Sunday, April 17, 2016

"Talking About Death"

talking about death

Soon after reading and writing about Philip Zuckerman’s Living the Secular Life wherein he discusses how death can still be faced by a non-religious individual, my husband Howard Fox coincidentally wrote a letter to our friend, Rosemary DeRosa, who had recently called us about a scare with her husband Brian’s health. 
     Howard wrote her:

As you said, “time marches on…and on….and on…until it stops!”
At least for each and every creature alive. I’ve always thought about
death—in an unseemly way according to Douglas and to my parents,
when they were still alive; maybe it’s because I had a sister who died
when she was only seven and I was only three.  I have only two mem-
ories of her—one, probably my very earliest memory, is quite pleasant:
she was trying to comfort me by tickling me under my chin as I went
into a bawling fit because my father was leaving the house to go to work.
The other memory, much less clear, was visiting her in the hospital,
when she was dying of leukemia. I have zero memory of her funeral,
and I’m quite certain my parents didn’t take me to it, but I do remember
asking my mother, probably a day or two later, where Bunny went.
She told me she died, that it was like going to sleep forever. But mommy
where is she now? They put her in a wooden box and made a hole in the
ground and put the box in the hole and put the dirt back on top of her.
The image I had then, standing in the laundry room of our house in
the residential end of Atlantic City, was, quite specifically, that the box
was an orange crate and that Bunny could see them putting the dirt back
on top of her. It was a disturbing image to me then, as it is now.
     But I no longer fear for the dead nor pity them, nor myself for
being among them one day. The change was gradual but inevitable as I grew
up. However, the real realization came when I had that neurosurgery on my
left elbow at Cedars Sinai, I think about eight years ago, when I started to
lose sensation and dexterity on the left side of my left hand. The condition
called cubital tunnel syndrome—something like well-known carpel syndrome,
but it occurs to a compressed nerve in the elbow rather than the wrist.
     There I was, prepped and laying on the surgical table in the operating room and
staring at the operating lamp above me, with its intense facets and
multiple lenses focused on my left arm. As I was looking at it, I felt some-
thing with the intravenous connection on my right arm, and I asked if they
were ready to start. The assistant surgeon declared, “No, Howard, we’re
done. You’ve been out for about 90 minutes.” I was amazed—flabbergasted.
I had absolutely no sense that I’d virtually ceased to exist as a sentient
being for an hour and a half. And my, Rosamarina, my immediate, first
waking thought was that I had no need to fear being dead. For myself or
for anyone else. I recall quite vividly being wheeled into the recovery
area with that idea firmly—and happily!—in my mind. It was a life-
changing—and I guess you could say a death-changing—experience for
me….The most salient content of the whole experience was that welcome
realization about non-existence.
      Of course there’s a major difference between being dead and dying.
We can only hope for the best when it comes to dealing with the “endgame.”
But the subtext of your letter is about engaging, or least beginning to
acknowledge that, perhaps, it’s earliest incidentals have begun. …I’ve had
one or two scares; and Douglas has had prostate cancer, has had a knee
replacement, and repeatedly had a procedure, under anesthesia, to burn
away precancerous esophageal cells. It’s no fun, and it brings anxiety.
But neither are we afraid of the inevitable outcome.
     …So maybe I’m no wiser than Pangloss or Polonius. But then again,
sometimes simple truths are the most important thing of all. I’m not a
believer, you know that. God forbid, were I! But I recently reheard a re-
cording of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, which he was commissioned to
write for the opening of the Kennedy Center. The one line that I remember
most from the time we saw it at the Kennedy Center to the time I heard
it last week as I drove on surface streets to Pasadena, is “God is the simplest
thing of all.”
      I also remember reading an article about the Big Bang theory of the
creation of the universe, in which a physicist was quoted as saying “No
God is God enough for me.” When you think about it, that’s a rather
profound statement, maybe not about religious devotion, but about the
wonderment of it all.

     Howard’s recounting of his story about his sister, led me, in turn, to recall the very first time I had encountered death. The event was the death of my step-grandfather, Forrest Jones, the only grandfather I had known on my father’s side of the family, my birth grandfather having died before I was born. Forrest, a small town businessman, who wore old fashioned suits in the 1950s that were obviously tailored for the 1940s, was a gentle and loving man, who reminded me always of the actor Ray Collins, particularly in his role in The Magnificent Ambersons, and later as Lieutenant Tragg in television’s “Perry Mason” series.
     I don’t recall the year in which he died, but I was quite young at the time, maybe 5 or 6, aware of the world around me but not quite yet able to comprehend death. My parents took me, without my brother or sister, to the funeral, and I recall being very serious—like the adults around me—as the service began. I was a serious young man, giving sermonic lectures from the post of my grandmother’s staircase as I performed being a missionary preacher. 
     All was fine until, in the midst of the ceremony, Forrest’s daughter by his first marriage—a woman who was institutionalized in a state mental facility—began to scream out. I have no memory of what she said, but it was certainly a profane statement of outrage that family members quickly tried to hush. I have no idea why it so affected me. Perhaps she had said what all the others had feared to; or perhaps she simply made obvious to my childhood consciousness what truly had happened—that I would never see my grandfather again and that we all had lost something in his death. Perhaps it was my witnessing of an adult who could longer control herself that utterly frightened me. In any event, I begin to cry, quickly, as children often do, becoming inconsolable. Neither my mother nor my father could quiet me, and finally it was my aunt Mary, a high school student still living at home with my grandmother, who hugged me into quietude. 
     Mary, as I write elsewhere in these volumes, was the kind of aunt everyone should have: a young girl who herself was not far removed from childhood, yet was old enough to dote on the firstborn nephew. She and her girlfriends took me to movies, and I recall sleeping with her on the roof outside her bedroom on a hot summer night, the stars raining down upon the small idyllic town of Manchester. It was her father (step-father though he was) who had died; still, even as a young girl, only she could comfort me. Suddenly, I knew what death was: the absence of presence.          

Los Angeles, April 15, 2016

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"CNN: Barbarians at the Gates"

cnn: barbarians at the gate


PROLOGUE: In early April of 2014 Malaysian Airlines flight 370 disappeared from sight, its planned flight shifting midway toward its destination, while its communications ceased as it veered from its original flight path. Having already gotten into the habit of listening daily to CNN news reporting as a kind of background commentary, I began to write a kind of impressionistic summary of their news reportage.

     On April 22, 2014 I had surgery for a right-knee replacement after suffering from severe arthritis in both knees for several years. During the early days after surgery I was given opioid drugs for pain, but soon after I left the hospital I insisted they give me much lower dosage. And I presumed the pills that I was talking while undergoing home therapy exercises to recover the usage of my knee and leg where nothing dangerous—although I did perceive they were still adversely affecting me.

     Throughout April and May of that year I continued to suffer, asking again to have a yet milder dosage, while writing an essay on my longer-than-expected suffering entitled “Pain”; yet throughout the next month and a half I continued to improve, writing essays and accomplishing numerous publishing tasks nearly every day, as has become my pattern. Simultaneously, I continued to write on the Malaysian Airlines flight as reported by CNN, using a kind of Beckettian strategy to talk about the repetitious and often meaningless television reports.

     Somewhat eerily, I posted these daily writings for several weeks on Facebook, gaining a rather large following for my strange postings.

     I was startled, when I recently reread my strange, hallucinatory CNN reports of the disappearance of Malaysian Airline 370 in April 2014, whose CNN coverage I began before that surgery on April 8th, how those few days of using painkillers had influenced me, and I had reported their effects. It is as if I were watching the news while experiencing an opium high—which I can assure you was not the case. Obviously, the experiences I had had with painkillers was still very much with me when I wrote the sometimes very realistic, if satirical summaries of my daily encounters with CNN news about a variety of tragedies.

     Strangely, I cannot quite remember my state of mind while I was writing this odd work—although. sometime later, in June 17, when a Malaysian jet was shot down over the Ukraine skyways, apparently by a Russian military attack, which killed all its passengers, I continued to listen every day to CNN, as had become my habit, writing a long, far more sober series of reports on and about the Russian-inspired battles against Ukraine, continuing into August and the next few months of that year, while also working on the many essays that would make up the first volume on identity of My Year 2015, including those about Gertrude Stein. By this time I certainly felt as if I had “come through” all the effects of my operation, and was moving on to complete health.

        I might have done an even more absurd piece had I attended more carefully to the CNN reports of Republican and Democratic politics I have experienced over the past couple of months of 2015 and 2016, which I now hear more as background babble than actual reports (unfortunately, that is not quite true; their endless drivel has entered my memory). I have determined that I shall soon turn off CNN permanently, but given the absolute repeating absurdity of such reports, I hate to miss out in all the material which might produce several such eccentric summaries.


CNN: Today, weeks after the loss of Malaysian Airline 370, we still know nothing. The question is do we know nothing because there is nothing to know, or because nothing is what we are being told to know? Of course, there is the possibility that nothing can be known since the Malaysians know something we do not know. And it may be possible that we know more than we want to know about the nothing about which we know? Today we will discuss these issues and others, reiterating again and again, throughout the day, just how much we don't know, and how impossible it is to know what we don't know, and can't know. The Chinese, we can assure you are confusing us by pretending to know something that we presume they do not know and refusing to tell us what they might know that we don't. But that will not stop us, we assure you, in discussing all that we do not and cannot know but might want to know if only we could! Stay tuned.


CNN: Today we have stacked 10 Empire State Buildings upon the original Empire State Building to determine where the ping, from which we believe it did not really ring, would have had to come from upon the floor of the Indian ocean where it might but probably did not come to sing. So imagine King Kong scaling 10 times the original height from where he clung to be shot from, and you can imagine the difficulty of hearing a ping, let alone anything, from that place where the Chinese claimed it sung. We now need to "mow the lawn," to cut away all that seaweed to read what we probably know isn't on the floor below the 10 Empire States below what we know with some certainty isn't really where we're going to go.


CNN: The ping has been lost, and we must imagine that it may be a problem of the incorporation of our triangulations. The black box is orange. The silent sea is a very noisy location. A boat is not a good place from which to hear anything but the motor of the ship. Two angles do not a third make. We cannot recapture, as Proust has proven, what may already be dead. And then there is the problem of the density of the ocean floor, the salinity of its waters, and the possibility that the voices of ocean life are simply imitating the sound we seek. And then the trail of the sensor may be many miles away from the ship that it tows in its wake. We may be hearing, in short, something miles or even months away from what he hear when we heard what we thought we did. Or maybe we didn’t really hear anything. That is certainly a possibility. The “pings” we heard might have been a product of our imagination or, of course, a creation of the very machine we have developed to hear what we want to hear. And then there is always the question of who is hearing and interpreting what we want to hear and where and when. For example, the special sequence to which we have been listening is not precisely at the sequence we might have expected it to be, with a 10% discrepancy. How to explain what we were listening for is not precisely what we were expecting to hear or that we can no longer now hear anything? We cannot put something into the ocean when we do not know and cannot know if anything we might be seeking it is near.


CNN: Breaking news: If you want to land on water you have to speed up the engine, going tail down first, wheels up. Then you can gradually sink. Since we have seen nothing on the surface we have to imagine that perhaps nothing is on the surface but lying far below somewhere in the muck and primordial slime or maybe an ocean canyon or a crevice. And then there is always the possibility of a false positive. That is when you think you have found something you really have not. It’s like a tuna you have on the line, but miles from the actual fish. So you never can know for sure whether or not you have really caught the fish or even that it’s actually a tuna and not just a single sardine. Think of it this way, since we have no evidence of anything, the plane may not have really fallen out of the sky or, if it did, it may have been swept away to another continent in the various cyclones that Americans call hurricanes. It may well be in India or even in Malaysia from where it originally left. Everything is so uncertain in that part of the universe. So where do we go from here? Let us assure you, we will keep you up to date.


CNN: One person’s opinion is as good as another’s, until we know what we don’t know and probably can’t. The problem is that everyone says something that no one knows. And the difficulty with the whole issue is that no one truly knows just what the issue is. Why did our experienced pilot not fly where he was going, making a left turn instead of staying straight, to move across the strait of Indonesia to “possibly” escape a blip of radar which the Indonesians insist they could not have missed? It didn’t appear on our screen, whatever it was or wasn’t, they admit. Why would it have dipped down nearer the ground? Why would he veer? Only to rise again to go down the side of Australia where anyone knows there’s nowhere to go, let alone a place to land a plane? Perth is too far. Near there, some claim, Amelia Earhart disappeared, never to be found. At least they’re in the right haystack, but can they find a needle there? Or has the needle already sewed itself into some other pattern, created a fabric where the events can no longer be traced? And why, if they got down so low, did no one say so, did no one call home? We now also know that the pilot said goodnight, which means his copilot was apparently flying the plane when it turned from where it was going? You have to comprehend, the ooze at the bottom of the ocean floor is maybe a mile down or more. It’s like slicing a pizza: you can slice it very thin and find something quite tasty or slice down thick and find absolutely nothing that is worth a swallow. You have to comprehend; the Grand Canyon is not as deep as the 14,000 feet below which this little white canister (within the black box that’s orange) is embedded. We believe it’s down there, but “where,” we have to ask is “there?” You don’t know what you can’t.


CNN: You have to understand, the water can bend sound and time itself as well. What we thought we have heard may not have been what we heard because it might have come from another location away from the place in which we have heard it or even have been listening. For example, you may try to talk to someone but imagine that the person you are talking to is miles and miles away, and what you said was not said today but yesterday or the day before or the before that. Or perhaps even tomorrow or a week down the road. So what you are being are told is not what you think is being said. “I’m here” might really mean, “I’m there,” or “over somewhere you might never have even imagined me to be.” Or “I’m going to be here but will not be where you think I am when you get there.” Under water is not the same as being on the land. Being on the land is not the same as being on the seashore, and being on the surface of a large body of water has nothing to do with being on the beach. Seagulls do not like ships. There is a reason for this. The gulls depend upon people, these days, not what the sea has to offer them. Some people think they’re what’s left of the angels, these little mean birds, who depend so much on human waste. They too used to soar, but now wait around to steal what they can from human beings.

     So you can imagine, for example, if we wanted to descend from 35,000 to 4,000 feet, the nose would go down, and the warning signals would pierce the night air, the big jumbo jet roaring into human space. You’d have to hear and see it as surely as the seagulls, and you’d wonder at the sight. Some of the Indonesian islanders said they saw just such a thing! But nobody believed them. How could they see the windows and the lights of the plane at such a height?


CNN: Today we must report that if the plane, had in fact gone down to 4,000 feet, it would surely have hit mountains throughout Malaysia. A jet of that size could probably not have descended that many feet as quickly as it was described as having done. It probably was impossible to do so. Accordingly, we must question whether the missing plane ever descended to that level or, in fact, ever descended at all. It could, in fact, have risen even higher into the stratosphere and, as some slightly insane speculators have suggested, gone straight to heaven. Unlikely of course, given the reality of our earthly conceptions, but since our earthly conceptions have absolutely no logic behind our understanding of what might have occurred, we know that anything might be possible. Search planes which we never knew before, sent out to check on the missing plane, discovered nothing was there. The question, of course (off course necessarily) was where they might have searched? New Zealand is now searching a space the size of West Virginia—which is a very strange state in which one might, metaphorically speaking, seek to search. Nobody has yet found any “debris,” the definition of which is “broken scattered remains, rubbish.” New Zealand confirms that they are checking the dots, although it is clear no dots have even been spotted. But they are confident that if something were to appear on the surface, they would surely recover it. If the theory isn’t accurate, CNN confirmed, then we surely can’t understand who went up and who went down and howso.


CNN: Everybody is a suspect once again. Even though previously they said no one, except perhaps the crew, might be guilty. So now, the Malaysians’ claim, it might have been everyone. Me or even you. Well, probably not. You never know in such an incident, who might have been involved or who might not. And that is the point: you cannot cut anyone out! Each of us, in our inability to comprehend, is committing a crime of sorts in not being able to. It is a conundrum, in fact. There is possibly a problem of language, in translating different customs, the Malaysians admit. Although they have the control of any black box information, they cannot open those machines or actually read what they might reveal to us. The Australians have far more confidence. They are certain that those “black” boxes will be recovered, but others, equally certain, proclaim that to search Massachusetts and Connecticut combined—the new metaphorical space which we are now searching—it will take several days, weeks, months, maybe even years. The batteries have probably died, unable to give us any more information. So where do we look, if look is the proper metaphor of what we might be doing? We must imagine being on the highest peak of the Rocky Mountains and looking down to see a suitcase at the very bottom. If Mt. Rainer were to be turned over facing into the ocean, this would be deeper yet. Think of the highest building in Quatar and the Empire State, and…whatever else we to imagine on top of that. All of this is deeper, deeper, deeper, deeper. You see what we mean—or perhaps, no one can see anything. In this case, surely, seeing is not believing.


CNN: A robot is now searching the bottom of the ocean. It takes two hours to dive to the bottom. And the co-pilot forgot to turn his cell-phone off. Or maybe he purposely turned it on. Was he trying to communicate with some of the terrorists or trying to call for help? His cell phone reached, evidently, no one. And no one else on the plane, evidently, had turned on their cell-phones—certainly a very obedient bunch of passengers since we estimate that, on most occasions, 35-40% do not remember to turn them off. Pilots generally turn them off with great regularity. And the Chinese, we must admit, are not as obedient as the Japanese. But this co-pilot did not turn off his phone, and apparently the plane was low enough that his cell phone kept trying to reach out for a cell tower with which to communicate. And this is the break-down of all communications. That is very rare. Pilots are also very obedient. What does it mean? It’s very, very strange, one cell-phone of the 239 people on board this silent plane. No calls were made before or after. Why can’t everything just be transparent? Why are we so confused? What is going on? It is certainly intriguing.

       The robot who went down towards the bottom of the sea, automatically returned before reaching its destination. It knew that it was descending into depths in which it might not survive.


CNN: Today they sent the robot back. It is also mapping, for the very first time, the ocean floor—although nothing has yet been found. It is difficult to know whether “nothing” has yet been found upon the floor or the ocean floor has not itself been found. Things become confusing when it is so very deep. Bluefin-21, as the robot is called, may not ever be able to reach the floor itself—or may never want to go there. “Bluefin is the best we have,” reported an authority.

      They now must go back to the original airport where Malaysian Airline 370 took off to see if some people actually left their cell-phones on or, later, intentionally turned them on or, if not, why they kept them off, intentionally or not. Were they all asleep? And if the co-pilot left his cell-phone on why he might have even wanted to do that, or forgot to turn it off? What does this say about his role as a responsible representative of an airline, who asks people to please, turn off their machines?

       Bluefin, we must report, has just turned broken down and surfaced once more, fearful clearly of the dark into which it had been sent. The pressure is building. This is only to be expected. Robots can only do what they are made to. An African elephant cannot stand on its toe only.

       China is now doing itself no good. ”Chinese efforts are hurting as much as helping,” says the New York Times. Recently they were blamed for not doing enough. The Chinese are, understandably, a little confused about how to be involved in something in which they are very much involved. The plane, after all, was on its way to China with mostly Chinese individuals on board. That it never reached where it was intended to go is a problem to those at the other end, waiting to receive what never arrived there. The problem is, like everyone else, the Chinese do not know how to find what they are seeking.


CNN: The problem is we don’t know what is down there. Are there mountains? Deep cracks in the earth? A lot of slimy debris? The Bluefin may be reaching the limits of his endurance. Bluefin was very good in Boston Harbor, near the city which again the other day demonstrated that it was a location of resilient survivors. As we know, nothing bad happens until something bad happens.

     Maybe a bigger vessel will be able to go down for a longer time to search. But perhaps, once they go down there, they will find nothing. That is certainly possible given the fact that they do not yet know whether or not there is anything there to search. Poor little Bluefin cannot know what it is searching for or whether it fact it can find it. It simply sinks down as low as it can go to sound out the ocean floor.

      The Mariners sending down Bluefin are experienced. They are used to sending down their sonar sound machine and waiting, inured to waiting and sending it down again and again. They are a very patient folk. Everything spreads out in time, and they may see a lot of trash down there because that is where everything ultimately descends. How will we know whether we have found something or not? Even if we have found something, it may be nothing. Or it may be something that we do not, given our search, really care about finding, perhaps finding that debris might be telling us something about what is on the ocean floor, even if we don’t want to know it is there. Trash is not simply trash; it represents the destruction of the entire ocean. A plane is not simply a plane but is a mysterious machine that has vanished before our very eyes, or rather, our observation, which is what we perceive as our eyes but which is really not.            

      People are feeling angry. The oil we found on the surface on the ocean has nothing to do with the oil from a plane. The cost of everything is immense.


CNN: So far the Deepfin’s journey has been fruitless. There will come a time when we shall have to regroup and reconsider says Malaysia. What that means, we can only wonder. Will we need to look deeper or in other directions? Will we need to go north? What if the plane never actually veered from its course and actually landed in Beijing without anyone knowing. Are the passengers simply hanging out on the streets, no longer wishing to return to their waiting families? Rod Serling might have asked these same questions. But this is not science fiction, this is simply a mystery which we have not yet been able to solve. That is what is making it so frustrating. We are seeking the facts in a world where they may no longer be any facts. It is far easier to imagine something that is not true. If a tree falls in a forest has it really fallen? If a robot goes to the bottom of the Indian Ocean has it really arrived to where it was sent? Has it really seen anything, even if there is not a thing to see? There is still no plane debris, although the ocean is filled with debris. None of it is plain. Nothing is obvious. Nothing is all we have to embrace, along with a lot of debris which is a something that we define as nothing.

     Today, however, we have narrowed down the search area for the Bluefin robot to a more specific and reduced space. Perhaps that means that something might have been detected or that they believe that the “pings” have sent them to a particular space. But it may be that “this is not the place,” and then we have wonder what is a place, any place where we might discover where the plane might have gone into the water, if it went into the water and not straight to heaven as some believers might have imagined. When a plane goes missing, the New York Police Department gets an immediate call, which creates for them an “intelligence gap,” since everything is related, these days, to everything. If you don’t know what lives in that “black hole,” you have to imagine anything.


CNN: “Everything is again being turned on its head.” The plane is not where we said it was, so we are looking at the nearest point to where we previously said it was even though we have no idea why we believe it was where we previously said it might have been. This is a very large territory, and we have no machines that can carefully scan this vast space, but nonetheless, we are changing our minds to search out this new space where we also have no evidence of it being  where the plane might actually have crashed. Well, there was a ping nearby. You remember the pings? Those things we may be hearing miles or even months away from what he hear when we heard what we thought we did. That is what we are again nearing, the further of these from where we started from. At least we are not going tomorrow where we were going yesterday, but next week we do not where we will be going in connection with now.

       “Everyone stay where you are” commanded the captain of the South Korean Ferry. Those who obeyed were the very first to drown.


CNN: An independent company has announced that they have spotted some large metal scraps of aluminum, titanium, copper and other materials lying at the bottom of the Bay of Bengal, far away from where everyone else is now looking. This is something “new,” a commentator announces. This is something “out of the blue,” responds another. I do not believe it says a guest commentator, but I don’t know why. We have no reason either to believe it may be even near where we are currently seeking, or that it couldn’t be much further to the north, although it is unlikely that a jet which might have traveled as long as this one did to get so close again to where it started from. But then we have never been told why the Malaysians and Australians are convinced that in fact the jet did actually travel for as long as it is said to have.

      Imagine the center of the whole body being contained at the center of the right knee. Feet and legs matter some, the torso very little. The chest hardly matters in the least, but the arms are good for steadying things and particularly for getting up. The head, as always, is important, simply to warn you of mistakes you might make. The voyage of the body must be an extremely balanced one, in which you walk forth on what is described as a “walker,” but is actually a kind of metallic sliding machine (made of aluminum, titanium, and plastic) in which you push your way through space, picking it up and moving it when you need to make a sudden turn, which in a small condominium is more often than you might think. It is also good for moving the cat out the way. Or other old people if you are surrounded by them, as I am not.

     The conversations of the Malaysian crew said nothing about knees or of using the machines in which they were ensconced to push anyone or anything away from them. They were, evidently, simply and calmly, seeking a way home through space.


CNN: In some rooms, girls had gathered, a pattern among young teenagers, in groups of 45 or more, their life-saving jackets already deployed. Had they been suddenly told to go up to the surface from where they might have escaped, they probably would not have been able to easily move from their impacted location. Talking surely in fearful tones, occasionally giggling, holding hands, they waited for the water to reach them. Did it come in a sudden rush or slowly filling the room up?

       Why are there no signs of debris, the news commentators keeps asking, about the Malaysian airplane? Did the plane go into the water in a sudden dive, taking it down deep before it had a possibility of breaking up, or did the plane, entering the water along the line of the ocean float for a while before it began to sink?

       Each night, after I take my painkillers, I too await, sometimes seeming to look into a kind of lens in the sky, for the pain to disappear and sleep to arrive. Sometimes I feel as if I, for just a while, were floating, before falling in place. Sometimes I see multi-spectral images, blue tinged, representing the visions that may be awaiting me in sleep. Sometimes I cannot meet the lens in the sky, and the pain does not stop sufficiently for me to sink. I seem to stay awake for hours, although, from time to time, I am startled by a snore and realize that I may have, at least for a few seconds, sunken into absence.

     If you miss the first connection with unconsciousness, you must wait, sometimes up to 4 hours, at which point you can take another one or two pills. But if you do not need it you do not want to take the second pill in order to protect yourself from the effects of these opiate-based substances. Some nights I feel as if my feet are being pushed against some willful force, or that a hand is slowly raising my leg. Perhaps this restrains me from falling to sleep. But sometimes it appears, also, to be a pleasant sensation, combined with multi-spectral images, in gradual apposition of gravity, a pushing against, an abandoning of.

        Through their own multi-spectral imaging, members of an Adelaide-based firm insist they have spotted a construction in the cruciform of a plane made up of the metals I previously mentioned—mine more like cinematographic stills. The only problem is that there is no way, other authorities claim, for multi-spectral imaging to bounce back from such a deep location in the ocean floor. Like the images I perceived, they probably lie more within one’s head—even though they have what look to be photographs. We certainly have no intention of abandoning the Southern arc, argue the searchers of Malaysian Airline 370. There are still more than 100 bodies missing on the sunken MV Sewol South Korean Ferry.


CNN: The Head of the Malaysian Military Systems and Public Transportation, the same man, cannot tell us how the two communication systems interlink. He will have to “look into that,” he responds. One wonders, if he can’t tell us that important piece of information, who might be able to? How to explain, furthermore, why no one noticed that the Malaysian airplane went off the radar until 17 minutes later, and that it took a further 4 hours before the Malaysians attempted to do anything about it? By that time the plane, if the coordinates we are now imagining are correct, it was storming down into the Indian Ocean to disappear.

     Like the girls upon the South Korean ferry, the boys also gathered, some tentatively joking, ruff-housing around with their friends, boasting that if they survived the event of what they might post of their Facebook pages. Every once and a while, one or another would cry out in despair. Again and again, the sputtering communications system would spew out the advice to stay where they were. “We’re going down, if we stay here,” one of them shouted out! But these were, alas, obedient boys, not truly rebels. Their life-vests were not deployed. One posted his mother that he felt that he might not survive much longer. Another grabbed the phone and made a face. They quietly joked, now and then breaking down in sputters of terror.*

      The ground is disappearing before our feet! In Pensacola, Florida, entire roadways have been wiped away, neighborhoods far from the ocean suddenly find themselves with sandy beaches on their plots, the over-laying soil having washed into the bay. In Baltimore, startled walkers observed parked cars along the river suddenly fall into the water below as a huge sink-hole cracked through the neighborhood.

       “Sometimes we can longer know what is up and what is down,” simulators have shown us. To get to the surface you may have turn in what appears to be the opposite direction. Two nights ago, I took a pill and an angel came to show me how to unhook the lock that held the two parts of a large cross together, pulling each of the two wooden planks apart in order to allow my body to lie comfortably asleep between. Last night, I attempted to resist the magic potion until, at the very last moment, the pain became too intense, the lack of sleep irritating. Almost immediately another kind of angel put my head to sleep, while gathering my other resources below into effective forces. This might, obviously, be perceived as a kind of metaphor for the restoral of my body, except that I had the definite feeling that the new “forces” my angel was creating included planes and ships, perhaps even vast forces of men preparing for war. She had put me to sleep only so that she might take advantage of my inattention. I awoke disturbed for these possible misuses of my bodily energies.


*These imagined scenes were based on descriptions not from CNN but from The New York Times. CNN did show moments from the students’ tape.

CNN: The more we get to know Malaysia, the stranger that country seems to be. Despite the fact that, as our commentator has suggested, the Adelaide, Australian company’s claim to have found cruciform shapes in the Bay of Bengal, it is fairly apparent that that company’s announcements are the next thing to a hoax. Even they have backed off in speaking to authorities. Yet today the Malaysia government ordered three ships to check out the vast Bay of Bengal in search of any remnants of a Boeing 777-like Malaysian Airlines 370.


      “The Russians are ridiculous.” Surely there are certain languages, certain cultures where lying is an art, or at least a condoned method of communication. Yes, we have all heard American leaders, both political and military, lie directly to the American media and the international community. One need only recall Henry Kissinger’s bald double dealings in agreements between Viet Nam and the US. President Bush lied; President Clinton lied; Obama has lied. Every country has liars, and uses them to great advantage. But the Russians, throughout the Cold War, and now again as their troops surround Ukraine, are the most determined lairs, so it seems, on the planet, as Putin’s authorities warn the US not to interfere in what they argue is merely a disagreement within Ukrainian borders only. Everyone perceives that some Russian thugs, heavily masked, are posing as Russian-supporting Ukrainians within that country. And although the Russians claim that Westerners are leading ultranationalists, it is quite apparent, that it is the Russians who are creating tensions within Eastern Ukraine in order to justify any rush “to protect” the rights of Soviet-leaning Ukrainians. The lie in these is these situations is so apparent that it almost seems ludicrous when Putin spokesmen waddle on stage to warn the US and Europe. It is clear bluster, reminding me of the time when a friend and I attempted to get permission for our traveling group in Moscow to get food service in the airport, since our flight had been delayed. The clerks refused to even allow that they were there, pulling little hanging curtains over their faces as if to pretend they did not really exist. “We can still see you!” we shouted out, while they disappeared into thin air. Russia seems to be a country in denial, unable to face its lost past or to find a place in a new world order, the Russians seem to be in permanent exile within their own borders. How do you sanction a country that does not admit its own actions, and in that, denies, perhaps, that it truly exists? Or, as in the case of gays and lesbians, would like to be able to deny their existence, as they did during the cold war.


      And so, quite by accident I assure you, we have returned to something that has seemed to exist but evidently does not or, at least, cannot be recovered. When I first started taking my opiates, I felt that all night was I being shown a series of plays, performances, films, puppet shows, and even tableaux vivants in order to tell me something. Sometimes the sets and costumes for these would pop out from own body, as if I held, deep within the whole the repertoire for these performances. And it was then I realized that the works I was watching were not coming to me from an external source but from an inner, that the stories I was being told were being told by myself. As quickly as I realized that the stories, alas, stopped. My mind was forced to discern “other” exterior forces, the “angels” I describe. Last night, after taking the first pain killer, nothing happened. The pain remained, sleep eluded me. Within the 4-hour sequence beginning at 10:00, I tried again, this time sleep gradually falling over me. I realized that this in this instance, instead of leading me to sleep, the “angel” had left little packages of information wrapped up within various segments of my somnolence, like little playbooks or brochures on how to continue the performances. But, in the end, of course, I could never read these books, never actually perform the works they might have referred to if I could have read them. The information meant nothing to me or anyone else. It did not lead to any knowledge. Like the events occurring daily in the news, the repetitions of events led to nothing but the inevitable search for more information of how to uncover or alter what we might have perceived to be the “truth.”


      The Chinese have been asked to leave Malaysia. The authorities there—the authorities anywhere—can no longer tell them anything. The parents of those hundreds of children drowned on the South Korean ferry are forced to return home without their boys and girls whether or not their bodies have been found or not. In Nigeria, hundreds of young girls have been kidnapped from their schools, many of them already, perhaps, sold into Islamic marriages. The Barbarians are at the gate.   


CNN: “We are starting again at square one.” Scientists in search of Malaysian Airlines 370 are now reconsidering all previous information before they begin to search a vast space that will take more a year to search, and even then, that search will not be definitive, and potentially can never end. It will cost over 60 million dollars. “There is still no sign of debris!”

NOTE: Any discussion of the South Korean ferry has now slipped off our news reports. Have the other bodies been discovered? Will the ferry be uplifted? When? Are the parents still waiting along the shores? We have no news to report.

NOTE: Although a small section of the Malaysian Airlines 370 airplane was later found and identified as belonging to the airplane on the French island of Reunion, no further evidence of the actual plane has ever been discovered, although from time to time pieces of some unidentifiable plane parts do wash ashore in Reunion and Mozambique. And, although CNN and other news companies report possible sightings, nothing specific has further been identified. Stay tuned!

Los Angeles, April 8-26, 2014, March 16, 2016. Posted daily during this period on Facebook.