Issue #39, December, 2000

Very, very, very, very, very...

. . .Unfortunate.

They shouldn't have done it. That Supreme Court call was a blunder of monstrous, perhaps tragic dimensions. However much and on whatever fine points of law they might have equivocated, the denial of a completed vote count, even given its acknowledged problems, was a disastrous place to draw the line.

It may very well be, that issues of subjective distortion would occur in such a completed count, but to abort it without the full and open display of them has created a subjective distortion, of itself, that wipes out any hope of political reconciliation. It remains only to be seen how deep this assured divide is, and the extent to which it will be played out, over the coming months and years.

Expectably, those triumphant and those who don't really care now attempt to smooth it over. Even from the losing side, those whose ideals have been dulled by the political expediency of putting their losses behind them make the usual effort to do so. But this is not a usual situation of loss. This one violates the most basic element of our political contract: the resolution of disagreement by submitting to the majority. We have no clear delineation, here, of a majority.

Thanks to the marvels of modern communication &endash; more instant, and with the internet, more populist than it has ever been in history &endash; the details of this bungled election are fully known, and a wide enough spectrum of Americans are not going to sit still for the kind of power-play and connivance that has denied them either a victory or the proper certitude of a fair loss. There is no coming together, and there will be none, without one or the other.

However much this broad spectrum of the populace deplores guns and violence, they (we) are nevertheless fighters, not wimps &emdash; and a kind of civil war has been declared that will persist until justice is somehow wrought . . .

Or until this country is unmanageable! Mark these words, for you will see it underway &emdash; probably already, but certainly before very long.

What follows is what had been written before the above turn of events. Other than a bit of cleanup, I have not changed any of it; and it may be of interest to see the evolvement of my thinking, about this election. In fact, it is also an elaboration of what has been said above, adding clarity to certain parts of it.

It is December 7th, as I at last begin to pull this issue into final form. The day of infamy, as they used to say &emdash; and this time it carries a double anniversary burden: 59 years since Pearl Harbor, and one month after the election that hasn't yet happened.

Time enough, I'd say, to view both of those infamous events in a somewhat different light than the conventional. As to Pearl Harbor, I wonder why nobody has ever considered that we were getting some karmic repayment for a century and more &endash; and still running &endash; of indulgence in the most ignoble and disgraceful part of our national character: blatant racism. Hardly a week goes by, even today, but another chapter of that long, sorry history is reported in the media. Including, it should be noted, elements of the current Florida fiasco. We can't seem to learn the lesson &endash; we let it happen, over and over again.

There are some things worth saying about this election thing, even though I know you've had a head-full of it by now. I do want to get into some other stuff in this issue, but since this is on top for the moment, let's go with it . . .

It's reasonably likely that the election will be resolved by the time you receive this, but you wouldn't catch me placing a bet on it. Nor even to call the turn, though it looks, daily, ever more likely that Bush will be the beneficiary of it. There is an odd kind of inevitability to it all, though it remains patently clear that his legal claim to it is strictly in the eye of the beholder. America is showing the world that it is a land of laws . . . that can be bent by power, as in any two-bit system around the globe. And spun by hype, as has always been the way with us. Yes, a land of flaws.

What Nader did or didn't do has become incidental to the greater display of gladiatorial politics we've watched for an entire month, now, in this remarkable election Olympics &emdash; we ought, indeed, to call it a sporting event for all it ever provided in the way of issue-oriented discourse. But then, we all know where we stand, on issues, so why bother with talking about it when the game is afoot and the spectacle begins, right? There is time enough ahead (four more years of it, under somebody or other) for those deadlocked squabbles.

But Nader &endash; looking back to last month's preliminaries &endash; did more than point out the naked Tweedle-dee/dum truth that now stands revealed. He performed a very necessary part in the revelation by precisely balancing the scales. I don't imagine it was his intent, for it would take a prescience far beyond that of any human being. But the fact that it happened as it did should not be ignored, or passed off as just a mere coincidence.

Taken by itself, that might be a reasonable conclusion; but Nader's small adjustment to the balancing act of a nation does not stand by itself, it is part of a tightly woven nexus of 'coincidental' election developments that should be seen and taken as a whole, if we hope for any understanding of what we observe.

Consider some of the other parts of the nexus:

1) that the vote count in Florida was the last to come in, so that it could occupy the crux position and become the center of controversy &emdash; when by geographical location, it should have been among the first;

2) that the same uncanny degree of balance was true of several states &emdash; yet Florida &endash; with Jeb Bush at its helm &endash; remained the state of prime focus;

3) that Florida's vote provided a tight enough balance, in its count, to make the state's internal contest credible and compelling;

4) that this Florida contest could not, as it evolved, be simply resolved, as by a normal machine recount;

5) that the whole business has continued to simmer, from one moment of potential resolution to the next, but never a closure &emdash; Al Gore gets blamed for this, but it is really the inability of the courts to settle it;

6) that the courts, themselves, are remarkably deadlocked &emdash; though, as already noted, they deal in laws, not personalities (oh, yeah!).

I've only highlighted the most obvious nodes in that nexus &emdash; each, in turn, could be shown to contain contributory elements that are just as 'coincidentally' deadlocked.

Well, the term, coincidence, is really a kind of measurement-meter, of how loose or tight your mind is. The more that 'coincidence' is called into service, the tighter is your mind &emdash; until eventually it's like a steel trap. Except the only thing trapped in it is the mind that's unwilling to let go of a limiting reality.

I prefer to be a little loose with it, myself &emdash; at risk, perhaps, of having a loose mind, but choosing to keep it open, nevertheless. My world is not a black/white dichotomy between the rational and the coincidental, it allows for an increasingly useful middle territory of the non-rational &emdash; useful, in the sense that it keeps me out of the steel trap, but more so because it provides a platform for taking such measure as I can, of things that seem like 'cracks in the cosmic egg' of our reality. The rationally-tight mind will scoff, even though evidence piles up, that reality is not entirely within our rational grasp.

The election, by its strange configuration, seems a piece of that evidence, and we have this golden opportunity to try and understand what it might mean in such light, rather than pass it off as a highly unlikely stack of coincidence, only incidental to the course of government it sets us up for.

A synchronicity &endash; the term for coincidence with an inner meaning &endash; can best be approached to reveal that meaning by assuming that what shows on the surface must somehow be integral to its deeper prospect. This is of limited help, in an initial analysis, because the mind is captive of the known. But it provides a starting point. One goes with the most visible aspects, letting them act on consciousness to see what they suggest.

First and foremost, the timing of these present events links them to what took place a year ago. We have this rare first millennial year presented in a 'double-binding' (an interesting term, in itself) of Y2K on the fore-end, and the election-that-won't-quit on the aft-end &emdash; each an evocation of our involvement with technology, each indicative of limits that we often don't pay attention to. Yet, so very different from each other, as if to embody a century-long fascination with that be-nighted dream of a world run by machines . . . when we haven't figured out how to effectively run it with our human selves. It kind of lends emphasis and focus to what is now taking place.

As this all draws down toward the various deadlines and the end of the year, it is like a noose getting tight and tighter . . . which suggests a trapdoor about to be sprung &emdash; as though the worst is somehow yet to come, and maybe that it will be more deadly than we've yet seen. A chilling prospect, but not incongruent with other aspects we've been witness to, since this began.

For example, the ease and disregard for anything but power-driven expediency, with which the court system is being used, in the worst sense, to gain leverage and defeat the principle of restraint. Supreme courts, whether at the state or national level, had been invested with a dignity that was the necessary trapping of their authority. Now, they begin to look as tawdry as those who have pushed them to it.

Those courts, by circumstantial default, had become the last vestige of moral authority that remained in this country. And now they, too, are dragged down to the level of mere politics. We are left with only the skeleton of checks and balances . . . and does anyone really expect this skeleton, shorn of any last shred of ethical meat on its bones, to survive a holocaust of public reaction, should it occur?

We are primed, you see, for just such a vicious onslaught. If it should begin, it will be a conflagration. For the presidency has not the moral authority to stop it &endash; short of bludgeoning it with a massive application of power.

For better or worse, the public at large does not seem to give much of a damn about how the current 'entertainment' resolves itself. For better, of course, because it would avoid the scenario I've just painted. But for worse, because it indicates the real level of our passivity in the face of a likely and clear theft of governmental power, that will have happened if Bush gains the presidency without a full and proper Florida vote count.

And yet, as I earlier noted, there is a certain crazy sense of inevitability to this prospective Bush presidency. He made a heads-up grab for it as quickly as the possibility came down the pike, and has not lost the momentum ever since. And all the available surveys indicate a popular willingness to see it happen. It does seem as though the gods may want it that way, and one can only look for the deeper reason.

It certainly is not that he'd be good for the country &emdash; there is no way I can envision that possibility. His presidency could only predicate a further stage in our devolution as a humane society &emdash; perhaps an outright collapse. Is it coming to that?

We've been so very cocky, you know, about outlasting all the other empires, to remain the last great world power. But anyone having the least familiarity with the Tao knows that nothing stands still, and that the sun at its high-point can only go down. The way it's put, of course, is a degree more optimistic . . .

" ...a time of abundance is usually brief . . . a sage might well feel sad in view of the decline that must follow. But such sadness does not befit him . . . Be like the sun at midday, illuminating and gladdening everything under heaven." (from the I Ching)

Can anyone argue that we haven't had our midday? We are ripe and overdue for a decline &emdash; as every past empire has had to endure. There is a real possibility that we may be witnessing the beginning of that, in this election thing. History has a long roster of once powerful nations that stumbled before they knew it was happening, in the blindness of their own loss of vision.


So much, and enough, for that heavy subject. I have other things to write about in this issue, and one of them is a readout of the year's toll on my friends . . . a recognition due them for having made it to the turn of the millennium, but not a year beyond. A fate that, but for the grace of a generous Spirit, I might have shared, myself. In that light, if no other, I honor them. But there are other reasons . . . each has played a significant part in my passage.

Dating the farthest back along my trail was Mary Ross, the official guardian for Rose Page, whom I helped to care for during the year I spent (1977-8) in Carmel-by-the-Sea. A marvelous tale of synchronicity and Providence stands behind that lovely sabbatical in my povertied life, which I shall briefly recount here . . .

It was the last of my three colostomy years &emdash; though I didn't learn that I was going to be 'made whole' again until that year was nearly done. I was in a retreat mode, partly on that account, and casting about for a way to leave the Bay Area &emdash; an agenda with little prospect of fulfillment, for I had no money at all, and nothing substantial in the way of income. Among the documents saved from that year, I find a notation of the princely sum of $283 received in January &emdash; my entire month's income, all of it in donations for a recently produced partial issue of the Yin Times of Black Bart . . . and the year's finances went downhill from there. Part of my urgency to decamp, in fact, was to get out from under the monthly burden of a $95 rent, which absorbed too high a percentage of my meager income.

With that as backdrop, how the move came about was entirely magical. I had run across the notice of a physician who had treated me for TB, 25 years earlier, and was now engaged in crystal healing down in Carmel. She invited me down for a visit, when I wrote to reconnect, and it developed that she wanted someone to edit her teaching tapes. Well, this was not anything I felt I could deal with &emdash; but in the process of discussing ways and means, the opening turned into an opportunity to live down there, in the unused garage space of elderly Page, who'd had a stroke and was being crystal-treated by the doctor. And I endeared myself to Page's primary caretaker, Mary Ross, by refusing any cash salary for being a live-in presence in Page's world. I recoiled from the salary negotiation &emdash; it was too much like 'taking a job.' The quid-pro-quo arrangement of free shelter in exchange for my on-site presence felt like quite enough for me. So I lived down there for a full year on those terms, until a third stroke finally took Page's life.

I remained in touch with Mary over all the subsequent years, with an occasional visit &emdash; the last being about ten years ago. And I learned of her July departure from this world, at the age of 88, only recently. She was a charming, petite and very strong woman, always ready to help others and to devote her time to good projects.

Around that same time, this year, I received word of another passing that refreshed a lot of memories from a more recent period. My relocation to the northwest, fifteen years ago, was a radical shift in my security structure from the larger network of support that I relied on in the Bay area. A shift that ultimately had two effects on my way of being: 1) I had to take a greater degree of responsibility for myself, and yet in a paradoxical contrast, 2) I went to deeper levels of connection with the guiding Spirit that seems to watch over my world.

Jean Sturdevant was the woman who goaded and (figuratively) wrestled me across the threshold of that shift. Bedridden with multiple-sclerosis, Jean hired me as live-in caregiver at the time I was up against a prospect of being stranded and likely homeless, for the frigid Seattle winter of 1985-6.

Fourteen years had gone by since the last time I wore the yoke and bridle of employment, and it was no easy step to take. In fact I only accepted it as a commitment of two days per week. But Jean's primary caregiver suddenly took off without warning (seeing me, I suppose, as a likely and wanted replacement), and so the job suddenly went from two days to six, with very little surcease in my 'off hours', for I was her housemate as well as her caregiver. She had not yet accepted her physical disablement, and so the job became a counseling relationship as well &emdash; no easy task for me, since emotional rants and raging often resulted from the frustration of her immobility. And I, footloose and fancy-free for 14 years, up to that point, had to settle for a cold-turkey transition from which there was no responsible escape.

But difficult and oppressive as that half year of service was, I could hardly have had a more effective transition passage into the different kind of world that lay before me. Furthermore, Jean became, for me, a threshold of people and facilitation resources that served my transplantation needs in various ways for several years to come.

Her gradual, seemingly inevitable deterioration was hastened by the death of both parents, sometime last year &emdash; and Jean, who had spent the entire last decade in a Centralia nursing home, was finally released from it all, a few months ago.

The third death among friends, worthy of note here, was one of the two whom I paid final visits to, this summer &emdash; Yana Parker, who had been a good friend for at least 20 years. I don't even know how long ago we first met, though I recall the occasion of it very well, as we made love that night! It was a brief involvement for each of us, characteristic of the times, but we had a lot in common and the friendship thrived. That was before Yana 'struck it rich' with her publication of a very popular Damn Good Resume Book, which established her major late-life activity thrust.

She had a strong creative flair, and put it to good use; and it was wonderful to see her, a few months ago, flush with a sense of fullness and success in her life, though she knew she had not many weeks to go. Word of her passing reached me about a month after my return.


It has been, as you who regularly read this must already know, a year of absorption with death for me. I don't know if this preoccupation is a typical passage or not, for those consciously leaving the really active stage of their lives &endash; I can only report my own experience of it. I do know that it has felt like a necessary thing to be doing. I had to become comfortable with the realization that I'll not have the time, or focused energy, for much of what I'd still like to do. It will help me to make a few choices. I had, also, to make sure that those closest to me know that we can talk in these terms &emdash; that it is not a subject to be avoided, nor one to lightly skip over if it should arise. It is real, and &endash; at risk of making light of it &endash; it is dead serious.

Only the immediacy of this current winter leaves me in a bit of doubt as to whether I'm done with dwelling on it &emdash; for winter is death's time, as you should know. It will likely be some winter to come that sees my death. But winter has more than a single meaning in my scheme of ripening. There is the winter of life &emdash; to which I am consigned probably for the rest of my days. And there is the winter of the Septide &endash; a seven-year span &endash; from one of which I have very recently emerged.

On this latter account, I venture a guess that I'm probably done with my so-recent morbid focus.

I've written before about the Septide of ripening; and from such little feedback as I've received, I suspect very few of you see it in your lives, or feel it's anything more than a personal obsession of mine. It's reasonable to suppose, I suppose, that if neither science nor any of the pseudo-sciences we covertly subscribe to, has had anything to say on such a patterning in life, that it is likely nothing more than something going on in Irv's head. And I, of course, am immediately disqualified (for bias) from offering any rebuttal.

Well, I am not going to offer a rebuttal. I'm going to agree that it is my personal head trip, and take this probability to another level that may not have occurred to you. It is a personal head-trip that has succeeded, over the years, in shaping my reality to conform!

Spurred by the notion that I had actually figured out a seasonal archetype applicable to any of the time-frames through which we characteristically view developments in our world, I went ahead and infused my thinking with this framework, to see where it would lead me, and was gratified by the discoveries that I encountered.

To the best of my confessed awareness, I was merely investigating the idea &emdash; finding where and how, in my life, it actually applied. But whether aware of it or not, I was setting in motion certain well-established principles of reality construction. I began to see my world, and live my life, as if the notion were an established truth.

If only we knew how much of an effect we have on our reality by doing just that! It is the only way that idle sketchers become artists, and reflective journalers become writers &emdash; and for that matter, how interns become real doctors, and fledgling members of the bar become actual lawyers. We commonly suppose it's the education that makes it so. But schooling only qualifies them to get the job and think of themselves as doctors, lawyers, etc. It is the living of the dream that makes it so. After all, practitioners of all sorts go back much farther than the educational facilities or the credentialing boards. It is okay to be cowed and awed by framed degrees, but don't for a moment think that these have given them their refined skills. This is perfectly evident in the case of artists and writers, but we forget that it is so, too, with the more formalized professions.

But I am veering off the point. I believed in the seasonal framework of life, in the whole and its various parts, with such conviction that it became so, for me. At least, I think this is how it must have happened, for it is certainly a truth of mine, and seemingly mine alone.

Oh, in the deepest heart of me, I do believe we share some parts of it &emdash; like our response to the seasons of the year, and the fact that we all hibernate at night, just like bears do in the winter. And, after all, everybody understood Walter Huston when he sang "... and the days dwindle down, to a precious few, September...November..." and went on to make it clear that he was talking about the days of his life, not of those literal months. It could never be such common currency if it were not easy for us to visualize life as a run of the seasonal year.

But I'll accept that only I have taken this ball and run with it, all the way down the open field . . . if you'll accept, in turn, that you could do it if you wanted to! No, I am not asking you to do it. Just to recognize that it is possible to deepen any aspect of your reality if you'd like to see it so. Because most of us don't realize we have that power. We think we are largely at life's mercy, when it really it isn't true.

Which is not to say that there aren't limits. But I've read amazing tales of people coming back from seemingly impossible handicaps, and you'd be throwing it away if you didn't attempt any new reality because of pre-judged limits.

I'll make a guess: there are only two limits. One is the ultimate of death, itself, which nobody endlessly evades. The other has to do with some kind of parsimony: you can't have everything &emdash; possibly because there isn't time enough for everything, and possibly because certain things are mutually exclusive. Which leads us to the old admonition: be careful what you wish for &emdash; you may get it (and thereby lose something else, which you hadn't even regarded as valuable).


Well, it is time to call it an issue. And hardly time enough, if I hope to get it out to you while we are still in this triple-aught year of ending/beginning. I'm rather sorry this transitional year is about to close, actually; and a few paragraphs in final reflection might not be out of order, here.

For me, I guess it has really been the transition into old age. Giving up the use of the automobile . . . a finishing-touch on my hitch-hiking . . . a recognition of slowdown &emdash; which I suppose I've complained about for a long time, but it has become kind of gross, this year. Or maybe, I'm just more willing to accept it, and so I slow down even further. But withal, I am light about it. I don't expect or demand much of myself, anymore.

I'm hopefully not done with travel. I just renewed my passport for another decade, and I've got my eye on what may be the easiest, softest way of carefree travel of them all &endash; on tramp steamers! Perfect for the old hitch-hiker who no longer wants to scrabble for shelter every night or live out of a backpack . . . who, in fact, wants to loaf his way there, the next time I go anywhere. We'll see.

But I'm more content than ever, just to remain in my digs, surrounded by books and records, rumbling around like an old man does, writing memoir stuff, doing mini-treasure-hunts on the web &emdash; the eBay auction site, for a particular instance, but also the sheer fun of turning up new sites for many of the various things that stir my interest. And the satisfying evenings spent with Joy, reading a good book together, or watching old movies. I never thought I'd welcome these 'golden years', but there's a lot to say for them when all one's needs are met. As mine certainly are!

As long as one can accept the element of slowing down.

But acceptance, I have come to learn, is for most people a baffling concept, and one of the reasons there is much difficulty in understanding the traditional Eastern approach to life. It took my friend, Jean, a very long time to accept her multiple-sclerosis &emdash; and I tell you this in the same few pages in which I caution you against feeling yourself necessarily at life's mercy, and in which I write about not buckling under, to an election defeat that doesn't carry the imprint of propriety, yet has all the weight of a compelling authority. How is one supposed to understand the idea of acceptance, in all this seeming ambiguity?

With reference to each of these apparently contradictory instances, there is a common rule to apply. You don't necessarily accept the condition, you accept the occurrence of the condition &emdash; which might mean accepting its unavoidability (as in Jean's instance, or my own slowing down); but it more directly means accepting the element of challenge that the situation presents, which applies to all four instances. It certainly does not mean simply giving up. For in every instance that calls for acceptance, there is a challenge inherent, even if it only be to live gracefully within the confines of what must be accepted.

But one cannot assume the nature of the challenge in any arbitrary way: it is as one discovers it, only when encountering that which calls for acceptance. Such a discovery is a very personal thing, a measure of who you really are and what your world is all about. It speaks to, and speaks from, your personal path of growth.

As a closing and last-minute note on the point, and perhaps to personalize the statement on the bastard election, with which I opened this issue, I think I am done with voting and elections, for good. Acceptance makes me aware that it is a complete and sorry waste of my diminishing energies. And for my headspace, books and music are healthier. Maybe even pornography.

See you around . . .

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