot it.

AUCTOR:  No fooling?  I'm all ears.

LECTOR:  Many people - in fact most people - live their lives planning for some future happiness, and not memories at all.

AUCTOR:  But isn’t that what we were just talking about?  The personal ad hoc decrees of what will constitute truth and happiness – what will confirm the self into believing its world works the way it has “worked it out.”?

LECTOR:  No.  Your mirage of the longed-for oasis, which, habitual drunk as you are, you pictured as a convenience store on the horizon, is your image of a longed-for life’s integration, somehow pulling everything together as you finally refresh yourself.  And you pictured this refreshment as having to do with life’s memories.

Most people don’t give a damn about that kind of refreshment.  They simply live for their next event.  They will go to great lengths to find the perfume or make-up they will have on at the great moment, a moment that gets buried beneath preparations for the next moment.  A career that is always preparing for the next position, a house that can never be a home because it is forever in the middle of another upgrade. 

You have left all of this out, and so I declare here and now that your book has failed.

AUCTOR:  Ahh.  I see.  You think I left it out.  Well,  I appreciate the thought you are giving to these things.  I must have left it out on purpose, just to see if you were paying attention.  In fact, I considered it such an obvious class of behavior that it didn't need to be mentioned.  You idiot!  That’s what I meant when I was talking about those ad hoc decrees – the tentative solution to the self-integration at the highest level of ego.

LECTOR:  You can't cover your tracks.  It is done.  You forgot all about it, and it is such an all-pervasive way of life, that you will risk your entire philosophical construct if you cannot cover it.  SO?

AUCTOR:  Well here goes.  We'll put it away in seven paragraphs.  Any other writer would take two chapters.

Supposedly old horse-drawn peddlers dangled a carrot on a stick in front of the donkeys face.  But the donkey has trotted on for years and miles with a carrot hanging up there, and it only gets it at the end of the trip, or the end of the day. Do we think the donkey such an ass to think it will get the carrot by walking forward?  No.  It's mostly a reminder of getting fed.  Jogging the animal's memory with a taste of the end of the day.

This kind of activity falls under the category of "cybernetic" or "teleologically-based behavior."  Purposeful action guided by some looked-for end-point.  It is the heat-gradients on the desert acting like a fiber-optic cable, piping the image of that oasis to you so you’ll walk in the right direction.

This is structurally a very valid approach, as the founders of cybernetics – at the background of much of systems theory and modern technology have clarified.  

We have already touched on it in several other places as a need to confirm one's conception of how things work.  Living for component events is simply confirming one's knowledge of the rules of the game, each step of the way as we are playing it.   Each carrot is just a reminder of the end-point and a symbol of the game.

The energy to go on needs to be found no matter, to get up in the morning for something. 

Creating symbolic events will do.  A date to go shopping with Dee is reason enough.  Bridgett's birthday party is enough to fill a whole month with purpose, as well as many hours of gossip about sales and insolent clerks at the malls.   The rich lady who will never create a home - though she has commissioned all the best rooms from Architectural Digest – the purpose of her life is made for the time-being.  This is her purpose and her meaning.  She wraps herself in it, and it covers her up just fine.   The rules and goals and talk and culture of a corporation which one takes on as habits of a higher behavior and thought.  This is the purpose and meaning of the career professional, to turn out project after project successful quotas and timelines, …etcetera.   They are wrapped in it – and working with others, sharing those habits… providing confirmations of the self just as exciting and all-pervasive as the one I described.

I am saying nothing about truth; but rather where we get our faith in it.  I only want to acknowledge the conception that our access to that faith may be set by convenience, by our own ad hoc decree, and that our senses will continually re-confirm that decree in moments of happiness – when our faith is confirmed and we’re participating in the truth.

LECTOR:  participating in ourselves, you mean!

AUCTOR:  No - participating in Truth.  What the buzzards feel is real.  Communion, it is the activity that is the truth, not the representation we make of it, which was ad hoc.  Bear with me if you believe firmly in Truth.  For I believe in our belief, whatever it is, and evertying you can bring to the table to defend it.

LECTOR:  Truth isn’t relative

AUCTOR:  No, truth isn’t relative

LECTOR:  That’s impossible, given what you just said

AUCTOR:  Not. Because what is relative is all the time we spend NOT in communion, not happy, and not necessarily grooving with the truth but with our own partial habitual intermediary representations of it.

There is a lot of time that is NOT spent in communion – and we need break this down into components to understand what and how we kill our chances of real grooving and unadulterated communion, joy, serenity, or whatever. 

Communion is physically inaccessible.  In its normal state, we misplace all our faith in our constructions rather than in the real thing, for our constructions are in our own control.

 

Most of the people I know are not concerned with squeezing more life into life. The advertisements for Squeezeplay come in one ear and go out the other.  They would tell us that they have their lives together, and in some cases this is true.  They know themselves, are equipped to handle the frustrations and let-downs of everyday life, and don’t expect people to change all that much.  Basically, they go about their business, appreciating what they can, and doing what is necessary to get by.

Squeezeplay holds no interest, and would never have occurred to them.  Happiness is a long-term state of mind, they would say – it is a balance and serenity.  Anyone who chases after peaks will find not only valleys, but high cliffs to fall off of.  They’ll tell you this chase is not just elusive, it is dangerous – and not only that, it is false to begin with.

Unconscious processing is natural and healthy.  Boredom is what the conscious self may see, but patience is what the unconscious self prefers.

My answer is that while it’s all well and good to focus on this kind of tranquility , it is misleading.  To insist that this is what that feeling of “grooving” is misses the point.  Sure, the buzzards drying their wings in the morning sun are serene – and so is the fisherman opening up his senses to all the sounds and colors and smells and soft rocking of his boat.  It is not a spiritual epiphany, nor an ecstasy of heightened awareness.  Not all grooving can be called serene, and not all tranquility can be called “happy.”

Return a moment to ‘serenity.’

The Kung Fu master would tell us that even strong actions must become part of the flowing – and that even the kick-boxer can perform his craft with serenity.

Let me rephrase the problem, slightly.  How do you squeeze more serenity into life without squeezing the serenity out of it?  I have met plenty of people who completely misconstrued the meanings of eastern philosophy in a western materialist sense.  They wanted more serenity in order to experience more continuously grooving times. Naturally they blew it, and went back to smoking dope.

LECTOR:  How about this?  How to you flow more flow into the flow without losing the flow?

AUCTOR:  Nonsense. 

The problem is that we playing a game with our physical bodies and the experiencing of the senses.    These are physically stuck in time and space, and part of the universal flow, whether we can feel it or not.  And they are part of the flow whether we are being eaten alive by fire ants or not.  A saint or a Buddha can be serene about this, just as they can be serene about the most mundane day to day events.  This is what makes a difference to us. 

The problem seems to be with defining that upper layer of integration. The emotions that are communicating, and being integrated into the next higher signal, that “us” that relates our total activity to an outside. That very highest upper layer of “selfhood” is where we come to feel as a totality, interacting with, participating in, grooving on the world we fit into.  Most of us rely on a selfl-definition based on the next higher levels of integration – the family, a particular sub-culture or strand of the dominant socio-economic culture.

The rest of the time, when our affairs are not directly related to, or given meaning by this “next higher integration,” all that sensory communication is simply passing through.  Emotions are pretty much all there is, pulled together in talk, or wandering thoughts, or something relatively linear – representing the processes of whatever we are processing and integrating at a lower level, doing whatever we can to participate in that higher integration.  And whenever we set our boundaries they will generate the mirage of truth we live and sear by – because to participate in them conveys such a feeling of ‘grooving’ we feel as natural as buzzards on a barn.

 

 

 

AUCTOR:  Does that do for you?

LECTOR:  I believe you could spend another couple chapters on it.   But like you said, we see this stuff so much, I guess it's pretty obvious.

AUCTOR:  We really want to see how to squeeze more life into life.... How to experience things more strongly, how to make life vivid.  Filling one's life full of symbolic purposes, of dozens of responsibilities is not exactly the same as finding refreshment at the Source of Life.

LECTOR:  It’s pitiful to people luxuriating in their symbols, as if they’d found the refreshment of Life's Well --- as if each of these longed-for moments was worth the delectation of a lifetime.  How phony those moments seemed in the end!!

AUCTOR:  Baloney.  Each one of them may be worth the delectation of a “lifetime.”  Only the life’s time comes and goes, day after day.

What is more pitiful is the number of people enslaved to a single game of "Old Maid" which they believe is the only game in existence, which they must play forever…. spending less energy on the game than trying to destroy anyone who interrupts it.  Even more pitiful, they are scared to admit they’re tired of the game that they’re living to defend.

Making the Most of What you Have.

I know this lady in her mid-60's.  She was once my sister-in-law. She is now the most self-satisfied person you would ever want to run into. So satisfied in fact, that you probably don't want to run into her.

She worships her happy life.  It is called self-inebriation.  I hand it to her for bouncing back from the loss of her first husband (my ex-wife’s brother, may he rest in peace).  But she's gone a bit overboard.  She has two store manikens in her house.  One sits at the bedroom window, hand propped on the sill, dressed and made up as she was for her  second wedding.  The other is in the dining room dressed in late 20th century Victorian.  It has lace applied with a glue-gun to every piece of clothing.

She and her new husband scour the countryside for yard-sales and country stores and craft superstores, hunting for ducks and wicker and things pink and grey to put in their "House of Love."  She buys stuffed bears for him and he buys stuffed bears for her.   They have a perfect yard with beds upon beds of flowers - half real and half plastic - and they sit on the porch watching it, to protect it from neighbors.

 Having no idea of the outside world and its customs, they will stop by your house to avail themselves of the bathroom if there is a yard-sale near.  To walk in and out of someone's house after never calling for two years is generally considered rude, but they are very happy to do this, and will tell you about their happiness and latest purchases for hours (after having used your bathroom).  They will also explain quite forthrightly that they do not wish to hear anything of your own happy life for they have several important yard sales to make. 

Being in their late 60's you might allow them such self-indulgent behavior. In a teenager we'd call it obnoxious.  You might sneer at their plastic life, and say it's not happy at all, that they lead empty and trivial existence.  But I disagree.  I take them at face value and let them use my toilet any time they want. I believe what I see on the surface, accepting the cover for the book; I do not impute tears and threats and slamming doors behind the facade (though you are free to think so if you wish).

No, to me and you and Diane Arbus they may be absurd, but in their own eyes they are the answer to Nature's question, their life is the meaning of all life. 

They are as right as any Edwardian dandy who made his way through London showing off his luxury and sneering at the poor imitation of life which laborers lived.  He probably died self-content and still all-knowing and smug among his friends at the club. 

And these ex-in-laws of mine are as right as any peasant who does his daily service to his fields and knows nothing else and cares for nothing else.  Their fields are yard sales.

As long as they refuse to let any knowledge of anything else disturb them, they have a somewhat fragile happiness, but a happiness nevertheless. If the contemporary world doesn't crumble about them, they may die very fulfilled, with no greater religion than their idols of stuffed bears and Country Victorian, lace and wicker, and their ever-professed love for each other.

But if anything threatens this bubble, if it cannot be shut out, they will become very adamant about defending their haven and solace.  Neither can we blame them for that.  It's just a question of where you draw the line.

Their middle-aged children are not invited in the house because they might sit in a chair or place a wet cup on the kitchen table.  And my several-times-removed-in-law does not speak to own her sister and brother-in-law.  They occupy the house directly across the street.  Her sister casually mentioned that the wedding ceremony was somewhat hot (being 97 degrees outside church that day, with no air-conditioning or serviceable fans inside).  My ex-sister-in-law had in her head a definition of the ceremony – it was perfect.  The hint of an imperfect wedding was blotted out.  So sister Mary and her husband have been shut out for good.  As I said, it's all a matter of where you draw the line.

A world full of such self-inebriated folk - even without manikins of themselves at their windows - would likely be a world full of strife and competition with many broken friendships fighting for the last word on what is important in this life.  But who could imagine such a world?

 

 

The Magical Point

The real problem…. And by this I mean the absolute universal existential problem… is that all of life is dynamic and does not stop.  Our senses know this and keep processing signals in infinitesimal pulses of energy… energy which would continue without the participation of our senses.  Larger sub-systems of my body would stop communicating instructions to one another, but the cells would continue to communicate, even as they die.  Dead and underground, or turned to ashes, there is energy in the molecules, and they will continue passing ions for eons.

These pulses of synaptic energy (and further down the hierarchy, the pulses of molecular energy, or even further down to atomic energy) are not exactly “in time,” for the existential universal does not know of Greenwich Mean Time, or even of atomic clocks.  There is no single basic and simultaneous universal pulse to which the revolution of all electrons has been synchronized.

Although we tend to believe in something of this sort, and which we attribute to the dynamic reality we call “time,” it is only a relative measurement, relative to the constant speed of electrons, perhaps, which we also confuse with “the speed of light.”

But as I said, the real problem is that that the universe is dynamic.  The real problem is that we can speak of “a speed” at all.  There is no simultaneity, that is, in a physical and mechanical sense, no single pulse of the universe. 

But there does seem to be a basic speed, since science tells us that all electrons move at it.  Now “speed” is a measurement, and a measurement points to something.  The basic incontrovertible which is being pointed at by science is simply a relationship of different physical locations with respect to a constant pulse, whether there is simultaneity for all such constant pulses or not (and I believe it was Einstein who said simultaneity cannot be proven, anyway).  And so all that science has pointed is the notion of pulse (which I believe is intrinsically defined as a constant) and a notion of distinct locations -- or space.  This is convenient, since it is about all my head can contain when it comes to physics.

For you see, I am not one for delving into the abstruse mathematics of quantum physics – but rather hope to show that both our senses and our psyches must continually deal with such something about as simple….

And in order to deal with this simplicity, they must go one step beyond – and by ‘beyond’ we add the predicate ‘meta’ to ‘physics.’  To work at the level of synapses it must be a very simple metaphysics; indeed it must be, but an all-pervasive one.

This is the insistent reality of the dynamic nature of all things.  Our senses deal with this insistent reality as they process thousands of signals out-of-sync with one another.

At the highest level, as I suggested, our emotions are one of the ways we package signals into larger events.  We attribute possible importance to them, and give them meaning relative to the larger scope of living.  

By necessity, emotions must also handle the relations between the various processors sending and receiving and bundling the signals, and the inter-relationships between events which it has assigned start-and-end points to.  Anger and excitement, lethargy and laughter are to be differentiated as ways in which we are nesting particular signals into one another as they are being packaged. 

The various logics and languages of art are how we present analogies of the process, allowing us to grasp a single representation in place of all the complex layers of perceptions and associations which dynamic real life gives us.  Coming directly in touch with this process, through seeing the analogy and grasping a relationship to ourselves, we come to feel we are participating in life.

I am not writing the specifications for a giant signal processor.  It is not exactly so.

I will say, however, that there is a logic which emotions would seem to use, which makes the range of emotions fairly similar for all of us. 

I call this logic the “Logic of Laughter,”  for laughter is one of the generic categories of emotional packages, which behaves quite oddly, and shows that in fact, the package we choose to bundle our sensory signals is only a matter of convenience.  We can be in a state of mind to laugh at anything, or get angry at anything.  The wrapping paper is a matter of choice, what seems necessary is that we must wrap up the bundles of our senses. This is our existential problem – and emotions are a solution.  These may not be complex emotions, and they may simply be packaged as reactions that are tightly intertwined with the accompanying feelings. 

“Where I came from, you didn’t know what emotions were, you just took what you wanted, and if they wouldn’t give it – you fought’m, and if they had a gun you ran.”  Fight or flight mechanisms are pretty simple packages – but the raw feelings that are felt by the horse or the dog we are familiar with.  Most of ours have a much greater subtlety, especially when we are trying to figure out how everything came to be as it currently is.

This is the problem we overcome with our stories. 

Now step back for a second.  I am sure that when I said there is no simultaneity nor a single coinciding pulse of the universe that, if you are a believer in God you said “Pshaw, of course there is!  It is God!”

And if you were excited enough to say this, you were also angered by the merest proposal that “no simultaneity exists,” because that would go against God.  If there is no simultaneity, it would fly in the face of there being an ultimate unity to all things, and with no unity, there is no ultimate meaning to the universe.

An atheist would disagree – falling back on his or her wonderment at the ultimate complexity and awe of inscrutable Nature.  But I attribute this to their generally being in awe of their own minds, and of the inscrutable power which rational life seems to provide one over Nature.  I think that, beneath the foundations of their mathematics, they can go no further down than the inscrutability of pulse and location.

I agree with you on this point.  Also, many ancient peoples throughout the prehistory of our species would agree with you.  If there is no simultaneity, it would fly in the face of there being an ultimate unity to all things, and with no unity, there is no ultimate meaning to the universe.

If one denies simultaneity, if one cannot synchronize pulses - everything falls apart.  Nothing is in sync.  And this is what happens when you have squeezed the life out of life – it is as simple as that.  And the simplest way to disrupt the synchronization is through instructions concerning the bundling of events.  Of course, the complex cells of the nervous system may still be communicating with one another, checking their bit-sums and verifying instruction packets – but where there is no longer a “self as an event,” all the greatest sensory signals in the world won’t do a thing to integrate the whole. There is no place to put them, and the habitual instructions that tell where and how to bundle the emotions are useless.  Emotions will be attached to the sensory signals, with all the trappings and structure of real emotions – but they will seem empty and dead.

Now one can be ‘in sync’ with people and things outside of oneself – which is, as we’ve already discussed, much simpler than being in sync with oneself – or “knowing thyself.’  But the real problem, as we said in the beginning of this chapter, is that things change – that reality is insistently dynamic.  We dream of making it stand still.  It practically insists on becoming static.

I have seen folktales from several other traditions than our own which begin their creation myth with something more like:

“In the beginning was The Word.  And that Word was God.”

Now, as all you believers already explained to yourselves, the representation of that dynamic reality is the coincidence of a single pulse underlying all pulses and all energy. One might call it “the Magical Point.”  Some ancient Indians (of India) called it “bindu.”  The magical point is not God – it is simply a word used for pointing at the coincidence of all pulses of energy into a simultaneous pulse, which we can barely conceive of, as God.

We have already suggested what happens when we deny simultaneity, and things go out of sync; this is also what happens when we insist on seeing the world as a succession of static states.  And you must admit that we always break things into static states, and believe that we can theoretically describe the conditions of the world at the end of a ballgame as they compare to the conditions that existed at the beginning of the ballgame. 

We describe process systems with flow diagrams that describe “dynamic steady-states.”  To describe a river we must include all the variables that determine the variation in shapes of its banks and its supply of water.  To describe the conditions of the world before and after the ballgame we only need to determine the level of precision, for “all other things being equal,” and given the rules of baseball as constant, the only difference is the outcome of the game.

It comes down to the level of precision we are after.  The only representation of “all things being equal” is God.  All other representations are for practical reasons, and contain in them the basic problem – that the world is insistently dynamic.  Dynamic state representations entail event and location boundaries. The ultimate problem is to point to these things – and the universal problem from this perspective is always about pointing.

I am leading the discussion into an abstruse black hole.  We can go nowhere else. 

However, it is important that you believe we live in a universe held tightly together by a metaphysics which governs our sense of well-being, our “happiness,” at every moment and every level of our lives.  You may or may not believe that the rules of the metaphysical game are simple, but you know there is a mind-numbing complexity to the phrase “every level of our lives,” and it would be better to leave this complexity to scientific research. 

We should agree that our psyches possess something as simple as a feeling of “well-being.”  We also agree that our psyches can fall prey to the mental maladies of depression, malaise, ennuie, and suicidal obsessions, as well as innumerable heights of joy, ecstasy, and pleasures.  Our descriptions of these dynamic states necessarily differ, but they all seem to have recurred consistently enough to have words pointing to them, whatever they mean.  So it would seem, from the simple fact of pointing, that the processes by which our bodies handle the mind-numbing complexity of sensory signals must be based on some simple processes as well.  We feel well, we feel sick, we feel happy or empty or dead.

These feelings are processes, and these processes must have some simple pointers accessible to our reason, however intuitive and emotional that reason might be.

It is these processes which we want to get a handle on.  How to squeeze more life into life without squeezing the life out of it is primarily constrained by what it might mean to squeeze the life out of it.  There might be many ways to “groove” at any number of frequencies and harmonics, just as there are many ways to feel dead, and many levels (or frequencies) of being dead.  There might also be many routes to either state- and though one seems a good bit more dynamic than the other, this may not be the case.  But if this book claims to be what its title suggests, it ought to have an answer – which is the steady state condition for the rules of the game, “all things being equal.”

My description of what “all things being equal” means can be tested for consistency and logical elegance.  What it means, however, is quite different – for it might just represent a philosophy to explain what is psychologically responsible way to carry out one’s life, and indeed, what one ought to be able to extrapolate as the basis for social responsibility, and indeed, justice in general.  But this is what philosophy has always had as its goal, and I am but a writer with a very finite mind.  I would like to live out my story of being a philosopher, but my philosophy has suggested this is wrong-headed approach to things, and one of the fundamental reasons I must now go to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.  So I have changed the story somewhat.  I am a father, trying to prove to my son that I was right all those years when I told him he was watching trash on television that would contaminate his mind.  For you see, he is now a producer of action thrillers and banal comedies in Hollywood, and would prefer he get real.

The rest of this book is about synchronicity – which is a tendency of things to often display incredible coincidences, and behave as if a God existed.  For the only secret behind the metaphysics of our senses is no real secret at all – it doesn’t reside in either the stories we choose to identify with, the assignment of beginning or end-points to those stories, or the representation we choose for the rules underlying dynamic steady-states, “all things being equal.”  It is about faith.

Chap.3                       Over the Edge

JUST TELLING STORIES

One midnite on the railroad tracks by the docks, my friend Tiny and I were visiting an ex-jewel thief, Mietchie, who ran the all-night hot-dog stand down there.

The brother of the city bail-bondsman was there telling stories and playing bigshot.  We were his audience. He was holding a couple thousand in bills, and had a gun sticking out of his belt.

The gun scared me, and I got up the courage to open my mouth.

"I don't mind you waving around all that money, and your stories are like the movies.  But why's your rod sticking out?  It's asking for trouble."

My voice quavered as I finished this carefully prepared communication.  He looked at me, took me in for exactly what I was - a scared college kid with guts.  He took the gun out and put it in his jacket pocket, and went on bragging.  Then he took me aside and said,

"Listen kid.  Any time you want a free haircut and manicure come by my shop." 

His offer didn’t matter much.  I wore a crew-cut and was a terrible nail-biter, but mostly, about two weeks later he was gunned down with a double-barrelled shotgun in front of the hotdog stand.  They left a few thousand in cash in his hand.

So I knew I had met the real thing.  He wasn't all hot air, but a real mobster. Only he was a little fish who didn't have much self-confidence, and had to prove himself with his stories.  Which was fine, but he told too many stories.

 

One of the most interesting things, for us, is the fact that AA is a meeting place for testimonies, that is – stories of how people came to realize the emptiness of their addictions – and a place where they come for continual renewal.

The addict has learned a very interesting truth about experiencing life: we are not our stories.

This would sound contradictory to hear at a meeting which is comprised primarily of stories.  Meetings also include recitations about emotions, and the psychology of living, which one could call prayers.  But people come to share, and often, just to listen to what others have to say, because the stories are like none we are used to hearing.  For they are all couched in the context of – “my fuck-ups ain’t no different than yours.”  Even when the narrator is telling the most unbelievably hilarious adventure – they are quickly followed with an entailment that does not come from any film comedy.  And the entailment is something which every alcoholic or druggie in the room knows only too well.  Spiritual death.  Years and years of meaningless, unendingly meaningless, moments…. Second upon second of licking dust metaphorical urinals to feed their craving for more.

At least at the meetings I’ve been to, there is no competition in this story-telling.  There is no self-specialization.  No ego left to say “I am different.”  But this is not to say that everyone in there doesn’t say “I am special.” One of the injunctions in the “Just for Today” recitation is not to “try to improve or regulate anybody except myself.”   Offering help to someone is different than trying to improve someone, for everyone knows that when left to themselves, outside of the community of AA, they are addicts who cannot do anything but follow out their addiction.  This is the great leveler.

ONE MORE DRINK

You’ll have to bear with me.  I have recently lost my sense of future and past. I am somewhat unhinged.  I only live in the present, and for the present, and otherwise rely on lots of habits which I have little use for except keeping me alive. I’m also the kind of guy that tends to stop talking in mid-sentence.

The poor guy I'm talking to has to figure out what has just happened as he waits for something else to come out of my mouth.  When it's clear that I'm not paying attention to anything and will never finish a phrase, he'll just shake it off and leave me here at the urinal.

It is not because I am a drunk, as I will perorate below.  I hardly have the money for this luxury all that often. It is the loss of a sense of time rather than drink that has done it.

To tell the truth, I have been drained of hope, which has hung my sense of time out to air.  And this isn't a metaphor for pissing against the wind either.  With no sense of time, you can't really remember much of what you were, or are.  Except for a bunch of stories you can tell pie-eyed.

I’ve got one about losing control of a world-class chemical company because of an old drug habit picked up during the Vietnam era.  Or that fortune of mine that got pirated off the Ghanaan coast by Russian customs officials.  Took three years to get the ship built, and only three weeks to sail it into the Bay of Biscay in a storm, lose the screw and drift off towards Antarctica.  S.O.S.?  Only in the movies.  Nobody gives a shit about an empty tub on the open sea… even a new freighter.  Except the Russians who were happy to take the ship as payment for saving our lives.

Then I remember that murder over a stupid pool game. Got into a fight over where I put his eight-ball and the guy knocks me down and is about to stab me. I just shot him. Not that it takes an equalizer to get equal with a pool cue, but it was lucky for me pool cues were classed as deadly weapons in that state.  So I got away with self-defense.

Damn.  I get sick of these stories, they’re about all I got left you know.

You never heard the one about the mercury me and this other guy salvaged from 19th century Mexican mines?  That guy was a genius!  Damn shame he never made more of himself.  He was a mining engineer and figured out just how much left-over mercury there was in them old mines, and the current asking price, and I staked him for the equipment and the chopper rental.  If we’d had a pilot instead of piloting the copter ourselves, we coulda made it out under the shower of bullets.  Damn Mexican mob ended up with the mercury, or we would’ve been sipping a cool one in Tahiti now instead of me telling you what life is really like!”

It is quite a feeling of disassociation to be at my corner bar in Anywhere, USA.  I find I only feel quite real when I am slightly drunk.  THEN I feel I have a future and a past. 

My most recent past was standing at this bar and watching many of the same people and lots of similar people doing and saying all the same things and always acting the same way. And my future is clearly palpable in the form of another dollar in my pocket for another beer.

Not only that, but I can tell you how I got this way - easy.   It’s not far from your plight.  I am a man and I am procreatively anxious.  I need to make babies that turn a profit.  I want to build things that get up and become something on their own. 

I can put together a new idea in the time it takes to check your coat, and figure out the people to finance me before we're done a platter of wings.  And lots of time my friends come through just like I'd come through for them. But somehow a lot of the babies have died.

And I die slowly, with each new hope I'm saddened by the memories of all those old hopes, they were all my babies. The frivolous ones, the deep ones - and a couple roller-coaster ones I sank my teeth and bones into, that were fueled with risks and sweat and excitement. They're gone, all gone except in these stories.  Yeh, I’ve squeezed a bunch into my life, I can tell you that!

So you’re wondering why I'm still standing here after the bar's closed?  I’m sorry.  I thought there was another urinal over there.  So that’s what you were waiting for!!.  Hell.  If you don’t mind me sticking around, I got one more quick one before they close.

Intoxication’s Lure…

Drink and drugs and sex have something in common which is much more dangerous than many of the other simpler carrot methods that people create for themselves to obsess over.  They have direct effects on the chemical structures of our senses, which have a ingrained habit of giving immediate instructions to our minds.  They are what is called “intoxicating.”  Intoxication is not bad in and of itself – since the experience of simply fishing on the lake may also be called “intoxicating.” But once we find a simple mechanical route to becoming intoxicated, and begin using it habitually to answer all our methods for becoming motivated to action, it is an obsession.  And obsessions run our lives – that is, they have a nasty habit of becoming us, the defining characteristics of our self-definition.

Obsessions like the donkey has for food, or the little lady has for setting up her niece’s birthday party, or the business woman has for proving her power over male chauvinists, or the male chauvinist politician for confirming his worldview of being Number One in Johnny Walker County are no less dangerous in their ability to cut off all other access to experiencing life – but may take a longer time to recognize as being obsessions.   That is, they may not be obsessions at all.

But once our actions are determined by a methodology, and every priority in our lives is set to defend our access to that methodology – it is an obsession.  Our self-definition is simply a definition of our methodology.

I heard an alcoholic describe his moment of realization that he was not in control of his behavior, when he was on vacation with his family trying to make up to them for past neglect.  But he’d noticed a bar down the block, and now his only thought was to find a strategy to get a beer in his hand.  And if it meant lying to his kids, or getting into a fight with his wife, or getting thrown out of the room with an injunction against him, his only priority was for alcohol that moment.  Even when he knew he would be in that bar for the rest of the vacation, and that would be the last time he’d see his family.

Gambling is the same thing.  Once some peoples’ bodies have tasted the adrenalin rush of winning a big pot, it can become the madness behind all of their madness.  It is not that their winnings give them sudden access to that dream vacation, or that dreamed-of car, or the sudden freedom from debt – because the feeling of the rush is far greater, and the lead-up to that rush is more accessible and exciting than any of the feelings they might have when those other dreams are achieved.

These are all no-brainers.  We have heard it all, and read it in the tabloids.  So what is my point?

The point is -squeezing more life into life without squeezing the life out of it.  

What is happiness compared to intoxication, exhilaration, excitement,  catharsis, etc, etc?  What the hell are we doing, and for what?   How much excitement and intoxication is OK?  What are the boundaries, and how do we know when we are tripping ourselves up?  

The question might be restated somewhat:  When do we become addicted to self-destructive behaviors, and how do we know? 

One answer to this one is obvious:  When we have destroyed ourselves and everyone around us.  When we have hit rock-bottom.  But very often it takes this much before someone eve begins questioning themselves about addiction.

This is the only time people turn to Alcoholics Anonymous and it has a chance of working.  Social workers, psychologists, and parole boards often send people to AA or “AL-AN” meetings – but if they have the least bit of mental spunk in them, if they have the smallest sense of self-worth, self-consciousness, or spirit left, it generally doesn’t work for them.  They haven’t hit rock-bottom dead yet.

I didn’t go to AA out of curiosity.   The Middle-Aged Strategic Self-Indulgence Initiative, which I have described elsewhere, left me with a habitual mechanism for self-motivation which did me in. 

In that book I found magic, and discovered the feelings of childhood again.  I found happiness… and might have concluded with “happily ever after.”  Only I found out I had become an addict who would throw away every happiness I know of, and every thought of tomorrow, when confronted with a grigger for a shot of my specific mix of adrenalin. 

And this is a walking death-wish.  While I found happiness, I often felt that somewhere along the way I had lost my soul.  There was no direct connection between the two activities…. That is to say, one does not find happiness by losing one’s soul.  I had learned what it is to squeeze the life out of life at the same time I learned about the magic that holds the whole thing together.

And I will tell you right off, like this is about weaving and not squeezing, that the magic I discovered is like nothing you would expect.  In other words, I ain’t going to turn this around into a religious tract and tell you that I was saved, and that there is this spiritual journey you need in order to squeeze more life into life without squeezing the life out of it, obligation-free!!  Nope.  I wouldn’t even tell that to my best friend (the rotten bastard)!  Why would I try pulling something like that over on you?

Anyway, I want to tell you that I am terrified of taking my chosen path to death.  I know it well, having lived it in the flesh and many mental fantasies.  It is quite intriguing, and incessantly alluring.  It is these mental fantasies of the zombie walk to death which get me unhinged …which take on a life of their own.  My obsessions make a zombie of me, and I don’t like that.    

Taken together – my fantasies and their fulfillment, are already trivial and meaningless. That they would lead to suicide or something worse is a given.  Empty experience can be deadly experience.   What I’d do to carry out my destruction is far from dramatic, and there is no story in it, and boring background music.

 

There was a brief time in my life that I was obsessed with croquet.  The first thing I thought of when I woke up in the morning was the sound of knocking a wooden ball with a wooden mallet.  I would rush in to lunch only to stuff my face and run back out into the yard (which was just big enough for a croquet court, but seemed a whole world at the time) and begin practicing my shots. 

I say “there was a brief time” because in fact it may have lasted only two or three days of my life, but it was an augur of things to come that took up months of my time – when I drove places by habit, performed my work by rote, carrying out all the daily essentials of my life with the smallest bit of energy I could get away with, as I focused all my waking hours around my current obsession. 

 

TBD – obsessions as the CARROT.  Beginning as disengagement, opening up and play - dis-association taking over, becoming the register-rules, handling all the sensory sorting—(allowing mistakes of judgment, crimping the full engagement of passive receptors)--- turning life into a 2-dimensional comic-book.  NOTICE:  the 2-dimensional metaphor is only proper when considering the full open system.  Within the closed-system of the obsession, there is a whole universe that fully occupies all of the senses --- for it is this new universe that is the original carrot.  But as it becomes learned, what was disassociated and ‘free’ sensory play becomes new structured relationships, dulling the outside world by assigning sensory matrices to totally different ranges of tasks.  Can I MAKE UP hypothetical EXAMPLES?

Consider yourself Lucky You Made it to the Bathroom

“….I used to get up off the floor and could only make it to the closet.  Then I’d urinate in my shoes.  Even when I was doing it, I knew they were my shoes, but it always seemed to make sense at the time!”  

“I got tired of living that way.  And tired of having to lie to everyone, and scared every morning that someone would knock on the door to tell me I killed an old lady last night; that they identified my car.  How could I deny it?  I didn’t remember a thing.  In fact, there’s a whole decade I don’t remember.”

Stories are who we are, and yet when we become our stories we have ceased to become ourselves, least of all, ourselves.

Before I was happy, I had always justified myself with my story--- it provided all the excuses.  I didn’t have addictive behaviors – it was that things kept happening to me and I screwed up somehow; I’d get propelled into negative thought patterns which sent me into self-destructive behaviors, and that’s what screwed up.  It wasn’t me. 

But now I was happy. I was living with my soul-mate, in a life of mutual support and love.  Not just that, I was living out my oldest fantasies.  Yet every time I simply got tired or frustrated with anything, I was ready to throw it all out for my kick!  How could that be?  ‘Kick’ is the operant term here.  Kicks are no substitute for happiness, and we all know that…. But I found myself physically drawn to my old habits.  There was a physical need for that comforting shot of my personal mix of natural adrenalin.  I had that old method for getting past frustrations, and putting boredom aside. 

I once heard someone say that they couldn’t find the will to get up and take a shower in the morning without putting something into their system.  They couldn’t go pick up their kids at school without a shot of some stimulant– and it was never enough, and they never had enough money to make it enough …. Until finally, their kids were taken from them.  It’s an old story every social worker has heard one time or another.

What was going on, however, didn’t become clear until I saw the important function of stories to existence – for stories ARE a representation of experience, and indeed, it turns out, they can be keys to understanding experience itself. 

Stories are about continuity and closure.  They have a beginning and an end, and it is usually the end which gives closure, and with it, a sense of meaning - when you tie all the parts of the story together. 

Stories are, like history, subject to many different tellings.  They are representations of events from a certain viewpoint – a viewpoint which cannot know everything about all the variables and conditions involved in making it come out like it did.  As I suggested, the story is often defined by its ending.  

Stories in history, we know, may not exactly end as we have considered them.  Our interpretation and telling of history will change as parts of the past are reborn and change the present, with new impacts on the future.  Some party or group who felt themselves wronged 200 years ago may suddenly rise up and take retribution tomorrow; they believe they are changing the story by making it longer – and they are.  Justice is not always served as we believed, and what we accepted as a happy resolution of a conflict may dissipate into the chaos of a war on little notice.  For some it is a new war and a new story – while for others, it is merely the continuation of an old story. 

Tristram Shandy, hero of the first novel in the English language, began his story with fifty pages of background leading to his conception in his parents’ bed.  He wanders through every side-event with no apparent purpose, and creates a humorous picture of our human condition, finding meaning in anything.

The story behind most wars is more like that of the alcoholic.  To tell it is a continual excuse for emotional inflammation. 

Some religious thinkers have considered a tie between telling our story, or testimony, and a spiritual need.  They suggest that story-telling is very deep-seated in the human structure – in fact,  in their view, the need to participate in THE STORY lies deep in our physical wiring, for it becomes participation in the existential reality which includes any of the instantiations or names which you choose to give the source of creation.

Let us make it a bit simpler. A story is the interface between events and our experience.  It is extremely basic, since it represents our experience.  This is a no-brainer.

The next connection is also a no-brainer, that “events” are the representation of something changing over time. 

Events are characterized by having a beginning and an end – they can take a moment (like a bolt of lightening) or months to play out (like an election). [4]

Your history teacher might wish to consider “The War of 1812” as an “event” in the larger history of the Napoleonic Wars.  But the sinking of a particular ship off the Carolinas, and the drowning of a boatswain named Jack Johnson was an event of far greater consequence in the lives of his children, who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Napoleon or your history teacher. Today, the loss of poor Johnson is no longer an event to anyone, for his family has long since inter-married and dispersed and become different families.

What I am getting at is that the problem we have with stories is actually a problem inherent in describing an event.  And once we have tackled the description of an event, we will have a better idea of what the senses are up against when they must describe an ‘experience.’ 

And we should like to know more about this, since emotions are very closely tied to our stories – more specifically, to the structural problem of stories in general. 

Now I have loaded quite a bit on the word ‘story,’ insisting that stories must have beginnings and ends.  This isn’t true.  Even anecdotes needn’t have beginnings and ends, and may consist of nothing but the middle, or simply a description of a character who you are expected to throw into your own story. [5] This book of mine is less of a ‘story’ than the ballgame I am going to see tonite.  Not only that, but when I am actually writing stories - like a filmscript I’m in the middle of - it doesn’t get written from beginning to end like it is supposed to happen.  It is a static cartoon, written in blocks with little balloons coming from people’s mouths.  I pick it up and add words to the balloons, pull out balloons, add frames or scenes which force me to drop others that no longer belong.  Storytellers do the same.

Yesterday, I heard a guy with no teeth and no legs tell the story of his life in 20 minutes.  He had total strangers slapping each other with surprise, rolling on the floor laughing.  It certainly wasn’t his life, but he gave us a picture of life that had us all at the tip of his fingers, better than a nightclub comedian.  Of course he’d been perfecting that story for years, as well as thinking of how he would tell it, that certain day –yesterday - when he’d see a roomful of his old drinking buddies, for the first time after 40 years away from home.  It was a delivery, it wasn’t a story.[6]

So to compare our story with real stories and the way they are written or told is not exactly doing them justice. 

Neither is it fair to say that “my story was written before I was born,” as if it were scripted in the Great Book which we are picking up and reading.  For I’ve often heard the creator referred to as “The Author,” but never as “The Great Publisher.”[7] 

 

Chap.4                       Love-Affear with Death

I am awfully fond of combining words that seen ti simply ask for it.  Compulsive obsessions with what one fears are like self-destructive love-affairs, which practically announce themselves to be “love-affears.”  

LECTOR:  absolutely charming.  I should patent it if I was you.

AUCTOR:  Don’t kid me.  Tell me, what else would you call it?

LECTOR:  Call what? “Flirting with death“ is a pretty popular saying, why invent a word?

AUCTOR:  It doesn’t explain the fear, or the obsession that people have with death – as if their life could be explained if they could understand and or face their own death, and the fear that all existence evaporates when they die. 

LECTOR:  Don’t mention it.

AUCTOR:  That’s a thought, thanks.

LECTOR:  Don’t mention it.

AUCTOR:  I will change the subject.

Response Abilities

Consider being a captain of industry.

You own 14 different companies, sit on 10 different boards of charitable organizations and colleges, support 3 lovers, coach 2 athletic teams, drive the firetruck on the volunteer fire squad, and do a weekend a month as a Major in the Reserves. This makes 30 roles in parallel lives.  Ask the Chairman of the Bank of Jamaica to describe a few of his current activities to you, and you will see I am not exaggerating.

Every hour of our 15 hour work-day you make twenty decisions and pop into the anti-room with a different “business” associate for a 5-minute quickie.  As you move out of one role and into another, the company you just left keeps going, the charitable organization handles its books, distributes funds, and monitors projects according to guidelines you set, lover #2 arranges a party, and your little league team starts arriving on the field for a game.  After the game, you'll sit down with the books at the company whose field they're playing on.  It feels just like channel-surfing through sitcoms and old movies, and you are very good at this already.

What you are doing is integrating everything by staying in the driver's seat.  Are you squeezing more life into life?

Even if you have a mercilous memory that can repeat every word of each conversation, the feeling of participation in something harmonious...of "really" being there..will be missing just as often for you as for anyone else.  The alienation will be slightly different in your case.  You will be quite in harmony with the structures around you, especially if you built several of your companies from scratch.  The connection will go from your mind directly to the body of your companies.  When you're in the driver's seat of a car, the car seems to be an extension of you.  You are the brain of its body --- often skipping your own body altogether.  To the extent that you are the brain of the car (or the companies) you have become an extension of the car, or the companies.  You will be responsive to the sensory inputs of each of the many tugs and screeches and stutters of each of your malfunctioning or eagerly growing departments.  To some extent, as you are jumping in and out of the driver's seat of 30 different cars, you are responsible to the needs of all the people riding in them.   

VERY SOLID DREAMS

Unrealities have a sneaky way of being more real that our own experience.

A clever writer will slowly organize characters and describe settings that become a set of associations, which however sketchy hold each other together like a perfectly hung chandelier - to light a room built in your mind.  And this room takes on a reality for you, the reader.  Sometimes a reality more vivid and meaningful than anything you live from day to day.

I knew an old lady who slowly went blind reading Modern Romances, hour after hour, day in and day out, every year since her husband was killed in a railroad accident in 1931.  And when she was completely blind and couldn't read, she still fingered the books, reliving a confusion of them all, each repetitive phrase from a hundred and thirty volumes of the same love story.  As I said, living a reality more vivid and meaningful than anything she lived from day to day.

Dreams can be hyper-real, too.  Well, this morning I caught one in the act.  I awoke at 3am from a dream.  It was so very real and close to waking reality that I felt I should really be awake.  So I got up and tried to decide if the dream was real or whether, indeed, my life was real.   I had been dreaming I was in a strange and beautiful town in France looking out the window onto a dreamy river when a little man balancing a box of breads rode beneath me on a bicycle.  So I went to look out the window and saw a little man ride by a dreamy river balancing a box of breads.  For I had just brought my estranged wife and daughter to France the day before, when we got lost leaving the airport, ending up a hundred or so miles north of Paris in this town .  Even in the middle of such objective reasoning, it was difficult to decipher life from dream and dream from life.  The two were going on simultaneously as far as I could tell.   The dream seemed fraught with meaning and  more full of life than life ever is;  like I was being born at that moment and being shown the keys of existence, that's how tangible and real this dream seemed.  But then again, I was awake.

As I sat writing this all down, I realized that my reality was too much to absorb and it came too quickly.  Compared to the dream imitating it, reality which was actually more disjointed.  Waking existence had slowly and imperceptively developed into a web of fractured and unrelated pieces, held together by a car that drove me from place to place and a credit card that paid for it all.  Places which were minutes away from one another and worlds apart.  

What seemed most idiotic was that my life was simple compared to the lives of most people with two jobs, an ex-spouse or two, and multiple kids to chauffer through different busy schedules.

My dream was a pseudo-experience held together by associations, like that perfectly hung chandelier that the novelist draws in my brain to illuminate just those parts of the room to bring her story together. 

The associations have relevance,  for associations are the essential agent of meaning.  Dreams, however, are often like you’ve got an association-machine running on its own, as if your brain needs some time at the gym working out on the association machine.  Dreams are sprung from the stuff of meaning.  My life, on the other hand, was sprung from accidents which I would give anything to find their coherence and meaning. 

Thus, on occasion a dream is more "meaningful" and full of life than life.  And as I sat there and replayed my life in the context of a normal dream -- my complex daily affairs were no more tangled than dream consciousness, and my dream consciousness suddenly seemed very very solid and real.

Then, after I wrote all this down I happily saw there were three hours left before the 7am wake-up call, then said good-bye to hyper-consciousness and went back to sleep.  

Fragility

Our Love-Affeair with Death

Losing Your Memory

I knew a fellow named Snorre from Iceland.  We called him "Snore" for short.  Icelanders are famous drinkers.  Even before they became Catholics in 1000 AD they were famous this way.  Anyway, Snore worked in the Icelandic merchant marine for a while, and would drink quite heavily on the ship and even more heavily when he got to shore.  Sometimes he missed his ship, having blacked out and forgotten who exactly he was and that he was an Icelandic merchant mariner in the first place.  When he woke up he would try to remember that he was a rock musician on tour, but it never worked.  Eventually he'd come to, and find another ship that was just about as good as the first.  When he came back to live in Iceland, he stayed in Reykjavik instead of his village.  Now Reykjavik is not such a big city but more of a town the size of Wheeling, West Virginia, and he soon became very surprised when people he didn't know rushed across the street and shook him vigorously by the hand and knew his name.  He was even more surprized that they never came up and knocked his teeth out.  That is, he soon happily realized that when he blacked out during a heavy drunk he was still a very nice fellow and never insulted anyone or tried to steal their wife.  Or if he did steal their wife he had gotten their permission first, because Iceland is a Skandinavian country where they are said to be very permissive.

  And I tell this story because I know many people who have black-outs when they drink and you would never know when their memory shuts off because they are acting like the very same people they were when their memory was turned on.  They don't think they are anyone any different, and nor would you or I.  Only they don't remember a bit of what happened last night -- where they were, or what you all did, or how much fun they had.  And this is a shame.

I know someone else who knows someone else who has a multiple personality.  Forty-seven of them at last count, in fact.  At work this person can accomplish in 3 hours the analysis and bookwork it takes anyone else 3 days to accomplish.  Their hands don't move faster, just their brains go at tiptop human speed all the time.  They've got to, to fit 46 other people in during the rest of the week.  Meanwhile, their output is phenomenal; even if they act a bit strange every once in a while, like by reading witchcraft books in Portuguese and eating bugs.  The bosses can tolerate it because of the extra productivity, of course.  I won't say much more about this multiple person but will leave it for someone who is on intimate terms with all 47 and will one day publish his play about all forty-seven.

  Many years ago I also knew an old lady who related bizarre and interesting experiences which had happened to her and her best friend over her 60+ years.  She blamed this best friend for selling her best song lyrics to a Country Western label, and then blowing all the money on trip to New Orleans.  She told of her best friend miraculously showing up and pulling her out of an accident and getting her to the hospital. And she told of her best friend suffocating her own baby in a fit of frustration and claiming it was crib death.  She told me every detail of the infanticide, her friend's distress and psychological unbalance - and she was full of emotion and loathing for her best friend.  And I knew that she, too, had cut off memories of herself and her very own actions, and that "best friend" had been created to explain those memories away, putting them in the 3rd person... as easily obliterated as memories of a murderer in a movie. 

The Hypnotist Show…

…was at a big outdoor fair full of booths and entertaining demonstrations.  It was, in fact, at a Renaissance Faire full of dressed-up actors amidst dressed-up fair-goers.  People anywhere around you might be your next-door neighbor, or might turn out to be actors; and any minute a fight might break out with the King’s Guard arriving to break it up. There must have been half a dozen outdoor theaters, and I wandered into the outside rows of a grassy bowl full of several hundred people.  The show had already started.  There were about 30 people sitting on a low stage in the center watching the entertainer, who was a very jovial fellow in overalls and suspenders.  The audience on-stage was indistinguishable from the audience in their seats - old and middle-aged men and women, with a good number of teenagers.  It looked like there just hadn't been enough seats in the bleachers and the performer had seated some of the audience on-stage.

As I came in he was saying something like.  "Oh, I forgot to tell you, that was ice I put down your backs and its melting now."  Suddenly, everyone on stage started squirming, trying to reach up behind their shirts and loosening them from their belts.  Some of them stood up and jumped, twisting about, almost going as far as taking off their blouse and loosening their bras.  It was strange behavior, and I wondered if these were simply more actors.

"You can forget about the ice.  You are asleep now.  Completely relaxed in a deep sleep."

Everyone on stage fell over.  If they were standing they crumpled, and the ones sitting on chairs fell off of them.  Some crumpled over backwards in extremely uncomfortable positions.  Some had fallen on top of each other.  This, too, was strange behavior.  Even for good actors, it's hard to learn to fall without putting a limb out to break the impact. 

And so I caught onto the fact that this was supposed to be a demonstration of hypnotism.  I decided to stay, because in fact it might really be a demonstration of hypnotism... right out of the 19th century or even before.

Indeed it was.  The hypnotist was a funny guy who made sure everything was in good taste, but in the next half hour he had them go through a whole range of emotions - ecstatically happy, angry, aroused, in a drunken blither.  In between each they would sleep, and he would bring them back to their normal selves.  They would sit and chat and watch the show like anyone in the audience.  For indeed they had all been chosen from the audience, and anyone who was not susceptible to hypnotism had returned to their seats, and everyone who WAS susceptible to hypnotism had been allowed to stay on-stage, little knowing the worlds of feeling and fantasy they would be taken into.

As I said, between any given demonstration the laughing fellow in suspenders would bring them back to consciousness, and they would simply be part of the audience again.  Only while they had been asleep he would tell them how they would feel and what they would see or do when he gave them a cue.  And if the cue was to touch them on the forehead, and they would suddenly become happier and drunker than they'd ever been in their life, the others on-stage would laugh with the rest of us.  But they would look befuddled at what was going on, as if they couldn't understand the purpose of what they were seeing, for without knowing why the person next to them was suddenly tipsy and wobbling about the stage there was not a lot of entertainment value.  A second later he would touch the forehead of the person laughing along with us on-stage, and they would suddenly wobble off their chair and start slapping the next guy on the shoulder and beating the stage with their fists in hysterics.

Then they would suddenly all be asleep and another demonstration of creating emotional life out of nothing would be set up.  It was quite amazing, and naturally disturbing.  They saw extra fingers and found they couldn't count.  They forgot their names and didn't seem to care in the least, as if it was natural to have been born without a name. 

At the end of the show he told everyone on-stage that they would no longer fall into a sleep when they were told to.  Then he sent everyone back to their seats and their families without knowing he'd given them a final suggestion.  They would begin doing jumping-jacks instead of clapping at the end of the performance.   And after he explained a bit about what had taken place, and told about his next show, he said goodbye and we all clapped.  Except the people who had been on stage.  Their mouths dropped open.  I have never seen people so surprised as when they found they couldn't clap but could only do jumping jacks.  Even the big old woman who hadn't done jumping jacks since 1938 at the Wilson Elementary school was doing jumping jacks.

And there you have it.  If I had videotaped the performance and replayed it for one of those people on-stage they might have gone back into a trance and forgotten a whole piece of their life. Their life would be like that of a drunk who has blackouts, or broken into dream-states with periods which had little more reality than the majority of our dreams.

…at the Cusp of Self-Consciousness

To witness how feeble the consciousness can be is disturbing.  And while you might poo-poo this by saying that only mental weaklings are susceptible to hypnosis, I will suggest that there are certainly mental states you or anybody could be gotten to where you were just weak enough.

LECTOR:  I am too strong-willed to believe in this.

AUCTOR:  Yes,  you've got the constitution of a bull's.  I'm sure we could never even get you drunk.

LECTOR:  Righto!

AUCTOR:  You are in control!

LECTOR:  Absolutely.

AUCTOR:  Your consciousness governs every action of your muscles.

LECTOR:  I wouldn't go that far.

AUCTOR:  You can exist for days on end without sleep.  In fact, you once drove New York to LA round-trip without sleeping, subsisting merely on licorice sticks.

LECTOR:  Not exactly.

AUCTOR:  But you told me....

LECTOR:  I was exaggerating.  I took a nap in Iron City on the way back.

AUCTOR:   Excuse me, for a moment.  But could you introduce yourself?

LECTOR:  You hired me to help out with the difficult sections.  If you turn to the title page you will see under your own name the words “ASSISTED BY LECTOR.”  That’s me.  Is that enough?

AUCTOR:  This was not a difficult section.  There was no reason to butt in.

LECTOR:   I have waited patiently.  This book was going along better than your others, where you really need help, and frankly, this was as good a chapter as any.

AUCTOR:  Thanks.  You have demonstrated a point.  We not only play many roles at once taking different perspectives, but in the most extreme cases, consciousness of this process gets turned off! 

LECTOR:  It’s called schizophrenia.

AUCTOR:  You may consider THIS schizophrenic, but I consider it an old literary mechanism I stole from a 19th century travelogue, whenever the author found himself in a boring countryside.  It is also a device used by the ancients to introduce dialogue – as being more analogous to thought than simple narrative.

LECTOR:  It is schizophrenic.

AUCTOR:  You’re funny!  Of COURSE it’s schizophrenic.  All of us take on roles and play parts – it is schizo only when one party believes the other voice is someone else.  I’m perfectly aware that you are simply an alter-ego, my fantasy brother in disguise.

LECTOR:  There you go!  Fantasy!

AUCTOR:  No.  Simply you are simply a fiction.  You are not a dismembered consciousness like my friend Snoring encountered, or a fully discrete set of memories like the poor lady who did in her baby. 

Our loss of consciousness is one of the first things we learn as infants... and yet we try to deny it the rest of our lives.

The point is, our consciousness is not the be-all and end-all of ourselves.  It is not the reason behind the game.  It is a tool.  A very important tool, but secondary to something else.

LECTOR:  And that is?

AUCTOR:  Growing.

LECTOR:  Growing is not a tool.

AUCTOR:  Growing is the game the tool of consciousness seems to be used for.  There are other growing tools alongside consciousness, of course.  They include growing fresh new cells to replace the dead ones.  They include planting new seeds and learning fresh new activities to take the place of ones we've already grown out of and used up. 

So if it so happens that emotional life is what we think most about - and if it is our emotional life that governs the direction of our activities - whether we are happy or satisfied or pissed off - then growing includes finding new ways to develop our emotional life.

This emotional life includes conscious life - but is bigger than conscious life, since we've seen that so much goes on without our consciousness in the first place.

LECTOR:  But what about hypnotism?  How does it come in?

AUCTOR:  Hypnotism seems to be a conclusive example (to me, at least) that the continuity of consciousness is not what is of essential importance to us. 

The hypnotist was neither an evil genius or a charlatan.  He was a funny guy with an enhanced ability to generate a certain state of consciousness in others.  It could be evil.  Hypnotism is disturbing because it seems so easily turned to evil.  But this is because we tend to count on consciousness to be our most powerful tool in directing and fulfilling our lives.  I am relieved it isn't.

LECTOR:  It isn’t?

AUCTOR:  No.   I rather count on background processes of life, stuff that goes on despite me, and my ability to monitor it with things like emotions and feelings, where active consciousness is just one of those feelings.

LECTOR:  Isn’t your consciousness ALWAYS active?

AUCTOR:  No.  Much of the time it is drifting pretty far below all the activities I perform by rote – habitual driving, considering my momentary priorities, daydreaming about something or other.  My direct involvement with consciousness doesn’t happen unless all my habitual activities are particularly stressed, happily or otherwise.

To hold it together, and to force it to the surface on a regular basis, I count on my continual re-creation of myself within a weave of others, their lives, meanings, and schedules.  That re-creation is the recreation of conscious life… it is what I consider to be at the basis of everything that is recreational, fun, and fulfilling.  Having epiphanies, ecstasies, orgasms, or highs of any kind – however pleasurable or ‘momentarily meaningful’ can become meaningless if they are not integrated into my active life.

Grooving is some kind of participation – integrative dis-integration… where the dis-integrative is the participation with something outside, something ELSE.  Recreation can be fulfilling, as well as escape.  It is quite close to that opening question of whether our technologies give us leverage to live, or do they simply help us avoid living?

Take fantasy, for example. Daydreaming turns out to be both my biggest ally and my biggest menace.  My mind will constantly explore things, giving me the feel of continual self-consciousness… memories are continuously popping up from all the many periods of my life.  If I am actually working on a problem, the strangest connections in my brain can suggest solutions.  Yet at the same time, this causes my interests to wander, which causes my sense of meaningful associations to disintegrate, dissipating my strength as a conscious, conscientious being. 

I hold my fantasy life in place by the company I keep and the tasks I am called on to do.  Beyond this, I count on all the components of culture I live in to keep me together.  It has created the language I use and has taught me participation in it that I have learned to love.  My fantasies, left to themselves, can reduce me to a babbling idiot, as examples of my prose have clearly demonstrated.

LECTOR:  But what about …

AUCTOR:  YOU are a perfect example of this!

LECTOR:  I was about to say, what about when…

AUCTOR:  … You are but a figment of my rabid imagination!

LECTOR:  And what about when the hypnotist takes your consciousness away?

AUCTOR:  Don't you understand? 

LECTOR:  I do understand.  This is one of those difficult sections you invented me for!

AUCTOR:  YES!!!  It is NOT the consciousness we are worried about, it's the fabric that gives everything meaning!  This is what you are confusing with consciousness.  

By suggesting an entirely different fabric to the person, even if it has almost nothing in it, but feels like fabric, the hypnotist separates that person from the meaningfulness that makes each person who they are.

It is as if the hypnotist pulls the fabric whole from the loom, and replaces it with another.  The warp and woof of space and time are the technique behind any weave, but are neither the loom nor the fabric.

IN my dreams I think my consciousness is alive and well, and yet the fabric holding everything together is actually quite different, as everyone knows.  The world of dreams is held together in a whacky way, which the psychoanalyst will tell us is derived from a far deeper set of associations and structures.  These needn’t depend on the realities of the physical world, but are the ad hoc integration of physical senses, the ones associated with signals, which become emotive feelings, which become our stories, that we make into ourselves.

In my dreams I am not much different than the person I become for the hypnotist, except that the hypnotist may substitute associations and structures with little relevance to me at all, where all things lead back to the hypnotist’s world of associations.

The real problem with hypnotism is that it not only suggests, but insists that all of us can have black-outs of consciousness, while we seem to act quite normally.  Even worse, post-hypnotic suggestions leave us thinking that we have the controls back in our hands, when in fact, when confronted accidentally with certain triggers, we are not in control anymore, but acting out the suggestion. 

This is what is so problematic – because it calls the lie to consciousness and to our self-control, and these seem to be at the very core of our being.

Snore having his first drink is unaware of the moment he gives the controls over to “the drunk Snore” - the person who acts and reacts to stimuli my friend can never remember.  The multiple personality would seem to be far more complex – but perhaps it is simply a mix of the drunken blackout and the schizophrenic – for the true schizophrenic hears voices from somewhere in the brain that he or she truly believes are coming from someone else.  The multiple has complete fabrics of memory and personality and associations for each of the voices, and slips between them at the merest suggestion, or associative trigger.

LECTOR:  Could you remind me how we got onto this subject?

AUCTOR:  Not a clue.

LECTOR:  What’s the title of this book?  Do you remember?

AUCTOR:  You’re joshing me. 

LECTOR:  Not at all.  It is something witty, having to do with experiencing life.

AUCTOR:  A very broad subject!

LECTOR:  All this talk of thinking and thoughts and hypnotists and memory and self-consciousness and sleep and dreams and fantasies…

AUCTOR:  …is to make you and me perfectly aware of all the simple phenomena we’ve confronted since we were little kids, and supposedly “have under our belt.” 

Once you put them altogether it suggests some serious holes in our belt, “chinks in our armor” so to speak. 

Which is to say, that if we are really serious about adding more pleasures to life, or believe everything would be better if we could just fulfill ourselves by becoming what we were meant to be, then there is a chance we may need to look at our foundations again, or tighten our belts.

The answer I suggested (which is only partially there, since we are only half way through the book), is that it is not the consciousness, or the self-control which were of central importance to us, but the fabric we have woven of our experiences, whatever this fabric is. 

At first glance, it would seem to be made of our memories, but we’ve already seen that this must be misleading, since some people have a special talent for memory, and it doesn’t really help them in the least.

We have also seen that neither the quantity, nor the quality, nor the frequency of experiences we pack into life does much to squeeze more life into life, at least for very long.  My witty ex-sister-in-law can reach poetic and ecstatic highs “on-demand,” whenever there is someone to provide her the mirror.  As soon as the show is over, however, she is deflated and bitchy as ever.

My friend with the incredible metabolism, doing an amazing number of things to an equally incredible level of involvement and appreciation eventually considered it all a bore.  And he fed on food at the same rate that he fed his conscious experience and learned languages, voraciously enjoying every mouthful.  One expected his incredible appetite for life to burst him at any moment, but no, it didn’t – and yet his rate of consumption soon becomes normal fare, he simply feeds on more faster.  So it ain't the feeding.

The underlying premise of the game of Squeezeplay is flawed.

LECTOR:  Righto!  You’ve taken away self-consciousness.  You’ve taken away the game we were playing.  You’ve taken away self-control. What the hell are you leaving us with?

AUCTOR:  Something having to do with the weaving, which is all I can say for the moment.  And I didn’t entirely take away the game – we threw out Squeezeplay, but there is still the card-game.  The analogy to cards says there are all kinds of hands, and many different games we can play – to create different feelings, with different senses, different combinations, whatever. If we choose to keep finding excitement, if we want to keep our appetite for life, we can keep growing, and adding richer designs to our fabric.

LECTOR:  OK. So it’s the weaving. If we weave experience into a cloth, what is the cloth for? 

AUCTOR:  How about to clothe our naked emotions.  Our emotions are closer to a raw "self"  than our consciousness is.  The cloth is a level of integration over our naked self, our meaning.  It is NOT what we see in our mirrors – the mirror of the society, or the mirror of our physical selves, but the feeling of who we are. 

People defend their emotional clothing with more vehemence than anything else, as if they might be stripped naked… except where they are confident of what others see, or more importantly, how they feel about themselves.

The memories, the integration of sensory experience into a fabric, takes place for all of us in much the same way, day in and day out.  Even dreams – though we usually forget them before we finish breakfast – can flash up to memory in odd ways.  At age 50 I have found myself revisiting places in dreams I had when I was eighteen or nineteen.  I won’t ask a psychiatrist why, they simply served to reaffirm my continuity.  But heavens knows if I was that poor secretary of mine, that in some crazed moment of frustration and exhaustion, I’d done something I wished never to remember.  I would definitely break away that part of myself.

So we cover our emotional nakedness with a fabric of meaning.  And it is the fabrics, and meanings, which are unique and different for us all.

The Death-Wish

A Bad Liver (*Le Mauvaise Foi)

This is a bad pun.  A bad liver, of course, is what comes of over-drinking, and keeps you from this sometimes pleasurable pastime.  ‘Foi’ is French for liver, but also the word for ‘faith.’  “Le Mauvaise Foi” was a phrase denoting “bad faith,” used by the Existentialist icon Jean Paul Sartre as the key to his ethics. 

If you took up existentialism as a philosophy of life, to drift into ‘bad faith’ was like driving on the shoulder – and to act in ‘bad faith,’ or cause ‘bad faith’ around one was entirely out-of-bounds’.

As to having a bad liver, I am still considering its impact on Alcoholics Anonymous.  The fact is, however, that the meetings at AA are all about faith, acts of faith, and ‘bad faith.’

And what does this have to do with having a good time?  For the time being, we will assume that this was the reason you picked up this book.

What I have figured out, as I finished writing, and as I continued to go to AA meetings, is that indeed there really are good reasons for many of the traditional injunctions against living for free-wheeling fun.  We have gone into many of these.  The reasons are not always about the damage that one does around one, but also about the internal boundaries to the emotional realities of what constitutes “fun” for any sensory system. 

The question again returns to the title of this book.  How can we get the most fun and pleasure out of life without overstepping the boundaries – either those of the individual sensory system, or of the larger social systems around us? 

The alcoholic attending AA meetings is there to find escape from the drive to self-destruction which their physiological lust for “pleasure” takes them.  I attended AA meetings to escape from the drive to self-destruction which another physiological lust for “pleasure” took me.  Everyone in the meeting continually reaffirms their faith in the fact that if they can refrain from seeking out their body’s preferred pleasures, they will experience many different kinds of pleasures, “beyond their wildest dreams,” as they say.  They are talking about pleasures that cannot be physically grasped.  More than likely, they are describing the experience of serenity and participation, of being out on the lake and having all the pores and senses open to things and people and feelings around them.

It is not that I want to make an argument for this kind of pleasure above the others – for as you should know by now, I am a great devotee of the others.  It’s just that my body has developed an allergy to unconstrained ribaldry, and I break out into itches that I must keep scratching until I’m bloody and in extreme pain.  Which is what kills the alcoholic as well, an itch they have to scratch.

The point is that one needs faith in order to keep the pores open, to sustain the ability to grow and have new and unique pleasures – often, as I’ve argued throughout this book, more intense and sustained pleasures.  So in order to squeeze more life into life without squeezing the life out of it, one must learn map-reading and develop road-skills.  Most importantly, one must be cognizant of what constitutes a road – and when one is driving on the shoulder, and off the road.[8]  

And this point about faith came to me, probably the way it came to Mr. Sartre, as I was stepping off the road a bit into ‘bad faith.’

You see, I sometimes lust for another body to play with, and occasionally (but only occasionally these days), in order to make love madly I fantasize being with someone else.  I am driving on the shoulder here, but I haven’t driven off the road.  The reason is (I think, if I am not simply trying to mislead myself), that the most important part of lovemaking to me is the intimacy before and afterwards, not the frenzied passion which comes of the disengagement.  And the fantasizing is in order to get the disengagement going, which gets the frenzied passion going.

We have discussed my theories about the relationship between disengagement and participation, as well as integration vs dis-integration. 

So, last night I got quite disengaged in my fantasies, and my other half and I had a particularly passionate time of it, at which point I could return to what was essentially “us” – that is, two struggling middle-aged individuals, nude, helping each other through life as a single temporally coinciding relationship, defined as “a couple.”  We could smile, and absorb many days and months and years of memories during that time…. Which is what ‘integration’ is about.  It is also what “intimacy” is about.

Now there is much in the draw of sexuality, as I found out when I took on the game of Squeezeplay in earnest, which has to do with the symbols of intimacy.  One longs for intimacy as a representation of true engagement and participation in another person, just as they are engaged and participating in you.  It is surrendering one’s most private thoughts and feelings.  This surrender is an act of disengagement – dropping one’s defenses to the point of being where one could easily be destroyed.  That is, defenseless.[9]

One is contractually “intimate” with a prostitute, who makes her (or his) money from allowing skin to touch skin, and member to touch member.  What has been prostituted for the sake of a monetary transaction and obligation are the representations of intimacy, of inter-personal engagement and participation in life.

Well, almost anything.  During the encore of last night’s performance, I could fantasize my previous fantasy as it ran off the road… and what reality would have felt like.  True enough, having fantasies in the first place is reason for bad faith, but taken to its logical conclusion, once I have found my mate,  I should have to avoid ever having my senses stimulated by any person or advertisement or anchor on CNN.  Nonsense.  My other half and I play lots of games in bed, which act in different ways on each other, for our separate halves are no less separate than my sexual organs are from my brain.  There are many ways to coincide, and to engage with one another’s self.

But if I truly acted in bad faith, if I followed through with a woman who has been recently flirting with me (because she stimulates me, and I’m sure she realizes I’ve been staring), I would never have been able to rebuild the faith with my partner.  We could still have sex.  Possibly more intense and more lively passionate sex – without any fantasies whatsoever.  But the intimacy would no longer remind me of innocence - of the joys of childhood, when our body was growing and learning all on its own.  Of playing with under the crib, or the being fondled in the bathtub by my grandmother.

This, indeed, is hardly what one would expect of sexual love-making.  But in fact, this is the sort of integration which truly intimate lovemaking gives me.  And the orgasms are more frequently bigger and longer and more intense than they ever were in my youth, “beyond my wildest dreams.” 

But to lose all of this – to throw it out the window to relive the crappy sneezes that ruled the life of my youth, brings us back to the subject of this final chapter – which is the connotations of ‘bad faith’ – i.e. faith.

Faith is what holds together an economy, as it is the underlies the whole notion of obligations.  When merchants stop accepting credit cards because the banks stop paying on them, because too many people are in debt and not paying their bills, we will begin to feel the pressures of bad faith on the economy.  But when they won’t even accept cash, because there is nothing left in the government reserves to back up its currency, then we shall be in a helluva fix.  Mexico was almost there before our government and the World Bank promised to bolster their credit.  They’d already borrowed too much from New York bankers, and would have busted the U.S. economy.

Were we to lose faith in our currency to represent the value of a promised service or exchange for goods, commerce would stop. The heart would stop pumping.  The blood would simply lay in the veins, useless to bring food to the supermarkets, useless to bring equipment to the building site, useless to pay any paychecks. 

Lack of faith in an organization will tear it apart, as the boss begins to micro-manage, and departments guard information to protect their sovereignty, and groups cease to cooperate.  And with the loss of internal efficiencies, for the organization to stay competitive, it must cut services and back out of promises and possibly cheat customers –spreading the bad faith to marketplace as well.

So we know all about the importance of faith in the social body.  But how the hell does this translate to the physiological one (e.g. the emotional and physical body)? 

The alcoholic at AA has come to realize that he or she has a disease.  Other people can drink one or two and get a buzz on, and forget about it.  The alcoholic drinks one drink, and can’t leave the alcohol until they have no memory left.  It is about tolerance or intolerance to a certain kind of good time, defined physiologically. 

The alcoholic can still have a physiological and emotional good time… which is what the fraternity of AL-AN clubs is all about; it is for people who have exhausted their potential for using the most common physiological stimulants to get there.  Their bodies have created built-in mechanisms to recognize stimulants, flip a switch that turns on a different mechanism for their life’s story – and turn off all other habits and memories.  And the person becomes their old story again, and that old story has its ending already written.  They will become driven to get there, over and over, and it is not “happily ever after,” but about escaping themselves – disengaging, degenerating, disintegrating. 

I opened this book in praise of the geeks who have done so much to create this comfortable world, trying always to conquer Nature – to give us the ability to have what we want whenever we want it – trying to create a materialistic heaven-on-earth.  There are many assumptions about the purposes of life that underlie these objectives.  You must accept for a moment that there really are admirable humanistic objectives behind the march of science and human progress, and ignore for the moment all the crass, superficial and childish objectives driving the geeks and entrepreneurs who actually transform the march of science and human progress into our modern culture.

And from the introduction on, the premise was that modern culture has given us opportunities to do practically anything with our lives – to explore our world and to find out who we are, reaching for our potentials.  It has given us ways to play as well as to work, new ways to stimulate our senses as well as our creative minds,  In effect, it has provided us with new ways to disengage, new ways to groove with our physical and emotional world, as well as new habits to hypnotize us into believing they have the story on re-integration.  Some of these are nearly as complete and physiological as the rush of physical stimulants, which physically alter our bodies.  For the alcoholic, just a taste of a stimulant turns off all the habits, slowly effacing memories of who and why and what the person is about – and replacing it with a script that they cannot but play out, a puppet of the scriptwriter – which is their addiction to death.

And I am alluding to the fact that our culture has focused on stories, on selves, and on stimulation.  Believing that mental stimulation leads to growth, and that putting the senses in play leads to exercise and creative growth is not wholly unjustified – they do.  But for many of us they lead to addictions, and addictions steal memories away and life away.  It is often hard to see what we have become addicted to, the habits and behaviors that steal from us as we groove with them rather than opening our pores to groove with something bigger and beyond us.

Now you may notice that fundamentalists are famous for finding the devil anywhere; they can redefine the entire enterprise of life as sinful.  This is because they attribute the smell of sulfur to any kind of pleasure-seeking, and say they will all become addictions, and insist that there is only one way to groove, and only one definition of what is bigger and beyond us, and they know what he is wearing and they know his story.  In other words,

“you are not your story, you are part of THE story.  There is only one way to get there, and only one rapture, and I know this story by heart.  I have accepted it as MY story.”

This is, of course, rather limiting and ludicrous, and the free-thinker can see the logical problems with this kind of thinking from the start.  Especially since many fundamentalists quickly begin to confuse “THE story” with “MY story,” and we know where that leads them. 

Well, I was one of those free-thinkers who set out to think this one out by doing it.  By knowing just how wrong the fundamentalist was, and by treading the path of sin that he (or she) claimed all paths but their path would eventually lead us. 

I found out where it got me.  To an AL-AN meeting.  But in the meantime, it helped me understand what now seems so obvious, about memories and habits, about the connection between stories and events and the pattern-recognition of our senses, about grooving, disengagement and participation, about re-integration and dis-integration.

Indeed, there are more ways to find pleasure, and more ways to groove than ever before.  There are more ways to learn about our world and become a part of it than ever before – and this is much of what the cant about “freedom” is marketing.  These opportunities have been made available to us all, on a fairly equal playing field compared to many repressive cultures known to history.

But there will be many more of us caught in new addictions – as I was; addictions as powerful and dangerous as those of alcohol and drugs.  This was the conceptual purpose of my title– “Squeezing more Life into Life without Squeezing the Life out of It.”

It might also have been entitled “Squeezing more Life into Life AFTER Squeezing the Life out of It” – since in order to understand my subject I had to go over the edge.  I had to squeeze the life out of life – which is a dangerous proposition.  You lose your soul to something else – you become the puppet of another puppeteer (any puppeteer, it turns out that can take your strings for a time).  You have learned a new technique of disengagement that pulls you to self-destruction.

But, as AA members have found out around the world, there is still life.  There is still a self.  There are still events, and purpose.  But there are rules, too.  You are no longer free in the way you once believed you were.  There are definite roads with definite shoulders, and if you leave the shoulder you will lose yourself all over again – all continuity, all memory of a purposeful self will be gone – as the old script takes over again.

Now the last chapter is for those who have lost it in one way or another.  It is written to define a kind of “default state,” where the life has already been squeezed out, and one cannot trust the normal processes of human growth (and your personal story) to take you to your potential.  Where you are without hope, and you believe yourself a hopeless case.

For those of you who still believe in the exhilarating process of living (of simply exploring life and growing), of feeling the inexorable pumping of Nature in your veins as you groove with all existence and become one with it, there is one recommendation – don’t settle on a single groove or it could become your habits and take over your memory and steal everything from you, at least for a time.  Then as long as you can come to your senses, putting other senses in play when they are needed, and you are not inexorably pulled back into the groove, you are still a free agent. 

You can keep changing the game and shuffling the cards.  By building new associations you will find new feelings and with these, new joys and new pleasures – not just stronger variants of the ones you already know.  Exploring the groove you are in, in order to deepen it, can be a telltale sign, unless this is part of your script.  You are a violinist and you are seeking out the joy of playing the opening lines of the Sibelius Concerto at Shikogozi Center – or you are a skateboarder who dreams of the joy of a gold at the X-Games – or a chess-player dreaming of becoming a chess Master - then you must, by all means exercise yourself to that end.  Play, play and keep playing.

If your obsession is about attaining your life’s dream, of course, follow that script out as far as you can.  The same sensory card-game trick can help you practice, avoid getting into ruts, help you overcome blockers, and move onto the next level of skill-development, which is to say, integration ability to feel and respond.  But if you don’t make the cut, or if you are the one out of thousands who get the gold this year and it doesn’t give you happiness-ever-after, don’t be surprised.  Simply remember that you are not  your story, and your story is not the story.  For it is not about the story at all –it is about the delivery.

I’ll go out on a limb here.  Delivery is your “spirit.”

Discipline and Faith

There may be more of a connection between “delivery” and “deliverance” than we’d ever guess, but I’m probably just playing with words.  This last chapter is about getting back the delivery once you’ve lost it, and while some extreme people would claim you can’t find your spirit without “deliverance,” I think this is going a bit far.  But I will break out the argument, and you can make your own conclusions.

We are born with hope, because we are growing despite ourselves.  Inside us is a natural script for becoming an adult, and fulfilling our potential – whatever that is.  When you are an infant, your potential has some pretty well-defined outlines, however gross they may be. 

But now you are there – you are an adult…. Or you are old enough to see the culture of adult human beings around you.  Adults are defined by teenagers as being slavishly obedient to some script - full of false fronts, empty and lifeless routines.  Teenagers believe that they can switch masks and scripts at will, play the adult games and fool the world as they maintain their unique individuality.  They may revel in it or writhe in it, but they feel it.  Unfortunately, when their bodies stop growing, or their lives stop expanding, they somehow lose the feeling.  Nature flows – it is always changing and always the same. 

Which is why the default state, without stimulation from within or without, is to be without hope of any new potential.  One must feel the changes, one must participate, or there is no new delivery: the scripts are set in their ways.  Life becomes a series of the same unending eventless activity, there is no meaning left –without growth there are not events, without events there is no meaning, and with no meaning there is no hope.  Without hope one may lose the delivery, and lose one’s spirit.

But. 

One can maintain one’s delivery with faith.  You don’t need hope to have thankfulness, nor hope to have awe.  You need hope to be curious – for hope is about events and closures, it is about the self and time.  But this is not everything – and even the hopeless can be made to stand up, as I have heard many times at AA meetings.

 

For years, good righteous boy that I always was, I tried to sort out a rationale for faith. 

I was raised a Jew, where faith is not the cornerstone of religion.  Rather, participation in The Story is the focus for the jew – becoming a part of a larger people, both alive and long-dead, as you carry out the habits of three thousand years, and become one with daily and yearly memories of your fellows.  To be a Jew, as I experienced it, was a very special kind of grooving, which I will admit I never learned that well nor explored to the utmost.  But I was blessed with being a born groover.  I could fall into natural ecstasies with very little stimulation, for early in my childhood I learned the tricks of devouring information, piling associations upon associations, and overloading my sensory channels with universals until I was wallowing in wonder, grooving with whatever script someone presented me with. 

As I said, I was raised a Jew, and got deep enough into its traditions to wallow in the mysteries of Talmud, and chant my morning prayers, and feel the potential of being at one with permutations of the same intonations and thoughts of millions of others across the globe and over the centuries, making me what I was for those moments of being Jewish.  It is not necessarily the same for everyone, but I had resolved to take it beyond mere identification with the superficial culture, and shucked off all of my emotional associations with The Story, including the Holocaust and the Passage out of Egypt – the story of slavery, which is at the center of the Jew’s yearly vow at Passover to become one with his or her people, to remember the plagues, accept the law in the desert, and to dream of returning to Jerusalem.  It is a culture built around The Story, but a religion built around a thousand habits referring to God, which one practiced incessantly, in one’s yearning to find happiness – or at least, one-ness with God.

This is the part which Islam took great notice of, and which modern fundamentalist Islam makes the most of.   For there is a definite link between disciplined exercise, the creation of unbreakable habits, and the foundations of faith.

We do not like to make faith a matter of a causal relationship.  It must be spontaneous.  It must be somehow mental and spiritual – becoming strength and support when all else is weak.  It cannot be simply a matter of ingrained habits, but must be forged with one’s will. 

No, I take that back.  One can turn the key with will, but sometimes only a miracle will open the door.  And sometimes it is a miracle which turns the key, and hearing it ‘click,’ the will takes over and opens the door.

The point about faith seems to be, that it is not something that one carries out willfully, with one’s mind – for if it is entirely built from the world of the self, it will crumble as soon as the conditions for the self’s survival change. 

I didn’t learn this from my Jewish upbringing, but by trying to understand the talk of all the Christians around me, understanding ‘faith’ became one of my central questions, at least as central as understanding orgasms.

Jewish tradition makes a case for faith – but not a big case.  Faith is primarily in The Story, which one can see re-affirmed around one in everyday life, a story which the Holocaust re-confirmed to the highest degree.  The story was one of being in exile among the heathen nations who sought to destroy you.  And if they embraced you, then you must seek out the feeling of being an exile, or lose one’s essential jewishness.”[10]

Raised in a Christian world, where mystery and miracles are at the center of The Story, faith is crucial.

 

TBD -  the Catholic understanding of habits, paired with their understanding of the role of miracles in bolstering the importance of faith. The Christian (Pauline) focus on revelation, and the importance of miracle in the self as the source of faith. 

TBD - The AL-AN tradition for hard-heads, cultural derelicts, defiant egoists who have reached bottom. 

Chap.5                       The Woof and the Warp – Thought and Memory - on the Loom of Experience

THOUGHT vs ACTION

Thought flies fast.

You may think it's a simple thing to think a thought, but between me and the beer mug, let me tell you.  It ain't.

Consider again that little experiment with fire-ants, and think of all the things that race through your mind as you consider being slowly eaten alive, and all of the things that…you get what I mean.  So now simply picture two letters of the alphabet sent from a server in LA making it through a server in Chicago and getting shunted through Atlanta onto your computer screen, after having hooked up with a good 150,000 other bit packets that came through Cincinatti.  

I’m not comparing this to what goes on in your head, because there is no way to conceive of how fast things are moving and how much is moving around to produce even the simplest thought.  But if you are waiting to download a joke cartoon, and it's taking a bit long... imagine how a writer like me feels waiting for all these complicated mini-thoughts to arrange themselves while I try to get a good sentence out!!

The point I really want to make is about the immense difference between the actual thought and the experience of it.  But mostly about the memory you have of that experience, if indeed you have any memory at all.

We will see that very rarely are the thought of an activity and the memory of it all that close.  Sometimes what we picture to be simple is enormously more complex, and sometimes it’s the other way around, but in most cases that I’ve run across it doesn’t matter to anybody as long as you’ve put your finger on the right activity or thought or experience.  It doesn’t matter until the rubber meets the road – when things need to be done and promises must be kept.

Once you realize how fast thoughts must be going, consider the difference between thought and action.  Thinking about something being done takes almost no time at all . Doing it can take forever.   Consider all the things we think we can do in a weekend, or what our bosses (or wives, or teachers) think we can accomplish in a few short hours.  It’s easy for  them to say, ain’t it?

But it is very difficult to estimate what it really takes to fit all that stuff in... and the promises you've made to yourself and others.  What will all those promises of stuff we’re going to do actually entail in sweat, broken health, broken relationships and other broken promises?

I knew a Marketing man who routinely underbid jobs by 300%.  He could picture each task with such clarity, and talk expansively on every step to the prospective client so that they, too, could picture the job with clarity.   Once he was done with them the job was nearly completed in their minds, and they both believed in these pictures so forcefully that he always got the jobs.  Job after job. 

There was only one problem. He had booked the same workforce four or five times over, and it finally caught up with him. 

It might even have been fine if he sold us to four different clients for real month-long jobs.  Unfortunately he promised all the jobs in a month, and none of them could be accomplished in less than three.  He is now a training manager.

I would marvel at how he took our project schedules and shortened them, splitting out all of their components as if they were all performed in parallel.   I would tell him point blank it was impossible, and he would laugh and say “That’s why we hire smart people here.  We know you’ll find a way!!”  It is interesting that we often did find a way, and I came to realize he was partially right… looking back on the month, that we had been incredibly productive. 

Only two people walked off the job and another had a heart attack, but we came up with new ways of working.

In fact, before I took that long weekend job in Miami, I told them that our trial runs proved it would take seven days to do…. Unless, of course, they expected the programmer and me to work three 20 hour days in a row.  I suggested facetiously, there would be no problem getting all their plant approvals at 3:30 am Sunday morning “if they didn’t mind hanging around.”   They agreed with me, and said “We’ll arrange to have the necessary managers on-call 24 hours ‘whether they like it or not’.  So get your ass down here this Friday and get started.”

Thus, tail between legs, angry and bitter and thinking I would be the one this time with the heart attack, I stalked through the airport.  And strangely enough, on Monday we had accomplished what my reasoned skull thought impossible.  One of their bosses nearly collapsed at 3:30 Sunday morning,  but we all made it through.  He’s now a Director, and I’m unemployed.

I said I’d squeeze in a good time on the side and keep a smile on my face even if it killed me.  It didn’t kill me.  In fact, I kept getting those kicks of adrenalin when there was nothing left of me to concentrate with, or to stand up on.  And that’s just what those managerial ass-holes counted on, time and time again.  But if I had been the one to collapse and the job didn’t get done, there would’ve been recriminations and possibly suits and a few heads would’ve rolled.  But we succeeded, and so they were convinced they’d been right all along.  Right to do it over and over again.

What happened here is that an ad hoc objective was set up with a corporation’s habits – their standard cultural mode of behavior. It fit into the highter integrative purpose- and we confirmed it, and the manager who declared the objective and took the risk got the bonus and promotion.  All the components – down to the techniques I used for the adrenalin I needed to keep going.  And it works the same way for us as individuals. 

We began talking about the speed of thought, and our inability to judge the difference between what can be thought through in the imagination vs what can be carried out in physical reality.  We tend to make promises to ourselves based on our imagination, and obligations to our fantasies.  It’s a two-edged sword, for it means that we will often do anything to make our dreams come true.  Not only do we become highly creative, but our physical abilities can actually rise to the occasion.  While we go to any lengths to fulfill our promises to our imagination – we do it with a high risk of losing things along the way.  I have worked alongside people who did actually die as soon as the adrenalin rush ended and the bosses got their bonuses.  That job in Miami was only part of an organizational competition between divisions to see who could do something the fastest, “raising the bar” on performance; which is why they brought in consultant gladiators to compete, and possibly die in the effort.

What holds for our businesses is made to hold for our culture, and visa versa – where Squeezeplay has become the guiding principle.  If we are smart and creative, we can get it all in, and keep life moving at a constant rush.  And the better you are at it, the higher you’ll get…. Whether we are talking about the heights of corporate culture or the highs of the street-corner. 

To be obsessed with getting more is good for the economy.

Engaging all Your Senses

Back in my teens I was walking through the Norwegian woods with a fellow named Aegle, which means "Eagle."  We were talking about boats and fjords, Vikings and beer, or Norwegian girls when he suddenly stopped and said "Wait a moment."  Then he walked back about 20 feet and looked very carefully at a branch in a tree  "There's my mom's ladle," he said. 

I looked at him quizzically, "What are you talking about?"

"My mom broke her soup ladle last week.  I have to make her a new one.  That branch up there is what we call a 'ladle branch.'  It comes off the trunk just right to carve a ladle from.  I just need a minute to mark the spot so I can come back later and get her ladle."

  He tore a strip of paper and tied it to a sapling next to the ladle-tree and we went on.  And that is the end of this story, as I never met Aegle again or drank his mother's soup from the ladle out on a limb.  Only notice it took him several seconds and about ten steps before he realized that he had been looking at a "ladle branch" at all.

The same story happened a few hundred miles south, in Denmark, later that summer.  I was riding from the fields in a farm wagon with about 2000 turnips and a bunch of kids.  We'd been helping their dad all day, and as he bumped the tractor down the rutted path back to the barn he suddenly stopped and got off like he was straightening out his big old grey pant legs.  But instead of straightening out his pants, he looked around - saw what he was looking for, and walked back several yards and picked up a big, odd-shaped cobble, and loped on back into his tractor seat.  "This here is a good one to fit for the big hole by the barn door we have" he said holding it up.  He put the cobble down on the seat next to him. “You can put it in tomorrow,” he said to me, since I was the designated cobblestone courtyard-fixer that week.

The point is that whether we are conscious of it or not, we are always processing much more with our eyes than we are aware of.  And what goes for the eyes goes for our ears, and our nose, and the hair follicles that can sense a breeze.  I won't go on.  All I know is that there are lots of senses registering lots of connections simultaneously.  Several hundred times more than we are consciously aware of at any time.  And it is all of this neural stuff going on that make for our experiences, our associations and memories. 

Memory Music

You know how we can all listen to some song and it brings back memories?  Somebody puts something on the jukebox, or something comes on the radio that really pulls the moments together for us.  We feel this little gulp in our throat and a wink inside says, "Yeh! That's IT!!"

We all have experienced this feeling of epiphany every once in a while. Many of us, in fact, rely on our music or favorite video or something to "pull it all together."  Every moment of the day.

The question then is, what are we pulling together?

Well, I'll tell you what.

Even when we're not fully experiencing something we are taking memory snapshots of it, in sound and sight and smell and emotion and hearing and feel. 

When we believe we are bored out of our wits, our bodies are busy processing smells and sounds and air pressures, and watching patterns of behavior that are too subtle for us to ever notice.  Our bodies - that is all the sensory faculties in our bodies - keep as busy as in any dream.  There is lots and lots taking place even when we are not conscious of it.  And it is some of this stuff that all gets pulled together when we are having that intense feeling of "Yeh! That's IT!!" when that piece comes up on the jukebox. 

The whole premise of SqueezePlay - of squeezing more life into life without squeezing the life out of it - has come around to the fact that no matter how many experiences we pack in -- no matter what excitement and intense stimulations we throw at ourselves -- the pleasure may come to nothing.  All the forgotten jokes and laughter, the strikes and spares, the cigar smoke and spaghetti dinners.  No matter how high our high points are, we may find ourselves still nibbling, still hungry.  WE MAY NOT INTEGRATE IT.

And yet the experiences are being taken in somewhere.  It is all being absorbed.  The input is getting logged into the mechanism.  Unconsciously, our bodies are weaving it into patterns and structures. As we go through day to day experience - all that experience that comes of habit and which we don't really attend to - is always being unconsciously captured and woven into something we're not altogether aware of.  But it's tangible stuff that may be pulled out of the closet and unfolded at any time.

Most of us have a simple weave - denim, cotton, polyester, wool, what have you. But some writers I've read have memories of silk.  Others weave the meaning of their living in massive thick tapestries to serve as rugs and wall hangings.  We would assume the fabrics actually unfold in their life the way they unfold for us in their writings.  And who is to know?  I would rather guess that the most gifted of writers are exercising themselves rather like my emotive ex-sister-in-law, the witty one who could turn the dullest family get-together into the most meaningful moment in her life.  Much of creative writing is simply another level of integration –functioning emotionally, logically, or as a model of the behavior of a “story,” perhaps a reflection of our own.

But I don’t have a memory like that.  I cannot regenerate an elaborate silken landscape, or a momentary tapestry of New York City life.  I can sit for hours on end and describe the trees and fences and sounds around me, but generally it comes in one eye and out the other. 

The fact is, I can walk through daily life practically asleep, as we all can, and maybe months or years later, the most insignificant experiences in our memories bring us back to that time and place - to become the person we once were.  

A phrase or a story or a persons’ name brings it all back.  And in that flash, all the experiences - present and past - have a much greater meaning than we ever would have figured possible.   This is what a song can do for you, perhaps more frequently than anything else. 

Film makers are fond of imitating this trick of emotionally "pulling it all together."  They do what our senses rarely do for us, that is, put music behind the experience snapshot that will come back to us some day.  They will tie together moments and meaning in our life with special effects that concentrate several senses onto one object or random circumstance. The director's shots are chosen carefully to give that feeling of disconnected randomness and spontaneity which we associate with nature and life, yet they only have about 90 minutes to condense a whole lifelong structure of emotional impact into your night out at the movies. 

On the other hand, when the music is not chosen by a Hollywood effects man, and the perspectives aren't picked by the director -- when it comes natural --- some inner form of textures and intervals and beats will bring back the emotions, the feel, and sometimes the entire physical experience of some past moments in our life.  At these moments of reflection we can be brought near to tears in the fullness of meaning.  This is the experience of life taking form inside ~ of life becoming immediate, of being us.  This is the feeling of life being participated in. 

These are spiritual moments we chew and swallow greedily – whether they bring on tears for lost parents or children, or prayers of thankfulness for having gotten to where we are.  We can feel ourselves nourished.  And this is only one description of what it is to groove.

In this regards, no matter how rich and powerful someone may be, they have just the same chance at this as any of the rest of us.   This is an important thing to remember, and is one of the favorite lessons which film-makers never tire of selling.  Nevertheless, it is still an important thing to remember.

MEMORIES

Apollonius of Tarsus was a fabled wise man from the days of Emperor Nero (the wicked one who fiddled while Rome burned).  Apollonius told his followers that memory was one of the most meritorious of human faculties.  He even said this after he had been to India to see men levitate above the ground in yoga position.  Which says quite a bit for memory if you believe that flying is also one of the human faculties.

But I disagree with Apollonius, for I must tell him about an uncle I have who has quite an amazing memory, and it doesn’t compare to levitating above the ground in yoga position.  Not only that, but it doesn’t seem all that a meritorious a faculty for him to have.

Uncle Bernie can remember every act and actor in every opera he ever attended, and compare each performance to their recordings of the same part.  And he’s gone to the opera once a month since 1939 except when he was ferrying men into Normandy and couldn’t get time off to get to the opera.  Not only that, but he can describe every hotel in every country he’s ever visited.  He has visited them all (countries, that is); and may very well tell you stories he heard from hotel owners in Dieppe and Bangkok, about their hobbies and accomplishments, as well as the operas they’d seen.  And you will never hear the same story twice (as with many a feeble story-teller), for he is quite a conversationalist.

His stories prove that as well as talking he listens to people, and listens to you, too.  In fact, he takes joy in nearly everything he lays his eyes on if it has some kind of culture attached to it.  He not only bubbles of life, but boils it, and drinks it down alongside steak and pancakes.

But I would not say my uncle’s life is all that much richer because of his memories.  He’s overloaded with them.  He bears them on his back wherever he goes, and compares them with whatever he sees.  They seem to be like a tick in the neck that jerks at him as he continues gulping experiences down.  He is full of his memories and knowledge as Faust and my other friend were full of his books.  But Faust was a knowledge miser who could not be fulfilled, and Uncle Bernie revisits his memories as he lays in the nursing home watching the arts channel, tying and untying thousands of old moments in his mind.

And so, while we may be limited by our memories, or lack of them, memories may act like a tight collar that keeps us from breathing easily.  And it’s a hard collar to loosen.  This is not what Appolonius of Tarsus had in mind.  Memories, habits of thought, mental associations that always resurface at the same time can place the greatest drag on our systems. 

“Drag” refers to the bad design on a racer that catches the air, or the friction in the joints that slows the action.  Learning drag, growing drag, sensory drag.  

A lawyer’s memory is good for taking tests in school, but memories can be a drag when it comes to emotional and ego-centered entanglements.  Memories can be a drag if they always lead you to the same story.

Fast Metabolisms, Big Appetities

I have known many people who seem to take enormous amounts of pleasure from all sorts of activities.  In fact, I have had another ex-sister-in-law who was positively manic about emoting her excitement with everything remotely cultural around her – that is, when there is someone to emote to.  At family gatherings her life seemed so positively full of meanings, of zest and lust for the simple pleasures, that it made you feel inadequate and slightly sick.  She was, and still is, extremely witty and verbal and talented… but unfortunately transparent.  For when there is no one to emote to, no mirrors on the wall through which she can reflect on her happiness, she is dejected and bitter.

I shall not talk about her, for we have often run into such people.  Your mother, perhaps.  My mother, for sure.  I would rather tell you about someone who has all of these positive characteristics without the opposites.  He is a very special case, and of the many thousands of people I have become acquainted with in fifty years, I’ll bet he’s one in several million, and he has given me a lot to ponder over.

Here he is.  He’s a fairly young guy in his mid-thirties, and very curious about other cultures. He gets joy from discovering new things wherever he looks.  He only needs 3 or 4 hours sleep a night.  His appetite is voracious and he is thin.  Most miraculously, his metabolism is built to convert food products into vocabulary and grammar rather than fat.  For breakfast he eats two eggs, a steak and a loaf of french bread while reading French.  For a mid-morning snack he brings a big container of Korean salads to work, to munch while he translates Korean poetry.  Lunch he takes at the Vietnamese restaurant by the laundromat, checking his pronunciation of the eight tones in that language.  After work will be Greek or Turkish lamb gyros - while reading a few lines of Homer or the adventures of Kuruglu the Turk on a park bench.   Then comes a late dinner, standard fare in Mandarin or Japanese, German, Italian or Spanish... naturally glancing through the newspapers of the land in question. His accents are impeccable.   I met a Japanese literature professor who said he could not tell over the phone that the young man he was speaking to an American.  It makes you sick.

But I am not through.  After devouring the after-dinner papers, he goes to his second job, where he is doorman at a Russian club. THEN, after work he settles down to his real passion, which is painting eggs in Ukrainian style until 3 in the morning. 

He is not rich, and works slob jobs like you and I, but once a year he takes a fully-paid cruise through exotic places on the globe, teaching his hobby to the rich passengers.

He is astounding.  Disgustingly endowed with incredible talents and energy.  He is not an academic, and he is not a snob.  He gobbles up each culture and its idiosyncracies the way he eats food - for love of all the subtle tastes and textures and smells.  He takes joy in watching regular people at a shopping mall or a subway platform, a supermarket or the basement of a local church.  You think I'm exaggerating.  I am not.  He will never mention that he is reading all these things, or if he does, he will not say that he read it in the original.  Rather, if he chooses to talk at all, it will be to tell you about some interesting tidbit, a habit of the grocer’s at the farmer’s market, or a funny incident with a child on the bus.

The point is, with all this energy and appetite and curiosity, he continually sighs at his lot in life.

High Achievers 

There are people who live on three hours of sleep.  They move very fast and remember everything they've ever seen, and if they start to tell you, it can take them five straight weeks of talking non-stop to describe what they did in just 10 days.  I’m talking about happy and productive people – not just smart and bitter ones like my ex-boss.

These people are the ones so organized they get a week's commitments done in a day.  For them assembly directions always work, and I don't want to talk about them.  They are the ones who for no fault of their own – without ever once having a bad intention towards anyone else, never trying to beat anyone out in competition – it’s these people that really make life miserable for the rest of us.  They are the ones that make life absolutely inscrutable.

It's people like that who are the really successful ones who get to design our world.  And they design it with people like themselves in mind.   Without realizing it, they can only describe their lives in the sitcoms and ads and films they’re writing about us.  It's not our life, but once I've seen it I want it to be. 

This is probably the greatest source of discouragement.  It's them high-achievers that are the only ones to get into the media to show us what life is supposed to be - and there is no way I can ever be a high achiever like them.

Not that all these successful people really live a fuller life.  Ten-times more food and experience on a daily basis doesn't have ten-times more meaning for them than my food and experience have for me.  Like taxes.  If they gross ten-times more than me, after tax they only take home four or five-times more.  It may be easy for them, but do I want to work 10 times harder for that?  I don't.

Ghengis Khan once said that his worthiest warrior was not suited to be a general, simply because Archer the Lion[11] was stronger, could run faster, shoot straighter, ride longer, and go without eating.  Even worse, he was such a good guy, he never thought of himself as superior, and treated everyone exactly like himself.  This is the kind of person I have in mind. Ghengis wanted his generals to understand the weakest as well as the strongest of their men.  Good old worthy What’s Hisname would never know when his men needed to rest, and would assume they could hit targets that only he could hit.

Then there are those Rhodes Scholar politicians.  The ones who know they are definitely on the presidential track by the time they are eighteen.  They just make it tough for the rest of us.

It is simple.  You grow up thinking some people get more life out of every hour of their lives than others do because they have the money, or because they're prettier or more talented. People are always chasing after them to come to their parties or meetings to just look pretty.  So what?  These people just have the opportunity to enjoy more things more often than others, but whether they do actually enjoy more is open to question. 

Some of us figure this out by the time we're 12 years old, and others of us get jealous and angry and bitter by the time we're 12, and stay that way for the rest of our lives.  And this is silly and sad, because we all have plenty of ways to get around the fact that we weren't born with the stuff to be popular.

.1                 For All the Difference Talents Make

The fact of our differences is perhaps one of the earliest and simplest facts we learn as children. It is a fact which is with us constantly throughout our childhood as we are compared to our brothers & sisters and friends and schoolmates: and we either fight it, fear it, hate it, or love it.  It is something we may fight with all our strength, and yet we will end up taking it for granted and if we are lucky, pretty much forget about it.  But I still meet guys in bars who haven't gotten over some inferiority complex they've had since they were 7. 

One of the great awakenings of growing up may come at that moment when we finally see that for all the differences in a kid's potential, in it rarely amounts to a hill of beans.

I had a boss a few years back, a young lady if you could call her that, with a brain full of every digit she'd ever mentally manipulated.   What I had to offer to a conversation were mumblings, and worse, incorrect mumblings.  I was reduced to humility, to saying nothing in her presence, knowing nothing worth adding.   I would watch the workings of her brain the way amateur chess players watch a master chess tournament.  My jaw was on the floor more often than not.  She was inescapably smart, and didn't mind letting you know.

To her, there was no room there for thought of any value without buckets of qualifications and justifications, pages of footnotes, detritus of every book she had ever read, with perfectly quoted and fully remembered facts, with every syntactic rule accounted for in its enunciation   Not only did she have every page of book-learning catalogued between her ears, she even understood every inuendo of gossip at the office, and the meanings hidden under each change of staff.

She got this way because she believed a modern (mid-19th century) folktale that humanity is the final purpose of evolution, and that logic is its highest accomplishment.   She never saw that human logic is only a flower - neither bud, nor stem, nor leaf, nor seed or fruit.  And that flowers exist for an odd reproductive utility – to attract other species (such as birds and insects) to perform reproductive functions– bringing together the male and the female parts of the whole plant.

And so she was a very very unhappy, bitter, and repressed individual, and it was quite clear that none of these extremely mental "objective" machinations were of any more avail to her than the drool of the simpleton smiling before her, grasping at each academically corrected sensory input she chose to throw my way.   Nevertheless, the speed of the mental pirouettes she performed on the stage between her eyeballs left me speechless. 

This, however, reminds me of a real dancer once who left me speechless with the speed she worked her hand across her g-string.  The speed of a mind or a hand – what’s the difference?   She displayed an astounding ability to move her wrist faster than the legendary violin players of Italian history!   Somebody pulled out a timing light and clocked her at 600 rpm (that’s 10 strokes/sec)!  Can you imagine what she woulda sounded like if she put that hand to use on a real banjo?   Or, to return to my ex-boss, what wonderful music that brain of her's might have produced if she had put it to some use besides proving her superiority.  A sad use, just trying to prove the difference between herself and the world around her.

I have another friend gobbles books, thousands of them, in every academic genre from abstruse mathematics to Roman history.  Not only that, but he remembers everything he has ever read, and delights in telling you about the oddest discoveries in footnotes and appendices.  He gets extremely frustrated with the smallest details of existence, and thus considers himself a novice at many things which a twelve year old can do with little difficulty. 

His talent for absorbing knowledge might be put to use teaching young minds to be curious and voracious.  He is more knowledgeable in scores of disciplines than thousands of professors – but chuckles at the limitations they’ve put on their subjects, and has little interest in “the next generation,” since there have been so many “next generations” over the years.  He can count himself among past generations, having absorbed what the greatest writers and historians in the 16th or 18th or early 20th century have written - of what use is the “next generation” anymore?

His life proclaims the lie about having talents.

And of course, while I have taken an obvious example – about talented brains, the skill and speed with which some people work can leave you aghast.

Talented people can be found everywhere, and our schoolteachers and newspapers make much of them, because they are supposed to be examples of our potential.

 And I’ve already alluded to the fact that having a talent doesn't necessarily say anything about the use one puts it all to, or the happiness and fulfillment which much lesser gifts, and less talented people might find more easily.

 

Art Imitates Life Imitating Art

    3 paras TBD  - the tendency to live a story…the Quixote syndrome

on confusing stories with real life.  ???Maybe use the essay “The Greatest Hardy Boys’ Mystery.”

 

What is most missed in life, is the background music to let us know how to appreciate our emotions.  

I’ve had several experiences which would have made much better films than they did experiences.  This is, unfortunately a very real problem for us all, for someone’s story or the song or the poem can be much more intensely beautiful and emotional than the reality. 

My hand of squeezeplay down in Palm Beach sounds like something I might compare to a film, but it makes for real poor cinema since the premise was mediocre.  Of course writers with lots of time can come up with wittier lines to hold things together than me and that foxy chick, who spent most of the night giving out her number and getting wealthy dudes to buy us drinks and cigars. This is what foxy chicks do when they go out clubbing with a not-so-foxy chick.  You don’t need witty lines from a sitcom or film, a telephone number will do.  But here I thought I was acting out a movie when this one happened, but the one that was really from a film I hardly noticed at all when it was happening – only many years later.

The story of my first love was from a film.  It was one of those wistful European films made for older people, and it is not a bad story if you are as old as me.  But when it happened, when I was a teenager, it was incomplete and frustrating, juvenile and struggling to be something more than it could be. 

So I will tell it.

I met Annette when I was 16, in a summer house on the Danish coast.  She was 20.

I was working on a local farm for the summer, and would spend week-ends at the beach with the guys.  A few nurses from the local hospital had come over for some beers.  Annette left our little party and went out back to sit on the steps of one of the sleeping cabins. I waited a few minutes and followed.  She was crying.  I sat down and asked her why.

She had just killed a man. 

He was an old man who had walked out between two parked cars into oncoming traffic.  Annette was the traffic.  It was extremely traumatic, and as she told me in her broken English, she was sobbing heavily.  I comforted her as best I could, and she asked me to stay with her.  I said I certainly would, surprised to find out the girls had all planned to stay in the cabins instead of going back to the nurses' dorms.  So we held each other all night.  We kissed and slept.  Having never kissed a girl, let alone in one’s arms all night in bed, I fell immediately in love. 

The next day we ran up a grassy hill overlooking the coast, and collapsed at the top.  I distinctly remember doing this because of a Newport cigarette commercial which was aired at the time in the States.  When we got to the top I was confused, because that's where the commercial ended, and I had no idea what happened next.  My Danish was non-existent, and her English was very broken, so there wasn't much to say.  Since I didn’t know the next move, and was too shy to kiss her again, we walked back down the hill and she went home to the nurses’ dormitory.

I wrote my parents that I had slept with a 20-year old Scandinavian woman, leaving them to assume the worst.  Over the summer I visited Annette several times, while I worked on an oil painting of fallen apples, which I gave her before I went back to America.  We never corresponded.

In many ways it was a typical, sweet and shy love of youth, except I had it in a foreign country instead of my own American suburban highschool.

What was typical, sweet and shy was the idea of what might have happened that first night in bed or on the hill, and while I was still in Denmark, what might still happen at any time.  Sweet and shy on the outside, on the inside it was thrilling, and overwhelming.  I thought about her constantly for the entire summer, and justified it with the word ‘love’ and my commitment to that love. 

On the outside it might have looked like a sweet and wistful film, but on the inside it was driving and frustrating passion that consumed most of my summer’s experiences.

But the trivial love story and frustrating “first love” was to have a closure that truly made it into a film – but again, one that felt quite different on the inside than it did from without.

Four or five years later I was working on the farm again, and my father came to visit, to get to know his son.  We went to the beach for a summer swim.  We had been alone when a husband and wife and their 3-yr old set down their things and came in the water.   They seemed very domestic, and very Danish.   Neither of us gave them much notice.   The husband was playing with their son, and the woman happened to swim out in my direction.  She stopped swimming for a moment to make sure she wouldn't hit me.  She looked up and it was Annette.  Somehow I knew it had to be.  It was the end of the commercial.

We stood there, just our shoulders above-water, facing each other, silent, filling with mixed-up emotions, each absorbed in capturing the other's face for a last time.

"You have a child.  How old?"

"Three." she said, "You haven't changed a bit."

I guess we both had wistful smiles, and I'd like to think there was the hint of a tear in her eyes, too, but I don't remember.  Then we resumed our current lives, became polite and said good-bye.

On the way back to the farm that night I told my dad he had seen Annette.  He was even more surprised than I had been, for great coincidences seemed part of nature when I was young. I almost depended on them.

Now we have enough ingredients for the film; it is not just about revisiting a first love, but about a father getting to know his son.

The funny thing is, that I never thought about this story over the years because it didn't mean all that much to me at the time.  Much less than my restless summer dreaming of Annette 24/7.   That final meeting was a lucky coincidence, the kind screenwriters like inventing for films to pull some stranded pieces of their plot together.

The film gives the same story richer overtones of life's significance.  It almost becomes more memorable because we have only focused on the meaningful moments and pregnant glances.  This is the film's purpose... in this case, to let us see something working out right, the way we picture justice working. And yet, though I can picture that film in my mind, I say, "Wait a minute!  This was my life, and it didn't have the music score behind it or the wide-angle cut-aways to make me appreciate it so much!"

Only now have I come to appreciate it, however, because of the memory of sharing something special with my father.  But what was particular to me, the film would make seem general-- not in the sense of a film script, but as if it was an example of life's script. 

I was lucky to have the chance to live an ending from a script, to give one faith in things working out. 

And the point of this chapter is this – that it is actually easier to get that feeling of faith from a movie than it is from real life.   I know, because movies have affected me more – after all, who would ever expect us to learn from our own experiences?

This is why ART exists.  Art is the only type of answer to meaning that we can logically construct.  If the art works, then we will see the answer to "why should I care?"

LECTOR:  So that's the answer?  Art?

Art takes the fact that we all have different emotional readings of our sensory

 responses, and tries to put definitions on them.  Art tries to recreate the whole sensory and emotional cloud game within a structured set of rules of its own, to try to put a more definite reading on the circumstances which we might share as individuals or cats. And if the art makes you feel a certain way, it is making you care. The art itself is giving you a reason to care.  There can be no logical reason to care, only the emotion of caring.

LECTOR:  And if the art doesn't work?

LECTOR:  If the art doesn't work, and you are still asking for some reason to care, you need to search for another art-form which will help your senses "bring you to your senses."  That is, give you the emotional feeling you need for an answer. 

LECTOR:  Ugh.  I hate art.

AUCTOR:  No.  You don't understand.  I don't just mean opera and sculpture and the "fine arts" kind of stuff.  I mean any structure of human performance which involves and plays with the emotions in a structured sort of way. Games will do.  Watching world class wrestling will do.  Games, especially.  They are so very parallel to art in the ways of structured play - exercising the senses to unlock  some distinct emotional instance.

LECTOR:  I can think of some other kind of performances that give me the emotional feelings I need for an answer......

AUCTOR:  ....uh, if you're referring to what I think you are,  that answer doesn't last long. 

Look.  The way I'm using it, art takes in films,TV, grunge rock, following sports, politics, whale watching, playing Monopoly.  Anywhere somebody tries to bring form and structure to the disorganization of free nature, and somehow creates a structure that seems to play, to imitate the sense of living --- I'm happy calling it art. 

Art has a way of merging with real life, and real life is often taken as an artful game, so this definition shouldn't be a problem.

If you're unhappy with the meanings you've got and insist on having some other meaning, then don't just sit around and complain about the old ones being empty.  Look around, listen up, and let meanings happen to you.

And that means YOU, you little twerp!

LECTOR:  You mean me?

AUCTOR:  I mean the reader.

Of COURSE I mean you!!!   I would never insult my reader's emotional intelligence.

So this is the end of the section "Life Imitates Art Imitating Life."  And I hope I have answered all of your questions.

LECTOR:  No, you haven't. 

AUCTOR:  You're boring the reader.

LECTOR:  I don't care about the reader, they can go read your memoirs about naked strippers and breast enhancements.  Don’t get self-righteous with ME, bub!  First, you said anything would do for art.  You can't mean that, cause like I said, I could think of some mighty salty stuff to do which would satisfy your conditions for being called  “art.”

AUCTOR:  If it takes a whole rock band snarling to get you to consider the reality and feel of snarling. if snarling meets your needs today......well, then, go ahead and call that musical snarl "art." By most people's standards snarling is not much of an emotional or sensory 'cloud' that needs a more proper definition through art.   Neither are the bruter aspects of sexuality, or for that matter, urinating on public monuments as an emotional act which needs a clearer definition through artistic representation – be it photography, dance, video or interactive sculpture. 

But take sexuality as a subject for art.  Many more fundamentalist people wince – for sexuality was defined by God as a holy relationship, a sacrament of society.  Yet there can be so much human humor and exasporation and pathos and wit in sexuality, that it can might also stand for many other aspects of human relationships.  This much is easily called art, but in most cases representations of sexuality do not bring in these types of human intangibles. Porn is packaged advertising for the senses of intoxication, its artistic merits can only be perceived with the aesthetics of an advertiser.

LECTOR:  OK.  So what if any commercial advertiser convinces me to want their product.

AUCTOR:  That's usually meaning enough for most people.   I guess rhetoric falls in here, too.

LECTOR:  So pornography is art, then?

AUCTOR:  I never said that anything that engages your emotional self is art.  I just said that art exists because we don't have any other tools to handle all the emotional life that goes through us.  It is not that anyone should justify art because it gives us emotions.  That's ridiculous.  We have emotions because we are a nervous system.  Sometimes we must realize those emotions, and put them into a meaningful perspective.  This is the why of art, which is to give us the why of some of our most intangible emotions about living.

What does this have to do with Squeezeplay?

 

 

This is why ART exists.  Art is the only type of answer to meaning that we can logically construct.  If the art works, then we will see the answer to "why should I care?"

LECTOR:  So that's the answer?  Art?

Art takes the fact that we all have different emotional readings of our sensory responses, and tries to put definitions on them.  Art tries to recreate the whole sensory and emotional cloud game within a structured set of rules of its own, to try to put a more definite reading on the circumstances which we might share as individuals or cats. And if the art makes you feel a certain way, it is making you care. The art itself is giving you a reason to care.  There can be no logical reason to care, only the emotion of caring.

LECTOR:  And if the art doesn't work?

LECTOR:  If the art doesn't work, and you are still asking for some reason to care, you need to search for another art-form which will help your senses "bring you to your senses."  That is, give you the emotional feeling you need for an answer. 

LECTOR:  Ugh.  I hate art.

AUCTOR:  No.  You don't understand.  I don't just mean opera and sculpture and the "fine arts" kind of stuff.  I mean any structure of human performance which involves and plays with the emotions in a structured sort of way. Games will do.  Watching world class wrestling will do.  Games, especially.  They are so very parallel to art in the ways of structured play - exercising the senses to unlock  some distinct emotional instance.

LECTOR:  I can think of some other kind of performances that give me the emotional feelings I need for an answer......

AUCTOR:  ....uh, if you're referring to what I think you are,  that answer doesn't last long. 

Look.  The way I'm using it, art takes in films,TV, grunge rock, following sports, politics, whale watching, playing Monopoly.  Anywhere somebody tries to bring form and structure to the disorganization of free nature, and somehow creates a structure that seems to play, to imitate the sense of living --- I'm happy calling it art. 

Art has a way of merging with real life, and real life is often taken as an artful game, so this definition shouldn't be a problem.

If you're unhappy with the meanings you've got and insist on having some other meaning, then don't just sit around and complain about the old ones being empty.  Look around, listen up, and let meanings happen to you.

And that means YOU, you little twerp!

LECTOR:  You mean me?

AUCTOR:  I mean the reader.

Of COURSE I mean you!!!   I would never insult my reader's emotional intelligence.

So this is the end of the section "Life Imitates Art Imitating Life."  And I hope I have answered all of your questions.

LECTOR:  No, you haven't. 

AUCTOR:  You're boring the reader.

LECTOR:  I don't care about the reader, they can go read your memoirs about naked strippers and breast enhancements.  Don’t get self-righteous with ME, bub!  First, you said anything would do for art.  You can't mean that, cause like I said, I could think of some mighty salty stuff to do which would satisfy your conditions for being called  “art.”

AUCTOR:  If it takes a whole rock band snarling to get you to consider the reality and feel of snarling. if snarling meets your needs today......well, then, go ahead and call that musical snarl "art." By most people's standards snarling is not much of an emotional or sensory 'cloud' that needs a more proper definition through art.   Neither are the bruter aspects of sexuality, or for that matter, urinating on public monuments as an emotional act which needs a clearer definition through artistic representation – be it photography, dance, video or interactive sculpture. 

But take sexuality as a subject for art.  Many more fundamentalist people wince – for sexuality was defined by God as a holy relationship, a sacrament of society.  Yet there can be so much human humor and exasporation and pathos and wit in sexuality, that it can might also stand for many other aspects of human relationships.  This much is easily called art, but in most cases representations of sexuality do not bring in these types of human intangibles. Porn is packaged advertising for the senses of intoxication, its artistic merits can only be perceived with the aesthetics of an advertiser.

LECTOR:  OK.  So what if any commercial advertiser convinces me to want their product.

AUCTOR:  That's usually meaning enough for most people.   I guess rhetoric falls in here, too.

LECTOR:  So pornography is art, then?

AUCTOR:  I never said that anything that engages your emotional self is art.  I just said that art exists because we don't have any other tools to handle all the emotional life that goes through us.  It is not that anyone should justify art because it gives us emotions.  That's ridiculous.  We have emotions because we are a nervous system.  Sometimes we must realize those emotions, and put them into a meaningful perspective.  This is the why of art, which is to give us the why of some of our most intangible emotions about living.

What does this have to do with Squeezeplay?

 

Chap.6                       Values

New Values Create New Wealth

This is a hard one for most people to conceive of.  We always thought of wealth as found in things, or their monetary equivalent.  Wealth is something we use to exchange for what people have for sale, either their time or their property.  The analysis of wealth used to boil down to what it takes to produce things, mostly one’s access or ownership of the resources and the time it takes.  ‘Rent’ used to be a central metaphor of wealth production.  Rent of the land was considered at the core, since the basic production of society is food; the sun grows crops to feed cattle and people, if we invest in the seed, and the plow or the livestock and give it all time. 

does the work provided the work for  of With all the cautions about Mammon, and the materialist basis for life.  Today, at least for a period in America, the idea of wealth has been confused with credit

Serenity, or The Emotional Economics of Sustainable Pleasure

Once we have learned how many ways there are to squeeze more life into life, and we have figured out what it is about the process that could be its undoing - it will become clear that there are many more ways to turning limited resources around us into things that have meaning and value, and that the potential for creating values – true economic values – are themselves almost limitless. 

This is what this book is really about.

It may seem far-fetched for what you thought was a self-help book to turn to economics, but creating wealth is what we are really after…. All of us – for all of us.  And I don’t want to quibble about whether this is spiritual or material wealth, for we shall have to cover both when it comes to spiritual and material suicide.

Wealth has always been accumulated to promote security and well-being for ourselves and our children.  As a thing in itself, wealth is the circulation and communication of obligations to perform services – work of one kind or another – and it is the basic component of society-building. 

If we consider ‘wealth’ to describe something which allow us to fulfill ourselves, our desires, and our whims – to buy ourselves pleasures, then many stories of wealth are cautionary tales about how wealth tends to corrupt us – and that the wealthy usually end up squeezing the life out of life.  This isn’t true – but we rarely get to hear stories about the wealthy who are also truly happy and good souls, and not spiritually bankrupt.

It should make sense that the same logic and techniques used to weave a richer fabric of experiences into our own lives, with a stronger weave less liable to disintegrate into a chaotic emptiness (the ennuie of ‘spiritual bankrupcy’), is the same logic and technique used to create a richer social fabric around us.  And here the term ‘richer’ is not just a metaphor comparing colors and design to the wealthy who used to wear them – for I mean it as one and the same.  A ‘richer social fabric’ is synonymous with a healthy economy – for the more variety of experiences we seek out to fulfill ourselves, individually and collectively as a culture, the less competition for the same goods and services there will be, and the more opportunity for each of us to do unique and specialized work. 

For myself, I am a bit of a utopianist.  For example, I would like to see the popular movement of re-enactments becoming a driving recreational sport, where every fourth town has made itself into an open-air museum for some time and culture of the past.  Re-enactors do it for the love of learning, for the love of feeling the history and continuity of peoples around them…. often because they cannot find any continuity with the present.  They don’t do it to get paid.  If Civil War re-enactments only took place when enough people paid to see them there would be none.  If Little League Baseball only existed at the behest of the major leagues, there would be none.  My vision of open-air museums is not about an economic business. It is about living in an open-air vintage 1830’s canal town, or a 1500’s feudal baronage.  You would do it to live this life when you left your 21st century jobs.  And perhaps it wouldn’t suit you as your neighborhood, but perhaps it would.  Perhaps you’d sell your house, in 1830 and get out or stay to become an elder and leader in the community.

But think of how many more jobs there would be, fueling the technologies needed to keep a hundred different eras of humankind’s history and culture alive at once!

Now the reason I bring this up in a book of this sort is because it is central to our subject.  I believe that every culture of the past wove an emotional fabric of its own – and that the emotions and feelings were different and quite unique.  This is what this book is about.  I am against the more common belief that the range of emotions we feel are basically limited, and that the technological and cultural evolution driven by the minds of geeks will naturally give us more access to them.

As we can see around us today, the economies that create simulation games and emotional action films (or emotional comedies) continually imitate each other to the nth degree, and simply give us more and more variations of the same emotion, feeding the need for more intensity as we become habituated to the staples.  All of this is based on the conception that there are only a few limited emotions.  It is a semantic error, and it forces geek engineers and single-minded businessmen to put all their energy into twisted cables based on their concept of the single emotion which pays.  And our culture gives us lots of cables to swing on, and very few have the talent or strength to weave them into fabric at all.  You can hardly clothe yourself with cables – and you can hang yourself, besides.

If you are reading this book and not learning the latest Microsoft upgrade, you are probably not a technology geek.  You may be a different kind of geek – that is, of the psychological and cognitive variety, and have reservations about my assertion of the non-finite range of emotions.

But in this case I will suppose you have some familiarity with Western music.

Dave Brubeck is sugar-coated cereal to Charlie Mingus’ steak sandwich.  No, you prefer listening to Mahler – all day long – and have little sympathy for Schoenberg; Brahms can be tolerated, but you’ve never heard of Heinrich Schutz.  The world of commercial Nashville is far afield from the integrity of The Grateful Dead, you consider C&W meaningless garbage.  All of you can tolerate The Beatles in elevators.

Each of these genres might be considered a cable (the cables I was referring to in the above paragraph about geek entrepreneurs).  None of these musics has much, if anything, to do with the tonalities of Chinese opera, the microtonal structures of classical Turkish oud, or the silliness of 19th century English operetta.  Tin Pan Alley to Steven Sondheim, Cool Dogee Dog, Chuck Berry, or the serene temporal wanderings of modern minimalists are somewhere else entirely. 

Music itself is simply one access port to the range of meanings which life has to offer.[12]  There are many others – including the growing predilection for gourmet cooking and foreign foods and new spices, and every class of activity and sensory complex known to human cultural history. The growing number of sports being added to the Olympics is a small percentage of the number of new championship events being invented for cable TV (such as rope-throwing, cow-punching, axe-grinding or car-smashing).  NASCAR was not a multi-million dollar industry in 1950.  It didn’t exist. All those dollars that circulated thorugh NASCAR would have moved thru one less artery of the economy before making it back to the central bank for tallying.   These few examples ought to give credence to my other assertion, that the more things we as individuals learn to appreciate, the more economic values we are creating for the economy.  Value is something which we, as humans create around us beased on our desires, tastes, and sub-cultural circuitry.

It is not necessary to place the source of all economic value on the limited resources which Nature provides us,[13] though all of us have acres of diamonds beneath our feet.  Unfortunately, by ignoring the tight connections between ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ and ‘value’ our incessant focus on finite sources of meaning, and limited sources of value, that will bring us to both emotional and global bankruptcy.  Again, this is what we are really talking about.

 

TECHNOLOGY'S HELPING HAND 

In an old 1970's book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the author, Stephen Pirsig detected a growing alienation from the machines and technologies around us -- not with using them for our own ends, but in truly understanding them as machines with reasons and purposes and individuality built inside of them.  The complaint about this alienation still exists, and there are certainly Luddites who dream of a world without computers.

Back in his day, the Hippy days, he had lots of flower children friends that drove cars but hated machines.  He didn't want to let them get away with it.  And this got him all involved with how we can truly participate in the world we live in.  Now you could say that surfing the net without the slightest interest in packet switching and screen communications is a lot like driving a car with a distaste for the internal combustion engine, but most of us use computers and prefer ignoring anything to do with how they work and what they are doing.  We are, to this extent alienated from our own tools, our personal extensions to interact in the world.

When Pirsig's 1972 pilgrimage took place insurance companies still put data into their computers on punchcards.  The "Motorcycle Maintenance" part of his book is a dying gasp of the dream that any part of our human-made environment could be broken down and understood.  Frankly, Pirsig was coming to grips with our alienation from a technology out of the 1920's.   Even then, its thousands of human-made components were created by faceless teams of technicians - as faceless as you and me - who would disperse after each project to work on different faceless teams.  To hunker down and "get close" to any one of these components - from the hi-tech materials to the integrated chips - how can we not feel alienated from the vastness of this human-built world? 

The point I will make, however, is that perhaps there is nothing wrong with being alienated from it?  Perhaps, it is in our nature to be alienated from things, and to overcome some of these alienations while not to overcome others.

The tragic underlying theme of Pirsig's book was that, while he was reaching out to his motorcycle and agonizing over humankind's relationship to technology, it took Pirsig the whole pilgrimage to realize that his son was sitting on the motorcycle behind him, longing to truly be with a father he couldn't reach out to.  It took the author hundreds of pages and thousands of shared miles before he participated in his son's loneliness -- struggling to get close to Pirsig, who was caught up in the wanderings of his own mind.

So in the end Pirsig proves to us that man-made technology is just one more fact of life - added onto our ever-active brains - that encourages personal alienation from the things and people around us. Technology just happens to be one more thing that gets in the way of "true" experience.  But it does not deny happiness and contentment any more than our own minds do.  This is, after all, what we saw art accomplishes for us – those periodic flashes of perception that can sometimes change our framework of personal references and meaning. 

This, of course, is the real point.   It seems we are built to be alienated from the majority of our activities and that we are constantly bringing them in to the weave.  That this is the process of self rather than chalking up more experiences with no real weave at all.  To continually party or play music or rob stores and do drugs is to create a braid of many variations of the same experiences.  It is the braiding not the single events which are important – and we seem to know this deep down. 

???Technology is a tool, an extension, and extra hand with very dexterous fingers …. THERE IS NOTHING INTRINSICALLY WRONG WITH BEING ALIENATED FROM OUR TECHNOLOGIES.

No surprise, we are limited by many riddles and structures of existence.  That is, experience itself seems to fall into structures which behave quite inscrutably.

The very fact that people are built differently, with different physical and mental abilities makes us practically as strange as any high technology or even, if you consider it this way, any magical phenomena.  In fact, all that is obscure and incomprehensible - whatever we choose to ignore from childhood on - actually alienates us from some part of our lived world. 

 Pirsig attacked the problem of alienation as if its core was the ancient philosophical rift between objective and subjective reality.  He thought he had a solution, an intuitive connection, a checking function that let us "know" what we were perceiving.  He thought that would solve the problem of experience for us.  Like, Poof, we would begin to participate in everything around us! 

No. It is built-into things; this is the very core of the game of experience.  Full participation in experience ain't easy.  It's what yogi stuff is partly about, filtering out all the extraneous senses so you can focus on one at a time, to eventually integrate them.  But yoga is only one option for overcoming one class of physical or sensory alienation, the one simply brought on by consciousness and the many streams of physical stimulii which make it feel like it does.  On the surface at least, yoga doesn't seem to cover the most obvious forms of self-alienation.  Dreams, for example.  Sleep, for another.

Take dreams.  These are so much a part of the human condition, and yet so much a part of our developing consciousness that we never notice how odd it is when we find ourselves thinking "Jeez, I know this has to be a dream NOW, because I flew away from that crocodile that just got in the tub.  If this flying still works those guys with the pizzas down there will really be surprized. ...GREAT!!! I can still fly.  I'm going after the pepperoni and sausage! I knew it wasn't a dream!"

Becoming relaxed with this feeling of "otherness" is with us from even earlier, when, as children we fight with drowziness to stay awake.

Yet this feeling of selfhood is a feeling which we must develop over and above some very contradictory evidence --- like the fact that the self turns on and off sometimes. 

As kids it suddenly occurs to us we don't know where we are when we're asleep.  There is a peculiarly natural fear of letting go of consciousness.  And when the fear asserts itself we've gotten old enough to recognize consciousness as a sense of "being here," and "knowing where you are." This is our first glimpse of philosophy.  Then, around puberty the first glimmerings of another very deep philosophy dawns on us.  That's when we first start to question the evidence again.  What is this consciousness, we ask.  "What if I am really dreaming all of this, and you don't exist at all!!"  Ah, it is deep, this philosophy.  We are born skeptics. If we're not born that way, once we enter the age of sexuality our bodies become skeptical and remind us of their separate existence.  As if our bodies didn't have enough of their own idiosyncracies to remind us of our natural alienations.

 

Now we all saw clearly from the start that doing things is quite different than experiencing things. 

I have assumed that we want experience to be something whole, something absorbed.  I also assume that we don't want experience to be just munched, tasted and quickly washed down and away with the taste of sweet soda or bottled beer.  But this isn't true.  We are in fact very very familiar with our many different forms of alienation.  They are dear to us, and we protect them with a passion.

Junk-food experience is actually a non-experience which we cherish.   We cherish it because it affirms a desire to stay separate and unattached from our surroundings.  Even while we yearn for a world we could trust, one we could become attached to, we prefer to maintain our alienation.  Our alienation provides a cynicism that puts us above a world which is not worthy of trust.

Why shouldn't I channel surf when it is apparent to the youngest mind sitting in front of a nightly news program that everything is a sham.  It is all packaging, all pomposity.  Especially the "news" - the reporting of things that just happened...all them facts.

Here we have the keepers of knowledge and wisdom in our universities and high-tech corporations and government projects who know enough to give us all these miracles of science.  They've created all the wonders of the electronic computer age.  They have become incredibly rich from it, and we are not all that angry.  Mostly because the makers and keepers of culture are laying so much sensory food on our platter.  BUT why can't they give us a better world?  What's going on?  How come they know so much and can do so damn little about it?

It is clear to even the smallest child that things are not right.  And this makes a sham of everything that is.  Why should I trust it when it can quickly evaporate and be taken away?  Why are there so many missing children and murders and simple things that no one can explain to me?  Why do mom and dad scream so much because their jobs and hours are so awful?

Therefore, I will channel surf by my own volition - I will only attach myself for 2 and 3 seconds to any of it at a time, and take what I can - and all I care to - by revisiting this or that program every 40 seconds.  This seems enough.  This much is in our control.  It establishes our freedom from believing in the sham - and allows us to nibble from it just the same.

Unfortunately, many of us hunger for more ... and nibble frantically trying to find it.  Squeezing more life into life might just be a technique for good nibbling.  I know there is good technique to channel surfing, so why not nibbling at life?

 



[1] It is simply a matter of instituting more social engineering and controls, and psychiatric and penal institutions.  Huxley’s Brave New World outlines a new world order based around recreational self-fulfillment (after Anthrax plagues solve the population explosion); it is a blueprint for a fully engineered world rather than a humanist utopia. Unfortunately, many people – including those who consider themselves “Humanists”- cannot tell the difference.  If we do not fully understand the premises of  “universal recreation,” the humanists among us will find ourselves marking up blueprints for the engineered society, becoming the schoolmarms and principals to insure that the welfare of the entire class is equally maintained on some playground designed by social engineers and economic scientists.

[2] As opposed to Chinese, Sanskrit, or Chechua

[3] I only mention fire ants, but it is too upsetting to consider carefully.  If you are unconvinced of my argument about slowing down time you can read on.  I am sure you will picture just how much time will slow down.  Consider: time WILL NOT FLY BY as you are soaked in honeywater in front of some tyrant watching your show as he eats grapes and pets his favorite concubines.  Now you are being hung inside a cage, and your feet are placed into a tub filled with hundreds of thousands of fire ants; and they climb up your legs and are dropped on your head and into every orifice of your body, munching through each cell of your skin.... Time will not go fast.  Though I haven't tried this experiment out recently, and hope to faint quite completely out of consciusness or just have a heart attack before I get to experiment with stretching out time in such a fashion.

 

[4] No-brainer or not, it took me nearly thirty years to realize this. 

[5] My ‘stories’ of both my ex-sister-in-laws were of this type, consisting of little more than characterizations. 

[6] I have tried to make this book more about delivery than contents, though it represents much of my life’s thought.  For in this particular case, delivery has more meaning in it, since it is the dynamic representation which makes the most impression, not the particular ideas, which you’ll never remember.

[7] This provides a new Pauline twist to the old concept that everything is pre-written, or “pre-ordained.”  Calling God the editor and publisher implies that someone equally omnipotent was the writer.  This implies the devil – since all the stories written are imperfect.   These stories are our lives, however, and we are given the free will to choose whether or not to submit them for publication.  If we don’t submit our story there is no way to get our reward, to be published in heaven and placed on the shelves of the Library of the Heavenly Congress. 

 As a struggling writer I suddenly see that the born-agains may be right.  I have beheld their point.  If all is pre-written, we still have the choice to submit it or not.  I’m well aware that God may be Random House, but there are plenty of other publishers, and many many devils.

[8] This is not to say “off the beaten track,” for as we’ve also seen, there are plenty of ways to cut a new path and build a road to a new view.  But not without studying the map, first – for it’s a waste to knock down houses and put people on the street for the sake of a second road, just because you were unaware that another well-used road already existed, or there was a traffic tie-up that you were unwilling to wait out.

[9] Tickling is a physiological response to physical intimacy.  It is mostly a feeling we know before we are aware of our sexuality, and what those particular intimate “touch spots” otherwise trigger.

 

[10] I am being cynical.  This was what I experienced in suburban America.  It was probably not so in the golden age of Maimonide’s Spain, or 16th century Algeria.

[11] I have made up this name because I have forgotten the original.  It was either Narkhan Telebzu, or Sachan Dechen or Barku Kaldun, or something like that.

[12] The potential for discovering wholly new categories of musical expression is still in its infancy – and an interesting subject for another book.  But music is a twisted cable itself, of many distinct musical ropes of thousands of fibers each. 

 

[13] for the same silver could change hands four times or four hundred times in a day when silver was used for money, and the society that did it four hundred times supported a good bit more abundance in life than the one that only had four transactions a day.


 [u1]  EXPAND THIS