Tuesday, March 30, 2004

If healing is one of the obligations of a shaman, then dreams is one of the domains. I haven't talked much about dreams, but it's important to remember that sometimes a dream is just a dream, a cigar is just a cigar.... but a black bear is something special and a dragon is always something to be careful around.

There is a song and once when I was in a class studying comparative mythology and symbology I interpreted this song as if it were a dream. I didn't get a very good grade on the paper because the teacher, although familiar with myths, was unfamiliar with shamanic dreaming. Here are some of the lyrics of the song:
I had a dream the other night when everything was still....
A person has gone spirit walking, the stillness is a clue, because although dreams have no sound people who are merely dreaming nearly always never notice the lack of sound. Sound, usually takes the form of songs or music or people talking in jumbled, unclear sentences. Spirits in the dream world can take any form, even sound.
I thought I saw Suzanna a-walking round the hill.....
Suzanna is a derivation of Inanna, the Sumerian Goddess who walked into the underworld to become Queen of the Dead. When a Goddess is seen walking round a hill it means she is walking the maze, which is formed on a hill, like cattle paths. Cattle are sacred to the Goddess and she often takes their form, most famously as Hathor.
A buckwheat cake was in her mouth, a tear was in her eye.....
Small seedcakes are often given as offerings to the dead, even sometimes being placed in their mouth before burying. When Inanna went to the underworld she saw her sister, who was also her, mourning for her husband-son, a symbol of winter. Inanna allowed herself to be flayed and hung and when her messenger came to find her she was released by the fact that the messenger cried for the dead husband-son.
I said I'm coming from the south, Suzanna don't you cry.....
The South is the domain of the Dead, below the horizon. The dreaming is suggesting that he, too, will emerge from the realm of the dead and sorrow will turn to joy. The next line, the chorus, is an American addition and has no symbolism.

I had a dream the other night when everything was still, I found a black bear cub alone and lost and I took it up and tried to find it's mother, knowing that I might be killed by the angry mother, but it was important enough to take up the task. I crept along, hiding from others until I found a hole in the ground beneath the roots of a huge tree and I knew the mother bear was down there, so I put the cub near the entrance and gently pushed it down.

The black bear is a symbol of the Goddess as Protector of children. The cub is both the Goddess and the child. Hiding from people referred to the persecution pagans suffer at the hands of modern religions. The hole was the same hole that Inanna walked into to go to Hel. This dream was a symbol of my faith and my role as one who tries to defend the Old Faith even at the risk of persecution. It may refer to my hope that the Goddess will protect me and my family.

I dreamed last night I was with old friends from the SCA and we had all been to a tourney. There was a stream running by and many of us had walked into the waters to cool off. One of my friends was lounging in the waters with tiny fish tickling his skin. None of the people had aged, they all looked like the way they looked when I was with them.

Being with friends was an reflection of how friendless I have become in recent years. Few people want to talk to me because my emotions have become different, I am angry and saddened by wars and foolish chances, bad parents....more than before I tend to rage against the harm we do one another, especially children. Having a son in a coma does that to you. My old friends were always there for me before I left Arizona, up to when my wife had gone slightly insane and was saying terrible things about them, thinking people were whispering about her. They were, but out of fear and concern. She thought they were jealous of her beauty, but by being so foul mouthed she had lost much of her beauty, her eyes had become hard and lost. When I awoke I was struck most by the image of one of my friends being tickled by small fish, because his skin had been pale and it occurred to me in the dream how fish nibble at corpses in the water. Streams are often symbols of time and being in and out of time can be a symbol of how we are both in the stream of time as we age and move along, but we are also out of the stream of time, both by being held in the memory of friends, and by our being spirits, who never really age. A dream like this could presage a death.

Dreaming is different than spirit walking, when we enter the realm while awake. IN spirit walking most of the symbols are active and can even identify themselves. Once when I was spirit walking I can to a plain, a rounded plain like the top of a huge hill. It was the Earth, and the tiny crack I saw in the dirt were canyons. The pools of water were oceans and the little piles of dirt were mountains. On this hill were figures of paper, like paper dolls. One man figure represented all men on Earth and was the prototype. Spirits coming to Earth as men would look at this symbol and know their appearance by it. There were little paper dolls for all the races and sexes on Earth. The Keeper of this little place was there, the One. I asked where the doll was that I had looked upon to be born a shaman and the One told me that shamans had no prototype and that was how we were able to spirit walk without dying. When you dream it is as if you were really there, but when spirit walking you can see the silver cord which runs from you to your physical body and you know how to come back by following that cord. You know that you could, if you wanted, sever that cord and stay on the spirit plane without sickness or pain and that temptation is very strong. The trick is to remember that eventually we all die and return to the spirit plane, so patience is a virtue and a curse. I returned to my broken body and it's pain and sorrow, but also it's joys.

People like Martin Luther King Jr. are shamans without knowing it. I doubt anyone ever told him that, but his drive to heal and to wrestle the demons and spirits which sicken this country is obviously shamanic drive. His speech "I had a dream" is so powerful because he could use the Voice of Power and try to use his dreams as curative psychic potions. His loss was predictable, at least for me, because in part a shaman can always tell when another shaman is going to die, but also because he was working with a mixture of symbols, being a Christian and not knowing the nature of the god he worshipped. It is a typical thing for Yahweh-Trickster-Odin to promise life and give death. As Odin He frequently leads a man to battle promising victory and then, at the moment of highest expectations, he slays the Hero. King had dreamed of his death and tried to tell the people about it, but he confused the symbols and the timing. Trickster had told him lies.

It is impossible to heal a nation, it must be put down, either by time and evolution, or by a sacrifice of blood, because countries are fictions given by Trickster. There are no lines on the Great Hill which is the earth. No boundaries between nations, only canyons, seas, and mountains. Trickster says there is a South Dakota and a France or China, but in the end there is only the Earth. People who follow a person into war worship and feed the lies of Trickster. People who grow gardens and offer sacrifices of buckwheat cakes to their dead support and feed the Goddess. Shamans dance on the edge between waking and dreaming. We heal by singing, dancing or painting symbolically. Oddly enough, in the structure of things most ethnologists would suggest that shamans are part of Trickster's realm, in part because of his singing and dancing and odd costumes, cross dressing etc. I believe that Trickster is not the God of shamans but is a shaman himself and not a true god at all. I think he's lying.

Dawn and sunset are the main times of shamans, the liminal points of day and night. Midnight and noon are also liminal, but like the equinoxes are lesser times. A shaman would rarely Walk at noon, for that time is when the Sun is greatest, and the Sun is intolerant of shamans. Midnight is the time when Death is greatest and She is too great to dance before. Myself, I've always been fond of Dawn. She is so soft and beautiful and so full of promise. My best Dreams are at dawn.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Thomas Freidman of the NYTimes needs to read Sen. Byrd's speeches. Mr. Freidman says he wishes some politician would make a great speech that brought some clarity to American thinking, some positive note in this cacophony of editorials and testimony. Sen. Byrd was the lone voice during the build up to the invasion of Iraq who spoke with such brilliance and force. He was like an echo of the voices that sounded thru the first debates on the structure of our nation. It was wonderful and terrible to hear him begging for the Rule of Law and of thoughtful discussion before we threw our military might against the people of Iraq.

In the end, the bombs drop not on Terror, nor on tyrants. They drop on children and women and men who repair cars. They drop on homes and roads and schools. "Smart bombs" are as smart as the idiots who program them and build them. They are as smart as the guy next door who burns plastic in his pile of leaves and forgets to stir the pile as it smolders. They miss their targets sometimes and although our Secretary of War says that democracy is untidy, it doesn't have to be. It can be as sweet as making love if the people love one another as any true "born again" would have to. George's Christ never took up the sword, not even to defend his own life. He never told his disciples to storm the temple armed with spears and fire to kill the worshippers there. If this administration worships any god at all, they obviously worship a god of fire and death, a god who laps up the blood of children and laughs and laughs in sheer joy at the terror we have spread. I speak of "us" as the people of the world, because there are no countries, no nations, no Presidents and no dictators. There are people and what they agree to believe in.

From the moon came a picture of a beautiful blue marble shining in the black of space. There were no lines drawn on this marble, no colored states red and blue. Just a thin coating of water and little bumpy mountain ranges showing white and brown and green. From orbit we could see the smoke rising from the wounds we made in our Mother Earth, but She is so forgiving and so loving of all Her children that we triggered no earthquakes, no plagues or volcanoes. She took in the bodies of the children, of the soldiers and fathers. She calmly breathed in the carbon smoke, the lakes of blood, the decaying flesh, like She always has done. Her crazed children slashed and burned, raped and killed, but inside each one of us we have armies of bacteria and white blood cells doing the same damn thing. The Goddess of Life understands it all.

In my garden I have a sculpture of Persephone Rising. It was made form a mix of clays from many places around the country. It fired in the kiln I made from broken bricks and clay and grasses from my own back yard. In this kiln She melted and hardened and changed. Her breasts dripped glass from the Arizona clay my son gave me, green and shiny glass like dew on grass. Her face seared and whitened, burned and browned. In my garden She looks up from the soil, her shoulders just emerging from the earth. She gazes up for the first time at the sun and her scars are honorable and self-inflicted, for She is not the wimpy Persephone of the Greeks, but more the Queen of the Underworld of the Sumerians who traveled down into the darkness to give solace to the poor souls trapped down there. She is Spring.

Those who worship the Trickster can have no joy at the blooming of a small flower in a patch of sun. They can make no connection between the song of a bird and the laughter of a baby. Trickster had no children, but changed his body into a female form and gave birth to monsters, the Fenris Wolf, the Midgard serpent, the six legged Sleipnr who carries the God of Lies over the battlefields. Trickster is not a god of war, but delights in war. He knows the passing of time reveals the Truth, but he whispers into our ears to drown out the Truth. There is no end, life just begins again. Life is not an end, nor beginning and death is not an end nor beginning. It's all a circle and a band of shining light.

The Gnostic angels were dismayed when trickster Yahweh gave our souls form and introduced us to death and war and despair. Sophia strokes our foreheads and says nothing, because in the course of Time the Lies become Truth and the bodies burn away and the souls are freed again to soar into the cosmos. She does not explain as Yahweh does, that we are special and immortal, but Yahweh-Trickster-Coyote tells us that Eating of the Tree of Knowlege (Sophia) will make us "die, yes die" and in a way He tells a truth, for knowledge will set you free from Life by revealing your immortality. They saw they were naked, they saw that we were like all the animals and plants in the Garden. They saw that their Father had lied to them and they were ashamed of their heritage, so they hid. Now they knew Right and Wrong and their Father had done them wrong. Like a drunken angry father coming home from the pub Yahweh expelled his children and cursed them. He threatened and frightened and drove them from their home, from the home he had made for them.

In the Garden of Eden, named for the first Woman, there is a Tree of Life, the image of Goddess, the Bringer of Gifts. Like Black Elk says, the Central Mountain is everywhere, so when Adam and Eve left the Garden, She went with them.

One of the curious things I discovered when I read the Bible for the first few times was the issue of Names. I asked my Sunday school teacher if Mary was a Jewish name. She said that the Mother of God was named something like Mariam, but we call her Mary. So I asked about the other names and she told me to sit down and shut up. I discovered that none of the names in the Bible are true, they are made up names to sound less Jewish. The letters which formed those names were not our letters. I would not recognize the names in the Bible, they would appear to be to be squiggly lines on brown, aged parchment. So Joshua, or Yesua bin Joseph was not Jesus Christ, Mr. Christ of 85 Babylon Lane. And God was not named God, but something which we know only by it's abbreviations, YHWH, the tetragrammaton. It surprised me that nobody at the Temple knew His name but the High Priest, and he was dead and the temple was burned down. The Ark was somewhere unknown and the body of Jesua was lost. I began to wonder what it was they were teaching me. Why was the story of the crucifixion exactly like Isis and Osiris? Why did the Pieta look exactly like the carvings of Isis holding her dead husband-son Osiris? Why did Odin hang himself, pierced with a spear, sacrificed to himself and brought down with the knowledge of knowledge?

When a creature walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it is unwise to call it a horse and try to ride it. When a religion acts like a Death Cult, speaks like a Death Cult and destroys women and children, it is unwise to think that it is presided over by a Teacher of Righteousness. When a nation imprisons children, invades other lands and firebombs cities, it is unwise to think it values Freedom of Choice and Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I doubt anybody in Iraq was happy upon learning that a smart bomb had destroyed a wedding, or that a carload of neighbors had been shot full of holes by trigger happy nervous American boys. You can't put a gun to someone's head and scream into their ears to smile or dance or be free. We used to do that and we were supposed to have stopped. We aren't supposed to be building concentration camps or designing new land mines or loading radio controlled airplanes with tiny nuclear bombs. We aren't supposed to cut down the Tree of Life and building computer desks from the sweet smelling wood.

But Mother smiles and strokes our hair and whispers into our ears that "It's alright, Father is just a little drunk and angry, but when he goes away, as He always does She will tuck us in and sing us to sleep and happy dreams will make this terrible day seem like a distant passing moment." The Promise of Life is that it never ends, it just begins again.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Today is the day when my son may, or may not, be moved from his facility to some yet-to-be-determined location. The facility that has cared for Jon may, or may not, be closed due to unspecified "deficiencies". I found this out on Tuesday, giving me a few short days to make phone calls trying to find out why this was happening and where he would be moved to. I never got past the first layer of protection all important members of society, like governors and senators have around them. The various voices on the phone assured me that their bosses were very interested in health care issues and that these issues would be looked into. This is a form of humor, I guess, and I suppose these rote answers are printed on a card for the people who answer the phones to read. I say this because the exact same words occur on the phone, on the web sites, in form letters sent to my home. For over 3 years our family has been reassured that Hillary and George and Chuck and the others are interested in health care issues and will do everything to see to it that the matter is looked into.

I think this "looking into" is done with the same enthusiasm that a new father looks into a diaper from which strange rumblings and odors are observed.

Meanwhile my son may or may not be in his bed. May or may not be well. May or may not be on his way to some yet-to-be-disclosed location, which may, or may not be somewhere closer than the 100 miles away he currently finds himself.

I am told that I should try to find part time work so I can bring in a paycheck to feel better about myself. I feel just fine about myself, except that I am unable to protect my family from the strange society in which we live. I have no problem keeping the house clean and food waiting hot on the table for the real breadwinner, the one with the college degree and the drive to excel. I don't mind hiding in my studio to avoid the inane, sexist, racist conversation so common in the civil engineering world. The only marketable skill I had was drafting and now the engineering world has acquired enough software to eliminate the need for people who can make clear plans and maps. The people in the field build the bridges based on their past experiences, not the sloppy, poorly sketched plans the software spits out, guided by the inexperienced hands of the so-young-looking new graduates.

I just want to be able to find my son, hold his hand, wash his face, and assure him that Dad is doing everything he can to make things right for him. The doctors have given up, but I haven't.

Spring is here. When Jon was injured I dug out my I Ching stalks and threw them and read the hexagram for some cosmic word on the outcome of his injuries. Silly and new-age, but since the doctors couldn't answer my questions I figured the shade of Confucius might help. The stalks said that "the young prince will awaken in the spring." I found that interesting and looked to see if there were other hexagrams which could be construed to match our situation. I didn't really find any, so that one seems very interesting. For the last 3 springs I have awaited our young prince to awaken. I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I misunderstood the situation....maybe I am the young prince and in the spring I will awaken to the fact that the doctors will not be doing very much for Jon in the future.

Each spring I awaken to find my feet still firmly planted in the floor of the little car riding the rails high above the circus. I hit the top of the curve, raise my arms to heaven and scream as we plummet down into the dark valley. My scream echoes around the tents and down the midway, but none of the clowns or bearded women look up. The lights never stop blinking, the smell of stale popcorn never stops, the midway never closes and the ride never stops.

This morning the geese were flying overhead on their way to some distant marsh. I heard the sounds of cheery voices exclaiming, perhaps, "I'm home, I'm home!" I could hear the sounds of their wings swishing thru the still crisp air above my house. My son may be spirit-walking, joined at the soul with soaring birds winging their way back to Canada. I can't be sure of that, but I can't be sure that he is in his bed in Lake Katrine, staring at the ceiling, making bubbles in his cheeks and listening to the never-ending hiss of the vent. I'd rather sit and think about him feeling the soft spring air under his wings.

The young prince may awaken in the spring, but the old king would very much like to go back to sleep. The sounds of the midway drown out the songs of the geese.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Well just when you get into a rut someone fills it full of crap and you have to climb out. Maybe that was crude but that's how it feels when you find out that the government may be closing the facility where your son gets his therapy. See, the thing is that NO facility in this country is willing to take a man with a trache and who is not terribly responsive. Part of the reason is money, as in how much it costs to care for such a person, and the other aprt of the problem is money, as in if anything went wrong they expect to be sued for a billion dollars.

So, on Friday we may find that Jon has been shutled off to some random nursing home where if we are lucky he will be turned every two hours to avoid bed sores, but he will not get any coma stim to try to get him to be fully responsive. He will likely not get much of anything. If we are lucky he will be close enough so I can take care of some of what he needs, but as my health is breaking down somewhat what with breaking backs and so forth, there isn't much that I can physically do. Even leaning over the bed to kiss him goodbye is painful....emotionally, yeah, but physically too. I will gladly suffer shooting pains in the leg to kiss my son goodnight, though. I can always double up on the pain meds and back in the 60's I used to drive while on acid, so driving on Neurontin and Tramadol is a piece of cake. A sleepy cake with slow reflexes, but no pink dogs with flaming tails jumping up and down in the back seat.

You have to wonder at a group of grown men who can look over the books and see that they have been spending more than they take in for years and decide that the best solution is to continue to spend more than they take in, but also shut down some hospitals and long-term care facilities. Do they sell their fleet of jets they use to fly around the country gathering up election money? OH no, that would not be prudent. Do they drop some of their staff and use pencils instead of gold leaf pens from a small company in Sweden? Oh no, they have the prestige of the office to maintain. No, a much better idea is to cause vast suffering on the backs of those with no voices. And then those men in grey pin stripe suits kiss their wife goodnight and sleep a dreamless sleep, smiling at a job well done.

I cannot hate the people who drop bombs on people, who obey orders to fire into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. I cannot hate the people who read the newspapers and believe the lies. I feel that hate feeds the Trickster god who is calling the shots. He loves bloodshed chaos and suffering. "Vengence is Mine!" he says. "I am a jealous God!" he says. He instructs Joshua to go into the cities and kill all the men, rape all the women and sell the children into slavery. So here in New York all they are doing is taking 300+ people who need 24/7 care and placing them in inadequate facilities where their lives will certainly be made shorter for lack of skilled care. All they're doing is killing my child. I cannot hate them and feed that Trickster god.

What I do is go out back to my altar and light a white candle for peace, a green candle for growth and healing and a red candle to acknowlege that death is a function of life.

I have tried to explain before what are the implications of being a pagan. I have said that "First, do no harm." is the only commandment a pagan has, and I try to do that. When I find a small bug has crawled into a glass of water I get them to crawl onto my finger and then I place them in the sun so they can dry out their wings and fly away. Then I pour the water onto a plant to help it grow. I do not hate the bug, nor the plant, nor the Fate that tossed a bug into my water. See, I have bugs inside me, on me....there are thousands of tiny, little bugs crawling in my eyebrows. I have seen electron microscope pictures in National Geographic which purport to be bugs that live on people. I have bugs living inside my gut digesting my food for me and stacking it up against the walls of my intestines for my blood to absorb the juices. The cells in my body are one-celled beings who live, grow and die inside me. When I die some of these things may die too, but some will simply move to another person and live there. They may not even realize that I have died.

The idea of being a walking apartment house for tiny beings is an interesting thing. This planet is spinning about having the same relationship to us as my body has to those gut bugs. I don't hate the little white blood cells when they try to digest part of me in their efforts to digest a piece of wood.....it's their job, or at least, their nature. Just like it is the nature of a compasionate conservative like George Bush to order the dropping of cluster bombs on a civilian target in case there is one man in the crowd who "tried to kill my dad". It was the nature of a man in Germany to find, dine with and eat another man from Germany. The other man wanted to be eaten, in fact, they both ate parts of him before the first man killed the second man.

So, as you can see, beings do what is in their nature to do. My son apparently has chosen to survive a terrible car wreck and a terrible nursing home and several seizures and raging fevers. I have never met a man with more courage and strength than my son. It is in my nature to love humanity not for it's wonderful and noble acts, but because I know that we all come from the Goddess Earth and we all return to Her. We are family. My dad beat me bloody when I was a child and I love him not for those beatings, not even because he loved my mother enough to create a family with her, I love him because to do so feeds the Goddess and not her drunken asshole husband, the Trickster.

I have a video made from old home movies and in one there is a scene from a family reunion where dad is telling my cousin in the background how "Billy was an accident, see.....we didn't want him, he just happened." That was pretty informative. I often wondered why I had the feeling that I was an unwelcome intrusion into his life. Now I know. But I also know that when I help my dad from his wheelchair and guide his blind old form to the seat at the IHOP and order his iced tea for him, that dad is glad I came. He doesn't regret the accident that brought me into his life, not because of my helping him out now that he's old and feeble, but, I think, because dad has come into his true maturity and even though he bellows out his atheistic beliefs and laughs at the fools who worship unseen gods, he is at heart a pagan like me. I have seen him bind the broken wing of a pigeon and speak to it softly and soothingly. I have watched him watch a bird hatch from it's egg and breathe it's first breath. He taught my son to ride a bike when I was thousands of miles away.

Jon was no accident. When I made love to his mother I felt that sperm launch itself to that egg and I felt his soul come into this world. I had a son and I told my wife that this was so. I loved that golden boy for his little offerings of dandelions and hugs. I loved him enough to send him away when I thought I was going to maybe jump into a cold river and take my life. I thought about him when he was vanished into the roads and valleys of America, when I had no idea where he was. Now I may get to be there holding his hand when he passes from this world and returns to She who made us all. The old blessing: "grandfather dies, father dies, son dies." Each man should live to be a grandfather, each father should have a son and no son should die before his father. In my family it may be reversed, which is a typical Trickster game.

Abraham was told to slit his son's throat, and he was just crazy enough to say "Yes". I would have looked into the face of the Trickster and told him to kiss my butt! I would have told him that I would be happy to wrestle him, to offer up the sweat of my brow in service to humanity, to bleed protecting my family, but never would I harm my son for no hot-headed egocentric brute of a God. I would have rolled up my sleeves and offered to fight him there and then and I would have won. Now we have grey eyed men in grey suits hidden behind papers and laws and desks and they say my son is not important enough to have a chance at recovering his life. I can't tell them what I would have told Trickster, because they surround themselves with armed thugs wearing badges and they are driven in armored cars and high flying jets, collecting money to buy ads showing their smiling faces under slogans like "I'm the Health-Care Governor!"

So, we follow our nature and do what we have to do. I have to create. I take clay from the earth and mold it into a face of sorrow, or a laughing mask of joy. I bury the dried clay in ash and build a fire on top of the ash. I burn for hours, for half a day and then walk away. Two days later I come and sift thru the ashes and pull out a face that can, if things work out, be prized by someone for thousands of years. The laughing face of a father who has seen his son lift up a thumb when asked, or the wailing, pained face of a young man who is so very tired of being a cripple with a plastic tube driven into his throat. Prized by some, and maybe even the grey eyed man who ordered my son to be placed in a nursing home where he will be maintained, but not recovered. It is the nature of art to not care where it goes. I send out the product of my hands and heart in hopes that someone someday will look and say "AH!"

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Back in 1968 I lived in Berkeley with a guy everybody called the Pookah. I used to know his real name, I think, but now I just remember the name Pookah. He and I did work at the Free Church, making sandwiches, coffee and such. That way I got to eat. It was a good arrangement and when I wasn't working there I was working at various places, doing odd jobs like cutting grass and washing windows. Once I moved rolls of carpet around a warehouse. I was supposed to be working with another kid, but he never showed. I did the work alone and the owner was impressed enough by my energy that he paid me twice as much. That was 1968 in the good weeks.

The socialists in the university and from outside had decided that they would get the students a street fair on Telegraph Avenue. The idea was to block off the street for a weekend and have bands show up like Country Joe and the Fish. Some fun. Reagan was governor and was visiting the city fathers when the request came thru. Somehow he got it in his head they were talking about blocking off the street for good and he didn't like that idea so the city fathers said "NO".

The socialists took to the streets in angry demonstrations. They had a flatbed truck and speakers and began expounding on the virtues of a free society and how the street was "ours" and we could do any damn thing we wanted. So the students and the street people and some locals hung out on the street blocking with their bodies and some garbage cans.

The day before I went up and down the street taking bottles out of the trash and hiding rocks big enough to throw. The idea was there was going to be a confrontation and I didn't want people hurt. Youth in denial. The day of the demonstration I was wandering the streets when the cops pulled up to the nearby parking garage. From my hidey hole I could see them laughing and strapping on tear gas canisters and singing "WE shall overcome!". I had the impression they were looking forward to some "stick time" as a friend of mine calls it. He's an Albany cop.

As the bands were playing the cops appeared at every street corner, armed, masked by their helmets and with most of their badges concealed in their shirt pockets. This insured their identity would not be known and they could do anything they felt like without fear. I saw a sea of round helmets and eyeless masks as the voices came out the bullhorns: "Disperse or we will use chemical agents to disperse you." Since they had the area surrounded there was nowhere to disperse without walking toward these preying mantis-like figures. No one wanted to do that so the tear gas got tossed in the middle and everybody dispersed.

When you are running at a cop he can feel threatened, even when he is armed, bulletproof and nameless. So he begins to hit people with his baton. What a pretty name: the baton. Like some high school cheerleader twirling and dancing. Then the club comes down with a thunk and a scream of pain. Young girls on the ground being hit. A priest, aged and crossed and collared.... thrown to the ground by four Oakland cops. They kick him in the head and chest and he rolls on the ground holding up his cross for them to see, like warding off vampires. It doesn't work and although I pull at the arms restraining me from our hide-out in the alley, the cops kick him into unconsciousness. A middle aged women with grocery bags steps out of the little neighborhood market and is thrown down, clubbed and kicked, her family's soup cans and fruit scattered on the sidewalk. I help her up and gather her food. She is bewildered and bleeding. I point her toward the first aid station in Cody's Books.

Students are throwing stones somehow at the bank building. I grab their arms and scream at them to stop, but they laugh, pull away and throw more stones and then run from the cops. I run from the cops, breathing tear gas and peppergas. The vasoline helps the tear gas from hurting my skin, but the peppergas digs in and burns. When I wash it off later the tear gas is reactivated and I gag and puke.

Later in the riot I see a Berkeley cop running and then a bottle is thrown and he is aflame.

Running past a barricade I notice a Berkeley cop standing, watching the crowd run by pursued by a mob of Oakland cops and Alameda County sheriffs. he waves at them as they approach and then, frightened, run with the students. We cheer.

At the free Church some kid is offering rifles to anyone who wants to kill pigs. Mad John is excited because of the blood streaming down his head. His eyes are wild as the Pookah comes up to him quietly and asks if he has any anti-tank guns. Mad John says "No, why?" and the Pookah explains that if anyone "kills pigs" the National Guard will come in, like in Kent State or Chicago and the tanks will roll down the street killing students. No one takes the rifles and I am impressed by the Pookah's ability to calm a situation.

Three days of rioting and I go back up the hill to watch buildings burn and people run. All because a senile old fool and some city fathers misunderstood a student request for a party. Later, of course, that fool become President and attacks a small island and kills a few people by proxy. Charles Manson never killed anyone, but sent in young idiots, blindly obedient to him, to kill innocent women and children. He is insane and babbles and screams and will never leave prison. Ronald Reagan is insane and doesn't know where he is most of the time and he sent in blindly obedient young men and women to kill women and children.

George Bush was a bully, a drunk and a Governor's son. Like most bullies he is a coward and when the draft looms up he has daddy fix a plush job for him in the Air National Guard of Texas. He gets to learn to fly and doesn't even have to show up for work. Later he has daddy and big brother Jeb fix an election so he can be President like his daddy was. He bankrupts a country, kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people and when he retires will have an income of nearly a quarter of a million dollars. He will have free housing and free bodyguards for the rest of his life. He will have so much more blood on his hands than Manson or Reagan and is just as insane. He never gets therapy, never goes to jail and never feels sorry for the dead babies in his dreams. They make him smile that crooked little smile that Mammy Condi likes so much.

Osama bin Laden sends blindly obedient young fools to blow themselves up and blow up train stations and hospitals and schools and everything else that stands above the ground. His smile is calm, like Reagan's. He speaks in vague terms of a life lived in the Word of God and looks forward to his death and resurrection in Paradise.

People listen to cowards and bullies because they want to be told what to do. They want to do the right thing. They want the power that comes from being part of a body of right thinking people. They like being just like Dirty Harry or Wyatt Earp, killing for the good of us all.

Thou shall not kill. Suffer not a witch to live. Murder in the first. The Purple Heart. Dozens of virgins in heaven, waiting for you. Collateral damage. If we required our military people to eat the hearts of their victims the cholesterol would give them heart attacks. That's called Celestrial Irony. Charlie Manson would understand it.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Lately I was wondering if maybe I should recombine some thoughts in my head.I know that the news tends to air problems and tragedies, so the impression that, for instance, the world is a dangerous place is reinforced. If you look at some thing like Columbine you see how a very small percentage of a group can imprint themselves on the spirit of a group. The one bad apple theorem.

If the larger number of people were doing okay and not being too much of an asshole, then by golly it was just that doing "okay" is not newsworthy or even memorable, and so it just diffuses thruout the fabric of space and time. Confused? Don't be. It means maybe we're all doing mostly "okay" but we don't talk much.

Recently on ebay I got my first "positive feedback", and a big spiel was made about how great that was. And it was, because we tried to do good and normally we'd never know anybody noticed.The other day I found a purse in a wagon at a store, and I never looked inside, I just took it back. They took my name and phone number incase the person wanted to contact me. They never did, and why not? It would have taken a minute to say "You did a good thing, thanks." If it was a child you were raising, you'd do that, so why not with a grown up person? We're all growing up and older, so we all have a lot to learn, especially about how to deal with people. Where's our positive feedback?

Now on the web we can all put ourselves up and get some input. It's safe, because it's just a digital universe, and if we all agree to be honest, and if honest people are in the majority, then honesty will be the overwhelming base mode. And if not, you turn the thing off. If we are in the majority it will be nice to hear about all the kids who did not shoot up the graduating class. And the husband who did not kill all his children when his wife threatened to divorce him....all that stuff.

It might just be the sort of eyebrow-raising, nod-of-the-head kind of thig whereby we can be fairly sure we are in the midst of reasonable people again. The books indicate that from time to time it was safe to trust the people around you, just sometimes. And lately I get the feeling that the people who disperse the news are choosing more dynamic news to disperse.

I didn't need to hear from that person about her purse, but it would have done her good to have me tell her I appreciated her getting back to me, so I could be sure she had, in fact, gotten her purse back. She would have felt a bit safer/

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Under the bird feeder in the soft dusting of snow is the imprint of a bunny butt. Proof that the book I'm reading on dinosaurs is correct about mammals. They are warm blooded and need to eat constantly, so that at 5:45AM Ms. Bunnybutt was scarfing down seeds. Near the back door in the dusting of snow on the deck is another imprint, a strange oval with a waffle pattern: my daughter's sneaker as she stood unlocking the door sometime around 3AM. In front of the garage are small dinosaur prints running all over the path, down side trails into the debris strewn areas under the maples. Chickens looking for sleepy bugs and just the right sized stone. Prof. Bakker says the chickens are like the velociraptors in the movie...smart, fast, and warm blooded.

Out in the snow near the side door to the studio are foot shaped mounds where my travels took me. Each step compressed the snow and made it harder, made it last longer. The soft snow to the side melted back in the sun and left these mesas showing where I have been. Like that comic in the Sunday paper you can see my trails in the snow, sometimes accompanied by smaller trails made by a cat. The cats never walk with me, but sometimes they follow my trails, maybe looking to see if I am tracking rabbits.

There's a big mushroom made of snow out by the pile of wood chips made by when my friend dumped out my wheelbarrow of the load of snow and ice. It compressed the snow beneath it and, being harder yet, remained as the surrounding snow melted back. My back yard is a miniature badlands in white, filled with gullies, mesas and other desert shapes. In another month or less all this will be gone, sucked back into the earth to wash down the throat of the Goddess, refreshing her, wakening her and starting the growth of the plants in our yard.

We get these giant thistles in the yard from the goldfinches planting a crop for the summer. They get eight feet tall sometimes, with many flowers that dry and burst into soft fuzzy clouds of seed. We also get clusters of sunflowers and pokeweed that the chickadees seem to enjoy. Late summer means I chop these big ugly plants down so I can walk near the edges and not get tangled up or stuck on the thorns. Then by spring only the toughest fossils are left under the retreating snow. Mostly silica, they turn back into sand when they go, like the snowprints of lost forgotten feet and butts turn back into water and combine with the sand to make new thistles. The circle of life is not a circle but a figure eight on it's side. Seen from above maybe it's a circle, but from where I stand in the snow it's a figure eight.

So it is that I come to believe that we each leave something behind, that we each change the path we walk on, even as the path changes us. Then, when we have passed, our passage dissolves it's evidence and becomes the building blocks of new life. Each step we take makes the earth harder and it pushes against the pressure of our tread. It lifts us up to the stars but we never quite make it and we fall back down to earth, to dissolve and become giant thistles and giant sunflowers and bunnies and cats. Spread out over life we become life in general and then we move on. Spun by the planet, like a giant drier, we are spun out into space, leaving a dust trail as we spin around the sun, our Father. Eventually my tracks, my bunnies, my thistles, all fly back into the sun to be stripped down to vibrations of ether, like sound never heard by mortal ears.

They say a galaxy being ripped apart by a black hole leaves vibration in the cosmic background which we can hear with radio telescopes, translating the sound into hisses and rips and pops. The process takes a relative forever. My sandy remains fly into the sun with a hissing sound, like a snake gliding thru the grass on it's way to chat with Eve, to tell her the fruit is good and death is not forever. The snake is a symbol of regeneration, not, as a sick Freud child says, a cock of lust. The snake is love and life but not lust. The sun sucks it all in and like a child with butterflies, tears away at the form, leaving soft beauty and the hiss of amazement, the sucking in of a breath, the glide of a snake.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I remember why the Buddha laughed.

I was thinking about dharma today. The Path, the Way. The "Why me, oh Lord?" of it all. I suppose anybody more or less my age would have heard of the use and misuse of "karma", but not understanding is understandable. Dharma, I feel is more difficult to come to terms with or even to recognize, yet each step we take is a step of dharma. The Path is to tread, to stand upon, to feel beneath ones feet. Each step, each misstep is trod upon that earth. To be truly human one must take that step and move forth in a field of dharma. So, I suppose that to be Lord of Man one would have to also tread upon that Path, at least on some level.

This mistaking the symbol for the Thing is a quality of youth, and is part of the Path, but still, it gets tiring to hear of time and time again and again we have people hurting people.

Then you have a young man caught in some dim world of in and out and pain and sometimes dreamy awareness. My son. Like a Greek myth-time story we are all of us shouting in a mist, trying to be heard above a wave of sorrows and in the middle of it you have people reaching out to people in the dark, but fearfully and in a daze. I have friends whose dear one has become frightful and angry and damaged by Fate. They do self destructive things and violent things or sometimes they are so sweet and appreciative. So, I am sure, must God have felt when he looked down on that crowd of people staring up at that tortured, dead, healer.

I'm sure they must be old enough by now to understand that it just isn't right to kill your brothers or sisters......and that would include fire-bombing a civilian population, or shooting into a crowd of demonstrators. It just isn't right.

So the father tries to understand the son, tries to hear what is not being said. It can stagger the father to see what has become of the son, how crippled and weak... But still, no father can long listen to the cries of their son, so, in time they are gathered up. In my case... there is no gathering up. The boy stays and breathes through a hose in his throat.

Now, the Greek drama writer would have thrown in a dying grandfather and grandmother, but that might border on comedy-tragedy... and drama is very much like dharma, not just in the writing of it, but the living it. So when people ask me how I "deal with it", as in laying out the tarot deck...maybe?.....Deal with it? It's just dharma, just the Path playing, laying, me out. So, diving down the deck analogy, things get shuffled in and played out many times over. Lots of paradigms to hang on to. I just think of it not so much "karma" as dharma and I'm on the same path as the one thru the highways of California with a stick and a pack. I still have a stick and I'm sure i could find a pack, so I'm still on that path, which makes sense because all paths lead to the center....Hard to imagine another Way.

Greek plays were handled with masks sometimes, so that the symbol for theatre is two masks, showing comedy and tragedy. Life is both, and is a theatre and is a path. You just remember that the show must go on.... You really have no choice. As I think about dharma I recognize that any such paradigm has elements which seem to work against "free will". You don't always have a choice, you just plow ahead. So, no matter what I attempt to do, my son will do what he can by plowing ahead on his own Path, and it is somewhat unreasonable to imagine that I can very much influence his path when I find it so hard to really get a handle on my own.

We all have a certain amount of choice, sure, but not so's it makes a difference, because Dharma trumps Free Will. And that is so like a tarot image that you just have to figure it makes sense. Cards on the table....you got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them.....and now we're talking about a Muppet movie. God has to be ADD....The universe is just too distracting. I can't imagine being All-Knowing and not just sometimes sitting by the wayside, doing Bubbuh-bubbuh on my holy lip. Or Buddha-Buddha.

I have carrots growing in my houseplants and a potato is sprouting in my kitchen. I get so impatient for Spring. I just love Persephone, she's my favorite goddess because she kicks ass, goes away and comes back even better than before, stronger, a true goddess of rebirth, no longer in Her mother's shadow as simple Spring. Marianne Faithful is a good example of her Priestess. I just know she rocks. And I have no choice.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

When I was about 5 years old I had this book on ancient man. You know, neanderthal and such. It had this picture, might have been a drawing, but it described this sculpture found in a cave. It was this mound of clay carved into a bison mounting another bison. It described the knee marks in the floor near the sculpture and the fingerprints. I used to stare at that picture and then dig out my clay and make things. I got excited that something I made might be around in 12,000 years. Turns out plasticene doesn't last long. I used to bury boxes of things in the back yard near a telephone pole and then dig it up and see what I found...I'd wait a year.

There is a lot of clay in the ground around Phoenix, I guess because it used to be under a shallow ocean. I'd find shells in the desert and shards in the sand from the Anastazi. Leaving stuff behind became a fascinating concept for me. I would dig up clay and make statues. Most of the statues would be little female forms. I would just let the clay make it's own form and often it would be little women. Then I would try to fire up the pieces in a small bonfire. They'd usually blow up, and I thought that was exciting. I never thought why I always made these little women statues, but now I read about all these little goddess statues found in the Aegean peninsula, thousands of them and wonder. Was I being directed by a divine force to make images of the Goddess? I mean, why not?

There is a project going on in the pagan community. They want people to make as many images of the Goddess as possible. The idea is the more we get, the stronger she gets. I don't think that myself, I don't think you can get any stronger than a goddess, but the idea is good. So it makes sense that someone marked as a shaman would be compelled to make magical items like images of the Goddess.

When you are doing something like sacred art you have to open yourself up to compulsion. I close my eyes and handle the clay and then open my eyes to see what I've made. Then I detail the object. Sometimes I can do a lot with closed eyes and it makes me glad that blind people will see things in my pieces that sighted people won't. Now I have a kiln, or several kilns actually, and my work can be fired up to over 2000 degrees. That insures that parts, at least, will survive 12,000 years or so. Someday a young kid can be handling my goddesses with closed eyes and seeing what I saw with my hands. They may become inspired to make some goddesses of their own.

Someone once criticized my wooden pieces because I always left a small area unsanded. They claimed it was because I was incompetent. I told them it was for the blind people to feel the texture of the wood, but they didn't believe me. Everybody who does woodwork sands it smooth, nobody would deliberately leave a patch rough. That seems so odd to me. How else do you show the process?

People are like that. The goddess has left rough patches on all of us. We fart, belch, scratch, we have scars and freckles. None of us were made smooth, not even babies. How else do you see the process? As we walk in the mud flats watching the volcano erupt, we leave behind footsteps in the clay. The ash lands in the imprints of our feet and the sun bakes the clay. Thousands, millions of years later a young boy places his foot carefully in the imprint and feels a warm rush as he explores the process. Left foot, right foot...

Kingship, sainthood, all leave thin remnants. Feet remain. Feet from a saint preserved in a wooden box, rough on the inside, shiny from thousands of hands touching the box with the foot of the saint. Yet years ago someone put that foot into that box and somewhere in the hereafter a saint is hopping about on one foot. Such irony.

There is a book called "Genesis" edited by Bill Moyers. He has this group of experts examine the symbols and history in that part of the Bible. They don't compare it to Sumerian scripts, nor pagan myth, nor do they even think to examine the minds of those mentioned in it, not really. they don't drift away from conventional thought. They mention that the snake told Eve the truth, but fail to mention that Eve was not her name, nor was it a snake in truth. It was a servant of the Goddess reassuring those people that knowledge of Good and Evil was a good thing, to live in ignorance was foolish. The experts mentioned that the snake was a fertility symbol and represented Eve's knowledge of sexuality after eating the fruit. Such nonsense. The snake is never a fertility symbol, and only since Freud was it a phallic symbol. It is ever a symbol of rebirth, of life everlasting. It represents the seeker of knowledge flashing up the Tree to attain enlightenment, of kundalini power emerging. And Eve shared that knowledge, because to deny knowledge is foolish. There is no esoteric knowledge in the Goddess faith, despite the men in the history game trying to describe the Mystery Religions.

So the first statue I saw was a bison humping it's mate. That was a symbol of fertility. People wonder why someone made it, but the Goddess likes to share knowledge. How to make a bull out of clay, not why make a bull. The easiest thing to make from clay is a serpent, it's what every kid does with a piece of clay, roll it into a snake. But there are no clay snakes until you start finding temples dedicated to the goddess, and then you find not only snake statues, but holes in the walls for real snakes to travel from room to room, like a hamster habitat.

Friday, March 05, 2004

So the nurse calls back. The doctor tells her that bump is actualy where the shunt goes into the skull. She just never felt Jon's head before. I tell her better safe than sorry and she continues that Jon is just going to bed and he has no fever, seems okay. So now I can find some work to do and not worry about another phone call. Unless I get one and then I'll jump again.
Every time the phone rings I tend to jump. Sometimes when the pain pills and muscle relaxants hit just right I tend to sleep for an hour and a half. I'm not sure why I suddenly have to sleep, but I do, and it's always an hour and a half. When the phone rings I jump out of the sleep, usually hitting something to get to the phone, and this time it was the facility where Jon lives. "Mr. William?" the voice asks. Now I am used to being called by my wife's last name since she works and I stay at home, but the only place I know that consistently gets names wrong that way is at Lake Katrine. So it was Jon's nurse. Seems they were having a happy street fair and Jon somehow fell out of his chair. This is the chair it took a year and a half to get out of Medicaid, because they thought a man in a coma didn't need mobility. The whole point of coma stim is to get the man in the coma to come out of the coma and start rehab. So they stimulate him.

When Jon coughs, he coughs. The trache hurts and tickles his throat all the time anyway, but when he coughs the neck muscles tighten and the trache gets moved. Sometimes that makes his cough again and his face turns red and he doubles up and clutches his throat, or his chest if he can't bring his arms up. They used to have pads around his bed and call him a "falling angel", a term which means "He who need pads and extra vigilance". So the theory the nurse gave me was he coughed himself out of his wheelchair.

Sometimes when Jon is feeling really well he moves more. He squeezes my hand real hard and looks me in the face. It reminds me of a man clinging to the arm of a rescuer while hanging over a deep ravine.

When I was very young I lived in a small house in northern Phoenix. The hill the house was on was covered in volcanic rock. My father explained that it had been a volcano once and I played on it a lot, examining the stones. But I also began to have nightmares that the volcano had erupted again and my father and I were floating on a shed roof in a river of lava. The shed splits in two and my father's side tips and dumps him into the hot lava. I rush to the edge and grab his hand, but I am just a little kid and he slips from my grasp. I sit on the roof, floating alone in a sea of lava, and wake up in a sweat. That's how it feels to hold my son's hand.

"He has a small bump on his head, nothing to worry about, his vitals are fine and the doctor will likely order a cat scan of his head." So inside that head an area of soft, scarred brain tissue was slammed against a rugged, bumpy skull and now the tissues are swollen. Pressure counts for most of the damage in a mild traumatic brain injury. That's why Jon has a shunt placed in his skull, to drain excess pressure into his abdomen. I assume that a good place to put it. So if pressure builds up, maybe it will be controlled, if the shunt is still working and not plugged. It it was plugged he might start shows signs of being sleepy a lot and not very responsive. Oh. Wait a minute, with the phenobarb that he's on, he IS sleepy a lot and not very responsive. So how will they tell if he starts acting like he always acts? This is the sort of thought train that takes me into a strange head set where every phone call is a nurse or doctor, and every sound outside sends me to a window. Jon is not in the military, so it would never be a telegram, but I still feel nervous when someone comes to the door.

They'll call me with the results of the cat scan if he has one done. Or they won't. The nurse who said she will may be off duty before the results come in or she may find that since I am only his father, not his doctor, I may not be allowed to know what the results are. They may have to protect his privacy. This is something they do better than protecting his head. It's just a small bump. Or a concussion, or a clot forming, or an interior wound which has destroyed months of healing. But they'll let me know. Jon will let me know. He'll come to the door, knock twice and just before I open the door, he will vanish with a wave goodbye. Then I'll know.
For the last few years I have grown giant thistles in my yard. I don't do anything in particular except feed goldfinches and other small birds during the late winter. Right now we have dozens of the little tweety birds hopping around the side yard. The ground there is about a half inch deep in seeds and seed husks. These guys are real sloppy. UNLESS they are deliberately searching through for the best seeds and going off to the side of the yard and planting them! And then they fertilize them. Wow, just like people do when they farm. That's amazing.

In the garden I have raised beds for the beans and tomatoes and herbs. Then I fence the beds over and let the chickens in to scratch the paths and to crap. This raises the nitrogen levels so high it burns out all the young weeds. Only one or two rugged plants grow in the pathway. Come planting time I trim the chicken's flight feathers and close off the garden from the birds. I like to think the hens are like sharecroppers. I maintain the paths by mowing and when I mow I try to drive the crickets and such towards the hen yard. I also give them any veggies that have gotten to weird for humans. I also patrol for predators. So it's a give-give thing.

I have a salt block in the side yard but the deer ignore it, or they are too frightened by my southerly neighbor's love of semi-automatic weaponry. He likes to shoot up stumps, or sand piles, I hope. But he does like the sound of a good gun. Funny guy, exactly the kind of guy who shows up on a news report holding off a bunch of law officers.

If I had enough land I could establish a place where the goldfinches could get fat and happy and the deer were comfortable eating a few yards from where you watch. Not a zoo so much as a haven, or oasis. But I would probably build a bunch of small studios for different media...clay, paint, stone sculptures. I think a big lathe ought to have it's own room, and the bandsaws, too. What a lot of nice stuff you could do. Even if you did it from a wheelchair, you could maybe pay the bills and not go crazy. Yup.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

There's a thing that people do to enable them to treat people in a way that most people would find abhorrent. They dehumanize them. They call them something other than human. If you want to hang a man with dark skin you call him a "nigger". If you want to stop trying to heal a man who cannot move his body you call him PVS. That means "persistent vegetative state." The doctors who use this term use it the same way an educated man says "nigger". They know it tells you almost nothing, but it does indicate that you have no worries about what you do to them. There is a problem with this. The person never fits the name. Dark skinned people are as varied and as different within the context of humanity as pebbles on a beach. So they are as much like a light skinned person as a black skinned person. In the case of "PVS" people you find that PVS is a more polite way of saying it. No good doctor will call a person a vegetable, certainly not to the family. But inside they think "vegetable" in the same way a southern politician will think "nigger" when he sees a dark skinned person.

I saw my son yesterday at the facility where he lives. They tell me his EEG was "abnormal" ....read "nigger". They tell me his brain has atrophied.....read "nigger". So they have authorized a DNR and I did not object. DNR means that if he dies, even though they can bring him back, they don't. The reason they did this was so they could stop trying to help him heal. The reason I did not object is because I am a pagan and a father and I know that if he dies again his brain will be so injured that there isn't enough lifetime left for him to heal.

There is a nice report from a very good hospital in Britain which says that PVS is a perjorative and useless diagnosis that upsets the family, does nothing to explain what the doctor should do and is very often flat out wrong. By this they mean that a good percentage of PVS patients suddenly begin to emerge from their captivity and start to respond to people around them and move their bodies. Often they actually begin to talk and can be rehabbed to the point that they can get around, even walk and go back to work. But doctors do lip service to this report and continue to tell families that their loved one is in a persistent vegetative state and will never heal. It's easier for them. If a person dies under their care while labeled PVS, the doctor can say "See, I was right. They never had a chance." If he says they are minimally responsive then they have to DO something. And they don't know what to do.

It isn't all their fault. They won't spend the money on health care because they have to spend the money on pork barrel projects and things like their dick-sucking interns, like Monica. That's very important when you are a very important person. I know if I had a choice between funding health care or having my dick sucked I would probably have to choose the health care but that is why I am unemployed and not a politician. I just don't have my priorities straight. I think babies and sick people are more important than my dick. What a knucklehead I am.

I asked Jon (the vegetable guy) if he wanted to listen to music. I had my hand in his and I asked him to squeeze my hand if he wanted to listen to music. He squeezed my hand, just once. I waited and then said I could put on John Coltrane. He frowned, so I suggested Harry Nilsson. He squeezed my hand. Nilsson was his favorite before he became a non-human, a vegetable. So I put on Nilsson and he smiled and looked at the boom box. What a crazy thing it is that a vegetable would randomly do things that in a real person would be called "responses"! Just amazing. I did this sort of thing for an hour or so and that vegetable in the bed just kept doing things that, had he not been a brain dead object, would have been called "communicating."
Why don't the doctors have this experience? Well, for one thing, on the doorframe to his room is a sign with two names. One is the name of his room mate. The other is "William Shirley". Jon's name is William Jon Shirley, but since my name is also William, and his grandfather's name is also William, we always have called Jon by his middle name. The doctors come in, see that tag, and call him "William", ignoring the big sign above his bed that his sister drew...."Call me JON". Jon doesn't like being called William, so he closes his eyes and ignores the doctors. So he is obviously unresponsive. I have removed that tag and replaced it with one calling him "JON", but the forms the state requires the facility to use have a first name, a middle initial, and a last name. So they call him William and he closes his eyes. When I correct them, if I happen to be there, they call him Jon, but by then he's pissed and doesn't open his eyes. I have watched him peek out to see if they are still there and then open his eyes to watch me. But I am just a father, and the doctors are experts, so I am mistaken.

Jon cries when I have to go home. I can only stay a few hours because I have a two hour drive and it hurts a great deal because my back is broken in three places, so I have to take drugs to kill the pain. The drugs make me drowsy and it is dangerous to drive after dark. It's not too safe driving in the daylight, but he is my son and I will take a few risks to see him, to hold his hand, to comb his hair and kiss his brow.

There are tests that certain researchers have devised which can show if a human brain is reacting to stimulus, like pictures of favorite people and places. It is an enhanced PET scan and shows the brain activity when someone is looking at a picture of their mother, their best friend, or a picture of some stranger. Why don't they use this test on someone like Jon to see if he is actually aware of me and the rest of the world? Because the test is expensive and we are poor. Jon is kept alive thru Medicaid funding and it is minimal. The people who fund don't care if Jon is stuck in a body he can no longer move. He doesn't vote, doesn't send campaign money out and at this stage of his condition isn't very pretty on camera. His hands are claw-like and his feet turn the wrong way. He has a plastic tube inserted into his throat with green mucus hanging out of it. Not a good photo op. He's just my son, my baby boy, the kid I gave back rides to. The kid I entertained with puppets and funny voices. Just a young man with no future. If they proved he was aware, why, I might sue somebody for failing to try to heal him. Only I can't afford to hire a lawyer if I did want to sue.

Jon wants to come home. I asked him about it and he squeezed my hand, but I can't let him come home because he has this plastic tube in his throat and the doctors say he is PVS. Curiously enough, even though I am his dad, I have no real say over what happens to him because he is 29 years old. He's an adult and never gave me power of attorney over him...because he can't move his hands except to squeeze mine when I offer him a Harry Nilsson CD. "You can jump into the fire...."

Donald Rumsfeld says the world is an untidy place and sometimes women and children have to be blown up, dismembered, and brain injured to secure a democratic world, and we all want a democratic world, so long as the rich get to tell the poor when they can die. I would not wish a severe brain injury on anyone, but there are some who would benefit from a year in a long term health care unit. They might understand why that man has pulled over to the side of the road and is sobbing. It's untidy, but it's the best I can do. I can love my son.