— From CB —

What makes waves?

I’ve always thought, well, the wind blowing across the water. But is that it? Are there other tidal workings, pulling and hauling beneath the surface, that push the next surge and the next? Someone must know these things. It’s the 21st Century, after all. It doesn’t seem as if a little atmospheric huff-and-puff could make this mighty heartbeat.

And then, of course, the question comes: What makes the waves of history? Is it only the blowhards on the surface and the pollsters measuring the weather wrought by the blowhards? Surely there must be deep wells of movement not even swayed by the breath of leviathans.

But does that mean we’re utterly subject to currents we can’t affect or even know? A Russian peasant might accept that and in fact be happier for it, but we’ve been born in the American spirit — a vast delusion, perhaps — that changes are within our power and within our sphere of responsibility. God help us, whether Said Entity exists or is only a Pixar animation.

We have no alternative, really, to the belief that our frail dog paddles through Time will avert the ultimate tsunami. We must believe in Kant’s categorical imperative as something that might actually take place — that somehow, if we get our snores in tune, we’ll build a mighty symphony. This is nonsense, of course, but as vital to us as oxygen.

Vital, too, is a split vision. We must believe that we have power while knowing that we have none. More and more, in working on King Lear, I admire Edgar’s speech at the end. He holds out no hope that things will be better. He offers no consolation. He doesn’t say, “Well, the play is a downer but Shakespeare’s poetry redeems it.” He simply says that the only thing he can say right now is that he feels deep despair.

Still, that doesn’t have to be the final note. It can be the note on which the song or the wave begins.

 — From the Fool —

My friend Joe is full of ideas. You can see it by his waistline. It’s finishing its Ph.D.

And he’s highly qualified in economics. He’s maxed out three credit cards, and he’s an Associate at Walmart. Not just an employee: an Associate. Which means he gets a nametag saying “Associate.”

Joe knows how to solve unemployment. “Start off,” he says, “get rid of the minimum wage.” He gets minimum wage, and he says it’s not enough to live on. His thing is, if there wasn’t a minimum wage, then the fat cats wouldn’t stick to the minimum and he could afford to go to a strip club once in a while.

And he’s worked it out how to create more jobs, “Cause if you’re a Job Creator you can get away with murder,” he says. His plan is, pass a law that everyone has to eat hot dogs. “One hot dog a day, required,” he says. “Is that too much to ask?”

That didn’t strike me as too promising. I could see how that could upgrade the hot dog industry, and probably a buncha man-hours go into creating a hot dog, but it didn’t seem like it’d stem the exit of jobs to China. No reason the Chinese couldn’t do a functional frank.

But he’d worked it out. “You’re just seeing the tip of the foot-long,” he says. His thing is this. Sure, there’s a growth in demand, along with buns, ketchup, mustard and pickle relish, napkins, styrofoam trays, and Pepto-Bismol. And more upscale innovations, like a circular weenie that fits on a bagel. It’s not the healthiest diet, so more need for doctors and nurses, and ad men to say that hot dogs are good for us.

But mainly, the deal is: If you pass a stupid law, lotsa dudes break it. It promotes the industry where America’s the world leader: locking people up. All the cops and spies and finks and judges and lawyers and prison guards and garbage collectors it takes to lay down the law, we’ll double employment easily, says Joe. Plus, it roots out all the vegetarians and activists and Arab terrorists that don’t eat pig snout.

“But why hot dogs,” I asked. “Why not pizza or Twinkies or Captain Crunch?”

“I like hot dogs,” said Joe.

 — From EF —

There’s a book called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer). I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve always been captivated by the title. Recently I saw an image from Astronomy Now and what popped into my mind was “Completely Silent and Unimaginably Distant.” An artist made a rendering of many, many quasars in a gauzy web punctuated by the black holes at their centers:


Then I thought, “I’ve seen this before.” Brain synapses, neurons firing. Again, these images are artists’ renderings, not photographs, but they are based on electron microscope images.


We humans can’t see either the quasars or the neurons directly, but we have imagined and created the technologies that make these things visible. The incredibly close and extremely personal photography of the human body reveals how like the galaxies we are, every last one of us. My Swiss friend recently diagnosed with cancer, responding to our blog of 11/9, wrote, “They told me that the tumor under the microscope looked like a coral. My body is an immense unknown ocean. My dreams are beautiful colored fishes.”

Sunday, we had our ritual picnic at the ocean. The waves never stop, and none is like the one before it. The salt water is blue, green, grey, violet, but when it crashes on the rocks it’s all white, totally changed and changeless. The white was always there.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2014

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