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One day an elitist, another a maverick: what do these terms of exclusion mean that I am to understand, to change and mend the ways of my life? As a sum they say I am not right, not like I ought to be. They do not ask me who I am, or why, but hint that it would be better if I were…like them? like they think I should be?

The other day, I was labeled, called: a maverick. A maverick? Someone who doesn’t do what the others do, who should be as they are and say they are, some one who is in dissent, behaviorally but not intellectually; a renegade, an insider who wants out, an outsider who wants in?

But what is “in?” Who controls the definition, the majority opinion? Why not me? Because I am a maverick! Do I not act right, think about what they think thinking’s objects are? Have I changed so that they think I used to conform; have they changed so that they think I ought to conform? Or is it that they think I do not want what they consider desirous?

My self? I am a seeker after what there is. If I am a maverick, it is to all of life. A seeker, a wonderer… And, in my most secret places, I note: They didn’t used to comment on who I am not; perhaps this is to be seen as grudging progress?!

Yesterday, for the first time, I looked out the windows of my new office; looking out upon the Great River flowing downstream past the East Bank University, a scene of tranquility and beauty – from that distance.

The eastern sky, blue, looking forward to winter’s late dawn over white frozen river’s flowing, and brilliant morning sun. People, Lilliputian from my eighth floor view, reduced to manageable dimensions; I find pleasure in the vision of distance and the distance of vision.

I wonder, now, how that will be: whether I can enlarge vision to fill the conceptual immensity of deep river’s gorge; whether I will ponder anew the riddles of Heraclitus’ flux upon river’s surface or within its current, flowing; whether the frozen aspects of winter will cast my thoughts into some capriciousness, yearning for activity or for inaction; whether I will get lost, searching among the clouds of season’s beings and changings, for the other sides of this globe; whether my mind will drift beyond the beyond I look out upon, into the vastness of being and imagination?

We got to have lunch, yesterday, with a famous man of our time: a mystic whom some regard as the most intelligent on earth today. Peculiarly, this is his home town where his family still resides. Unbeknownst to us, this man’s brother happened to be sitting near us, and at the end of his lunch came to sit with us. (He could have known we were to be there…).

He, the brother, the younger, had rejected his older brother’s way in life – an acid-freak hippy, in today’s parlance. And he asked who we were that we had brought his brother to this Temple of Rationality, the University. When he heard who we were, colleagues in some sense, he asked me who his brother is, and why we had brought him there…where he no longer seemed to belong or to fit. I answered, telling brother about brother: not what he did, not what he is, but what is his importance, how his work and thinking had influenced ours, and what that work is.

Somehow, I think convincingly, I translated the mystic into the rational (the probably mystical into the apparently rational), telling the doubting, the rejecting brother, who the other is, in terms which made new sense. My other friends, sensing the privacy of a privileged conversation, turned away and could not watch us. I, the translator, I the broker, now of brother to brother…a magical moment. (John and David Lilly)

Why do you want to…join American Studies? What should the field be? What about pedagogy? America? Courses? Outlooks? A quizzing, an inquiry, a testing and a trying-out. An hour and a quarter, until the “Literature” contingent broke for their commuter buses (or a drink?), I was asked, pushed, pulled, cajoled, enticed, challenged…

To be privileged, to tell the world what is America, I thought that was good and wanted to do it more. An experiment, noble, I became a kind of patriot, wanting it to last. The world has changed, and our place within it. The Great Cultures, the isolated and primitive, are all now partaking of urban life; the world wants translation and interpretation. This is what I do.

The study of the city – problematizing and exoticizing what is ordinary; taking the bookish-bound beyond the edges of the pages of their texts to see and note the odyssey upon which they are bound. What, who, how…doubled back upon the city’s people(s); their seeing, seeing themselves seeing…How I hear, what I try to see…a seeing, a hearing!

Next day’s flitting doubts race through mentality’s self-wishings and wonder how wise this is to try to sell myself as if I were a believer and practitioner, and one of “them.”

{…almost any ordeal to get new material?}

Arguments, debates take place in ways which defy my understanding. A current debate on the nature-nurture controversy occurs between an old man who is some sort of turncoat, directed against the work of a now-dead woman, which she had done many years ago when she was very young.

The debate had caught-on, at least for a while, exciting those who want their own arrogance massaged, who suspect that others they do not like are inferior in some natural sense, leaving themselves superior in some natural sense. But why – in this context? Why – about the work of a young girl whose impressions may have been guided by some presumptions about the possibilities of the human condition? Why against M. Mead?

Well, she had become famous, the mother of the world, the oracle of oracles who would address all human problems and keep the lid on the world’s dangers. She did not address problems within a clearly intellective context, and she is easy to attack if the problem is shaped in certain ways, for being something, someone she never claimed.

The debater, an old man now, turned in his own life from her field, to one which seemed to locate itself deeply in nature; to be a lobbyist for the natural world, that it is clear to him what this means. He restudied her work of many years ago, and found it wanting, incorrect, of depicting the human condition in any way he considers to be natural.

She, by now mythic, beyond the legend in her own time, staring back at us from the Great Beyond, not fazed by the man, not afraid to wander into any arena where she could debate, could outshout, out-talk anyone. The great debate, and issue in world politics, fought out between personalities which attract and excite and resonate… [and obscure the issues!]

Between here and there, clear vision.

Nothing to shut out,

not a thing to blur

or to halt our seeing forever and with clarity.

We do not always see what there is.

Put glasses on, take them off, shut eyes, open, listen.

See, hear, feel, sense.

The inner voices obscure,

the day is blunted or celebrated,

and we do not hear.

The ears ring clearly,

music plays from the memory,

stirring voices into hums which ring the aura

which reflects the light reflecting sounds.

Like Plato’s caves, we live chained,

seeing shadows;

or the shadows of shadows.

We want, we don’t want,

what there is, what there should be,

cast into the shapes of things,

The objects of desire and moral suasion

moves our honesty,

recasting streams of being and solidifying factuality.

I fought to see,

to push away the curtains and veils of visions;

I fought to hear, to feel not just my feelings resonating,

but what there is.

I found myself floating

upon the waves of a thousand years’

thousand years of why’s and because’s

blunting the sharpness of outline and of detail.

Entering Heraclitus’ river,

I found it always different,

but always different in the same direction;

upstream and downstream.

It never lay still, but neither did I.

Wanting stillness,

seeking to sleep so my dreams

might tell me what was,

I floated,

and lulled myself into the calms

from which I could look out

and tell that all was as it was, was as it is…

The erosion between our sense of what belongs to life and what belongs to death, of what is life’s and what death’s, is increasingly in our thoughts. Driven by a gathering sense of economic dread, pushed by a government which needs active enemies to distract us from any concern with the living of life, we find it easier and more compelling to wonder why we are here – on earth – to conflate the everyday events of living into all of life…and to think it is all an illusion.

Salvation now! Salvation; once and for all, today is forever. Salvation wipes out, blinds us to the experience of living, of any yesterdays or particular tomorrows. Today and tomorrow become one. Life is not anything in and of itself. As I disappear from my own life, from living, others retreat into the heavenscape, become dim, misty. The occasional joys, the frequent pains of living are reinterpreted in each experiencing from some distancing perspective, as something other than they are…were.

There is no me, there are no others, I have fallen from Heaven into this, this vale of tears and fears. Safe from life. Save me, Oh mystifier of Life! Safe from life…a confusion between what is good and what is evil and whether they account for anything at all as they rob us of the life we are given.

Life-as-death. Who can refute this? Who would want to? What sense a God who would destroy Life as “He” gives it…?

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