I guess you are kind of curious as to who I am, but I am one of those who do not have a regular name. My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind. (Richard Brautigan In Watermelon Sugar)
Well, gentle readers, if I made a practice of calling things whatever was in my mind, I'd never get the words out--there are too many in there. This doesn't mean I'm very smart; it does mean I know a lot of words, that they get in the way.
And, mindful of this quote: it's whatever's in your mind that will flavor the way you read it.
I may not always be able to come up with the precise word for things, but I'll trip over my tongue trying--and worst of all, render myself unable to taste anything that's happening right now, in the process. This is the danger of a crowded mind. Discursive thought closes down the taste buds before real taste can bloom inside them.
Maybe this is one of the reasons we don't speak in meditation. So we don't inadvertently open our mouths and taste something going by, another distracting flavor we will then feel the burden to parse(ley).
I remember reading Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar for the first time when I was 20 years old. He was one of my first exposures to metaliterature: literature aware of itself.
Notice, I didn't say self-conscious. That one, I already knew.
I notice a strange, nostalgic, war-story quality to these words as I type them. A story about a story about myself which I am telling. "Metaliterature" sounds academically cheeky and termy and maybe snobbish and strivey, and that's not my intention, and yet--it's all of those things, and none at the same time.
It's just a word, I say, wet-my-whistling in the dark. Metaliterature.
Words are our best guess at naming things to keep them under some sort of control--trust me, I've been using wordplay to harness my surroundings to feel safer for years. I have generated my own private thalamus thesaurus dedicated to feeling-synonyms, which is lovely to flip through and find just the right word to etymologize, parse, and even chant, all in an academic excursion not to feel the feeling the word embodies.
I'm actually 99% certain (without documentation), that the deepest and oldest part of our brain, reptilian and survival-oriented, is actually a storage unit for sticky letter-formations which we create in our personal limbic labs, designed to bandaid over the fear.
But then we get stuck on the bandaid, cause the bandaid's stuck on ME--the conditioning of the self; we get stuck with whatever's under the bandaid that was trying to cushion the hurt, even long after that specific wound's all mended. They don't go anywhere. Sticky protection piles mount, sometimes very slowly, layer by layer, until you can't help but trip over them every time, just trying to get by.
I'm also pretty sure that the brain stem is, primarily, a glorified linguistic chute. It's what the words go up and flail in, enlarging themselves when you feel you're in trouble, like Augustus Gloop going up the pipe. And when you try to fight them as phenomena, as just another sensory experience--tell them No! DON'T drink the chocolate! Don't go in there!--they get stuck, instead of just passing through. I know this because it happens to me about 91% of the time (which is way down from 100%, with 2 years of meditation).
In my experience, the really big complicated and frightening words seem most apt to get stuck there--and then, building pressure, they finally push through but then, out of sight, they get lodged firmly in the lowest realm of the brain anyway, trapped two floors down from the frontal cortex where they could do you any real, reasonable good.
If you watch this clip, you will be fascinated.
I A little later, Willy Wonka calmly addresses Mrs. Gloop's concerns:
"Oh, the pressure'll get him out. There's pressure building up behind the blockage.
The suspense is killing me--I hope it'll continue."
I use Roald Dahl's books with everyone I've ever taught, Kindergarten through college--especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Mostly, probably really mostly, because I learn something new about myself every single time I teach with them. Willy Wonka is the fictional character "I" most identify with. I was once Wonka for Halloween, velvet overcoat and all. I was believable. Why? Because I believed the story:
The Wonkaesque creative overload, the need to make things just because you thought them up and because you probably can. Getting stuck in the mire of your own sweet creations."Sure, you can execute every idea you ever have if you kill yourself," my darling husband says--which may be the point, killing the Self. The driving, striving need to make EVERYTHING you ever think up, no matter who's onboard with you--or overboard, in the chocolate soup.
And, deep Oompa-Loompa truth, disguised as a song: that your creations are not actually yours, that you cannot control them--or other people's responses to them--once they take form. They change other people. They change you. You can't hang on. It shatters like a psychedelic lollipop.
The more you hang on, the stickier it gets, and the more likely it's going to get stuck in the pipe--because it's ALL going up there anyway.
So let go--which sounds spun-sugar simple, but is toothache hard.
I actually don't really like candy (which makes this mettaphor go down easier, since I'm not all that attached) but I especially do not like candy that is supposed to taste like fruit: meta-flavors which make you only consider the taste of the real thing, and then miss it terribly. Certain flavors seem to engender this tendency more than others. By far the worst offenders are banana, cherry, and, absolutely the worst is...watermelon.
It's meta-candy. Named for the thing it will force you to consider. And yet it's not the name itself. Or even the fruit itself.
The experience of tasting the meta-candy forces us to say its name and consider what it's not, but you remember what it is because you tasted the real thing at some point in the past:
If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer.
Cosmic Now and Laters are legendary for producing this effect, by the way.
That is my name.
Think of all the names we give ourselves to describe ourselves in every single moment but this one, kind and more often, unkind!: I use butcher when I'm harmful or cruel, baker when I manage, in the end, to pull together the recipe for forgiveness and plate the love, candlestick maker when someone shares that something I've said has been helpful, pointing them back to their own ghee lamp in their particular chocolatey darkness.
That space in which we don't know is really important.
That's why I gave a lot of space to that line.
Perhaps it was raining very hard.
That is my name.
If all we are, as the Buddha said, is at the result of all we have thought, well-- I am exactly the result of all of these thoughts.
A brain stem clogged with Gloop designed to protect us, which has now outlived its usefulness? Isn't that the the be all, end all?
This insight rains down-up on me, Roald Dahl-style:
Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop!
The great big greedy nincompoop!
Augustus Gloop! So big and vile
So greedy, foul, and infantile
Come on!' we cried, 'The time is ripe
To send him shooting up the pipe!
But don't, dear children, be alarmed;
Augustus Gloop will not be harmed,
Although, of course, we must admit
He will be altered quite a bit.
And it will alter you, these understandings in the body, if you let them. Only the trick is, that you don't have the kind of control you think you have, once it's set to go off in you.
What do you think meta-bolism is?
Still, we try to control it. We forsake the experience of living, of picking what's there growing wild, in favor of scrabbling to find the word to describe the experience.
Thinking about your own thinking has a stuckness to it, but here's the transformative piece (and this works for anxiety, fear, anger, ____ [insert whatever you're working with]):
If I am thinking about my thinking, then I am not my thinking.
Just let that sit on your tongue a second.
If I am not my thinking, then there is a space between myself and the thinking. I am not that.
It's the ____-ing about the ____-ing formula that makes this particular recipe for suffering.
In a way, we are all writing about living, for example, every time we tweet or update our Facebook statuses.
Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong—“Sorry for the mistake,”—and you had to do something else.
That is my name.
I'm doing something different when I meditate (meta-tate).
I wouldn't call metaliterature my "primary area of interest"--or even a possibly dissertation topic--I would just call it what'shappening here right now. That's the definition, in my mind, but still it's not its name.
That's why it's mettaliterature: the words that bestow circular, lovingkindness back on the writer.
It's self-reflective and washing out as rain (for me) and transformative for everybody involved.
I'm a person writing about my own thinking, about my processes, about my cooking. But mostly, it's a story about a story. It's a lost nursery rhyme, a hopscotch chant, in Oompa Loompali.
Perhaps it was a game you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting in a chair near the window.
We make up the words we need. We set our "terms"--do you see?
The methods maven in me has come to see that I no longer care what its called (well, okay except when I really do, being so attached language), I just care if it's useful. Does it work? Ava came up with the term Ivyprofen to cure poison ivy (maybe it works on strhives).
What is behind the word, behind the naming, striving, hiving, the incessant hiding from the thing itself?
That is my name.
Or you walked someplace. There were flowers all around.
That is my name.
Perhaps you stared into a river. There as something near you who loved you. They were about to touch you. You could feel this before it happened. Then it happened.
Lowercase r realization. Garden-variety, transformative aha.
That is my name.
It's just a big loop. This is story about story, in one way or another: reading, writing, considering. It's a feedback loop. So, here we are: in this kitchen, in a metaphorical eatback-feedback loop.
Now, if we just kept suffering, endlessly, if there were no possibility, even melon-thin, to transcend the suffering, then that would be saṃsāra: the over and over birth-death-life of absolutely everything--literally and metaphorically. However, the Buddha was clear that there is way out of these realms--six, with different samsaric flavors--of suffering.
For today, let's just consider the human realm. That's where Willy Wonka and yes, I, have Brautiganed us.
A big part of this human realm suffering is…intellectual stuffing--not to mention the passion of creative stuffing. Right now (and this is in addition to six other books, which is just plain-yogurt-silly, isn't it? Who could digest all that at once?), I am reading The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology, and let me tell you that Chögyam Trungpa's got me, completely cuts through me, like a melon knife:
"Passion is the major occupation in the human realm…There is a heroic attitude, the attempt to create monuments, the biggest, greatest, historical monument. This heroic approach is based on fascination with what you lack…The intellect is most active in the human realm. There is so much going on in your mind as a result of having collected so many things and having planned so many projects.The epitome of the human realm is to be stuck in a huge traffic jam of discursive thought [emphasis mine]."
Mettathud & Sweet Melon Spit.
There is an effortlessness, a simplicity, and a dancing game to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche's teachings which is very sweet and easy in the mouth. Also a rascaly, seed-spitting contest quality--maybe at you, at times (and that is also Wonka-like). But that's all fine because you're outside on a warm day in the sunshine, and you don't mind because they're seeds; it's not like they really hurt when they land. They're not hard. And if you (I!) could just stop taking yourself so, so seriously, you'd relax and seed it's all meant with love and with fun--with JOY, And you can just run over to the spigot and hose off before you go back inside to your pristine and dark house.
If you want. Any time you want to go back in the cave--I mean--house.
We ALL have watermelon seeds stuck to our skin anyway, drying and clinging to us, that we don't even realize have been spit from somewhere/one/thing else. So get over it. We all look equally silly. The trick is to Buddhist seed-spitting contests is to be completely aware of this and 1) not prefer to look any different, and 2) understand that although it's not really a contest, you still have to play your part.
Slowly, the wheels go round and round,
The cogs begin to grind and pound;
We boil him for a minute more,
Until we're absolutely sure
Then out he comes! And now! By grace!
A miracle has taken place!
A miracle has taken place!
This greedy brute, this louse's ear,
Is loved by people everywhere!
For who could hate or bear a grudge
Against a luscious bit of fudge?
The cogs and the blades of my blender start going. A non-recipe comes to mind. I don't know why this method works for me, but it does: transform the words to food, transform my own suffering.
You don't need a fancy NutriBullet or a wordy recipe for this. I promise.
Forget anything added. Forget the sugar (I did). You don't need it. You just have to let go of thinking you need that specific ingredient. That's the thing with methods.
You can do it yourself, said the Buddha.
Do you know what I love most about melons? They taste like clarity sounds. And clarity carries you forward, up, out of the vortex.
It gets you unstuck. By grace. By absolute, sweet, succulent grace.
Ava, age 9, has a list of research questions she's generated on the "experiment fridge" (the one in the mud room), and one of them is "Is watermelon classified as a succulent?"
She asked this again today.
"If it isn't called one, it should be. It's what it does."
A succulent carries water inside itself, and so, transforms itself, by nourishing itself.
"Across the desert lies the promise land."--Willy Wonka
And it's a succulent.
That is my name. That is.
That is mettaliterature: in reading ourselves with love, aware of the Self, we are freed.
An acknowledgment and a Fun Fact Bonus!
Acknowledgement: Speaking of seeds and of finding the words, I was deeply moved and influenced by a talk titled "Clarity and Freedom Can Illuminate Our Relationships With Others" I heard via Dharma Seed, given by meditation teacher Gregory Kramer. It was a limn-line for me, for which I am grateful. It plumbs the depths of not only language, but the urge to communicate. I loved it. It was meta-utlity, at its finest. He goes into the heavier, geeky stuff I love--the physical ways sound transmits in the body and through it, but most of all, he talks about this urge to vibrate, to communicate. Willy Wonka might have understood his wish for the tension and suspense to continue, in the context of Kramer's words: "Without tension, there's no vibration…No seriously, it's hilarious, but it's also remarkable."
Fun Fact!: I would highly recommend readingIn Watermelon Sugar today, if you read it in the past, especially if you're a big fan of dystopian lit and counterculture. If you do, you will notice that central to story's tension is the grasp and hub of this particular commune…called iDEATH. iKnow. Crazy wisdom, huh? In Watermelon Sugar was written in 1968.
That's just the prescience of mettaliterature, connecting the shell of the words to the timeless, maha moment for Us.
Copyright scholars have long been pretty certain that "Happy Birthday to You" is in the public domain, despite the fact that Warner/Chappell claims copyright on it and charges impressive licensing fees to use it in public performances. Those fees, however, are much lower than a copyright lawsuit would be, so everyone shrugs and pays them. Until now.
A documentary film company working on a movie about "Happy Birthday" has assembled a huge body of evidence showing that the song has been in the public domain since the 1920s, and is suing Warner to get them to return the hundreds of millions they've improperly charged in licensing since. This is gonna be great.
The full lawsuit, embedded below, goes through a detailed history of the song and any possible copyright claims around it. It covers the basic history of "Good Morning to You," but also notes that the "happy birthday" lyrics appeared by 1901 at the latest, citing a January 1901 edition of Inland Educator and Indiana School Journal which describes children singing a song called "happy birthday to you." They also point to a 1907 book that uses a similar structure for a song called "good-bye to you" which also notes that you can sing "happy birthday to you" using the same music. In 1911, the full "lyrics" to Happy Birthday to You were published, with a notation that it's "sung to the same tune as 'Good Morning.'" There's much more in the history basically showing that the eventual copyright that Warner/Chappell holds is almost entirely unrelated to the song Happy Birthday to You.
The detail in the filing is impressive, and I can't wait to see how Warner/Chappell replies. As the filing notes, there are a variety of copyright claims around the song, but all are invalid or expired, and the very, very narrow copyright that Warner/Chappell might hold is not on the song itself. In other words, Warner/Chappell is almost certainly guilty of massive copyfraud -- perhaps the most massive in history -- in claiming a copyright it clearly has no right to.
Dang it! How am I supposed to keep up my rebel image with friends and family by singing Happy Birthday and not paying the royalty fee? I guess I'll have to start jaywalking again or ride my bicycle without my helmet.
Lila, or Leela, is the concept of divine play in the cosmos.
Now, you'd think I'd be good at playing with my food. I suppose I am. I'm a mom. I used to teach Kindergarten. I'm a contemplative cook, for heaven's sakes.
Yes, I write about food mettaphor. And I play with recipes in an attempt to learn to feed myself spiritually, to learn to eat at home in my heart.
Playing with expectations, playing with methods, playing with recipes, this is what I do--
But this isn't that kind of play.
This kind of play (whether its food play or wordplay), isn't about I or what the I thinks it does.
There is huge freedom in this kind of play because the "I" is not doing it.
I think of this, lila, as cosmic mirth. Complete spontaneous joy in a momentless moment.
I've stumbled on some methods and some moments of clarity--those moments come when I'm completely absorbed in the ingredients, but I'm not "making" anything happen.
My most useful writing is created out of those moments.
I'm pretty sure my only jobs are to keep stirring, and to write it down after. This is why recipes are impossible.
Ever since she was a toddler, my daughter has been a broccoli adorer. There's no other way to put this. She doesn't grow it like I do, doesn't write about it, doesn't wordplay it till it's rubbery--she just loves it. She eats it up.
Utterly unselfconscious, she snaps off a hank of it, and munches happily. She plucks a large leaf and uses it for shade, fans me, fans her brother, does the little innate twirl and gaze-over, lowers the green veil.
That's the broccolila dance: no self, no problems.
This isn't what it seems--it never is. On the mulchy surface, it may look like vegetable-dancing. This is just one method given to us in that one moment. It's the way that the divine is at play in the smallest of vegetable moments, the creative impulse which comes through us, which creates the next moment that then springs up as our reality.
Fun Fact! Broccoli is technically a cruciferous vegetable--I had to get a nerdy, wordy moment in there edge-wise, though it doesn't matter at all to how this post turns out.
A crucifer is simply one who carries the cross, especially, ecclesiastically speaking, at the head of a procession.
Or a divine
You can view that as the implications of a vegetable rooted in a cross-like structure--a symbol of something greater which it, itself, is not. It's "just" a cross, or a broccoli stalk, or a pencil.
Or you can simply view it as the playful, tender-green intersection between heart and mind: the broccolila.
[Deepak Chopra has a game called Leela, but Wii think we'll keep the broccoli out of the designated playroom].
When (if ever) did the Sun finally set on the British Empire?
It hasn't. Yet. But only because of a few dozen people living in an area smaller than Disney World.
The world's largest empire
The British Empire spanned the globe. This led to the saying that the Sun never set on it, since it was always daytime somewhere in the Empire.
It's hard to figure out exactly when this long daylight began. The whole process of claiming a colony (on land already occupied by other people) is awfully arbitrary in the first place. Essentially, the British built their empire by sailing around and sticking flags on random beaches.This makes it hard to decide when a particular spot in a country was "officially" added to the Empire.
The exact date of the Empire's final sunset depends on when Australia was finally added, but it was probably sometime in the late 1700s or early 1800s.
The Empire largely disintegrated in the early 20th century, but—surprisingly—the Sun hasn't technically set on it yet.
Britain has fourteen overseas territories, the direct remnants of the British Empire.
(Many newly-independent British colonies joined the Commonwealth of Nations. Some of them, like Canada and Australia, have Queen Elizabeth as their official monarch. But they are independent states which happen to have the same queen; they are not part of any empire that they know of.)
The Sun never sets on all fourteen British territories at once (or even thirteen, if you don’t count the British Antarctic Territory). However, if the UK loses one tiny territory, it will experience its first Empire-wide sunset in over two centuries.
Every night, around midnight GMT, the Sun sets on the Cayman Islands, and doesn't rise over the British Indian Ocean Territory until after 1:00 AM. For that hour, the little Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific are the only British territory in the Sun.
The Pitcairn Islands have a population of a few dozen people, the descendants of the mutineers from the HMS Bounty. The islands became notorious in 2004 when a third of the adult male population, including the mayor, were convicted of child sexual abuse.
As awful as the islands may be, they remain part of the British Empire, and unless they're kicked out, the two-century-long British daylight will continue.
Will it last forever?
Two hundred years from now, in April of 2432, the island will experience its first total solar eclipse since the mutineers arrived.
Luckily for the Empire, the eclipse happens at a time when the Sun is over the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. Those areas won't see a total eclipse; the Sun will even still be shining in London.
In fact, no total eclipse for the next thousand years will pass over the Pitcairn Islands at the right time of day to end the streak. If the UK keeps its current territories and borders, it can stretch out the daylight for a long, long time.
But not forever. Eventually—many millennia in the future—an eclipse will come for the island, and the Sun will finally set on the British Empire.
Michael Markieta is a transportation planner who developed this visualisation of global flight paths. See more visualizations here. So what does it all mean? Read interpretations from data visualisation experts, philosophers and art critics assembled by the BBC here.
Image by Michael Markieta/ ...
Sometime around the end of 1998, my dear and amazing buddy Alex was visiting my house. He knows everything. He showed me the most superficial, broad stroke rudiments of ProTools and I started fucking around. A week or two went by and I was out dancing through the filthy streets of Chicago when I ran into a fella who goes by the name of Mike. Mike is an extremely industrious and good looking man. He grabbed me violently by my dry and flakey shoulders and screamed at the top of his carbon flavored lungs, "YOU'RE MAKING A SOLO RECORD AND I'M PUTTING IT OUT WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!" He was right about the first part. I rented a saxophone for 2 months, I borrowed some guitars and some drums, I rummaged through the kitchen, I squeezed a fat cat, I poked and prodded and ended up with my very own music. It's real good, if you like that kind of shit. I named it Tonight You Look Like A Spider after a spider I saw one night.