Tuesday, June 12, 2007


After a week...

So, anyhow, maybe I only have something new to say about once a week. Who knows? I've been reading a lot, which is always recharging.

Read about the beginnings of WW One (Tuchman's thorough and most readable and intelligent Guns of August) and the battle of Paschendale (a collection of oral accounts by various Brit Empire soldiers who lived through it). The best thing about reading those books is the reawakening of my awareness that war is incredibly good at bringing out the worst qualities of the ruling classses, both economic and politcal as well as military. Once a war starts, stupidity climbs in the saddle and leads the charge. All too often, war is won by the side that make the fewest blunders. The remainder of the victories are won by those who have the most resources. Morality, of course, has little to do with outcomes—a lot to do with historical perspective afterward, but not much at the time of conflict. America did have the moral high ground in WW Two, but that wasn't what determined the outcome: it was resources.

Also, I read a book about the "human potential" movement that began thirty or forty years ago, particularly out here on the west coast. An optimistic period, for a lot of people, because during the horrors of the Viet Nam War, some people were able to launch themselves full-tilt into new forms of psychtherapy, biochemistry, yoga, Zen, spiritualism, encounter groups, t-groups, massage...it was like a time of socially acceptable narcissism. A lot of it coalesced down at Esalen Hot Springs, on the California coast at Big Sur. I well remember those years. As usual, I was on the fringe, wishing, but not achieving, to be a full-blown participant. I did the best I could: I learned about orgones and Rolfing. I sat in the hot-seat during encounter groups and had my inventory taken, the way Chinese intellectuals in Mao's day got to experience group criticism. I experimented with psychedelics. It was fun while it lasted, yeah... But, so what? Many of us treated that stuff so seriously, yet we remained essentially lonely, overly self-reflective, and bummed-out. All that really gave us lasting pleasure, though, were the two old stand-bys: love and work.

Is that the ultimate wisdom of my life? Well, I guess so. Up to now, anyhow. And, shit, in less than a week I'll be 69 years old. Holy cow!

Stay tuned for follow-up bulletins.

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