From the Fool —

How to make money in troubled times, which, if you haven’t put something aside for a rainy day, start as soon as you finish kindergarten:

• Make little smart chips you can stick on leftovers in the fridge that beep on the third day before they rise from the dead.
• Invent a car for Safeway parking lots that lifts straight up in the air and spins around to see who’s coming.
• Have rich people pay for more stuff.
• Tell people you’d rule the world better.  Then when you do, make them pay to pee.
• Be a star basketball player.
• Point up in the air, then when people look up run around behind them and steal the dog they’re walking and hold it for ransom or the best offer.  But don’t forget the scooper, and this may be too complicated if you don’t have a high school diploma.
• Get a job where they tell you how to apply for food stamps.
• For extra flavor, sautée your food stamps.
• Don’t mail a letter with food stamps.
• Shed ten pounds a week and sell them.
• Guns can be money-makers.
• Start your own steel mill.
• Write Twenty Dollars on a piece of paper and find some dummy.
• Make up a religion people will pay for, and you be the boss.
• Save string to braid a noose, just as something to fall back on.

— From EF —

West County, it’s really special.  That’s Sonoma County from Sebastopol to the sea, and we live here.  When we moved from Philly and found our new home, we discovered that we had a Green city council and a Green mayor, who was also a fine poet.  For years now we’ve been on his e-mail list, receiving a new poem every morning as a way to start the day.

A couple of weeks ago, the morning poem really blew me over.  It so accurately gave voice to my growing wish to do something, say something, put something out there that makes a difference in our social fabric, as raveled as it is.  Our performing has effects, I believe,  but they don’t directly touch the painful issues that are so much on my mind now.  This poet was speaking to me.  Wang Ping has authorized me to quote this poem in its entirety.

Tsunami Chant

I’m not a singer, but please
let me sing of the peacemakers
on the streets and internet, your candles
in this darkest moment of night,
your bodies on the steps of government buildings,
your voices from the roots of grasses and trees,
from your pit of conscience.

I’m not a prayer, but please,
please give my voice to the children
in Baghdad, Basra, Afghanistan,
and every other bombed-out place on earth,
your crying out in pain and fear;
please give my hands to the mothers
raking through rubble for food, bodies;
my sight to the cities and fields in smoke;
my tears to the men and women who are brought
home in bags; and please give my ears
to those who refuse to hear the explosions,
who tune only to censored news, official words.

I’m not a citizen, but please
count my vote against the belief
that the American way is the only way,
count it against the blasphemy of freedom,
against a gang of thugs who donned crowns
on their own heads, who live for power
and power only, whose only route is
to deceive and loot, whose mouths move
only to crush, whose hands close
only into a grave.

I’m not a worshiper, but please
accept my faith in those
who refuse to believe in painted lies,
refuse to join this chorus of supreme hypocrisy,
refuse to sell out, to let their conscience sleep,
wither, die. Please accept my faith
in those who cross the bridge for peace,
only to be cursed and spat upon, but keep crossing
anyway, every Wednesday, in rain and snow,
and my faith in those who camp out night after night,
your blood thawing the frozen ground,
your tents flowers of hope in this bleak age.

I don’t possess a bomb, don’t know
how to shoot or thrust a sword.
All I have is a broken voice,
a heart immense with sorrow.
But please, please take them,
let them be part of this tsunami
of chanting, this chant of awakening.

                                       — Wang Ping

These are links to her work:

www.kinshipofrivers.org, www.wangping.com, behindthegateexhibit.wangping.com

— From CB —

A man my age protests to a guy texting in a movie theatre.  A quarrel ensues and the old guy shoots the malefactor dead.  A cop sees a 13-year-old crossing a vacant lot with what appears to be an AK-47 (found to be a pellet gun), calls out for him to drop it.  As the boy turns around, the cop puts seven bullets in him, claims self-defense.  A 12-year-old with a shotgun blasts students in the gym — just one of 26 school shootings this past year.

Much to say, arguments for gun control, all that.  But what in fact disturbs me to the core is this: I empathize so profoundly with the perpetrators.

True, it’d take quite a bit to put me in their shoes to the point where I’d pull a trigger.  For a start I’d need a gun, and I haven’t fired one since target practice with a .22 in (mandatory) high school ROTC.  And I’d need heavy provocation to reverse the decades of conditioning that moved me from being a fairly violent little kid to the benign guy I am today.  But in my writing & acting I’ve explored many routes to violence, and if I Google the directions from where I am to where Ric, Marty, Frank, Macbeth or Medea arrive, it’s not hard to chart the shortest route.

The media perpetually asks “Why?”  The most obvious answer is never seen as an answer, but it may be at the heart of the onion: because he needed to.  He was compelled by fear, by humiliation, by self-entrapment, by a wad of gum he swallowed that glued his guts together into critical mass, and suddenly he had the magical power to twitch his finger and make it all suddenly change.

I don’t want to be inside those people.  It’s a dark, desperate place to be, at least when the impulse control we learn as toddlers fails, or they stomp down on the brakes and the brakes don’t hold.  I don’t want to believe that America’s product is no longer steel, computers, or even armaments — it’s madmen.  Our wars, our movies, our fear that grows in direct proportion to our armaments, our deification of Competition, our sense that we’re being conned — well, it’s a rich array of entrepreneurial opportunity.

The pro-gun lobby is right in a sense: guns don’t cause violence.  You might call them labor-saving devices: just the flick of a switch and the whole job is done.  Of course there’s probably general agreement that we should keep guns out of the hands of children.  The debate arises with the definition of “children.”  I’m reminded of the phrase I sometimes see advertising puppet shows as “for kids from eight to eighty.”  We seem to have a growing population of kids — infantilized creatures with flawed impulse control — from eight to eighty.

Maybe we need to find some lost path toward adulthood.

***

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