My First 100 Days in Office

And even though I am not running for President, I think all of us should contemplate what our first 100 days in office would be like, what we would focus on accomplishing. If all of us devoted time in our daily lives to reflecting on what we truly value, and then devoted time to discovering ways to bring those values into the world, then perhaps we will no longer need politicians. Instead of politicians promising hope and change, or promising to make America great again, or promising that we will be stronger together, imagine if we respected ourselves deeply enough to be able to respect those around us (especially those who are different than us). Imagine if we were so comfortable in our own skin that other people in their own skins were not threatening to us. In fact, instead of feeling uncomfortable or threatened by those who are different than us, imagine becoming curious of difference? (I know you think I am going to bring Jacques Derrida into this. But I am not going to do that. I am speaking of difference, not differance, or am I?)

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You Say You Want a Revolution

There is an election next week. The election will place in power the newest president of the United States of America. So I will leave you with discarded parables I found in the Mission District the other morning.

Bugs go Ka-choo. It happens. There is even a carefully written, witty memoir of such a bug going Ka-choo, and of all that happened because the bug’s gentle and accidental ka-choo. This book is important because the bug takes responsibility for setting in motion a series of events, even though the bug did not intend to create such a series of events. Still, this bug never positions itself as a victim. It takes ownership of its ka-choo. Such a stance is heroic. We need more heroes like this bug. (We do not need more heroes who need wars to become heroes. Mel Gibson knows what I am talking about, and the philosopher Tina Turner knows this in an even more profound way.)

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A Blindness of Seeing

Most people think that seeing is believing. They will say that they would not have believed something had they not seen it with their “own” eyes, as if they own their own personal way for seeing. But the simple truth is: the more you think you know, the less you see.

And the more important, and unfortunate, truth is: Believing is seeing, not seeing is believing.

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Anyone Can Be President

Now, when I think back to my mother telling me that if I tried hard enough I could become president, I no longer think she was trying to inspire me. I think she was warning me. I, however, could not hear her warning. I wanted (or needed) her and my teachers to be inspiring me, not warning me.

The problem was that I could not hear my mother italicizing the word “anyone”. Had I heard the word “anyone” in italics, I would have been more prepared for what has been happening. Indeed, it is now very clear: “Anyone can become president of the United States.” Anyone is different from anyone. My mother and teachers did not know how to italicize their words when they spoke. Shame on them.

Our dreams and fears are now true, terrifyingly true, and anyone (if we are not careful) will become president. Anyone. And, indeed, anyone will become president if we, all of us, not just the we that lives their lives like me, or that share my values, or my education, or my love for my children, but the larger we, all of us, do not wake up. 

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Ineluctable Modality of Photographs of Daughters

If ever there existed an in-between world, a land not answerable to our laws of gravity and movement, my daughters inhabit it every time they see me once again for the very first time.  Frozen by this neither here nor there moment, they linger with breath held. They wait just as they had been waiting before my arrival for my return. They know not to trust me. They know that even though I have just returned yet once again to Pittsburgh from California that in a week or so I will return to California away from Pittsburgh. The sole purpose for this arrival, of my stepping off the plane, is to make possible another departure. One evening while we are playing outside in my sister’s yard, an airplane flies overhead. Quentin will say, “I hate airplanes.” So my daughters cannot move when they first see me. Will not budge an inch. Not until they find enough courage to release themselves.

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Federman Remembering/Remembering Federman

There is a photograph of Federman behind bars in Time Magazine. 1970. He had been arrested as a faculty member for actively being an intellectual, instead of merely teaching students harmless information. He protested the war. The police arrested him and 45 other faculty members. Federman was struck over the head; he believes by the police. Michel Foucault bailed Federman out of prison. I honestly believe you need to read that sentence again for all that it means, and, since I dare not trust that your will do so, I will do this: Michel Foucault bailed Federman out of prison.

I have always wanted Foucault to bail me out of prison. Or at least out of this Victorian mess of a sentence that desires to say all that cannot be said, all that remains quiet beneath signs of another time.

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The Failure of Failure

Failure demands a mindful discipline, not casual mistake-making. Therein lies the rub, you sweet innocents, those of you virginal souls who celebrate what you feel is beneath Beckett’s “celebration” of failure. Only a fool celebrates failure. That is why it is so easy to post Beckett’s unnameable frustration onto social network pages. People desire their friends to click “like” to further celebrate their public display of failure. Your friends “like” that you failed. No, wait, they “like” that you have the narcissistic “courage” to publicly expose yourself. (Oh, sweet Jesus, bring back the Medieval stocks…) And that you will easily succeed the next time. (This is one, and only one, of the many differences between you and Saint Teresa de Avila, who insisted that she be locked in her room to experience her tremors privately, rather than be used as a public display of religious ecstasy. I doubt Saint Teresa would have used Facebook status updates to announce her new moments of ecstasy.)

Most people will never truly fail. Failure takes too much work. Most will merely make mistakes, and mistakes are simply careless errors that any fool can make and that any fool can correct. Failure, on the other hand, is soul diminishing. It rips into your heart and muscle. Failure is complex desires run amok by someone trying to go deeper than is possible, and no amount of “correction” can fix failure. Failure tears sentences apart at the very seams, and demands a whole new way of seeing and of being in the world and with their work.

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A Book With Disappearing Ink

And then I thought, better yet: what if we use a kind of what I would call a Carravagian ink, a pentimento-effect ink that allows evidence of a work printed beneath the apparent book to surface. So imagine using this kind of ink to publish the pathetic, evil, misogynistic 50 Shades of Grey. (A book typed (it was not written) to be given to the women who gave their daughters Twilight, talk about a built-in market.) As the ink of that piece of trite narrative fades under erasure, imagine Kathy Acker’s Don Quixote emerging, bleeding through 50 Shades of Grey.

I mean, seriously, imagine how beautiful that would be. As 50 Shades of Grey fades into the nothingness that it was to begin with, the beauty and true power of Acker’s writing takes over. Imagine the look on the faces of those bourgeois women, sitting in their comfortable chairs, sipping tea, safely reading 50 Shades of Grey when Acker’s writing emerges. Then imagine how these women would begin to re-imagine romance and desire. … 

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Remembering John C. Gardner

Through his exercises, through his responses to my writing (especially in those responses to my stories or characters when he felt I wasn’t being honest, when he felt that I was cheating my reader), through his mere physical presence, something about his being-in-the-world, John discovered ways to put me inside these flames of writing. There were times when I felt or, more accurately, feared that John cared more passionately about my characters than I did.

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Unnerving Moments of Rapture

But therein lies the problem. It takes not only courage, but also devotion to live in a way that allows you to even begin to see what you desire. Be curious about your life. Love what you are doing—I mean be truly, deeply passionate about it—enough to protect it, to cherish it, and offer it to your soul. And, trust me, you will need to protect your life, to defend it against those who want you to conform to the life they lived; well, to be honest, the life they actually never did live, but “sacrificed”, because they caved into their fears, and those people (parents, teachers, guidance counselors, boyfriends, girlfriends) who caved into their fears will do all they can to put those same fears inside you.

Don’t let the creeps win.

Passion always begins with fear.

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