One story, unfinished, a fragment. The writing cools from a weak plot and flat characterization. The story fills the page we are on, but we may not be on the same page as others reading the same story (based on the assumption there can only be one story), and no one can page backward or forward. That other pages even exist is therefore without proof. Our story has grown since the first word, and continues to expand. The distance from the beginning to the end is therefore immeasurable. We will never have the whole story, but that’s another story.
Universe alive meaning what, Joyce talking again, a twitch of his head my way as I came in late to Workshop 3, the others already seated, each now having found their preferred place, on the couch, or in one of the overstuffed chairs, the easier to remember names, Soto said, the personality of the chair, the seat revealing the person. Joyce seemed to prefer the straight hardback chair in the corner by the bookcase. From there he could look out the window down the street or pay attention to the circle of writers working on their craft, honing their craft. Honing, to hone, was a word I noticed came up frequently in Workshop, like robust, another one of Workshop’s key words. And craft. I hadn’t realized what a craft writing could be. A robust honing of craft, I thought. A honing of robust craft. A craft of robust honing. Words have meaning, Joyce, excited now, head tics my way impatient I’ve not sat down yet, but where had I put my pocket notebook. Don’t tell me I forgot it. Words have meaning, Joyce said, stretching the long e as far as it could go. You people don’t seem to feel that, and a deep quiet settled, writers staring at the floor, backs rigid. To be part of a people, even if mistaken, surely something to that, I thought, stopped fumbling around looking for my notebook and sat down, now part of the silence. Then someone’s stomach gurgled, a rumbling burble audible around the room. Oh, my, Penelope said, patting her hand on her tummy, organics, and everyone laughed. I have some apple, Virginia said, did you not eat before class? I haven’t eaten all day, Penelope said. I’m on a roll. Quiet again, as we seemed to contemplate the meaning of Penelope’s fast. Then Matilda with a suppressed burp, and she begged Workshop’s pardon. Then came a big bang. It wasn’t me. Was it a mistake? Excuse me, Sam said, be right back, and he got up and left the room, Joyce staring out the window at a shout in the street. The minutes ticked quietly and reliably by, the room now a vacuum, the writers floating out of their chairs, weightless, bumping into one another, like pool balls, bouncing off the cushions, changing trajectory. Nothing dead, Sam said, reclaiming his seat. Inert, perhaps, but the organ, so persistent, shells another life. Inaction impossible, Sam continued, something in his voice a simple invitation to listen. The whole, Sam said, this thing, this idea, near and far, all organ, all organic, sprawling sleeping energy here and there, nothing inorganic possible, all alive, on the move, on the make, daresay, and of dark matter, we have sleep, as one life spills into another.
“Organ Tics” is episode 79 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
It sometimes seems clear if there is an afterlife it does not interfere with present life. But what is present? The light from our sun is already a little over eight seconds old. We sunbathe in the past, confident in a present we never quite seem to fully inhabit (physics explains it’s perfectly possible to split infinitives). Where then do we go? Maybe time is a question of physics, maybe of metaphysics – the things that may come after the physics.
The dead seem an extremely polite bunch. They do not intrude. Looking for them is like searching for aliens. We may feel their presence, approach them with the telescope of faith, but if they exist, somewhere-somehow, that life lies far far beyond the present five senses. To prove an afterlife, if we want to believe in ghosts and such, we must create a sense beyond our given five.
William Blake noticed angels out and about. Rilke claimed to have seen one. What is it about poets that make them easy prey for such notions? Wouldn’t it be a bit frightful if the first aliens the astronomers discover turn out to be previous earthlings? The problem with communicating with the dead may simply be the length of time their message takes to reach us. By the time the first message from the first dead reaches Earth, we may all be gone. What would the message say? Trick or Treat?
I take no issue with the dead. Nor am I looking forward to meeting any aliens. Let them keep their distance. My problem seems to be sugar: to wit, candy – the Halloween tradition (in these parts).
This year, instead of passing out candy, I propose to hand out poems. Short poems printed on three by five cards, maybe with a cartoon or drawing on one side of the card. I’ll drop a poem card into every little critter’s Halloween basket. No candy. No sugar.
But when I mentioned the idea to Susan, she said, “We’ll get our house egged for sure.”
“You think? With the cost of dairy these days?”
“And the parents will accuse you of poisoning their kids with poetry. Besides, Halloween cards are nothing new. And poetry, while sugar free, is still very high in carbs and calories, not to mention saturated and trans fats.”
So much for my proposal. I guess we’re sticking with candy.
The astrophysicists are in the ascendancy again. That’s our takeaway from a 03.2019 National Geographic article. The key is light. The scientific industry is working to build something that will travel close to the speed of light. Laser beams, solar winds, and microscopic kites. Another key is funding. They’re working on a go fund me tsunami. Government dough is drying up, but there appears to be enough interest in the private sector to fuel ever more comic book fantasy.
Surprisingly, for all our technological advancements and discoveries, not much is known about the universe. Part of what’s driving the current science buzz is a new generation of telescopes that will provide pics of the light reflecting directly off of exoplanets. That light will contain information about what’s happening on the planet. Information like who lives there, their address, what they do for a living, and other census like questions.
Meantime, back on earth, in that same 03.2019 National Geographic issue, an article on El Salvador violence, titled “No Way Out,” helps explain the immigration crisis on the US southwest border. A map of El Salvador, titled “State of Fear,” using dots to show “Homicides by municipality, 2017,” could from a distance be confused with the Milky Way pic used on the cover of the issue.
One wonders what makes scientists think there might be intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe when evidence of intelligent life here on Earth seems close to non-existent. And why would other life forms, presumably far more technologically advanced or in other ways superior to ours, be interested in us? One scientist interviewed remarks the question is similar to asking why would humans be interested in reaching out to a colony of ants.
Ah, but there’s the rub. Maybe the ants are the aliens.
You say too much
too much you lose
the way and the
too much for you.
Not to make too much
of this to make much
of time, of hot,
of cold, like a year
Say you see
her eyes move
like stars way
too slow and too
much of nothing.
Box seat holders at the Toads know that periodically we like to drop in on the physicists to see how the universe is progressing. Though it may be some 14 billion years old, fans will be happy to know that the universe is still in its early innings. Time for a hot dog and a bottle of that dark matter earthlings call beer.
But why can’t we enjoy the universe without the polemic diatribes of the scientists who must wear their atheist merit badges on their sleeves? In the most recent example, Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, Richard Dawkins comes out of the bullpen to write the afterword, and we find ourselves trying to stay afloat in some deep, dark matter, but it’s not beer.
“Over the course of the history of our galaxy,” Krauss writes, “about 200 million stars have exploded. These myriad stars sacrificed themselves, if you wish, so that one day you could be born. I suppose that qualifies them as much as anything else for the role of saviors.” But is Jesus about being born, or about the existential possibility of being reborn?* To get this, one must imagine a universe without shame. It doesn’t matter where you come from, who your parents were, the color of your collar. The universe does not come into play. Krauss has hit a foul ball.
Why the scientists can’t stick to scientific writing is one of the mysteries of the universe that neither Krauss nor Dawkins unravel. Consider, for example, Dawkins’s afterward. After a couple hundred pages of Krauss blowing winds and cracking cheeks in which he attempts to explain that King Lear was wrong when he said “nothing will come of nothing,” we find that indeed nothing has come of nothing, but that it may amount to the same thing as something coming from nothing, or the other way around. In any case, as early as 14 billion years ago, which is to say, in his preface, Krauss has already admitted, “we simply don’t know” and probably never will. As it turns out, the universe is really about funding.
We’ve never doubted, here at the Toads, that something can come from nothing (witness the 1969 Mets); neither have we doubted the reverse, that nothing can come from something. We’re going back to casting out 9’s, dividing the universe into 9 inning segments.
“We may not understand quantum theory,” Dawkins writes in his afterward, but then says, parenthetically and inexplicably religiously, “[heaven knows, I don’t] but a theory that predicts the world to ten decimal places cannot in any straightforward sense be wrong. Theology not only lacks decimal places: it lacks even the smallest hint of connection with the real world.” Yes, but why “heaven knows”? Is Dawkins kidding here? Or is this a slip of the atheist pen? And what about those ten decimal places? In a universe as old and big as Krauss has described, ten decimal places hardly seems significant at all. The assumptions of the argument lose their scientific credibility the moment its purpose is revealed to be conversion: it’s an argument of conversion, and it’s trying and tiring.
*“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:7-8, KJV).
Fuller: “Man seems unique as the comprehensive comprehender and co-ordinator of local universe affairs.”
Thoreau: “Probably I should not consciously and deliberately forsake my particular calling to do the good which society demands of me, to save the universe from annihilation; and I believe that a like but infinitely greater steadfastness elsewhere is all that now preserves it.”
Fuller: “This is the essence of human evolution upon Spaceship Earth. If the present planting of humanity upon Spaceship Earth cannot comprehend this inexorable process and discipline itself to serve exclusively that function of metaphysical mastering of the physical it will be discontinued, and its potential mission in universe will be carried on by the metaphysically endowed capabilities of other beings on other spaceship planets of universe.”
Thoreau: “I discovered that my house actually had its site in such a withdrawn, but forever new and unprofaned, part of the universe.”
Fuller: “Coping with the totality of Spaceship Earth and universe is ahead for all of us.”
Thoreau: “The universe constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions.”
Fuller: “Only as he learned to generalize fundamental principles of physical universe did man learn to use his intellect effectively.”
Thoreau: “The harp is the travelling patterer for the Universe’s Insurance Company, recommending its laws, and our little goodness is all the assessment that we pay.”
Fuller: “We are faced with an entirely new relationship to the universe.”
Thoreau: “Though the youth at last grows indifferent, the laws of the universe are not indifferent, but are forever on the side of the most sensitive.”
Fuller: “Can we think of, and state adequately and incisively, what we mean by universe?”
Thoreau: “Nature puts no question and answers none which we mortals ask.”
Fuller: “But the finite physical universe did not include the metaphysical weightless experiences of universe.”
Thoreau: “The universe is wider than our views of it.”
Fuller: “The universe is the aggregate of all of humanity’s consciously-apprehended and communicated experience with the nonsimultaneous, nonidentical, and only partially overlapping, always complementary, weighable and unweighable, ever omnitransforming, event sequences.”
Thoreau: “In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Fuller, R. Buckminster. Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. First published, 1969. New edition, Baden/Switzerland: Lars Muller Publishers, 2008/2011 [Edited with Introduction by Jaime Snyder]. Print.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. 1854. Boston: Beacon Press, July 15, 2004 [Introduction and Annotations by Bill McKibben]. Print.
- What Should We Keep? The R. Buckminster Fuller Archive
- Transition: From Walled-in with Thoreau to Take-off with Buckminster Fuller
- Walden: From “The Pond in Winter” to “Spring”
- On the ice with Thoreau
- What some others have said about Thoreau’s Walden
- A Monstrous Metaphor Fished from Walden Pond
- A Sixth Way of Looking at Walden: Deliberately Seeking Simplicity
- It is told in sounds in Thoreau’s Walden
- Epizeuxis, epizeuxis, epizeuxis! in Thoreau’s Walden
- Reading Directions for Thoreau’s Walden
- Mapping a Reading of Thoreau’s Walden
- Unpacking the Aphorism to Pull Out the Pith
- On Thoreau On Clothing
- An Economy of One’s Own