Sunday, September 28, 2014

It




It can come into you at any time.
You can feel hollow, dried out,
defeated.
It can come into you.
You might not know it,
but it will be there,
a subtle happiness in the blood,
a bit of color in the dark.
It can happen. 
You might be like a tattered flag
waving on the bastion of a weary
and lost cause;
it can come to you.
It can knit the fabric of your being,
seal the holes in your soul,
it can do that.
When your breathing labors
as you climb the steep mountain
and you think you have no steps left in you,
it can lift you further. 
It can do that for you.
You might not be looking for it;
you might not know it exists;
you might have forgotten it;
you may never have known it,
tasted it, longed for it.
It will find you, remind you,
show you what is beautiful,
prove to you what is worthwhile,
make your worst fear
bearable.
It can do anything. 
It can come into you
when you deny it ever existed.
It can enter you
when you have done your utmost
to banish it from your heart.
It will find a way to your heart.
It finds ways, always. 
It knows
what you are,
what you have been,
what you will become. 
It can come into you
at any time.
It is already in you,
it never left you,
it is here.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Worst Shows On Television



Art Rosch
Copyright 2014


         
          There is no worst show on TV.  There are a plethora of disgusting, heinous, exploitive and dishonest shows.  Trying to chose one is like sticking my hand down a fairground Portapotty.
          I won't do it.  I have neither the courage nor the desire.  I've watched some shit, to be sure.  I've watched TV shit out of curiosity, morbid humor, a sense of snobbish superiority.  I've watched TV junk for a lot of reasons.  I wanted to bring a report back from the Front, from the cesspool of modern broadcast entertainment.
          I can't do it.  I descended the circles of Hell until my nerve failed.  I watched HOARDERS.  I watched the inane chatter of The Kardashians.  I watched as America's fixation on puke, pee and poop exploded out of the Big Screen and landed on my defenseless psyche.
          I watched Rob Dyrdek's RIDICULOUSNESS in which teenagers addle their essence by launching themselves into tricks that crunch their skulls and explode their scrotums. I watched kids do the "don't try this at home" stunts purveyed by Johnny Knoxville (and don't get me wrong, I laugh and wince too).
          The veil between television and internet is very thin.  Youtube weirdness ends up on Daniel Tosh's hilarious show.  Uploaded videos are all over the television landscape, pockmarking  the Cable Universe with ridiculousness.
          It seems as though the Lowest Common Denominator gets lower all the time.  As the world's population explodes so do the number of niche market Reality TV shows, most of which are carefully scripted and engineered to stretch fifteen minutes of content across an hour of commercials for smartphones, cars, cosmetics and fast food.
          I quailed at watching MY 600 POUND LIFE.  I feel for Melissa's situation.  I know about weight problems.  But I couldn't watch the show. It was transparently exploitive.  Let's just give the "Worst TV" ribbon to HERE COMES HONEY BOO BOO and stop there.  I'm not sure why this boring insipid show is on television and the fact that it gets renewed for another season makes me sad.  Very sad.  Maybe we have been hypnotized by Big Mama's cross-eyed gaze, as she fixates on the progress of the giant zit at the bridge of her nose.  I don't know what it is.  People watch it.  They love it!
          God help us all.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dial M For MIND


September 12, 2014



            The mind is a fickle beast.  It renders life a matter of interpretation.  It messes with facts the way a cat messes with a catnip mouse.  Let's take an example of a fact and the way the mind can squeeze the texture of reality into the most paradoxical experiences.
            Here's a fact:  I pay $700 a month to live with my partner in a 38 foot motor home.  That's for  site rent, water, sewage and a generous stipend of electricity. Interpretation #1---we are poor white trash who can't afford a mortgage and are forced to live in a funky campground with people over whom we have no control.
            Interpretation #2: Our overhead is so low that I can afford to work fifteen hours a week and devote the rest of my time to writing, photography and study.
            Here is a fact and my mind has entertained both outcomes of this fact.  Interpretation #1 hit me during May of this year when I plunged into a consuming depression.  I felt like such a failure!  A man at my age with no money, no property, few possessions and even fewer so-called "fans" of my artistic work.  After all, EVERYTHING in my life has been about my artistic work.  At sixty six, it's a little late to go back and study accounting.
            Depression is no joke: it can kill you.  This one was a dragon, and I was fighting for my life while it was able to breathe fire.  When the smoke cleared I wanted to wrap its ashes in a little package and put it on the dashboard as a reminder that I'm not immune to savage and destructive thoughts. 
            Interpretation #2 is certainly just as true as #1 and far more comforting.  So, dear audience?  Which door should I open?  Shout it out!  #2! #2!  Okay, okay.  The problem is that the mind is like a feral donkey.  It won't be cajoled; it won't be baited. It won't obey the commands of logic.  It allows the nearest emotion to get on its back and then it goes crazy, it takes its rider (your Self) on a wild, bucking ride across a surreal landscape of irrational urge and desire.  At last it tires and lets you (and your feelings) get off its heaving flanks and regain some composure.  This is the reason that all studies of consciousness, from psychology to esoteric Buddhism, focus on the mind.  The fickle beast of the mind is a problem second only to mortality itself.




Friday, August 29, 2014

Baby Boomers and Self Hatred




            I've noticed that some (as they are called) Baby Boomers are like Jews who are anti-Semitic.  My mother was a classic Jewish anti-semite.  Hateful rhetoric dropped from her mouth like crap from an owl's cloaca.  "The Jews will trick you every time," she often said.  "You can't trust them."  Another of her favorites: "Money's what they're about.  Money money money.  Jews do one thing well, and that's make money.  It's a shonda that Hitler didn't succeed in wiping them out!"  The word "shonda" is Yiddish for "shame" or "too bad".
            As I got into my early teens I stopped being afraid of my mother.  I'd outgrown her.  She couldn't beat me up.  "Mom", I would riposte,  dodging her clumsy right hook and restraining my urge to retaliate with a knockout uppercut. "You're a Jew, I'm a Jew, dad's a Jew, Sandy's a Jew.  How can you say this horrible Nazi crap?"
            My mom was crazy.  I mean truly bat-poo crazy.  Her mind ran like the railroad tracks that led to Auschwitz.  There were predictable stops at the same stations at the same times.  There were no deviations.  Is that one definition of crazy?  "An extreme rigidity of thought in which facts and nuances cannot be accommodated lest the pathological structure of said rigidity be broken like a bridge without proper support." 
            Let me get back to my original thesis, regarding Baby Boomers.  I'm sixty six years old.  Demographically I'm a baby boomer.  In other cultures I would be a respected Elder but in Amerika I am seen by some as an irrelevant, un-hip old fart who still listens to Sixties pop music.  Let me correct this misapprehension.   I listened to (and still listen to ) John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and their ilk. I admit to being a huge musical snob. Keyboard monster Jessica Williams is the only living legend in my sandbox, and she refuses to be tied up by the label JAZZ.  I will also offer a place of honor to Leonard Cohen.  He has given me enormous pleasure with his music.
             I enjoyed post-1965 pop music.  I bought a limited number of pop records.  I bought the second Rolling Stones record.  I bought five Bob Dylan records, starting with Bringing It All Back Home and ending with Blonde on Blonde.  I hesitated at John Wesley Harding. I had to wait a few years for Dylan's Multiple Personality Disorder to roll over like slot machine fruit to a configuration I recognized. I never bought a Beatles record. I wasn't a fan.  I am now, but I still don't buy their records.  Who needs to? 
            It's weird when I read articles in which Baby Boomers are generalized into a sociological cluster that resembles a haul of mackerel in a giant net.  Our nation has been dominated by some nebulous force called Youth Culture since we were Youth ourselves.  Now, if we don't understand or enjoy Hip Hop we're relegated to the Outer Limits of cultural discard.
            Some of the best music I hear is television background music.  These are theme songs, fragments or riffs designed to enhance the drama.  They are sound-memes, identifiers of hit series like Sons Of Anarchy (Review) or Breaking Bad. My ear tells me, "Hey, that's pretty good stuff..".  Fortunately one can buy a lot of these TV songs and themes.
They are sold as and by the show and the season, not by the artist.  They're like playlists.  They ARE playlists.  The show's composer, such as Dave Porter from Breaking Bad, is not very interested in tearing up hotel rooms and snorting coke with groupies.  


             The contemporary musical acts to which I am exposed are forgotten as soon I've heard them.  I give Lady Gag props for her science fiction wardrobe and catchy tunes.  But most of the singers or bands I hear get me to wondering.  Can they play at all?  Have they spent fourteen hours a day practicing fundamental exercises on their chosen instruments?  Can someone explain to me why the musical acts on "So You Think You Can Dance" are so abysmal?  We love the dancing and choreography.  Love it!  I'm convinced that dance is in the midst of a golden revival, that we are witnessing the invention of truly new languages.  But when each week's "musical guest" appears we shudder and watch in horrified dismay.  Is some paradigm being revealed?  Is music being sucked into a rip tide and washed out to sea?
            I seriously doubt it.  The distinction here is that the music that's getting "play" is crappy.  I have no refuge.  If I want to listen to jazz I'm welcome, of course.  But there is no more John Coltrane, no more Charles Mingus.  Now we have Marsalis Gumbo, that well known New Orleans dish.  It's good stuff,  it shows awesome technical prowess and a smidgen of soul.  It seems, however, that musical innovation is being led by technology.  One can buy a machine that makes sounds that might emanate from remote corners of the galaxy. It has no difficulty playing in 15/8 time.  We can write and play whatever we want!  Our imaginations have been unfettered.  Where are the people putting these awesome tools to use?  It turns out that the really good musicians, players who are imaginative AND proficient have migrated to the world of television and film, where they provide so many excellent sound tracks.  They're not interested in being pop stars.  They're interested in doing their work and making a decent wage. 
            There are no musical categories any more.  Jazz as a dynamic art form ran out of gas around 1970.  It had played itself into a corner called "New Wave" or "New Thing" and hardly anyone could tolerate the caterwauling that emerged from the saxophones of Albert Ayler or John Tchicai.  (A confession here: at the time, I loved New Wave.  I was taking acid). 
            I'm not ashamed of being sixty six years old.  The alternative is to be dead.
Anyone who has reached such an age has survived a given amount of horrible pain.
I'm proud to be a survivor.  I know certain things.  Pain is a great teacher. 
            My mother taught me by negative example not to feel contempt for my own tribe.  Her railroad tracks ran out in 1980, when she committed suicide.  She rolled up on the terminal station of her mental Auschwitz and it didn't look very inviting.  The sign said "Arbeit Macht Frei" and poor mom was in no condition to Arbeit.
            I know this isn't my best-written piece, I know it's sloppy and barely hangs together.  I'm trying to start a conversation.  I'm tired of being dismissed by little kiddies half my age who are now taste-makers, trend-setters and power brokers.
I'm in the business of making a living as a writer and I passed Rejection Slip #500 a long time ago for my novel, CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MANhttp://www.artrosch.com/2014/06/my-novel-vice-of-courage-chapter-one.html.  It's as profound and touching a story as any novel in print, it will make you laugh and make you cry but it has no vampires, nor anything with long teeth, it's just about people and the way they go about healing themselves from having crazy mothers.  Seventy pages of this book take place in 1982 Afghanistan!  It's exciting as  hell!
            Literary agents, editors,  publishers, taste-makers and other cultural filters and gate-keepers will some day be either sixty six years old or six feet underground.
I invite them NOW, (before it's too late) to get on my train, whose tracks are constantly being built right under the engine and we never know where we might end up.
            (Today's magic word is "Duck on a string".  Okay, four words).


           



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Suicide And Robin Williams


            Suicide.  Robin Williams.  You would think that those two items would not compute, that they wouldn't add up.  I can hear millions of people talking: "the guy had everything", they say.  "He was successful, famous, loved around the world.  What could be so depressing that it would cause him to wrap a belt around his neck?"
            I counseled a Suicide Hotline for five years.  I burnt out.  I couldn't take it any more.  My mother was a suicide; I found her cold body laid sideways across her bed.  I never thought that I would entertain suicidal thoughts, but I was wrong.  Only recently I had a two month depression so intense that I did indeed creep up to the edge of that precipice and look over the rim.
            In suicide counseling we were taught to look for particular red flags.  The first indicator was whether the caller was having thoughts or fantasies of suicide.  Then we would ask if there was a plan, a mental blueprint of how the suicide would happen.  If there was a detailed plan we were to probe for the acquisition of the instrument of self-murder.  A gun, razor blades, pills....by means of asking these questions we were trained to evaluate how seriously the caller was flirting with suicide.  If things were bad enough it was time to trace the call and get the police involved. 
            A prominent suicide like Robin Williams strikes us in a peculiarly vulnerable place.  If he can kill himself, we think, then anyone is capable of suicide.
            That is the plain truth.  I never thought that I would encounter suicidal ideation, that I would entertain fantasies of killing myself.  Around the beginning of June this year, a depression of overwhelming intensity seemed to leap on my back like a leopard striking from the high branches of a tree.  It's mostly over, now, I feel better, but I will never again put myself beyond the reach of the bony hand of self-killing despair.  Whatever deadly instrument it holds, I know that I have suicide within me.  My mother did it.  I thought about her a lot as I endured my mental and emotional pain. 
            Robin Williams, Robin Williams.  I loved Robin Williams.  I spent an evening in a club, sitting next to him at the bar.  We talked about the band we had both come to hear.  He was a compact little guy and as I was being entertained by our conversation I felt a weird familiarity but i didn't realize that he was THE Robin Williams, comedian, actor, bicyclist, humanitarian and all around conscious intelligent man.  Then, just as we were going our separate ways it hit me.  OH!  That was Robin Williams.  Well I'll be damned!  I didn't have to pretend not to recognize him because I didn't until the encounter was over.  Just as we were shaking hands and saying farewell a little voice in my head said "Television Television" and I thought maybe he was in a commercial or something and then, as I watched his retreating back exiting the club I got my "AHA!" and I knew he was Robin Williams.
            Having Robin Williams hang himself with a belt hurts so hugely I can't even begin to encompass its massive trauma.  I can only think, "That poor man!  His family must be going through hell!" My brush with the heavy dark freezing terrifying possibility of killing myself was enough to lift the blinders from my eyes.  Anyone in this world can find themselves in enough trouble to seek the last, only, final way out.  The problem is this....I know nothing about the Afterlife.  But I have an intuition that suicide doesn't get you a free pass out of that trouble.  It lands you in even worse trouble.
          But that's only one possibility.  I imagine there are as many afterlives as there are people and each one of them is unique.  I hope desperately that Robin Williams escaped from whatever it was that so tormented him.  I can't begin to imagine.  Due to Williams' drug history there's a widespread assumption that drugs were involved.  Now we have late breaking news that he was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.   That would push me towards the precipice.  One of the hallmarks of depression is the phenomenon known as "catastrophizing".  In my case I began fantasizing about my future; that I would end up lonely, sick and homeless.  I would be a degraded dweller in cardboard boxes.  THAT's catastrophizing.
          There's some deeper wound that exists in all of us, some Original Grief that accompanies us into the physical world.  It rides along with us in our physical bodies and sometimes it just waits there and does nothing but cause pain, momentary pain, endurable pain.  But sometimes that primal slash starts to bleed and no matter who you are, you can't stop the bleeding, you can't stanch the flow.  Your psychic energy begins to drain from you just like real blood and you get weaker and weaker and you tell yourself, hang on, be a warrior, endure.  You do NOT want to hear some fool tell you "Get over it.  The past is the past, it's over and done with.  It's time to move on."  You don't want to hear that because the fool who says that is clueless, has no idea how deep psychic pain can take you. 
            Just pray, O Afflicted One, pray and reach out to your friends, the ones who understand that no one is immune, no one gets a free pass, when the Darkness descends.  It can come at any time.  We never know.  If it's not on top of you right now, breathe a grateful sigh of relief and thank the Gods that you are more or less normal.  Enjoy that so-called Normal because sometimes it's the best we can have. After feeling what I felt these last few months, NOT feeling such things is pure bliss.



Monday, August 11, 2014

The Future Of Money



                                               Who should we put on the hundred?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014