Friday, May 30, 2008

Thinking Life

We have been searching for images, metaphors, narratives, the poetic -- and any other pieces of thought or action -- which can approach that sense of the living-of-life, and which can further draw us into the midst of those places where the Alive occurs.

We are also aware that much thought does not emerge from and does not return to those places where life lives and moves.

Instead certain orders, structures are applied to life. Hierarchies are imposed as if they are superior to the actual living-of-life, and, as if removed from the influences of living moments.

Strong and fixed vantage points are thereby created, far removed from the influences of lower or more natural powers. From such positions people and nature are considered more able to be organized and acted upon.

Through image, thought, through word and action we search for ways and means to bring honour to the living of life, the lived life, the Alive. We see this honouring emerging amidst diversities and abundances, through the myriad of possibilities wherein creation and life can meet.

We also see this honouring amidst our rhizome interaction with individuals, families and communities.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Life Persists

Images from Portugese Tile Art

Break open the sod, leave the soil exposed. In short time all such real estate is occupied -- no agent needed. Such space is invaded with organisms, ready, just waiting for such an event.

They say, of course, "Location, location, location!" But, not so picky here, for in every corner where moisture and nutrient coincide -- abundance encroaches. Life persists....

A potential predator approaches the nest. For both male and female there is no fear, just a purity of insistence, an intensity of desire directed toward the protection of one’s own.

They scold, they dive-bomb, they attack. They cause the intruder to jump and dodge. They put themselves in repetitive jeopardy, all for the sake of their own, their loves. Life persists...

After the tide recedes we turn over a rock, almost every centimetre is territorialized by organisms, often life upon life: oyster upon stone, oyster upon oyster, barnacle upon oyster, crab upon barnacle, starfish upon oyster and barnacle. The crab scurries off to the side.

We turn away from this rock. Soon after a seagull arrives. Bird upon starfish, stealing away, consuming.

Space in the tidal zone is never empty. Even the sand above the high-tide line is made up of calcium, coarse and crushed, yesterday’s crustacean-constructions now sea-worn particles. Laying upon such particles are hominoid sun-worshipers. Life refuses even the resemblance of deficit. Life persists...

Past relations mostly slipped away – what we think of as craziness does that. Typical life expectations now beyond evasive, he pushes the shopping cart, he spits on the sidewalk, he finds a meal where he can, he obtains a fix by any means. Against odds – Life persists...

In tall buildings, amidst grandeur, clear expectations, dressed in grey and white pin-striping, she pursues what she knows she deserves. She looks for money, but more than money. She searches for abstracts like power, authority, recognition. Such desires seem most illusory, yet, through it all, she won’t give up. For, over and over -- Life persists...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Words on Skin

Why is it that
All too often
Those cold
Violations Isolations
Creep upon souls
When bodies
Try to connect
With Words?

Why is it that
The most tender
Of moments
Those times
Charmed and beautiful
Often feel

Out beyond words
Spectrums of touch
More than
Fingertips and skin

In sound
Stroking tapping moving striking
In words

Or perhaps
Not words -- voices

Keeping pace
With feet and breath
Working as tireless hands

And voices
Words more than words
Equal to music
Before nouns
Beyond verbs
Antecedents of laughter
Speaking not in the ear
But upon the skin

Now these words
May indicate
Absolutely nothing --
Yet the actor reads from
The New York City phonebook
And his audience is in tears
Laughter not contained

Moist with
Tongue teeth and lips
Lungs and larynx

Ceasing meaning
Yet flowing
Between and among
Vibrating as reeds
Bodies as reeds
Twin reeds
As oboe or bassoon
Producing the unrepeatable moment
With tone, timbre and melody
Emerging through the middle of
(Not the body, but)
Many bodies

Before meanings
There was the rhythm of tongues
Persistent hammerings of rhyme

Before understandings
There were polyphonies
A proliferation of dictions

Before truth
There were excesses of voice

Before any intellect
Before any ideas or mind
And after
Long past all words

In two twilights of thought

There were

And there will certainly be
Hymn and mantra
A joyful
Collision of
The Lyric

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Bully -- Part I

What it Takes to Create a Deficit...

Before continuing with this posting I want to remind people of the previous posting where I recommended a visit to the new blog of a young man named Mat. Please check it out.

Now, on with the current posting...


Just for a moment, consider a particular young man, we will call him George. George is not a real person, but a made-up character, more an accumulation of many characters. Following are some of the more typical ways by which educators, other professionals, and many others might talk of George.


George is often a frustration to both staff and other children. Out on the school playground he is known for confronting and pushing other children, even blackmailing them to get his way. Therefore, it is not difficult to see how George would be frequently described as a bully!

In the classroom George repeatedly does not cooperate with the educational learning objectives, and he can be disruptive to the learning of the other students. He is seen to have some serious difficulties in his ability to learn . Therefore, based on this information, George is not only a bully, he is also learning disabled and behaviourally challenged.

It is reported that George’s family has many difficulties. Apparently his dad can become very angry and even violent, particularly when he has been drinking. His mom seems isolated/removed from school and community. She is perceived as somewhere between just lacking in the realm of parenting skills to a harsher view of being irresponsible in her parenting duties. George often comes to school smelling, clearly not having bathed for some time, and he frequently comes to school with no lunch. So, we now have more information about George – his family is dysfunctional, and George’s difficulties are compounded by a family history of violence, along with alcohol and drug problems.

Many children, and many adults can be described in the manner we have talked of George. But, to talk this way, even to understand a person in this way, there are several disciplines that must be put into practice. I say “disciplines” because these ways of talking and knowing are not part of the usual flow of human experience, they must be learned, and, I argue, it takes something akin to discipline for people to actually think and act in these ways.

What are these disciplines?

1. First of all, time must be understood as something which can be stopped, and must be stopped abruptly on certain occasions. Time must cease to flow -- at our command. A great example is the perceived need to stop time upon George’s bullying behaviour -- to limit our attention to the single episode or episodes which represent such bullying behaviour. Time could be experienced within its varied flows, and, within such flows bullying becomes a glancing moment, along with all other glancing moments. It takes discipline, years of training, to learn NOT to look at life from within these flows. We find ourselves instead learning to understand life by ceasing time at specific and prescribed moments.

2. These stopping points, where we make time cease, are to be used as spaces for the creation of language. Only we are not to see such processes as creation at all, rather we must see them as processes for discovering truth, of assessment, processes for the determination of the correct and accurate language to be applied to this person.

3. Not just any language is applied to George as he is stopped in the bullying moment, it must be a language of deficit. George is to be seen as having certain traits which are given words such as bullying, learning disability, hyperactivity-attention deficit disorder. Many other potential disorders, deficits and spectrums are also available to be applied to George and his family. However, these traits are actually not traits at all, they are indicators of deficit, they are chasms, holes, empty spaces. They connote a tragic emptiness which is to characterize both George, and his family. Deficit is thereby firmly described, it is professionally ascribed, and it is clearly seen to be residing within the very bodies of George, his mom and dad (it takes a curious and bizarre twist in language to see deficit, as if it is not truly an emptiness, but rather, against all the logic of emptiness, it becomes a thing, and as a thing it is therefore able to reside.)

4. Attempts must be made to fill such emptiness. There are typically clear rules about who is able to administer the attempted filling of these deficits. First of all, these people must be professionals. They must be recognized as such, with education and titles. There will be a hierarchy of such professionals, those higher on the hierarchy will determine what type of action must be taken, while those lower on the hierarchy will be designated to implement these actions. Community may be seen as important for the healing, the filling, however, it must be carefully monitored and regulated. The child and family must be protected from the chaos which community is seen to bring. Community is therefore helpful only if is capable of working in accordance with the professional plan.

5. All the above processes must be assigned economic value. Monies are to be attached to each level and each action to be taken. The need for money continues the ongoing process of stopping time, identifying a problem, applying language to describe such a problem, ensuring that the language is firmly within the realm of deficit, and then implementing interventions designed to supposedly fill the deficit.

The ability to learn such disciplines takes numerous forms of training implemented over years. Many of us who work in the therapeutic professions know these discipline processes intimately.

At this point in time George and his family are firmly described with words of deficit, and professionals of various types may be assigned to work with them to assist in filling the described deficits. There is also often a communal overflow in the deficit language, for many others, who are not part of the professional network, will accept the deficit language as truths which knowing persons have placed upon George and his family.

However... I see much hope...

We will explore such hope in an upcoming posting.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Introducing Mat...

Life With-and-Beyond Tourette's Syndrome

I want you to check out a new blog. It is by a young man I know well. His name is Mat. Mat has been dealing with Tourette's Syndrome his whole life, something which has been a huge challenge for him and his mom. However, as I have grown to know Mat I have learned so much, not just about Tourette's Syndrome, not even just about living with Tourette's Syndrome, but about life... about what it means to be Alive.

Mat's blog just recently opened up. In it he shares his poems, artwork and other thoughts. I hope you take the opportunity to look it over.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Creation and Liberation

Liberation – one of the predominant metaphors of the therapeutic professions, and certainly one of the guiding influences within popular psychology and the self-help movement. A strong religious tradition, a particularly Western religious tradition embedded in biblical narratives such as the Old Testament exodus story. The liberation story insists that there is a “right” party, which is also an oppressed party, held captive through strong and destructive forces and people. In this posting I compare the liberation story with another narrative, one which also carries a religious lineage with it, but one which has not been as influential in the therapeutic culture. That is the tradition of creation. In the worlds of creation various possibilities for life are created -- communally formed or produced. In the liberation tradition oppressive ways of life are identified, fought against, and escaped from.

Why must our liberations so often insist that the only way toward an affirmation of one is through the negation of the other?

Why must our liberations so often insist that there must be a victim and a victimizer... and that this distinction between victim and victimizer be clear and unequivocal?

Why must our liberations so often minimize those many times in our daily lives, and amidst our daily relationships, where we live in ways other than the victim/victimizer roles?

Why must our liberations repeatedly amplify and enhance those very powers which produce cruelty?

Why must our liberations, when they do permit a recognition of our powers, insist that these powers be primarily tied to the victim/victimizer story?

Why must our liberations so often direct and limit our options regarding our sense of identity?

Can we instead tell tales of love, of influence, of laughter, of beautiful and powerful relationships?

Can we tell tales of creation, of together making worlds with joy, with response, with difference, with openings of understanding?

Can we tell tales of mischief, of the creation of Nomad War Machines, of the creation of powers which refuse to be limited by the institutions and influences at play?

Can our creative powers be given precedence over our needs for liberation? For any movement to more loving, connected and responsible worlds must be created, made by hands and minds, feet and voices. Perhaps these acts are more works of creation than they are works of escape. And these are always acts of joint creation -- even when the creative partners might not be easily evident.

Our creative movements are powerful. We must be aware of these powers. These powers have the potential of being destructive just as they can also be loving or funny or hopeful.

When we use our powers to create tales of liberation, can we remember the influence of these creations? When we generate tales of liberation, can we remember that we are creating worlds dominated by victims and victimizers? Can we remember that these created worlds are not simply pure and innocent? They can produce the powers of violence as easily as they can of love.

Can we remember that Nazi-thought necessitated an identification of a certain people as victims? Can we also remember that the creation of Nazi-like worlds also necessitate a victimizer? Arguably, the world’s greatest horrors have been generated through the creation of such victim/victimizer relations.

Could it be that much of the violence we encounter occurs when a person, or a people see themselves as being victimized by another group or another person? Could it be that much of the violence we encounter is an attempt to liberate, an attempt to ensure justice?

This is an invitation to create... to create worlds where many gifts become evident, where they grow, where they spread outside of limited identities, where they create connections , abundant and life-giving connections, rather than separations, boundaries and clarified distinctions.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Talking Alive

Nietzsche and the Affirmation of Life

I have developed a certain passion for the thinking of Nietzsche in recent years. He appears to me as a thinker who searches for ways to put aside the influences of those structures, institutions, and ideas which impose upon life, remove us from the nuances of movement which life brings. Yet, at the same time, he creates -- he finds ways to join with life in the very act of making, creating -- specifically he creates ways of living and thinking (becoming) which enable life to be met close to its own terms.

Nietzsche repeatedly exceeds the reputation many ascribe to him. For example, he said much more than "God is dead!" Ironically, in spite of his defiance against religion, against all those influences which impose upon life, he spoke most highly of the thoughts in the gospels. He loved the Christ of the gospels. And, he certainly considered himself continuing a line of thinking, a way of engaging with the world which he saw within the words and actions of the New Testament Christ.

A couple of Nietzsche's aphorisms here... simple thoughts about life and relationships which reveal a very different side of Nietzsche to the idol-tossing, table-turning, God-is-dead thinker for which he seems to be most known.

First he speaks of love.

Love and Honour -- Love desires, fear avoids. That is why one cannot be loved and honoured by the same person, at least not at the same time. For he who honours recognises power -- that is to say, he fears it, he is in a state of reverential fear. But love recognises no power, nothing that divides, detaches, superordinates, or subordinates. Because it does not honour them, ambitious people secretly or openly resent being loved.

And Nietzsche talks of the-many, of things akin to abundance...

Philosophically Minded -- We usually endeavour to acquire one attitude of mind, one set of opinions for all situations and events of life -- it is mostly called being philosophically minded. But for the acquisition of knowledge it may be of greater importance not to make ourselves thus uniform, but to hearken to the low voice of the different situations in life; these bring their own opinions with them. We thus take an intelligent interest in the life and nature of many persons by not treating ourselves as rigid, persistent single individuals.

Life lived with love, outside of those things which separate, which make higher or lower, and life lived amidst the multiple -- this was, at least in part, the way life was seen and encountered by Nietzsche. In the nineteenth century, an awakening to the Alive was occurring, what Deleuze more recently called a "radical empiricism," and Nietzsche was a part of this awakening, along with the likes of William Blake, Walt Whitman, George Eliot, Lewis Caroll, Henri Bergson, and of course, many, many others.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Orchid and the Wasp

Old Darwin awoke a new world. His book, Origin of Species, is a thing of beauty -- he paid attention to finches and tortoises, all manner of life; he endeavoured to listen, to hear that “roar on the other side of silence” which George Eliot talked of. And a roar it was, an earth shattering roar, toppling many an artifice. He attended to creation, not authorities, and, in turn, he created, he formed thoughts which themselves evolved into an idea which transformed the world.

And yet there were some things he left out of his listening and his creating. But maybe these things were left out because things are always left out, they must be left out. These overlooked things awaited other ears, other creators.

Watch the dandelion in its momentary joining with the butterfly. The dandelion and the butterfly both evolved for just such a moment. Flowering plants and flying insects evolved together. Neither is able to survive without the other, and neither existed prior to the other. They evolved not just cooperatively, but they evolved to require each other, to desire each other in a way that is akin to the sexual. In fact, for the flower, this moment is a sexual act, for it is through the butterfly that the plant is able to be pollinated. The touch of sex for the plant is the connection with the body of the insect. And it is this act, this moment, which insures a continuation of genetic flows through generations.

Darwin seemed to overlook this evolution through attractions. For Darwin it was mostly about competition, survival of the fittest, tooth and fang. However, Gregory Bateson understood this process. He saw many levels of communication not only between like-organisms, but between species. He discussed the relation between the horse’s hooves and the development of the prairie sod – neither can exist without the other. And, Deleuze also saw such a movement through time, only he decried Darwin’s non-evocative “theory” in favour of a “becoming”, something akin to a love-affair, something imbued with poetics. He talked of the orchid and the wasp. He mentioned how every orchid contains within it the shape of a wasp, a form which is inclusive of the flying insect. And the same with the wasp -- the orchid’s form is a very real part of the wasp. Deleuze called these “becomings”, rather than evolution, suggesting a process that necessitates a mutuality, a communal dance of sorts, and it is this shared dance which invites change, movement, rather than simply a force, such as evolution.

The dance becomes complicated, utterly abundant... for, because of such becomings between flower and flying insect, orchid and wasp, most everything we as humans require for nutrition (with the exception of those things which come from the sea) is dependent upon this relation. The relation between insect and the flowering plant ensures that we are able to have grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, green vegetables, root vegetables, tubers. And not just us, but most terrestrial animals are dependent upon this relationship --even the meat we eat requires it, for animal protein forms as a result of consuming the products of such flowering plants.

Evolution is not simply a process of survival of the fittest, of competition. Much of life, terrestrial life, is dependent upon the becomings of something akin to a love-affair between insect and flower. This mutuality between insect and flower created a basis from which birds and mammals were able to enter into the flows of life.

And I ask, is our work with people any different? We certainly don’t become/change/evolve on our own. No, we create spaces within ourselves for the Other, for a multitude of Others. We create room within our lives and our words for the gifts which others bring, and they also do such for us. We repeatedly honour the gifts of the Other by allowing our own lives to be formed to the contours of such gifts. Is it not through such processes whereby we all shift and move? And, while we can certainly experience the movements of life amidst our day-to-day interactions, those most significant changes, do they not also, as in the evolution of flower and insect, occur through generations, many generations?

It appears to me that the becomings of life might often bear much similarity whether the relation is between insect and flower or between person and person, people and people. We always become together. Dare I say -- there is no other way to become.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Celebrating Walt Whitman

I have been quite taken recently in my revisiting of the American poet, Walt Whitman, in his book, Leaves of Grass. Thought I would share just a few of Whitman’s thoughts.

All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
(What is less or more than a touch?)

Logic and sermon never convince,
The damp of the night drives deeper in the soul

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars...
And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

The words of the true poem give you more than poems,
They give you to form for yourself poems, religions, politics, war, peace, behaviour, histories, essays, daily life, and everything else,
They balance ranks, colors, races, creeds, and the sexes,
They do not seek beauty, they are sought,
Forever touching them or close upon them follows beauty, longing, fain, love-sick.

Painters have painted their swarming groups and the centre-figure of all,
From the head of the centre-figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color’d light,
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of gold-color’d light,
From my hand from the brain of every man and woman it streams, effulgently flowing forever.

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know nothing else but miracles...

Thursday, May 8, 2008


When the world appears empty

Just count...

The imperfections on a leaf
Swallows passing over the chimney
Stabs of light on the surface of the creek
Plastic toys on an August beach

Angels in disguise
Devils in details
Heartbeats of fear
Warm breaths of lovemaking

Lawyers in the phonebook
Judges in the newspaper
Politicians speaking their masters’ words
Construction workers who curse at politicians

Reunions at the airport
While on the bus -- eyes which must never meet
In the park -- Hands held, fingers entwined
Parents hovering over toddlers in the playground

Pores in the skin of the cheek
Stones on the side of the road
Weavings in a bed sheet
Vibrations in the purr of a cat

Just count...

Monday, May 5, 2008


Encircling and colliding
Around a me and a you

That’s what they do

I learn to love these loves
Love their gifts
Simple in their surprises
Love their impossibilities
Which are never truly revealed
Love their wordlessness
Even their meaninglessness
I learn to love these loves
For they are just a touch
Pure touch
And only touch
A touch across mountains
Across seas
Across rooms
Across differences

Through the wetness of the sand
Through the crispness of a snowdrift
Through the mystery of the eye
Through the honesty of the hand
Through the excess of a digitizing universe
Dissolving the flesh of words
(For that is what living words can only be)
Into ten million pieces which
Reappear congeal re-form
In unseen places
A resurrection is confirmed
Through fingertips on plastic

Fingertips on fingertips
Lips to cheek
Palms warm and comforting
The touch of a friend
Of a lover
Of no category
A touch undefined

A touch of something lost
No completion

The touch of a child’s hand
My own child
Holding my arm in utter confidence
But we know
And dare not say
That one day even this touch will cease
Or will it?
Yes No
I will postpone the tears

But what presumption
I am a fool
Tears arrive
For in this very moment
My arm is still held
The confidence is still palpable
In the memories and dreams of this night

A joy
An indescribable joy
(Joy can never be described)
Touches upon the shoulder
Tenderly like the moon upon the sea
For that is what a touch is
Our loves our joys must be
Can only be

A brushing-over
A lingering

There is no grasping
In such a touch

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Nietzsche Talked

Nietzsche talked of
The strong and the powerful
If only he had not been understood by a reading of history backwards
If only Nazi and Nazi-like establishments had not revoltingly
Tied themselves to such a free and contrary spirit
Such bandits of life
To manipulate the dead

And just a reminder
Nazis (both new and old) don’t read
They can spell (perhaps)
And they can certainly count
But they are not able to read
And they never are able to read Nietzsche

The strong and the powerful for Nietzsche
Bear no resemblance to imperial war-machines
The strong and the powerful
Never lay down to rest
In the safety of nations
Or schools or churches
In idea-regimes
Or systems of clinical precision

The strong and the powerful
Come into life
Through an incessant walking of the hills
In the common and available
In fields and hedgerows

The strong and the powerful for Nietzsche
Never come to be
In methods and technologies
Never in philosophy
Even less in theology
Never in a forcing of thinking into rigid lines
Never in a forcing of anything

No clarity
Just thought upon thought
Step upon step
Stone upon stone
Aphorism upon aphorism
The strong and the powerful
Appearing through additions
Not reductions

Through a heaping of thought
A squirming of bodies
Through an endless dispersion
Rhizome movements of
Mind and flesh

Perhaps the strong and the powerful
For Nietzsche
Never come to be

Just a becoming
Forever a becoming

Through shifting and moving
Like summer breeze
Always surfacing on winds
And tides and currents
On the evolutions
And revolutions
Of earth
Of sky and water
Of life

Reading Walt Whitman

Reading Walt Whitman
Pulled close to the sea
To the lonely night sky
To a child who weeps
Quietly weeps
Gently weeps
Who only weeps
When the sea and the sky
Cease their separation
For a turn of the earth
On a beach at night