Found this while nosing around. It's a photo from this year's Burning Man. I include it - at the risk of copyright infringement-related consequences which I hope to dispel by sending Scott London both my goodwill and some web traffic – because it made a little twinge of emotion shutter my throat for a bit.
Buddhists have a practice by which they set up handwritten prayers on wheels – pretty obviously, they’re called prayer wheels. The wheels and the prayers attached to them are spun by the wind, and apparently this practice is akin to praying aloud. Buddhism, perhaps the most understanding of the world’s religions, is full of such quirks. You can either pray yourself or fund the local monks to pray your prayer on your behalf. You can either pray yourself or set up a prayer wheel and let the wind pray for you. Why didn’t Buddhism with its forbearance of involvement-via-non-involvement take off as the de facto religious of late capitalism? Praying w/o praying would seem to dovetail well with 20th century pacing.
But about the throat shuttering. The notes and papier-mache-y items pictured here are missives to the dead, it’s pretty clear. I had a thought of writing something like this to Jon – “I’m pretty pissed at you, but not so much that I’m not going to talk to you or hold it against you” or “I have been toasting you whenever the opportunity has come along” or “I wish you’d been thinking of us that Saturday morning” or “I – and still, well, this affects me.
It also doesn’t escape my notice that the written notes in the photograph contain nothing but kindnesses and reassurances: “I am here for you.” “I am being strong for you.” That kills me firstly because it’s just so goddamn touching. It kills me secondly because it tells me that there’s a disparity between these simple expressions of love and affection on the one hand and on the other hand my own expressions to the dead, seen supra, which statements while springing from love and affection, aren’t yet advanced to the point where they can jettison the anger and frustration that I still feel in addition to or on top of the basic affection and love. It’s telling that when I composed that paragraph a moment ago it didn’t occur to me to write something simple and pure to Jon like “I miss you” or “I am being strong for you.”
And whoops I just went cross-eyed. I’m getting too “meta” again.
But we didn’t communicate like that; it would’ve been weird to say. How did we communicate? Mainly, along lines of what –
I’m struggling to even know what to say here. I don’t know what we talked about. I’m trying to recall a representative story about a conversation we might’ve had. I can’t really remember one. It’s possible that it’s been years since we’ve had a serious, substantive conversation. Maybe we never had one. No: that’s overstating it, and as sentiments go it’s more than a little shoegazing. But the struggle’s the same. Jesus. Our motions in the house were always so kitchen-centered, so in-and-out. Drinking a glass of milk before he went to work a night shift at the dispatcher’s office. Coming in from a run as he was coming up the stairs in a taut white cotton T-shirt and board shorts, regardless of season, jonesing for a cup of coffee as I downed a glass of water from one of our family’s signature eight-sided water glasses. These details are tangible and recalling them helps me out, here, this morning, but I don’t like at all the fact that they, the details, aren’t interaction-centered. I can see his face in the scene of the kitchen, I can see where the players are placed, but I see his mouth open to speak and I don’t know what he was about to say.
So, in the photograph, what you’re apparently supposed to do is set flame to the assembled notes, which are typically set at the foot of some 30-ft wooden effigy: thus, Burning Man. It corresponds with some Buddhist practice I haven’t been able to find in my morning Googling: does anyone know the name of this practice? In which you set written prayers or holy items aflame such that the prayers, the words, thereupon inscribed rise and disseminate throughout the atmospheres? *
Let me allude here to the beauty of Andrew Bird’s The Mysterious Production of Eggs. It’s this week’s Come On Feel the Illinoise!
Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production of Eggs
Calexico and Iron & Wine, In the Reins
John Coltrane, Crescent
De La Soul, Three Ft. High and Rising
Death Cab For Cutie, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes
fIREHOSE, Ragin’ Full On
Andrew Hill, Black Fire
Echo and the Bunnymen, Siberia
Echo and the Bunnymen, Ocean Rain
Husker Du, Flip Your Wig
Woody Guthrie, Muleskinner Blues: Vol 2 of the Asch Recordings
Kitchens of Distinction, Death of Cool
Keane, Hopes and Fears
Radiohead, Kid A
DJ Shadow, Entroducing…
Duncan Sheik, Humming
Shout Out Louds, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
Stone Roses, Stone Roses
McCoy Tyner, Echoes of a Friend
Laura Veirs, Year of Meteors
Yo La Tengo, Elect-O-Pura
River Styx rejects my poems again. This makes for four rejections from them. I never hold it against them, however, interestingly, because Richard Newman (the head editor) usually handwrites his notes. I’m not sure if this is because he a) likes my work but just not enough to publish it, b) feels guilty about having taken so long with replying to my work with a negative, or c) writes handwritten notes to all of the poets whose poems River Styx won’t be publishing. Having worked in a capacity similar to this one, I can say with assurance that it isn’t c). Unless R. Newman has like literally incredible amts of time with which he can reply at length to all of those who get a thanks-but-no.
It’s possible I’ll stay in the city after all, just not in this Brooklyn hovel. It’s possible I’ll go home to Syracuse for a spell. It’s possible I’ll go to Las Vegas. It’s possible I’ll go someplace in the Pac Northwest.
I must work on Good Ground. Then a run, and time to bake some chicken. It’s what my weird schedule demands.