Saturday, June 2, 2012

Wearing It

A few photographs of views and myself sit here in my computer, sent from a friend in San Francisco, but they are from a phone and extremely small so I can't post them on this blog. I'd intended to use them to prompt some writing. If I do try to post them bigger then the pictures look like this.

The original is of me outside City Lights Bookshop, where I spent a good hour or so looking round and enjoyed the sight of my own book on the shelves. A Bee Lover's Poetry Companion looked fine there.   I bought Adrienne Rich's book Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth, it's an excellent collection from a wonderful poet. (RIP)

Adam Gillitt was my host in California and we saw so much of San Francisco in a week, I still feel amazed by its beauty, diversity and joie de vivre. I stayed on Alameda Island in his fine house with aquariums, cats and humming birds. The individuality and wit of Alameda's inhabitants is clearly shown in the stunning range of extrovert and idiosyncratically-designed houses, each quite different to the next, often painted with bright colours or a range of tones so the property stands out, even next to another also deliberately styled to be as obvious as possible while at the same time, attractive or amusing.

I wish I could find some of the more colourful houses to post here, (such as photos stolen with my laptop), but flickr has a great many if you look on the snip url above the picture.

Anyway, it was from these highly individual, liberal households that the children who became hippies emerged. Free love, freedom of speech at Happenings and political meetings, the freedom to dress as people wished, (which often meant looser, brighter clothes and inevitably a kind of uniformity), longer hair for men and women, feminism, anti-racism, make love not war, tune in, drop out, look to Eastern philosophies for answers.... these slogans and ideas were once radical and startled the wider population.

Just like, perhaps the idea that we could have solar ovens and no need for fuel or electricity now, alarms and disturbs some people?

Human beings have a need to travel, adventure, change, discover and refresh, we may do this without leaving home too.

Products of our environment, to some extent we take on new ways and old habits by following examples or working to fit in with those around us. Now online, we're so many affected by this new limitless and info-rich environment. Someone recently spoke about the internet being like a sea, and we're mermaids (and mermen I suppose), swimming in a rich liquid world wide web, soaking it up. We may style ourselves as fantasy figures, we need not use our real names, we can reinvent ourselves daily, by the minute or the hour, we've never had the chance before as we have now on the world wide web to be so flexible and actively imaginative, to reveal our inner world and develop it so easily.

Literary friends I made online for the last 12 or so years, who showed me their country on my visit to Am er ica, we knew each other better perhaps than some people who've known each other only through face-to-face contact.

Security and distance perceived while using the internet creates a situation where intimacy and self-revelation may be more easily enjoyed, (without 'really' exposing our true selves, we imagine). People write and say things we would not otherwise express so readily. Writers too, I think are best qualified to express themselves through this medium with security, more adept if we're practised and/or talented at making sure tone, particular wording and so on are all applied in the best, most apt ways to get across what we want, while retaining some privacy and safety, meanwhile. Or we're reckless, wild adventurers, determined to make mistakes and learn more the usual way. Some set out to emphasise personas who provoke, titillate and shock, firing up reactions for some kind of emotional storm or catharsis. Power-plays are everywhere. The fairyland aspects of this medium also provide some entertainment, there are trolls who merely want to annoy and people in disguises, with who knows what agendas, photoshop may make anyone appear as lovely as a famous heroine or as handsome as a hero, then there are wicked websites and hidden viruses, they can crash the whole world of web wonder and make it disappear. Danger and startle-factor make the internet more attractive at times too, the absorption of the written word or other communication may depend on dramatic effects to be persuasive.

This wide open communication rev olu tion is occurring at the same time as we're also limited and repressed in various ways, more and more terribly every day.

I wonder now about someone in San Francisco's statement that there are televisions everywhere in Am er ica, in the back of the seats of taxis, in aeroplanes, in the foyers of restaurants, in bars, in every room of some houses, (and we may watch various things on our phones too of course). He said the televisions are there in such vast numbers, because they distract the people. 'Americ ans can't get into any deep conversations.'  He smiled while he told me this, a local San Francisco man with a job in middle management, I gathered.

I answered, 'Sure. No critical analysis of current affairs, no criticising new laws or the gove rnment, no plans made for demands to make changes to benefit people in far reaching ways, no arguments, no heated debates, nothing but people just getting along with each other wherever and as often as possible.' (Or something like that).  I didn't say it, but thought too that I'd hardly seen any in-depth news on local TV or heard any discussed from the wider world. Local news tended to be things far removed from politics or any issues which people needed to be involved in for long-term benefits, like education, health initiative and and eco-awareness.

So, I said that all the TVs stopped people from getting into any deep conversations. 

He smiled and nodded.

We sat on padded bench seats, waited for friends in the foyer of a restaurant and both then turned to the ubiquitous television set up high on the wall, to quietly watch it. I think sports were on. Our silence as stunning as any of those stylish, individual Alameda houses I saw locally, and as memorable. Even more so when I think my laptop was stolen at security check going through an airport, on my last stop there. All the photos I took which could've helped me remember my trip, except for a few on the movie camera and hopefully on my phone as well, (I still need to check that), are gone. Silence of a different kind, but the loss of those images are a way to keep me quiet, they could've prompted far more blog entries here, if I'd been able to post my photographs.

No point in lamenting for long over things I can do nothing about however, and there are so many terrible and annoying things to mess around with, if I didn't realise my bothering with them would result in little change, except more bad feeling on my part. Am er i ca possibly changed me a great deal in that regard. I've finally learnt what, 'choosing my battles' really means. I believe it's essential nevertheless to foster debate, dissent, discussion and so on wherever possible, those things are not unAme r ican, they're essential to the growth and health of any nation or group of people. The bookshop I was so delighted to visit, City Lights, recently displayed banners about just that issue.

Silence and superficial 'getting along' at all times can be a sign something is terribly wrong.

An abusive relationship may be one where someone controls another to a large degree, as if the other person is a puppet or a creature maybe, like a pet but not an animal allowed much time to itself, (to behave in the usual ways any living thing may do). Some abusers insist the people they are controlling appear happy and content whenever they're in public.

The perverted people who exert these controls are horribly insecure, they need power plays to feel they're alive, effective and strong. They need to release their own fear by making others fearful. Violent upbringings may create such behaviour. Strength is seen as making others scared. It is however a kind of weakness to behave in this manner.

People can become like objects in some twisted viewpoints. To be simplistic, some governments for instance may treat much of their population like battery hens, mere arms and legs created for working with as little food, leisure, clothing and housing as possible. They allow companies to treat workers in this manner. Others are treated like cosseted and rather ignorant blobs with the capability of consuming enormous amounts of stuff. I can only call it stuff, because it is treated like stuffing.

Enormous amounts of wadding is shoved into and around the lives of so many people, and the shiny or fresh, better-than-before comfort and convenience supposedly needs to be replaced every year or two, so great piles of old things, (too often barely used) are thrown away too. Objects with arms, legs and mouths, also with excess income, the blobs are fooled into thinking they're better than the mere arm-leg slave-type beings, who create the stuff to be pushed upon the others.  Blobs are better since they can keep this stuff. This makes them the winners.

The buffer of material wadge and whatnot also creates a visible barrier between people who have extra and those who have not. We signal each other constantly with what we wear, drive, live in, eat and so on, about who we are in the great plan of things and therefore who we are supposedly better to talk and associate with, and who we're better off without, supposedly. This is another way to create silence. Emphasising class groups or pushing the rich and the poor further and further apart, creates divisions in countless ways, in areas of health, communication, living conditions, education and more.

When a government seeks to control people in this way, they also can be called abusive then, surely? We need laws, certainly, we need to know what we may not do for safety reasons and to ensure the smooth-running of day-to-day life. We do not need to be kept as quiet as possible at all times however, and if we are silenced to a large degree even if only in subtle ways, then the places we live may suffer from lack of communication, (beyond relaying basic messages and ideas, along with messages which create division). Children for instance, need social interaction with many kinds of people in real life, face-to-face situations in order to develop and learn properly.

Here in New Zealand, we're outward-looking like most island nations. We need to seek trade from other lands, we often look elsewhere for inspiration, ideas, products and we require immigrants at times to replace those who have left these shores or passed away. Many people here will also gladly argue or debate about almost anything, we may talk with strangers willingly in many situations, there's an openness and determination to learn more which has improved our culture over and over.

On large areas like continents, people have more choices, travel is easier than from an island since there are overland options, there's not the same feeling of isolation. In one country there may be enormous variety. Sometimes a culture may appear so insular, they are perfectly enclosed, it is as if people believe they have everything they need where they are, there is nothing required from outside.  But this is almost always an illusion. Every country trades and has foreign relationships, but sometimes the population is not informed of this. Control of media can keep many people ignorant of their own situation, the big picture.

We wear where we live as if the culture itself creates a kind of special clothing, make-up and an atmosphere for us, there are manners, figures of speech, attitudes and beliefs all provided by our nation, our countryside, history, our neighbourhood, family and friends. We do not always realise what we've take on, to wear and live inside.

It is a mistake to think people in one place know it all, or that we never need an outside view, or that dissent and debate are out of place and it's better to just meekly go along with what those 'better' decide for us. No matter how powerful, lovely, clever or certain anyone or any group of people may appear or believe themselves to be, human beings in every culture nearly always need to keep an open mind and to welcome others in a good-hearted manner with their views. It is possible to listen to someone who disagrees with us, and see what they mean while holding opposing views in mind at the same time.  This is an excellent way to measure ideas against each other, to contrast them and to see what suits a particular situation or approach.

And of course, if we are too open-minded our brains fall out. - Lawrence Ferlinghetti( co-founder of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers).

Constantly risking Absurdity

Constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of the day
performing entrachats
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
any thing
for what it may not be
For he's the super realist
who must perforce perceive
taut truth
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
with gravity
to start her death-defying leap
And he
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
of existence

                               -- Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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