Loco Parentis Rebellion

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Personal / Writing / Letters /
@ K. 2000 01 14

on a 1990 letter to my son: Introduction, Background, Letter follows below:

Restructuring my Writing Directory (prior to editing this file properly), I see that this letter of nearly a decade ago is the pk Home Page in miniature! I promise I’ll return and trim a lot of it, but anyone who reads it as is will find a lot of important, seldom made points. The circumstances were these: bk was teaching at his alma mater, a generally excellent, small liberal college on Philadelphia’s Main Line. One of his students, initiating studies of journalism, wanted to try some gonzo journalism on Philadelphia’s homeless: get down and dirty to see how they lived. She sought bk’s advice. Knowing her to be of legal age and responsible for her own decisions (in theory — ha ha), he agreed to advise her. Her parents found out. They hit the roof. They solicited the support of the college administration, threatening to stop tuition payments.

Instead of telling the parents that no doubt scholarship aid could be found for her if she was a little short, the administration decided to come down heavy on the girl and on bk who dared to believe that the wings the college was taking credit for giving her were real and not fake.
The girl initially defied her parents, said she had her own money, could get a job, etc. Unfortunately, her courage and independence proved theatrical and not real after all. She caved in to the administration and to her parents.

24 October 1990
Congratulations. And admirations. Humana [a concept at Macroinformation, since renamed Persona]. needs all the moral staunchness it can get However little it wants it at the time. Whatever obstacles it sets. Snares and punishments.

Sure. Everybody wants to be a hero. With the crowd cheering. The background music by John Williams. And with a stunt double for the hard parts. But how about when they bring out the cross and show you the nails?
Below, I read in that quote from Samuel Butler’s Erewhon. Here I just repeat:

“as the bed to the river, so rule and convention to the instinct; and woe to him who tampers with the banks while the flood is flowing.”

It was such a joy to hear, read, and then see what a terrific job and work environment you landed. You were clearly the healthiest and happiest and most mature I’d ever seen you. What ever “adult” is or should be legally, it is also a continuum (not unidirectional necessarily) and you are clearly well along in it. I was happy to see you go to Haverford and happy to see you there. Experience has only increased my conviction that Haverford has to be one of the best small liberal arts colleges around.

thanx Haverford

Now you’ve just experienced another side to it. Not for the first time, but, I don’t doubt: the most vivid. And you’ve experienced it not from some shoddy masquerade of a liberal school, but from one of the best.
I repeat one of my favorite points about Christianity: it wasn’t a couple of “barbarous” nations that ganged up to crucify Jesus; the soul of the point is that it was Israel and Rome! The two then leaders in law and ethics! What would the story mean if it had been Innuit and Zulu? (I mean no a-anthropological insult to the latter, just conventional contrast to the former.)

Was it Doug [Dr Davis, bk’s boss, the head of the Psych Dept] who joked: “We’re paying him peanuts, but it will look good on his resume.” Not if they fire you for intractable virtue. “Virtue” isn’t how it will be noted between the lines in the record.

Some gal at one of the leading research factories recently blew the whistle on someone’s publication of false data. The multi-grant winning director of the factory had passed the paper. She was fired for being an hysterical woman. But she didn’t shut up. Eventually the Fed joined the search and a witch hunt developed. Even when it was shown that the data was, as accused, wished-for-results-flattering fiction, the director was still maintaining that it was really OK. Just a little slip. Nothing to worry about. He was still the director.

The gal has been pretty much exonerated. But not rehired. By anyone, the last I heard. A hero. A known hero. Famous, in her circle (which extends to the world). But she has no career. Maybe she gets a few bucks for this or that. But it’s not what she was making as a researcher with a couple of PhDs under her belt. And even then, she was low down on the totem pole. They already knew she was not just a woman but a complainer. Critical of them.

It wouldn’t surprise me if by the time I report this to you that there’s been a shakeup at the factory. The director may even have resigned or may come to “to pursue other business, scientific, and personal interests.” Other personnel may have exited. But I’ll bet a little research would show it to be just a reshuffling: the pseudo scientists with their cancer-grail on top, the one definitely real scientist out in the cold.

And sticking with science for a moment (because it’s the “best,” not the worst), you know what happened to the two young guys who first showed a meteorite with fossils in the ’40s. I’ll bet no one has given them back pay (or counted the raises they also didn’t get). “Posthumous fame doesn’t buy beer,” says Fred Hoyle. (Another reason I don’t drink it anymore.) Anyway, it’s Galileo all over again only in the 20th Century. No evidence allowed that upsets the current version of our perpetual religion: earth centered, man centered, how ever much it may appear to be opposite. Materialism is just credulity upside down.

Posthumous fame doesn’t buy beer.
Fred Hoyle

The United States has just given $10,000 and a nice little apology to a 103 year old US citizen who was concentrated after Pearl Harbor because of her Japanese origin. She and N-thousands of others. A little little, a little late, and very rare.

The United States too is an example of the “best.” Really. Alas.
But: the hero has something that can’t be bought. Something itself rewarding [self-rewarding!]. A little backbone. A mind that’s his own.

Wait. Here’s something else from Erewhon:

For they know that they will sooner gain their end by appealing to men’s pockets, in which they have generally something of their own, than to their heads, which contain for the most part little but borrowed or stolen property.

And there’s something about the cold that the comfortable couldn’t possibly imagine: you can live in it. So long as you don’t actually get crucified. And crucifixion too can be endured. Jesus wasn’t the last. (Nor was our perceptual center of history the first.)

The rest of that point about Christianity is what a good illumination of the norm it is: the broad top of the bell curve, trying to cut itself off from the statistically low ends. It says its cutting off the worst. But of course it can’t distinguish the worst from the best. It’s extremes that are anathema to it.

I want you to have that nice job for as long as you want it. If you still want to be extended for a second year, I hope that’s what happens. I’m glad you’ve seen the Hotel a little dishabille. I don’t suppose you of all people are surprised. I don’t doubt that you’re nevertheless upset. And disappointed.
Angry. And tired. Tired even from being angry.

You’re strong. You’re going to be strong just about whatever happens. But what about Isabell?

I wish I knew her. But then, she didn’t just last month inherit these parents. And there she was being strong, gaining strength, allying with the strong. Tell her I love her.

What about the reporters, actual recognized “adults” with the right cards, including alpha male faces able to command huge fees for their bankable aura of trustworthiness, demanding information, and then meekly waiting in White House drawing rooms, while the documents are doctored?
It looks like the can of worms would have gone on erupting if she hadn’t postponed her plans. Postponed? Or canceled? How strong is she? Nietzsche’s stronger, for the survival? Or postponed for another day? A day which somehow never comes?

I hope my couple of questions on the phone — how did the mother get to leave a letter on her pillow? what about her asking to sleep on your floor? — will suggest to your benevolent imagination the interest and indignation with which I read the whole of your report.

In fact, I just (8:00 AM) went and reread the whole. Three not quite beside the point comments:

The file was apparently intended to be read at large, not just by me. Should “at large” become even larger, I recommend (unnecessarily I don’t doubt) that you make your own grammar and style (style here meaning spelling, punctuation, but also, not e.g. mixing “us” and “they,” be consistent of voice within a section) be perfect, the better to offset the quoted illiteracies. If you’ve read them to disk from E-Mail, say so. Then you don’t need the (sic) for ml’s note. Though Mrs. Lashko’s note should be, must be so noted.

Whether or not you make the investigation, you and/or Isabell might write a story. I see it as titled “The Homeless.” The reader will of course proceed with the understanding that the title refers to the intended subject. And you might indeed fill it with homeless, imagined or observed. But at the end that reader will see that it describes the reporter and her associate. Disinherited. Fired. Blackballed.

(Hmm. And I just realized where I got the notion: Vitorio DeSica’s The Bicycle Thief. You think the title is about the guy’s bicycle being stolen: until at the end he steals one. His job and family, you see, depended on it.)

The Bicycle Thief
The Bicycle Thief
thanx moviediva

I do wish I knew what it was that you were planning that was perceived as so dangerous. Just to go and observe, up close? The weightlifting, fence jumping and knife fighting just getting in defensive shape? Or was it known you were planning something I don’t know about? Screaming on Lancaster Avenue in the neighborhood of that Newport billboard? Making faces or waving signs in the railroad yard? Asking the hobo camp if anyone can change a hundred?
Sure the streets are more dangerous than the campus. More dangerous at night. Any nubile runaway can practically be guaranteed certain experiences and pronto. If the nubility is on parade, that is. Consciously or unconsciously. But I don’t see that a female in some sort of control of the signals she sends is in any special danger, even unaccompanied. The Leshkos should meet a gal I once knew, blatantly female, blatantly blond, long and wavy, who lived in the shadow of Spanish Harlem. She went where she wanted to go, when she wanted to go, alone, all hours, and just pished at women who had problems. [2013 How delicious to be reminded of that independent blond! I met her at Emmaus House, radical Catholic.] But then the Lashkos probably wouldn’t go where she’d have to take them for the demonstration. And of course she’d be crazy to; they would put her in danger.

(All the millions of times I walked home at 4 AM from Minton’s Playhouse, 118th and Lennox, along West 118th Street and then around Morningside Park (sometimes through it, that was stupid) and only once did anything ever happen. “Hey! Hey, you!” the guys yelled. But at poor quaking Brian Carey, not at me. “Keep walking,” Brian begged as I turned to say through my very offended face, “Hey, you saying somethin’ to my friend?” Skinny, weakling little me. (1958) They grinned and waved us away.) [Now I suspect I’m confusing my own response then with the time shortly after when Brian Dennehy and fraternity were dumping beer on Carey. For his beard, no doubt.]

By the bye, did your bag of protective tricks include the not to be underestimated one of ghastly hygiene? Terri assures me of the benefit of not bathing if you’re on the street. (Another gal who goes where she wants. I wish you’d met her even for three seconds. If you are going to reschedule you should let me get a list from her.)

I am also curious to know what Marylou saw, or imagined she saw, or imagined she could get Isabell to believe she saw as a rape of the homeless? Maybe that’s the part that would have been dangerous.
Much reporting is indeed rape of a kind. As is much investigating. I trust you wouldn’t have approved or willingly participated in the grosser kind.

Whoops, and a fourth side comment: There was a moment or two in our second phone conversation when you corrected a perspective in something I’d said. I suppose I’m glad that I can’t remember what it was exactly. What concerns me is its species, not its individuality. What you said in correction was what I’d meant, however I had said it. I may have intended irony. Or maybe I was just careless. [I didn’t become alert yesterday till somewhere around here in his letter.] My point is that I wished you trusted my love, admiration, and approval in situations where, in my mind, that’s what I’m giving. Like that misunderstanding driving down here about faculty comments on your paper. I definitely had an important fact bollixed (who had said that she didn’t think Brian could possibly understand how professional … etc), but it was the too familiar lack of imagination about the acumen of the intelligent that I was attacking (like “Shakespeare can’t possibly have intended …”) and you thought I was attacking your paper! Now I did have my criticisms of your paper, some of which I’m only sending you now, below, but in that conversation I was only protesting a short estimate of your ability to perceive professionalism. (Wow, if my son gets such signs reversed, what must other people think I mean?!!!)
I certainly don’t mean that I’m going to approve anything you might do, but it’s frustrating to have my tone missed when it’s approval that I’m giving. “Approval” hardly says it in circumstances as extraordinary as your paper and your steadfastness with Isabell.

1990 October 25 Sometimes I write to you with stylistic care and sometimes I just scribble, as I do in my id files. This letter, these several letters, pbi1&2, pbh3&4 [once upon a time DOS would allow short file names only: thus: p for Paul, b for Brian, i for Isobell, and an ordinal number], are intended as the former. But right now I feel I should read in something I scribbled into id. I skip the first 50 lines to enter … here:

… I’m way too wasted to try to match yesterday’s accomplishment, 14 odd straight hours at the plus. 8:00, flip for the movies. I catch two titles and reject them. The shittiest channel for reception I’ve yet flipped in has the trailer for Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift. And then it begins. What gives? I’d thought the trailer was for a new release, a theater first movie. Well. Fine. King is exactly what I’d been thinking of turning to next, after all that Simmons. Something clean. Cleansing. Time to get to The Stand. But too late with the library closed till December, bookstore closed (Simmons’ latest there, waiting for me) and no stock at best. So I’ll watch. Except after a minute I recognize something. The perpetual carp of John Houseman. Fred Astaire. The Chowder Society. Telling ghost stories. Making much display of brandy and cigars and being old and feeble and cranky and rich and New England. Sure, it’s that egregious novel I couldn’t read more than a chapter or two of. But not King: Peter Staub. Or both in collaboration. Why would King, the genius, work with this phony?

First reading King with a definite feeling of slumming in trash, but I’m stuck at my mother’s and it’s the least of awful choices from her library. Cujo. Then Carrie and The Shinning in a couple of gulps. Not quick, but as quick as I could be careful. Simply awesome. Well, I couldn’t tolerate Ghost Story, but leaving the movie on is different. Two hours max, while I can breakfast and get in a little music. Didn’t touch the 22 [Yamaha synthesizer Y22, wow what sounds I created!] yesterday. Not for one second, not one note. Unplugged and moved it when Brian called and it stayed on the bed till I needed to crash, late morning.

But right away, this movie, maybe Ghost Story was the King / Staub collaboration and they’ve retitled it Graveyard Shift and are mentioning only King in the ad. So maybe it was just a watch our movie Wed evening trailer. uh … this movie though is getting me meditating. Somebody is in a room. Nice brunette hair hanging down a back. à la that Degas. Guy comes up on “her.” And the face is a cadaver. The gall falls backwards out a window. So it’s one of those can’t-trust-the-author movies. Just after all that can’t trust the author in Fall [2013 09 17 hmm, Fall of Hyperion? Simmons?]. And my mind spins off into Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers. Here’s Houseman and Astaire, ordinary enough human beans except that Astaire was once the greatest dancer ever recorded for a mass repetition transform of dance. one of the great artists of the 20thC. and here no doubt we are supposed to think of them as remote, powerful, some epitome of civilization, assuming the movie voyeur audience not to be Cabots and Lodges. But that’s my point exactly. The Cabots and Lodges were also no doubt ordinary enough human beans.

But that’s what I’m thinking simultaneously to thinking: in the series of odd numbers 5 is 3. Cardinal 5 is Ordinal 3. GB. [Gregory Bateson] But when you’ve counted the series, eliminated the evens, the Ordinal series will look and behave just like a Cardinal series! One two three. And here are the even numbers again. It’s just that they’re Ordinals, and all the even numbers refer to odd numbers! So, their reality is different, they’re of different logical levels; but on their own logical level, they look the same!

And I’m relating that to what I do: writing dialogues with God as a speaker (and I make fun of Simmons for Keats!). But it’s what all transforms do: ceremony, drama, … The merely human priest we pretend to and do see as a divine something. Marlon Brando is Marc Antony. whom Shakespeare in fact showed as an extraordinarily ordinary human bean. venal and petty as sin. good rhetoric, though, and a natural athlete. slippery. As GBS Cleopatra. Etc.

The trick, from the lower level, is to pass. Is my Cardinal passing for Ordinal? And the more you know, the less passes. Some trash movie comes on, and: Who are these kids? What are these silly unscarred fledglings doing in Roman costume? Kyle McLaughlin as Paul? Maud Dib? Please. Some fucking blond mannequin as a tough biker with a pseudo classical cape/shawl and a luminescent fiberglass broadsword? She can’t even hold the twelve ounce fake.

Cheers once didn’t pass to me. This evening it did. not quite for the first time, but never in spades like that. so, do I know less? or did they come to know more? me feeble tonight, or them right? it’s still just Ted Danson etc. But it was Ordinal.

Except that in human society, my counter-point throughout this is that it’s all still Cardinal. Nixon just an ordinary human bean. But with human semantic power so believed in that it in fact mega-impacts on Pleroma as well as on Creatura not to mention on Humana.

Now here’s Brian with Haverford’s actual president. A very ordinary human bean. Relying on the Humana semantic horseshit of office to try to palm dirty dealing off as integrity.

Now of course it is integrity. To sloppy slow-witted Humana. An Ordinal masquerading as a Cardinal. Or do I mean a Cardinal masquerading as an Ordinal?
But Brian’s integrity is of Cardinal to Ordinal! The devotion is to adherence to supposed commitments to improvement.

Improvement is always ambiguous. We can’t possibly know what will in fact preserve or kill us. That doesn’t matter. It’s the quality of the guess that counts. The guess may be wrong, but may still be the right one in terms of information available. law ought to be a better survival tactic than paranoia. this year’s law, ought to be better than last years. especially when this years is 200 or 2,000 years old and last years is ancient.

Now when it comes to evolution, even to soft-wired evolution, the natural reflex is toward the limbic brain, not toward the cortex. So what’s the cortex for? Gravity boots. Heft, damn it! Haul this motherfucker up.

I just wrote bk about a language binary. Ditto map/territory mismatches. how much of the latter is stupidity? how much lazy habit? and how much deliberate concealment? Funniest thing of all, 9:35 and night reception starts to come in. Meaning my lousy channel ghosts! Ah, while scribbling the above, I learn something. Grave etc. is a theater movie and this is Ghost Story and so titled. I just was scrambling through partial information. But now it snows. The ghost of Ghost ghosts completely. The dominate night stations are clarifying. For the next minute, I find three different movies on this one UHF channel, the new two both stronger than what had weakly dominated for the last ninety minutes. Except there’s something still funnier. A different third channel ghosts in. Good gosh: it’s Nixon! A documentary on pre-Watergate White House burglars.

Cardinal and Ordinal all mixed up. But it’s all the same! One Humana.
Your meeting with the college president was one detail I had wanted to comment on. As I unintentionally found myself doing as I strove to clear my head. But now, I’ve reported the unconscious perspective as well. To repeat the Arab saying: contemplate twice, once sober, once drunk. Not very Islamic, that saying, but I do think it’s Arab.

Sober, I say that what the president was doing was even worse than you describe:
President Kessinger says that sometimes one has to do illegal things in the name of one’s conscience. “I’ll do anything I can to keep that young woman off the streets.” Brian says that this is a perversion of Civil Disobedience, that breaking the law in protest of injustice is not the same as violating civil rights to pursue legal and physical safety. The President disagrees and says that he gave the Provost his approval to fire Brian if it came to that.
His conscience is of Humana but reptilian Humana.

His first quoted sentence is admirable. If it’s what he means. Civil disobedience, Yes. Conscience is higher than law. To us Protestants. His second sentence is understandable. How admirable is moot. I can muster a yes to it too. But dissuasion should be the extent, the full extent, of it. “Perversion” is le mot juste. Yet I think you grant too much in “… violating civil rights to pursue legal and physical safety.” It is the state (any designated authority), not the populace, that must be the last to disobey the law. Civil disobedience, not a chaos of police and court and presidency.

Or the institution should be clear in advance what its stand is (as some are, some parochial or military schools): send your young, your pseudo adults, here: we don’t got no civil rights. “No vacations,” was the Victorian code for schools for unwanteds; uniforms and crosses are still the codes today if you want them kept swaddled. But Haverford/Bryn Mawr? Pure schiz.

I translate the context of the president’s two sentences together as, Sometimes you want to break the law in order to break more laws in order to show contempt for law. That’s what makes us the guardians of the fear ridden.

Your sin was not sensing the unwritten code of institutions. Kidnap the people: for their own good. Isabell’s sin was in not knowing that she’s a girl after all. Jackie Kennedy could march down Fifth Avenue in combat boots and color coordinated bandoleer, but she would have been tackled soon enough if she tried it in Castro’s mountains.

(much later 10 25) I just got a Russell book from the warehouse for transfer to trailer and shed. “Freedom Against Organization” is one of his titles. It’s a trouble that human actions are made and fought over in natural language, redolent with semantic problems. Mathematicians have no right to dictate meaning to the natural language at large (and don’t and can’t succeed when they try), but I believe it to be salutary to try acquaintance with what they do mean.
Whatever constitutions get written, whatever laws get passed, we remain in the midst of a long, many-sided struggle over autonomy of behavior. Semantic change proceeds a pace, but we’re all caught in this 10,000 year war of who owns what. Ownership. The right to determine the use of something. The chaos of private ownership mitigated by group compromises. No, you may not pour sulfuric acid on your land. (Yes, you may pour it on the Mexicans’ land. When we say so, you must pour it on the Mexicans’ land.) Sure you can grow amaranth if you want to, but we’ll bankrupt you unless it turns into wheat by harvest time.

The king was owned by his people. This turned into the illusion that he owned them. Sometimes the illusion got stuck, as when chiefs sold their people into slavery. This is ancient. But newborn compared to the biological antiquity of the young of some species being cared for by their parents. Mammals in particular.

I believe that all law (I don’t intend to research it, seeking for the exception to disprove my generalization) is some version, if only as check or balance, of civilized ownership. Parenting is not the same as civilized ownership, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone that civilization hasn’t made the distinction. When we sued Macy’s for you, it had to be in my name, and I had to assume the mask of ownership. The child as chattel. Except, soon the state revealed that, though I was the legally recognized parent and owner, you were really, with or without the suit, chattel to the state. As of course, a bit more obliquely, I was too. So what was your mother? So much my chattel and so much therefore more the chattel of the state that it went without saying. So “obvious” we didn’t need a law to say that for the longest time, let alone to start to or pretend to, partially, unsay it. I’m not talking about my behavior or your mother’s. I’m talking about the law.

Of course a parent naturally restricts the behavior of its young. Don’t crawl near the fire. It’s a good thing that both parents are generally big enough to simply pick the crawler up and move it away if it doesn’t obey.
Homo sapiens has a notoriously long development period, which civilization makes longer still, and which industrialized society has threatened to make infinite (see Deschooling and my story, Release.) And, typical of it, the law is way behind, first in doing it, then in undoing it.

First you’re a man at thirteen. Then at eighteen. Then at twenty-one. Then not even at thirty-five. à la my comment about you, as a “low grade” employee of the college having more independence than the deans and president! Likewise, more dispensable.

So, none of us are men. Except the institution. And it’s the biggest baby of all. The greater the institution, the more infantile it believes it may behave, and, thus far too much so, does. Bullying. Declaring war.

If none of us are men (males, in this context), then what are women? The “equalities” granted thus far you can bet your ass are exceptions. Pamperings. But of course the intended exception can become in fact the rule. As did the chief’s “ownership” of his people. What’s true in a bad case like the latter, can also become true in good cases. Like maybe we’ll, if not all, then enough of us, insist on autonomy until we actually get and keep a little.

There’s a “file tail” I’ve been pushing along in my mind which I’ll make room for here. Yes, of course, sometimes the official too must act in accordance with conscience, violating law and civil rights. The Consul. Meina Gladstone. But that’s a dish that can only be judged by aftertaste.

But of course there’s only one noble way to finish the dish before aftertaste is possible. One of the finest moments in Hyperion/Fall is when Meina says she has “something to give the people.” And she leaves the protection of the bubble! The distinction between statesman and politician. (Though any of those words are their own can of worms.)

Civil disobedience is admirable, heroic in an institution or officer only when it’s his, not your, life, job, career, freedom, family he’s putting on the line. All else is simple tyranny and its perpetual bullshit. “Brian, I know I’ll lose the presidency for this, but I just can’t see that young woman out on the streets. Almost as much as I can’t stand your goddam rectitude. So I’m going to shoot you, then her, then myself.”

But to complete my immediate thought about autonomy in a still biologically peopled civilization: Any set of parents will vary widely in its mix of nurturing, of training time required, and in its mix of neurotic perversions. Perversions such as that of factitiously increasing the period of dependency. Any civilized parent situation will reverberate with dependencies natural and inevitable and with dependencies turned inside out. (We’ve discussed some aspects of my own. The least of my sins, I firmly believe.) What the group must do (and has done, but not at all clearly) is set a limit at which you have to let the man walk, even if it’s into the fire. And if this holds true for the group’s needed discipline of parents, then it holds twice as true for all locus parentis institutional parents.
In other words: you should sue their ass. Just for the threats! Isabell should sue everybody in sight. Provided that she understands that the consequence may be having to walk on her own.
I repeat another thing I’m sure I must have told you before. In nineteenth-century America, US, that is, the average age for home leaving was fourteen! I was about to say twelve. Anyway, younger than twentieth-century USians could believe. This is from a study by one of those factories … Daniel Yankelovitch was an author.
Nature gives us legs. Society tries to limit our using them.
First I said that I hope the job resumes working well for you, if that’s what you want. Some spoilage has to be permanent on both sides. In extraordinary circumstances the spoilage could be just what might propel you into the president’s chair. Virtue’s reward isn’t always and only being shown the nails. They weren’t testing you with that in mind, but someday they might nevertheless remember the test and remember it in a very different light.
Now I just said you should sue their ass. I mean, of course, both. You too must, as I know you do, know, that it most likely would mean walking alone. (You know that I sued Colby, don’t you? And collected? It would have been a Pyrrhic victory had I ever wanted to return to institutional teaching.) When you started at Haverford I was already a little late in my intending to earn a surplus of money toward that end. As soon as I had gotten what was immediate to me accomplished. That never happened. But then, circumstances didn’t absolutely require my financial support. Neither did they absolutely require your having your own fifty-some grand. But this is different. There are no scholarships for suing a college. Also, as much as I am perpetually not getting some immediate thing accomplished, its accomplishment requiring something from quarters other than my mere self, I pledge to you that I would sacrifice everything to help pay for such a suit. Not that it should take much more than $4,000 to get it to court. You’re making twenty but haven’t worked a half year yet. We tend to spend what we make, however much it is. Even those with hundreds of millions find a multitude of things clamoring, all of which cost in the hundreds of millions.
I’ve been inserting again. Since time is an element here I won’t worry how this segues with:
Much of my recent babble in my id.files has been about the state always assuming that we all accept its assumption that its claim to knowing best what’s good for all of us is what is best in fact. The father is accused of molesting the daughter: so, we’ll put him in jail and her in an institution of a different name. I think child abuse is a case for mourning and for pleading, not for kidnapping.
Your mother and I were walking up Fifth from the zoo one day behind a woman with a gaggle of children. The littlest was trying to eat something. The mother kept smacking her. Except to regain her balance the kid paid no attention. Same thing, all day, everyday is what it looked like to me. I got right behind the mother’s ear and spoke suddenly, sharply, loud for the distance: if you hit that kid one more time, you’re going to feel what a hit can be like. Your mother dragged me away.
However bad the parents may be, the state will never be a better parent. I’ll rethink that when even one percent of the Einsteins, Kurosawas, and Lems come from reform school.
(Or I propose one of my experiments: all children in California shall be forcibly removed from their fathers: all children in New York shall be forcibly removed from their mothers: all children in Illinois shall be forcibly removed from both parents and raised by the state: meantime, no divorces elsewhere: and we’ll compare notes four ways in five hundred years. Five thousand.)
A bit of pbi2 is beginning to intrude here. The you part and the me part has no clear border.
Let me repeat, whatever decision you make, whatever simply happens if no decision precipitates: these people are people. These people are good people. You won’t find better. Except as you find fellow heroes. And know this: they know you’re right! They won’t remember it long. Neither will they altogether forget it. What ever they do to you. What ever you, to some extent necessarily, let them do to you. (Illich says: we must take responsibility even for what is done to us.) Though that does assume that being more moral than the norm is in any degree in your control. Another problem in etiology. The free will chimera.
Though however much they know you’re right, and remember it, the memory in use will be to color you wrong. That’s why I asked in particular about the sleeping on the floor part. Sexual misconduct being just about the oldest carry-all still in use, and I promise anyone who thinks it’s passed permanently out of use that they are mistaken. Guilt or innocence don’t matter in such cases. There are no legal proceedings. No confrontation between accuser and accused. No reference whatever to actual standards of behavior. A catch-all. Like witch craft.
Where there are legal proceedings, the innocent alone will be astonished to find all the facts presented to be false. Isabell will learn that she flagrantly ignored appointments with the dean. Her attempts to explain that there never was such an appointment will be drowned in yammering and more accusations.
I don’t mean that quite as a prediction. If I did it would be one of those where I would devoutly hope to be wrong. But her mother knew what she was doing it setting up an array of virtual irresponsibilities.
GBS has an amazingly wise scene in Saint Joan where the English priests are making up a list of La Poucelle‘s crimes [Joan of Arc]: any fanciful thing they can think of is getting added. Carnal knowledge with the devil. The one prosecutor is trying for a little sanity. Witchcraft is enough. Stick to the sure thing you can burn her for. We don’t use those anymore; we have others.

There’s something that’s been running through my head for the last few weeks that I’m finding spews apposite analogies to the situation. A quick review, because some of it we have shared before: do you remember Stephen Jay Gould’s analysis of the evolution of Mickey Mouse? More success the more infantile?
Second, did I repeat to you an article by a different bio-evolutionist in National Geographic on how dog breeding has been a specialized variation of retardations of this and that line from the adult canis lupis?

I’ve deleted this section and rewritten in for K.’s History directory. See From Cradle to Conformity: Socialization from the Cradle

You’ve been practicing independence increasingly all along, most admirably on schedule, and doing it with rare responsibility. But it’s now that I see how very rarely real it is. What a paradox to be so proud and happy for you and sad and apprehensive at the same time.
Universities are wonderful nurseries (believe me, in this context, there’s only the tiniest brush of sarcasm in my diction) for those who don’t bite. And for those who do bite … or threaten to, those people, way over there. West Point is full of viciousness toward Moscow. No, Teheran. Um, Baghdad. How many professors lived happily as pillars of righteous scorn … until Vietnam. And then Watergate. But by then, they had tenure. (Who among them could have imagined the plenitude of the DC-lifers who flooded into the colleges in the late sixties to see who was out of line. Into the private institutions like invaders, into the public like … owners. Rather deputies for the owner.) (And now I remind myself of Woody Allen on Hitler’s barber: “But by the time I found out what a monster he was, I had already made a down payment on some furniture.” See, everyone understands.

Paul Goodman discussed tenure. In the later Middle Ages/Renaissance it meant that if the academic brethren hadn’t tarred and feathered you in the first half dozen years, then they agreed that they wouldn’t do so in future no matter what you said. It had nothing to do with job security. Professing wasn’t a job; it was a role. And a freedom. “Profession” is an example of linguistic degeneration. After a trial period, profession was guaranteed yours. No one had to attend your lectures. No one had to pay you anything. But you had the right to speak. Tenure should be redundant in any society with guaranteed freedom of speech. That, with freedom of assembly (and, of course, the printing press), should have altogether obviated the university. But more and more I move into pbi2.
You do I trust see that standing up to deans and presidents is a kind of biting the master? Viable survival demands less general viciousness but more willingness for a discriminating bite. The meek will inherit the earth? A very problematical statement. Ambiguous as hell. I’ll say tame instead. Too tame, and color us lost.
Now it’s another day, groan. Another headache. Too little sleep, as I finally got up and got out for some daytime chores. But I feel great. I’m convinced that yesterday’s diagnosis of my buzzing brain stem was correct. I just need to run around the park. Any part of the 2.1 mile loop I wish I could have shown you. Change position. The Simmons novel is Carrion Comfort, an effort in horror apparently. I feel a little funny having shown you the above inserted id ill humor toward him before finishing pbh4. Life changes our priorities.
Interesting moment: I just closed the windows a bit. Not to keep rain out, or to turn on the air conditioner, but, for the first time since buying the trailer, to keep some evening warmth in! Everyone around here starts sneezing if the temperature falls to eighty. But I doubt if it’s seventy now. The winds howling in hurricane season, but through a glorious day. In those moments annual to the sensorium, I find the autumn ones even more memorable than their complement on the other side of the seasons. [Later learn: 75 was the day’s high. For six months that was as low as it got. Hottest summer ever. But now it’s in the 40s! From 90s to 40s in twenty four hours!]
The first draft of this file flowed. Reading for corrections, I made insertions. Then more. At least it does cover most of the thirty line outline I sketched in SideKick. It will be far easier for you to read it at twice its intended length than for me to rewrite it. “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” said the sign in the president’s office at DEC. Get it done and out. No time for no bugs. If I can do it right, pbi2 will be much shorter. I hope I can finish pbh3,4 half as completely as this one.

This was all composed on my Toshiba laptop. SideKick was an app that came bundled, a note pad and other handy things. I still miss it’s number system converter: decimal to binary, for example. I loved seeing the binary code for common musical forms: 8, 12, 32 … 64, 128 … It’s a kind of visual explanation!

1990 October 28
First a sort of Preface:
“Isabell” here continues to represent questions of freedom, maturity, law, responsibility, independence, interference, tyranny … I want to try to record a brief overview of FLEX, my most visible stand for independence and against the interference of established institutions.
You are the only human being in the world to have grown from three to six years old in its midst. I can’t know what all I’ve already said to you about it or how many times. Whatever you already know, forgive me for repeating. But I don’t want to take a chance. I don’t feel that you know it. Not the whole view. The context of the details.
My files contain a fairly complete record of my publications, interviews, tapes of radio shows. I never had video tapes of the cable TV stuff.
Then an Intro:
As a child I never objected to being pulled back from the fire. Whether or not I cleaned my room, I never objected to being told to clean it. I didn’t mind being told to go to church. That was an imperative from my parents. I did object to all of the abstract super-parental compulsions. Attendance in school. Service in the military.
I might very well have embraced one, or even possibly both, had they simply been offered.
In school I was taught that the wise founders of our country required some level of literacy for active citizenship: voting, etc. I accepted it’s wisdom. But since my reading was fine by the 7th or 8th grade, what was the rest of it for? Even my math by the 7th grade was superior to what I then retreated into a coma over in the 9th, 10th etc. grades. By the 7th grade, I had been shown some of Euclid’s axioms and had been shown modern improvements, corrections, expansions, redefinitions, skepticisms. The 10th grade geometry teacher was a low grade AI clone, who presented us with axioms that were neither Euclid nor modern. They were ambiguous. Sloppy. And further, they were wrong. I questioned them the first day of class. I wasn’t inventing anything; I was just appealing to the college math I’d been shown long before. All she could do was start again: with the text book axioms. We were being lied to. We were being trained to be stupid. And I tuned out, permanently. Alas, because I really wish I now had algebra and calculus and more as ready, familiar tools.
I had a very active intellectual life meantime, though I certainly didn’t think of it in those terms: mad comics, science fiction, jazz, the stuff at the Museum of Modern Art, all stuff the school rejected, knew about only to shuffle its feet in discomfort and frown. But then Columbia was different. MOMA was official there. The rest of it had adherents in the student body. My best friends were jazz musicians. My oddity was not only accepted but respected. I had no idea how much so till my twentieth reunion.
Columbia was great. Though then we learned that it owned slums in South America. Race tracks. I saw that it used loud industrial tools during library hours. Burned tons of oil on the hottest spring days so all the windows had to be opened while we still suffered. While millions of years of microscopic life was held in contempt. (I’m not postdating that: I had had ecological agonies since the 4th grade. Would put discarded cigarettes out with my bare feet. They were wasting oxygen.) A really stupid institution. It had just had Eisenhower for its president?!
There were all these famous professors. Yawn. But the young instructors were great! We watched helpless, astonished as one after the other was fired. (Later I learned quite how good some of the famous were: Trilling, for example. But all I got from them that was good was their reading lists, things they could have mimeographed and sold for a quarter.)
I loved teaching at Colby. The students weren’t Columbia. I hadn’t expected them to be. Neither had I any notion they could be as Philistine as the majority were. But a few of the students, all female, would have been distinguished anywhere. I had more than my share of the latter. John Mizner, the chair for Freshman English couldn’t figure out how the tip top of the SATs had all wound up in my class. (He showed me the scores after I had already graded them for the year. I had never put any trust in such testing until I saw a one to one correspondence between my own grading and their high school SATs. (I must add that I put no more trust in my own grading. I was simply bowled over how much they agreed.))
But even with the Renaissance literature class my second year there, it still beat on me: these people aren’t here in my class because they want to hear what Paul Knatz has to say about John Donne. Given the cultural economic pressures, their attendance was in effect compulsory. As had been mine at Columbia. Sure I loved much of it once there. Sure some of my students would follow me anywhere after accident had put us together. But the initial choice on either side hadn’t been made with anything I could call free.
Neither Phil nor I had had any illusions about grad school. We had merely decided to put up with it because teaching college might be nice. We had to do something once the army dropped us back into the society at large.
NYU was a joke. A bad joke. I could tell you a ton about that. A detail or two may find its way below. This has been a quick recap to get to my reading Illich.
Paul behind, the Philosophy and Logistics begin:
I’ll hook in through what I said in pbi1 about tenure. The following is something of mine that has been published. “Deschooling,” by Paul Knatz, Edcentric Magazine, commissioned and paid. I rewrite rather than copy from materials I’d have to go to the warehouse for:
The modern university is the secular offspring of the medieval monastery. By the late Middle Ages more and more Greek and Arab scrolls were being discovered. Fragments turned up which were most apposite to questions they’d been wrestling with: that they thought Aquinas had pretty much finally resolved. Soon a real problem became apparent to the literate monks who were doing the restorations. The Church’s authority was based on the Latin Bible and a tradition that knew little of antiquity outside that Latin Bible. Yet here was evidence that the Bible had existed in Greek! But not only were they finding a Greek Bible, they were finding intelligent pagans! The study of Greek was quickly made a capital offense. Such study was called Humanism. An insult, of course, since the proper study of mankind was God. But the humanists persisted against deadly opposition. Initially, all within the Church; then still within the Church but more and more in the secular monasteries, the universities.
An institution never thinks that it itself will be corrupted by what it feels it must protect the people from. Chief Justices are trusted to watch the pornos they may then censor. The Church didn’t destroy the new evidence. It did restrict it to its own most trusted monks. (The Romance of the Rose is good on all this.) Who became corrupted. With better information.
Now some of it was allowed a certain circulation. The logistical problem was How do you circulate one manuscript throughout the appropriate Church world? Why, you copy it, of course. The same method they had long been using to increase the numbers of copies of the Bible. And some of the monks specialized in the not directly biblical stuff: Aristotle and such. Too many chose the dirty stuff, Ovid and Juvenal. Yes, more Latin things were also showing up.
In fact, the Church let a few things into the hands of its increasingly literate and curious clerical bureaucracy: scribes and lawyers who hadn’t taken orders. Aristotle was the big boy to have a fragment of. And it worked in a way that made optimum sense for the technology. The guy who had a manuscript was so advertised. Those who wanted the manuscript came to him. And at designated hours they would meet for a “lecture.” The “lecturer” was the guy with the Aristotle. He would read it. (Consider your Latin etymology. And read out loud, of course. There was no silent reading. That’s why the reading carols were and are called that. Must have been bedlam. Like passing Julliard where everyone is playing something different, all at once.) He would read it and the others, his students if you will, would write what they heard. When he had read it all the way through, at recording pace, there would be as many new Aristotles, or that fragment thereof, in the world as there had been copiers at the lecture.
In other words, the lecture multiplies the pace of copying from one-manuscript/one-copier-at-a-time to one- manuscript/maybe-a-dozen-copiers-at-a-time.
Errors crept in? Of course. Multiplying with the varying illiteracies and attention spans of the copiers. But then how accurate was their “original” anyway? It was the best they could do with the best they had.
Thus the “lecture” was the most efficient way to make common something rare. Then came Gutenberg.
But the lecturing habit was already established. Heck, that’s how the guy had been making his living. Early cars had a holder for the buggy whip even though the whole point was that you didn’t have to have a horse to apply it to. But we’re still stuck with the lecturer even in the days of paper backs. (I first heard this aspect of the etymology of schools from Dr. John Hurt Fisher, then Secretary of the Modern Language Association and my Chaucer professor at NYU.)
(Now of course Aristotle himself had lectured in the sense of spoken. But it was original material. Much of what we have of his were lecture notes, more than books to be published. His teacher, Plato’s written materials, related in a special sense: they were original repetitions: of Socrates.)
Now, tying-in to tenure. (From Goodman’s Compulsory Miseducation.) It meant you had a right to lecture once you had been the guy with the Aristotle and hadn’t offended anybody as a newcomer. The concept “academic freedom” followed.
But for two hundred years now we’ve been in a country that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. And has books aplenty.
If gathering in a circle was the ideally efficient way for a quill and parchment society to reproduce many manuscripts from one, I fear that the circles around books that our schools make are more akin to defending knowledge from the Indians. We hoard what’s common. We cast illegitimacy on what isn’t learned under the stamp of the classroom. The first lecturers had made no pretense that the Aristotle had to be “explained” to the copiers. The point was to put reader in contact with book. (So long as it wasn’t the Septuagint. That they kept under wraps.)
If a culture, the United States or any other, is truly interested in freedoms of speech, thought, assembly, etc. and if it legitimately requires literacy for active citizenship, fine: let the citizen prove literacy; outlaw any artificial obstacle to the circulation of materials (including willing explainers); and then: let everybody alone.
But no. The lecturer has to make a living even though you can just go out and buy your Aristotle. Or your Einstein. And there are free libraries all over the place. The history of civilization is a history too much of the top deciding what the bottom needs and that it must be supplied by the top.
By the early sixties, Arthur C. Clarke published a paper, in the first number of Horizon Magazine, which predicted satellite communications, personal computers, and thereby, a technology that should permit anyone to access information anywhere. Cheaply.
By 1969 I was impatiently asking, “So where is it?” And Illich started publishing his first three chapters of Deschooling Society in NYR.
His points included all of my own and went far deeper. You really ought to see for yourself. But in addition, he offered a solution. Very simple, six points organized into two logical categories. A: two freedoms from; and B: four freedoms to. Things that any modern society with anything more than a pretense to devotion both to freedom and to learning must have.
Illich Freedoms from:
added to the already existing, at least for US,
supposed Bill of Rights:
A.I: added to freedom to assemble must be a freedom from compulsory attendance of any sort of ritual. Not only must you not have to attend a particular mass, not have to attend this or that party meeting, but you must also not be compelled to attend anybody’s lecture. No state religion. No one party government. No state school.
I don’t have to tell Brian any further implications there. But I doubly advise you to go to Illich’s original for the implications of the second:
A.II: freedom from having to reveal how you came to have a skill. An employer, client, patient has every right to demand proof of the existence of your skill: as a typist, lawyer, brain surgeon … but not to demand to know its origin. It’s none of his business if it came to you from God, from a witch, or from the Ivy League. Only that you can do it.
A Harvard education should benefit the consumer only if it indeed results in better skills. Prove it in the marketplace or to your own satisfaction, not in closets of secret societies.
Illich’s Freedoms to:
(my name, his design)
So, how shall these free people in fact learn? Any way they choose. Supplemented by the service of a four aspect learning opportunity information service as free as a sidewalk. (No one telling you were you must go on it, or even that you must go anywhere on it. Another Illich analogy: the phone system: you make a call. Or you don’t. No one should be there telling you what you have to say.)
B.I: an interest matching service.
`These are the persons currently announcing themselves
as interested in’: discussing

the Albigensian heresy
Simmons’ latest book
building hot rods
French film makers of the ’20s
steady state vs. big bang


(Illich is quite right that sometimes the simple bull session best fosters learning.)

B.II: Human Resources. A directory of elders, experts, teachers … whatever you want to call them. Persons who declare experience with a subject. And you can’t ask them how they came by it. (They’re free to tell; you’re not free to demand it. One would hope that their telling would come to be regarded as vulgar, undemocratic, not to mention unnecessary.) Not: “No tenure”; but YES, tenure in its original meaning: academic as well as spiritual and political freedom for everyone.
(Illich doesn’t deny the occasional, perhaps frequent usefulness of teachers; he does deny their automatic necessity. Even more, the habit has been so ingrained that it might still be a good thing to go too far the other way for a period.) (And there was of course a difference between Aristotle speaking and reading to fellow philosophers and a Humanist Monk passing on the Aristotle: the Stagirite was speaking to members of the same culture, the same world view. Maybe a little explanation is needed in translation to a different world view, especially by the time it’s veteran Renaissance Humanists trying to infect acolytes less sure what they’re doing there. How much explanation is needed though ought to be more up to the acolyte than to the explainer.)
B.III: Material Resources. A directory of tools. Libraries, meeting rooms, lecture halls, hot rod parts distributors, … whatever. Not text books; real books. (Text books wouldn’t of course be illegal; just not generally assigned.)
B.IV: A Consumer Report on the above. Compiled from feedback from the consumer, not from some self-appointed deputy for the consumer. Not: `this car tester (secretly employed by GM) says that GM is great.
I trust that you see without strain that both A and B are implicit in Clarke’s vision. Though it took Illich’s genius to fill it in.
B.IV could be shuffled throughout B.II and B.III. Paul Knatz announces himself through B.II as an expert in Shakespeare. He runs an ad in B.III that he has reserved the Palm Room at the Sands such and such dates to present his thesis on the sonnets. Admission is $10. (Free as in freedom, not in how much things cost. The free press has no problem with putting a price on the paper.) If it’s Knatz’s first such foray, B.IV might only indicate a clean police record. If it’s his second or more, then B.IV might have more and more data.
If B.IV is an empty set, the prospective consumer of his thesis might think: `ah, so nobody attended any of the others.’
More likely there would be an assortment.

`Knatz? $10? $1,000 would be cheap!’
`Watch out girls.’
`Aah, he’ll just try to sell you some of his short stories.’
`Most penetrating understanding of the sonnets ever. And not just the sonnets: it relates to everything.’

“So,” said Stephen Marcus to me, “what you’re trying to do is reinvent the ancient marketplace.” Exactly! But with computers and satellite transmissions, the ancient village could be global. Pan-system. Interstellar.
And equality could begin to have some meaning.

One other point from Illich: he researched a wonderful etiology for the modern school. He traces things to a Commenius of the 17th Century, the first teacher known to enlist “scholarchs” and from the ordinary population. The telling point is that he was an alchemist! You know, one of those “philosophers” who believed that lead could and should be physio-chemically transmuted into gold. And who believed further that gold was better, more Godly, than the “baser” elements, lead being the basest. Of course! All our terminology for schools is alchemical! “Class.” “Graduate.” “Degree.” The “curriculum.” Twelve! grades. It is of course an insult to human nature. Dross, unless turned by the alchemist to gold. Baptism was no longer enough.
Anyway, I started collecting and matching whatever information people volunteered to FLEX. I also published my vision of all information coming to be subsumed through one cheap, public, wholly open information system. For which FLEX was intended as the mere beginning. It wasn’t just schools that should be competed against (and I hoped eventually replaced), but newspaper classifieds, everything. Easy access to book locations, movie schedules, shipping schedules, weather … everything. And no censorship.
Illich’s writings over that decade form a strategic pattern. Celebration of Awareness indicated a broad base of attack on a number of contemporary institutions. If anything was detailed it was US foreign policy in relation to the Third World. Then Deschooling focused on education as a product where it is more properly a process. Tools was again more scatter gun. Medical Nemesis focused on health care. Etc. Until The Right to Useful Unemployment and Its Professional Enemies sums everything. The second half of the rhetorical hourglass is far vaster and far crisper than the first. Fabulous. Though the further he went, the less he was heard. He had to go outside the United States for publishers within the first couple of years of the ’70s.
I did not maintain a one mode strategy with regard to A or even to touting the implications of B. On the one hand I thought it would be best simply to offer the service and to let the implications follow on their own. But of course, whenever anyone came even close in their questions, I’d go whole hog. I can’t worry about how wise that was. I did the best I could.
But back to plain FLEX: Initially, certain disclaimers needed and would continue for a while to need constant repetition. “FLEX is a switchboard, not a judge, not a jury, not a cop, not your parent. Caveat emptor.” But only until the public awakened to its own adulthood. Till it could take responsibility for the independence at hand. Of course you don’t go and invite some stranger into your home just because he says he’s a Twin Peaks fan and wants to talk about it. Or take guitar lessons from some guy without looking him over. Neither is the guy who drools when he wants to come over and show you something about the Amityville Horror necessarily more dangerous than the grandma type who will show you how to darn socks.
(Neither did nor do I mean that there should be no conceivable use for a “school.” It’s just that the prescription shouldn’t be automatic. And what schools there would be would come to use FLEX for its resources. (Except in what of course will always remain the ideal way to locate a resource: to know it personally. If your father is Stephen Hawking, then you’ve already got one mathematician- physicist-cosmologist you don’t need anyone’s directory to find. On the other hand, if your father claims to be the only physicist you need, you’d still have a complete resource from which to test his claim.)

B.IV might come to apply to B.I as well. Nothing would stop a freed Charles Manson from listing himself as interested in Primal Scream Therapy. But the next section down would say that he’s a convicted felon: a mass murderer.
Manson’s or another’s conviction could be false (though I strongly suspect that if anyone’s conviction was correct, it was Manson’s). FLEX wouldn’t be vouching for the truth of anything; only providing raw data. “This (B.I or B.II) is how he’s listed himself”; “this (B.IV) is what the public says.” (And you know that my “he” doesn’t presume male.)
And of course B.IV should in time become unwieldy enough to require some supplemental digest. A bell curve, for example. But all the actual reports must also be available. With no cut off date. Naturally the cost would vary with the depth of search, with the number of items called up. Just like time and distance in a phone call.
There’s tons more I want to add but what’s above is the heart of it. A pbf file or files will follow, detailing and editorializing more on FLEX and me, and on Colby, NYU, etc. I see it all as relating directly to “Isabell,” but the characters are prior.
1990 November 02
Dear Brian,
I link from pbi2.
FLEX Still:
But With A Bit More Knatz Again:
In fact it was the phone company that I first went to, outlining how the whole thing could be done through their existing system. Billing and everything. I just insisted that it be Not for Profit and that there be a fund for those who couldn’t pay even the dollar or so that I envisioned maintenance as costing, once used by thousands or millions. No answer.
Neither did Ma Bell or Con Ed respond to my requests that they postpone their bills till FLEX was solvent.
(Of course there would be no need, none that I foresee, for scholarships for the disadvantaged once FLEX had been the system for a while. Disadvantage should disappear. See Illich directly for the various ways that learning could continue to be publicly funded.)
The Director of University Relations at IBM said to me, “doing it right would cost $20,000,000 a year.” I had no idea. (All I’d asked him for was $150,000.) He knew better than me. But, I pointed out to him, the annual cost of the public schools alone (1970) was $50,000,000,000!
I had told Illich originally that I was far from the right person to be doing it, but that I’d work my ass off for anyone who was leading. Hoping that meant him. He just turned it right back to me. Except for agreeing to be an inactive trustee, he divorced himself from it. He was off onto his critique of other tools and other institutions. So, having apologized for my unworthiness to him, to myself, and to god, I started it.
One reason I knew I wasn’t the right person was because of how lazy I was in my own interests, how diligent for others: if I believed in them: and in the work. I trusted myself to work hardest for my own ideals under the direction and scheduling of another. Scratching my ass through college had spoiled a very hard worker. (Of course I don’t mean high school; I mean the various jobs I had had while in school. Where I was always the best they’d ever seen. I worked hard mowing the neighbor’s lawn; didn’t mow my own at all.)
Another was because of how very hostile I was by 1969 to just about all the other institutions. (And I hadn’t read, couldn’t have read, except Celebration, Illich’s attacks.) I didn’t want anything from the government. Or from corporations. (Hell, I had resolved never to have anything to do with them by my freshman year, and this was more than ten years later, when the government was busy warring on peasants and on jungle, life itself!) They were the ones who used double talk to enslave us. They were the enemy.
And of course Clarke/Illich/FLEX were still not my ideal: my ideal has never been anything but to be a cave man. My own attitude was expressed by Illich (here paraphrased and condensed): if we have to be overpopulated, if we have to have these oppressive tools, this is how best to use them.
Denis Detzel’s Learning Exchange in Evanston started within a month or two after my first announcement. His associate, Bob Lewis, went straight off to Quaker Oats and got them a grant. Then the other exchanges that came to me for my ideas, guidance, experience (first one, then a spatter, then a flood) were all funded in some way: some funny little tail of some university. They were generally students, registered somewhere, looking for a degree!
I, from the first, asked the public, and at first, only the public. I was asking people to voluntarily tax themselves further in order to maximize freedom immediately and to lower taxes in the long run. Throughout, I kept remembering a poem of Matthew Arnold’s where the peasant beggar keeps his cup to himself as a bourgeois passes, but holds it out to the next peasant. The people have to help themselves. I asked in as loud, persistent, and public a voice as I could muster. $3 was what I recommended as a contribution for each use of FLEX. But I asked for as much as they would give. Always promising that it would never turn into a Red Cross: profit disguised as charity.
The Methodist Women’s Association gave $800 and then $500, the latter being to fly me to Cuernavaca for a meeting with Detzel. All other contributions the first year didn’t add up to $100. It was hard for me, but then I myself got off a letter to IBM. And to the Rockefeller III Fund.
But meantime I got articles into the Post, the News, local papers, six or eight radio stations, I had a regular scroll going at West Side Cable. The WRVR gal told me I was her most frequent guest.
The Rockefellers paid a guy to follow me around. Time Inc called me in to look me over. But where was the donated computer? The donated programmer? The free office or money therefore? The money for regular paid ads? By that time somebody should have given us the Gulf Building at Columbus Circle.
(The building in Hell’s Kitchen that FLEX was given was a disaster. The free food people once dumped my files on the floor, helping themselves to the cardboard file boxes for the transportation of cabbages. My Olivetti and Noreen’s bicycle were soon stolen. Then my folding table that we trucked all over the city to spread the literature on.)
Contributions over the next couple of years may have brought the total up toward $150. I’d have three people take all day to collect $2. Of course it was the newsletter, the invitations to reflect on what skills they themselves had, what interests, what needs that we were pushing on the people, not the collections. I remember Louis Leffkowitz coming up to me and Noreen outside the Metropolitan Museum. “You guys are going a great job.” He put fifty cents on the table. I gave him the dirtiest look I suspect he’s ever received. He practically had a heart attack. “Did you want more than that?” “As much as you want to give,” I said. He adjusted himself back to filling up his fur coat and walked up the steps to the Met. Then I kicked myself for not telling him that I found the whole government to be illegitimate. He probably though I was campaigning for McGovern. To me the election was missing all the most important points. That the war was and could only be sustained from the base of a schooled society.
In those several most active years I only once met someone who disagreed in any degree with what I was saying. And the funny thing was, I didn’t protest or disagree with the ideal of his disagreement. It was also outside the Met. He was an orthodox Jew. “Schule is all anyone should need.” Sure. If we were all Jewish, tending sheep in a desert, with no Roman, Chinese, Aztec, or Carthaginian empire. Sure: at that still primitive degree of over-civilization.
The Consul’s Tale was perhaps my least favorite in Hyperion, but you can see how I leapt to his contrast of Maui-Covenant with the Hegemony! A bulletin board like FLEX is only needed in an already overpopulated world. But, since we are … and must interconnect, then …
(There were some people who were skeptical, but not of the philosophical points: “Oh, sure, but then you become the institution and you’re right back where you started.” That’s not a lack of confidence in FLEX, but a disbelief in the possibility of any kind of amelioration. Someone else, in the first weeks, seeing us not yet afloat, couldn’t distinguish that from sinking!)
We never sank; we were never afloat. Your mother’s tiny income from Barnard was all the financing there was. I never asked for it. She never offered it. But that’s how it got spent. And one of the most frustrating drains on that resource was the thousands of inquiries for FLEX literature than came in from university libraries, Free Schools, etc., nineteen out of twenty with not so much as a return stamp. Some offered that FLEX could “bill” them any cost. One guy with a handful of volunteers, no money, no stationary, and now I’m supposed to bill them?
Meantime some guy took out a two page spread in New York Magazine selling conference calls. Slick ad, steep price to discuss your interest on the phone with strangers. He was making money at it. But he soon specialized his company solely to arrange conference calls for corporations. And the public could look after itself. Or come to me. He knew about FLEX. I wrote to him for one thing. “No, the money is with the corporations.”
A guy on 103rd and West End Avenue had a terminal to a main frame in Princeton. Some kind of grant. Sure, he’d let me use it, show me how, give me a couple of programming tips. (I even had a session on this upright black Remington that was wired to type ASCII pulses, in … I’m not sure, PL1, Basic, FORTRAN …) Great. But then he wanted $40 an hour or something.
(It was in such pursuits that I met a couple of the IBM people who had developed FORTRAN. They loved the idea of programming stuff for cross reference, etc. They were making six figures already; what could I pay them? $20,000 might have bought them, but not zero with them supplying the computer.)
One day I got New School stationary requesting that I contact them. Hallelujah. A whole institution ready to turn over its resources. No, they wanted me to teach a course in their school on what I was doing. I was near despair as I accepted. It should have been: `We’ve see the light. We will no longer offer degrees. We will no longer design curricula except as recommendations, for sale under the (B.II) rubric of our own expertise in telling people what to study.’
I did have one small victory with them which they scuttled the effect of. I refused to let them publish any degrees for me, giving instead a statement of Freedom II. They didn’t publish the degrees or the statement. I was the only one in the catalog with blank after his name.
Imagine what a whore I felt like, desperate for the piddle of income. I had vowed never again to teach except on my terms. I.e., to students who had chosen me and whom I chose to accept. Both free to unchoose, to fire, to expel at any time.
There. You may also see that my approach to FLEX is of a piece with my approach to everything, my writing a clear example: my way or nothing. (“My way or the highway” my beloved Marty would accuse me in the Everglades.) But not mine because it’s mine. My way is the best I can determine of the right way, that part of the right way that we don’t already have.
Even when I took one and then another of the job opportunities your mother would bring home from Barnard placement, always shit jobs, respectable but innocuous, the companies had sent them to a girl’s college after all, it was still with the idea of surviving for FLEX; not turning away from it. I’m sure one of the reasons I was fired from Midtown Galleries was that I had suggested to Mary Gruskin that she let me open her storage area as a public gallery in which anyone could exhibit simply in order of application. The marketplace does not welcome ideas. Except those 99% in line with those it already has. (My surmises of the other reasons are also interesting, but bear less on FLEX. Though do you know the last thing my superior at Stone and Webster said to me before firing me? “You have too much imagination”!)
When I wouldn’t pretend an apology (I should show you for what sometime: I retained the document), your mother took you off to 39 Claremont. The rent was coming due on schedule. I took stock and determined that I would give two weeks to a different strategy of fund raising. I would go to businesses and only to businesses.
The two weeks were cut short after four hours produced zero income. So I went to a professional fund raising firm. They wanted $10,000 up front merely to start to listen, before they’d open their mouths. I shrugged and began to depart. The guy called me back. He gave me an hour. He told me that no one could have done better in the first couple of years of something. That he saw no problem in raising millions, then multi-millions. I’d just have to come up with $10,000 and let him do it. Percentage on what came in. “No way,” I said. I could have written a check, but he couldn’t have deposited it. He iterated that the idea was great, the start as good as possible.
It isn’t that I didn’t have some one percent of Melanie’s power to stroke, then influence. “I stroked her, feeling the onrush of pleasure flow through her, and out of her like an unexpected gush of warm urine.” I showed plenty when I turned to Circle Gallery and more when I went on my own. You don’t get a stranger to pledge a $25,000 irrevocable letter of credit within the first hour of meeting him without a touch of Hitler in you. Salesmanship is locating the venal in a prospect and then stroking it till the money comes. The illusion of advantage is the only non-staple ever sold. But I hate it. It’s agony to force myself to do it. Didn’t people see the discipline I was exercising NOT to influence? But to offer for their free acceptance?
And those who don’t operate from the top of a maintained pyramid lose their ability to influence. People don’t mistrust a zero ground base at thirty; they very much do past fifty. You have to pass for one of them. (As Melanie does with Anne Bishop.) Even at thirty-five they could overlook the revolutionary streamers, dismiss it as wild oats, not serious. `Oh, let Billy join the Peace Corps; we’ll still have him on the board when he grows up. If he’s bored by the Corvette he never even asked for, he’ll still want one for his own son.’ Civilization knows. It’s been around a long time.
Imagine the paralysis in my solar plexus the first time I saw an ad on the tube for FLEX shampoo and conditioner. Moondog, the street musician (no beggar he), sued Alan Freed and his Moondog Show, collecting a million, and forcing Freed to come up with Rock and Roll. Why Freed avoided the already common Rhythm and Blues I don’t know. Maybe to continue the rape of the mostly Black medium. R&R is a better new kind of “jazz” phrase anyway. Rolling Stones. It’s all phallus and yonis; there should be only one word?
The minute I could breathe I thought: there’s my funding! But the poker games of civilization require an ante. Just like the fund raisers.
Any study not 100% subjective (and of course there’s no such thing as 100% any pure thing) will inevitably show that things aren’t what they seem. History strikes me as being the tale of our ability to do one set of things while pretending that they are quite a different set of things. When visiting Billy Tapley while writing Comet, he took me to hear some woman repeat her perambulating tirade against everything good Christians are against: pornography, sin, liberalism … I won’t accuse her talk of being liberal, but boy, was it pornographic. Sex was her main subject. And it got the good Catholics’ attention. I remember the flush on her face as she accused some nineteenth-century feminist and reformer, some Ur-Liberal, of liking to be on her back three times a day. So? What’s her point? … Oh! To give everybody a little rush. Passing titillation for virtue.
Since then, I look at practically any Puritan preacher’s hissed “Sin” as their Arsenio Hall Show, if not their Benny Hill. If not their Deep Throat. The Bible was the literature, the cosmology, the theology, the law, the poetry, the history, and the pornography of the Jews.
History is a series of revolutions in which ameliorations are compromised with, not achieved. The institution for the amelioration absorbs all the funds for the amelioration while keeping it in check. Post becomes ante becomes anti.
One study I would love to know enough to be able to make would be to compare biological evolution with cultural evolution in that respect. Are eyes some compromise with seeing? (Tying into my point above, pbi1, about puppies and lions and hunter humans.) Eros and Thanatos! (As GB says, sexual reproduction guarantees a diapason of the genetic information according to the limits of the population but within the conventional limits of the species.) I don’t know. Though it remains my faith that Evolution (the Mind of the Set of Ecologies, contained within the Mind of the Universe (if the Universe has a Mind), contained within the Mind of the Cosmos (if the Cosmos has a Mind)) knows better what it’s doing than we do. And knows better than the Jehovah of the Jews and Christians.
I have never wanted in general to control things linearly. There are people who would tell you, should they hear that, that I deceive myself. There are people who have told you that without seeing that statement. I insist on the opposite. I don’t claim infallibility; again, quite the opposite: I deny its existence in anything as well as in anyone. I don’t attribute infallibility to Evolution. Just a wisdom, a reliability that the stupid UIs of the Core can’t imagine. My arrogance is a virtual called up with respect not to the intelligence of others but to its perversion, its absence. And it isn’t that I don’t believe in the intelligence of those others. That’s precisely what FLEX tried to appeal to. But that intelligence is too much hostage to a host of addictions. The infinitely receding virtual of power. What GB addresses in the final words of Mind.
More on the chimera of linear control in a moment.
I referred above to some shampoo stealing FLEX’s name. I mentioned the myriad “free” branches of schools that sprang up around 1970. Within the first year of my announcing FLEX many schooling institutions initiated counter measures to the Illich influence. Tests were devised to offer degree candidates advanced entry status for “life experience.” “Don’t you see?” I said over WRVR, “that’s just the shepherd gathering up the sheep that threaten to break free. To turn the half-successful candidate for wolf back into a 100% sheep.” They weren’t offering real status: degrees; just preferential admissions to a better section of the sheep fold. And the offer was defensive, not liberal.
New York State overnight founded Empire State College. Supervised study without classrooms toward a degree. Their amelioration money went there: still in their control. We don’t want no real adults in New York State.
I still owe Jonathan Kozol a broken nose for saying in front of me and in front of Paulo Freire! that “certain people,” meaning me, “were insane” for thinking that certification could simply be ignored. I was given no chance to speak that night. And I’m not the kind to just break in and wrestle everybody to the ground.
Certain ideas about the classroom, the consumption of prescribed hours of lectures, etc. were seemingly passed around in those days, the magician’s rubber band to the force card visible enough. But the key freedoms I never heard discussed except by me. (Kozol’s reference was a surrender of the war to fight one battle within it.) I never claimed anything but that FLEX was only half of the whole: only the second half. But the first half can’t be offered by one citizen; it has to be taken, by a plurality, an in-effect majority. After ten thousand years of civilization maybe the people don’t want freedom any more than the tax collectors want to grant it.
And by freedom I mean adulthood. Maturity. Politically recognized. It makes no politically relevant difference how real it is. It’s a vicious circle. Of course people can’t mature if they’re kept in terrariums. A society of bonzai instead of a forest.
We “depend” on the tax collectors to keep prescribing the agriculture, the irrigation, the deforestation, the faster as the desertification rends the biosphere. We don’t trust our own ability to survive even as the inviability of the civilization becomes more glaring.
Well, we can’t. Not all of us. So what else is new? But all our injections of this or that top down solution are escalations of the disease. (Our apocalyptic fictions show the disease surviving the disaster: Road Warrior.)

Now, I do believe that any solution must be top down, but not from the diseased part of the top: governments which are business, business which is industry, all dependent on growth, the rape of the random when there’s no random left. Maybe I’ll leave this till I get back to Hyperion: to what I, not Dan Simmons, think Keats was talking about with his dethroned gods. (Chaucer’s long dethroned Saturn still rules when the new double binds become binding enough. A bomb of a top down solution.) I’m marking links, not making them.
After one more mark: Jesus didn’t prescribe salvation. He offered no police state of the virtuous. The Cromwells will never get it.
Whoops. I say that before finishing what I had planned would come first: pbh3&4. pbis or fs hadn’t been planned at all.
So, let me finish my list of perversions of FLEX. (“FLEX” here is a rubric like “Isabell.” I do not mean that any of the following necessarily knew about FLEX or me or Illich or Clarke. I do not intend linear connections. The following are simply implicit in our technology. Clarke, Illich and I were trying to make them explicit. And to tie them to something anterior to all our non-genetic technologies)
Dun and Bradstreet has long catalogued corporations. But it was after 1970, in the wake of 1970 and FLEX, that it started pushing a kind of FLEX B.II. The friend of the guy in the next room at Guy Faulks house, Malvern, PA was hired by that new division. 1985. Now corporations can buy at a price concealing plenty of profit what they could have helped to organize at cost.
Do you realize that dating services are specialized, trivialized uses of FLEX B.I? Do you realize that they have all appeared since FLEX’s inception? And they don’t cost three bucks. They don’t deny the aura implicit in them that they’re monitoring the match for the consumer, that you’re getting inspected goods. Even the multi-thousand dollar consumers learn that they could have done as well by pinning the tail on the donkey while blindfolded.
But the ultimate perversion thus far has to be these telephone sex scams. $5 the first minute. The phone companies are going whole hog for that one. Imagine the millions invested and the multi-millions made: for delusion. Nevertheless, formally, the technique is merely an extreme specialization of FLEX B.I. “What are you interested in?” “Nooky.” “Here you go.” But with an egregious difference: even should you find the precise whore that you want, it ends with the phone call! Another gargantuan point is that all the nooky hasn’t registered! Nor has it been invited to register.
(Ah. Did I ever tell you … No, I’m sure I didn’t, about the short story I thought of around 1964? When I was thinking of them, not writing them. “The First and Final Annual Report of the Morningside Heights Neighborhood Free Fuckery.” The scene was the building on Amsterdam and West 112 Street. CU had condemned it so it could build something there. Some of the evicted residents stayed squatting. A bunch of Columbia and Barnard people squatted with them, successfully holding back the bulldozers for a time. The last time I looked it was just rubble on a lot. My “story” imagined the sit-ins getting bored, proposing an orgy, but being post-print organized about it. They don’t all just jump into a heap, they fill out 3×5 cards saying what they want. And some Paul Knatz sits to the side calling out the pairings. Fags to the basement, face to face upstairs, doggy in that corner, third floor for fellatio, cunnilingus fourth, main floor for swinging from the single chandelier, etc. They keep it up. Other little details emerged. The wants didn’t always match the wantings. And like the need for a little hygiene. Hence, The Clap Trap in the foyer. The cops come, the dykes picket, the real whores come and bash the amateurs, etc.
(I told Alison’s basketball playing friend in the West End one evening: “don’t write it,” said this writer, “Do it!” Lloyd was more my model than anyone else for the narrator of In The Park. Whatever I’ve put into my ss files doesn’t sweep up any part of all the pre-Model or post-Memorial Day ideas. But then the Model itself was an old idea by the time I wrote it.)
2005 05 02 A decade on line, three and a half decades after I tried to network any- and every-one (then network the networks), I am astonished that I’ve written so little about my joke of the ’60s, my Neighborhood Free Fuckery. It’s discussed at Deschooling in a note on the Founder. link to be added

The letter went on and on, I’ll check boundaries as I edit for K. 2013.
More and more file “tail” clamors to become body. I close pbf1 here so I can modem it and i2 while the remainder fights for a place.
1990 November 09
Dear Brian,
Ah, what joy. It’s perhaps a half hour since you called. First I note corrections from pbf1:
l 253: “I” should of course be “he”
l 297 I’m not sure how “yonis” should be spelled, but I just saw Lenny Bernstein use a different form of the word and he had it with an “o.”
l 360 missing i in receding. (I thought I’d spell-checked: F1 should have found something like that.)
l 468 $5 the first minute, e.g. saw an ad since writing.
l 476 add: Nor has it been invited to register.
l 479 “I’m” for “I.”
And tying to l 790 in pbi1 I add: it’s like the conviction of the alcoholic or junkie that he has free will: sure he does: so long as he doesn’t try to stop drinking. The word would begin to have meaning if it were tied to some statistics of effect. There are people who have stopped drinking, gone cold turkey. What’s their proportion? What are the stats on the longevity of their reform? Yes, will can exist. But its usual use is by those who have no idea. I just reveled in my Nth viewing of the Alec Guiness performance of Hitler in The Last Ten Days: tons of self-congratulatory talk about his iron will. With the delicious irony that even his sycophants are beginning to look at him a little funny as the bunker closes in on them.
When I told you that I didn’t know which id files and such I had backed up on your C: [bk’s hard drive], it was with the intention of sending you the balance. You said something about zip.ing, and it occurred to me, Sure, I can now keep zip.bak files in shed or warehouse. But now it occurs to me that I wish you had copies anyway. I still hope someday, even if only after my death, you’d look at them. There’s a lot of scribble, sure. Yet on the other hand, the majority of everything that I’ve thought in the past three years is there. Much of which I don’t see how I’ll ever make any more articulate that the initial id.blurt (pk’s digital scribble on the Toshiba: digital diary). Varying grade ore, with, I promise, huge nuggets and some rich veins.
Anyway, I mention this because when I sent you the files suffixed “.pk”, it was with that intent: backing things up on your C: I asked you to read voice.
pk as it is the Play for Voices you’d mentioned never seeing. I then recommended that you look at it because it is I believe quite apropos to much of what we’ve been talking about: salvation (or just plain amelioration) offered, but not taken. Perverted, misperceived, the immortal thanatos of Humana. In one sense it’s gushy Christianity; in another, it’s intended to pass through Christianity to Christ! We’ve had it wrong all these centuries.
Similarly, I invite you to look at army.pk (also a file name, bk having the files). Its length is only one legal size page. It’s a fair copy of the mimeographed “order” I “forged” to disband the army which I then distributed at Camp Drum. It too is much apropos of institutions, paternalism, perversion, etc.
And hooking there I’ll mention another reason I had never thought myself to be the correct founder of FLEX. I expected to try; I didn’t expect to succeed. Now, even to achieve a compromised amelioration it’s probably best that the hero naively believe in linear controls and pure revolutions. All of my thinking life I’ve had a sense that it’s best to be virtuous but that virtue, on the human level, is doomed. Therefore: the point isn’t to win: the point is to have been among the innocent, innocence frequently requiring action, not passivity. Attempted action. So I would have been much more effective being driven by … a hero of fewer dimensions, a narrower reality.
Like my perennial view of “national security”: turn the other cheek. After two thousand years of Christians not doing it, it’s no surprise that US would rather have the bombs, be the one’s dropping them. But in my view, there is no way to fight the khans. Not in their time, not in their way. The point is to be innocent. And it’s a tragedy of adulthood, at least of mine, to discover how little of it, innocence, you can master, retain, or achieve. For all my sins I still believe I have retained more than average, and when I go on my revenge crusade … if I go, it will only be if I am still sure in my own mind that I have earned it. Innocent murder. Needless-to-say, I won’t first ask others for their opinion.
I am so happy writing all these files to you, seeing that you’re reading them and finding them to the point. I hope that continues true for all of them.
Another autobiographical aside: Here I am trying to cram tons of stuff, stuff that can be expressed in declarative sentences, into these files, pbh, pbi, pbf … I’m also going to try to hunt down my one paragraph personal statement for my NYU fellowship and ASCII that for you. It’s a statement on communication. The goal of my life. But when I look at what I’ve actually written and spoken by age 52, it’s not much. It doesn’t include more than a fraction of what I had planned. My Shakespeare thesis still an outline and a zillion notes. But I had had a certain order in mind.
I mentioned an idea for a story from 1964. It stayed in my head. I wanted my first public statement to be worthy. I waited till I felt The Model, “The First Week,” come brimming out. Even in the wake of what’s followed, what hasn’t followed, I approve my choice. Actually, it’s first “Play for Voices,” then “The First Week.” They have an order. I believe an ideal order.
Once I was thoroughly pissed at NYU (a detail or two will follow), I was more determined than ever to do my thesis, to do it right: to write it and publish it as a book that non-scholars could read, a book that I myself would want to read, and to find ideal. Or something in that direction at least. But first: I would defy the university mistraining and publish my literature first, criticism second. Expository prose, essays, journalism, philosophy, theology, plenty of it, would follow. But it would follow from the author of The Model! (See First Week.)
Do you know the sociologist’s binary of 1) creative societies and 0) custodian, curatorial societies? We are in our institutions the latter. What is this crap of teaching poems to students who aren’t writing any of their own? In the seventh or eighth grade the music teacher was inflicting Aida on us. The music wasn’t our music, the concerns weren’t our concerns, the language wasn’t ours. We hated it. I, no exception. The teacher’s attitude toward the material was This is art, way up here, and you, swine, are way down here: a different and inferior species. Art wasn’t something one can achieve, but just the opposite. Can you imagine baseball players discouraged from hitting well? Or even from playing the game? So that Babe Ruth’s accomplishments can be completely apotheosized? You probably weren’t aware of the resistance, the hatred, Aaron and Maris met with when they broke a couple of those records. Somehow they were cheating. Our generation has to remain children so that grandpa’s generation can continue to be revered.
(Even if Ellington’s reeds and brass hadn’t made my thighs quiver, even if Kid Ory’s tone hadn’t tugged at my pubescent vas, even if Pres’s upbeats, his drag triplets offsetting measures, hadn’t made my mind reel, you can imagine how I would have never-the-less responded to Bird’s “You can do anything.”)

You can do anything.
Bird (Charlie Parker)
Nothing is impossible until you try it.
Sylvan Saudan

[Material for an essay other than this one: how can the Bird quote and the Sylvan Saudan quote of pbi possibly belong in the same set of views and not simply contradict each other? I believe you’re already equipped to answer that in a dozen or so ways, but let me take the opportunity to insert another Illichism: we need commando action to rescue the language. Once Marilyn Monroe’s bleach bottle has coopted Pamela’s blond = virgin = good = god, (see what I say about my thesis and orals in pbf3 [pk file nomenclature (Paul to Brian, f-part3): this letter would have been digital but not email, and my word processed files were of finite length: different world twenty years ago) 2015 06 03], the innocent will prefer to be brunette. Brunette will be blond. (The jive bad is good that Kentucky Fried Chicken is now turning to pabulum.) As a kid I hated art (the Aida we were being bludgeoned with, the fist-full of museum postcards that were flashed at us, Botticelli flipped in random series with Fra Angelico, Picasso, Holbein, Turner made a good deal less sense than the race horse in the magic lantern); but loved jazz (which they declined to take hold of and ruin). Later I learn, No, I love art, jazz is art: but the word had been captured, by the enemy, its meaning reversed. Just like Christianity, democracy, freedom, manhood, etc. Everything we’re talking about.]

You know my favorite example (creative turning custodial) of the Church’s decision in its counter reformation to put doilies over the genitals of Michelangelo’s superhuman giants, to make the robust obscene. Artists were invited to present plans and to make bids. Young Domininicus Theotokopoulos, like all ambitious artists of the time come to Italy to be discovered, said, “Tear it down. I’ll do it over again.” Shortly thereafter he fled to Spain where he became El Greco.
It isn’t that Michelangelo is or isn’t greater than El Greco; my point is the Church’s custodial attitude: that the past was by definition better than the present. Gregory Bateson was raised to believe that the best little-he could hope for would be to become that inferior creature, the scientist. For the ages of genius, of art, Blake et alia, were past.
My friend Joe and I were giving Verdi the raspberry. And the teacher took the familiar silly juvenile stance we have all seen somewhere or another: “Oh, I suppose you can do better?” And Joe and I answered in the affirmative. We actually met a couple of times to collaborate on our opera: “The Treasure of the Sierra Madonna.” And of course we were abandoned to learn how to try it all on our own. `That’ll show them.’ Joe sketched some silly shit about “and then she sings a beautiful aria” and handed the rest to me. But I didn’t know any music: not how to play, let alone compose it. I thought Joe would do that part. Two guys both trying to write the libretto. (How ironic that now I compose a little every day. In jazz, composition and playing can’t be separated. A little late start ever to master it. So? I speak slowly, with an accent. I make mistakes. So what?)
[And of course “So What” is Miles’ title for a tune. I think I understand the half-tone modality of that piece twice as well now, and I don’t mean via music theory.]
I’ve never swooned much for Verdi since then either. Yet I’ll take some people’s word for it that he’s the best: or at least the best of that family of the genre I don’t care for. Even if that could somehow be objectively true (another of my unwritten expositions: how esthetics could be semi-, initially, quantified), my point remains: wouldn’t it be better to have everyone writing operas and then say, wow, I’ve done my damndest and Aida is still head and shoulders … Or, Shoot, all these steroids, all this money, and I still only hit 275 homers: and now my knee is gone. The curatorial society.
So. I always saw myself as having the publisher’s ear, to propose this and that project, how to reform the dictionary, to bring the epistemology of the humanities into the Twentieth Century, etc., but to do it my way. First, they had to compromise with me. The Model. My map/territory intensional/extensional morality play. The paradigm for all that would follow. (Way before I knew those names for those distinctions.) And nothing has followed.
But I’m innocent! Do you see? I tried to do it right. I HAVE done it right. Success is an interaction. It isn’t a quality one side of the equation can control.
You read Piers Anthony’s first story. Fabulous. Wonderful. What could be more wonderful? Yet he had been churning it out and submitting for seven years! Now they have to pay seven figures up front for him to begin a line. But he says that he still can’t get his best stuff published: even with his bankable name!
So, if souped up civilization insists on burning down the jungle without even troubling first to learn what valuables it’s destroying, valuables it could have then raped in another way … It strikes me that I have always and only done the most responsible thing I could think of. To challenge the basic pathologies of our modes of perceiving and of acting.
But resuming (not that that aside wasn’t also to the point): each of these files has grown a little tail. Some of it has gotten ingested into the body; the rest has been pushed along into the next number or letter. Now you are writing a piece for some underground press. Bravo. At this point I must believe that you already know what the costs can be. Great. Now danger is courage; not just foolhardiness.
Now, please believe that I don’t imagine that I believe that you have to read to rest, or even the previous, of my reports and confessions to write your own essay. But I do so wish I could finish everything in the next five hours so you would have the opportunity to see it whole. If I succeed, it may become the most complete statement I’ve ever made, not counting the everything implicit of The Model. Another reason to press on. Nothing like the prospect of a reader to stimulate the writer. (Did you know that Spenser’s Faery Queen, one of the world’s masterpieces, near impossible to read for moderns, was never published in his life time? Not that he wasn’t forever dropping the twelve ton manuscript on Queen Elizabeth. In some respects, Spenser is Shakespeare’s equal: in others, his superior; which doesn’t deny that there are a jillion more ways in which Shakespeare is Spenser’s master.)
Anyway, suddenly time counts a bit more than it always does. So, I’ll try to make the remainder of pbf comprehensible, but I’m not going to sweat it too much. Consider that it’s tail. A dinosaur’s tail.
An experience common for me from 1970 to 1973 was to hear people say, Yes, but what about children? I skim over my answers to get to the part relevant here. “What about parents? What about relatives? Brothers, sisters, neighbors, cousins, church, community?” These people didn’t seem to be able to imagine that humans would care for or educate their young without group interference. Was their concern really with children? (As is mine?) Or a will to accept, to synergize further, big brother’s usurpation of responsibility? They didn’t seem to want the answers. They didn’t want the “problem” solved short of allowing them moral credit for butting into, interfering in other people’s business. The vampire class that identifies with the authority.
[Yeow! And I just realize! It’s just like your point about … Brian, supply me again with the term … the body ceasing to manufacture its own drugs if you keep injecting it with stuff from a lab. Maybe the welfare mother does stop caring for her child!]
By late Friday I figured this file was less than two hundred lines still-to-be-ordered of being complete at 1400 or 1500 lines. By 3:00 AM Saturday I’d separated it so that one half could be modemed, but didn’t trust my sagging self to use ATerm. [2013 Funny to be reminded of that old old software.] Now it’s 7:00 PM and I’m tearing it apart again. Just what I promised both of us I wouldn’t do. The hell with it. I’m going to send the part that reads at all. And hope to be sending the rest and a thrice read Trim by tomorrow. [a bk story]


The first two years of your life were spent at Colby. I have no idea what your mother has told you of some of the things that happened there. I have clear memories of telling and retelling you some. I include here one thing I have no memory of ever mentioning to you. You may well have overheard it being discussed by me, but what could your eighteen month old mind have made of it?
I was hired to teach at Colby for one year. To no one’s surprise, I was offered a second one-year contract which I accepted. The Department Chairman said the necessary things about certainly not wanting to detract me from finishing my Ph.D. etc., but any postponement was welcome to me. I was there. I was enjoying the teaching. I had no “normal” ambitions. Meaning it made little difference to me that some mythical promotion, or tenure, or decent salary would be therefore one year further into my future. One year at a time deals were the common trade for instructors. My prize was to get a course in my “specialty” for that second year.
What was understood by everyone was that there was no future in such arrangements. Instructors, especially those who haven’t completed the Ph.D. (and there’s no sane reason apart from career why any one would want even to begin one) (the faculty at Yale stood as a man and cheered when Illich suggested that the silly degree simply be done away with) get bounced around for a few years in the musical chairs that universities have developed to avoid having to bestow tenure or pay professors’ salaries to the majority of their faculty. I cared little since the money and title was not of first importance to me. Where I was paying a penalty immediately felt was in the insularity of such communities: those tenured don’t waste their time on those untenured. To have friends, you have to find someplace and force them somehow to keep you. Or just do without until you’ve paid enough dues that they just promote you anyway. They don’t bounce anyone for ever.
When I first arrived, I was one of three such. We became friends. But Bob left and John did finish his Ph.D.. Others who arrived were singletons. In other words, accepting even the second year meant having no particular friends there. My best friend the second year was probably still Bob, and he was in California! But one year had shown me no one I particularly wanted to be friends with, other than Spiegelberg, who was on his brilliant way out. (And neither did that narrowly arrogant bastard show the slightest faith that anyone but himself could possibly have anything interesting to say. No reception? I didn’t broadcast in his direction).
Drafted, and at Whitehall Street for two years, I had made an effort to break through Phil’s egotistical self- sufficiency. He was looking not for friends, but for a court. The situation was obnoxious to me, but I forced a real friendship out of it. I wasn’t going to repeat the act with Spiegelberg. I let him reflect in his own mirror. (Spiegel, ha.) Probably pissed him off that I wasn’t in his court. (He’d hear things about me, but even though I was his office mate, he never checked them out. The one time he started to ask something I would dearly have loved to answer, something about Shaw, he interrupted his overture to instead assign a fallacy to me. He had written both sides of the dialogue. Fine. I should fight him? No, I offer my views; I’m not going to shove them down anybody’s throat. Except where they’ve got me manacled. Then watch out.
Anyway, in that second year, Hilary and I finally got around to inviting Chairman Marc Benbow for dinner or he finally got around to accepting. He really didn’t want to “jeopardize my career,” but if I wanted to stay a third year, he wanted and needed me. `I was so great, my students thought … etc.’ But I must understand that that would absolutely, positively be the last one. There was no additional future there for me. He already taught the Shakespeare course himself. Behind him in the same field was already Soandso and also Soandso. And so forth. I accepted. I’d be in the cycle of those to get the whole of January off, I’d get even better courses than he’d given me that second year, etc.
Toward the middle of that year it was becoming evident even to the school paper that a purge was being mounted. A tremendous number of instructors and Asst. Profs weren’t being renewed. Everyone just short of tenure, an extreme even for Colby. And, get this, everyone who had participated in the Vietnam protests! Except me. But then New Years came. I’d promised to phone at some point from NY. And Benbow tells me it’s all off.
Jim Pollock flies up to Waterville in his three piece suit and locking attaché case, at his own expense (actually he’d simply included it on some other expense account) and Colby suddenly decided that they owed me at least a full fellowship back to NYU. Where I did little for that year but read the NYR in which I discovered Illich.
Now, if there ever was a single reason for the breaking of the contract, I don’t know what it was. But then what institution is ever candid about these things? It’s all sub rosa. I was never mentioned in the newspapers fury over the other axings, because mine hadn’t been announced with the box car going to the showers. Mine was never announced period. I can imagine several reasons, but don’t know any. The others didn’t know either. The two main suspicions in the paper were economic (not having to pay professors’ salaries) and political (the liberal institution purging itself of liberalism). Benbow’s excuse to me was that he’d miscalculated because the medievalist was taking a six month sabbatical, not a year.
The money was an issue. No question. So were the politics. The people not there can have all the freedom of speech they want. In my case, I suspect that Benbow may have gotten a closer ear on the majority of students’ opinion. I was roundly hated by more than a few. But all sub rosa. Nothing that one could confront. It’s all speculation, feeling, suspicion. I suspect that a majority despised what a minority loved: my declining to emphasize any line between myself and the students. If I didn’t insist on a pedestal then the gutter was the only alternative. Bob was pals with, partied with, slept with his students; but he was still the authority. Herr Doctor Professor. I don’t think the jocks liked the fact that I routinely out-skied everyone not on the team. Or that the Yamaha pegs dragged sparks from the pavement on any good curve. The fact that I was blatantly sexual: that was supposed to be reserved for them, the youth.
Anyway, I have reviewed all that to make two points only: 1) colleges aren’t candid in their reasons for this or that exercise of power. Encore Sub rosa. 2) they’re little kingdoms. And since they believe themselves benevolent, what should they know about due process of law? And anyone who demanded due process from their benevolent selves was somehow cheating. (good image in Carrion Comfort using that word.)

It was no surprise to me. I’d seen the same thing at Columbia. But I was the more sickened the more adult. (And don’t for a second think that I thought that the students or the local citizenry were any better.)
Come to think of it, I will add two other illustrations. First, my first-ever faculty meeting. I had nothing to compare it to other than my knowledge of Roberts Rules of Order. The lard-jowled Colby President followed them pedantically when it was for nothing of importance. But the first thing announced at that meeting had a not altogether tame minority reeling. I wish I could remember the details just so I can’t be accused of exaggerating or imagining things. Some major issue, the president announced, `being technically not a college matter, was simply decided by him and some private council’. Like, since the right of habeus corpus isn’t really a public issue, Bush has simply decided in the privacy of his cabinet to suspend it. And he, the Colby pres., was on to the next, rather first, order of business. If you can lose the vote, don’t have a vote. Simply relabel the issue to make it not subject to vote.
And that was probably one of the things I was thinking of when I wrote Nixon my Twainian letter after the massacre at Kent State. And again in suggesting he, Nixon, suspend the coming election.
Our second year there was the one most filled with student sit-ins and such. I remember driving a car full of my students up to Sugarloaf for skiing one day. They didn’t see what business it was of the college what the sexual, drug, and booze mores were in “their” dorm. I tried to point out that things of different voltages and varyingly unwrapped insulations were mixed up there. That I didn’t know what Maine’s laws on sex were, but that drugs for sure were a felony. Sure, maybe the college should tend to its academic business, but did they want the Waterville police raiding them? How about the whole whore house being burned to the ground by the indignant citizens of Waterville? The locus was their parentis in more than one way.
I’m sure they were disappointed in everything I said. I was the great liberal, the guy who assigned all that John Stuart Mill. I was a kid myself. I was on their side. Why didn’t I just agree with their unhappiness? Say they were right and the college was wrong? What was this shit about the world out there?
Colleges in General
Of course colleges are merely a place where the roughness of social evolution shows up like a dye. The whole society can’t stick to what it says it’s made up its mind to be. Apropos, Illich, in Deschooling, is also very good on the history of childhood and its extension by industrialization. Before the later Eighteenth Century there were no teenagers. You were an child, then you were a man. From thirteen, you dressed the same as the adults of your class, you worked the same, came under the same laws. Dickens’ Artful Dodger is a great presentation of the child adult, no where near fitting into his inherited cloths. Of course, as a pickpocket, Dodger turned it to advantage.
I blame the colleges mightily for how foreign what I was saying appeared to my students. The college made decisions and shifted and changed decisions not only without involving the student body (or the faculty for the most part) in the discussion, but without announcing the changes! Why couldn’t the president have said: `Look, you want us to recognize your adulthood? Good. At next registration we’ll have to have written statements from who ever is paying your tuition that they recognize it too. If we find that we’ve lost half our paying student body, then we’ll stagger in the other direction. You realize that from now on we’ll simply pass reports of this or that illegality on to the authorities proper to those matters. Don’t ask us for bail.
One more favorite story to illustrate how maybe impossible of simplification in the actual world it is. Eisenhower arrives at Columbia to be its president. He addresses the faculty for the first time. Happy to be here, blah, blah, etc. “And I want you to know that I will always be accessible. The door to my office will always be open. I want every employee of the university to know that he can come to see me at any time about anything big or small.” And a professor stands up, thanks the new president for his remarks, and feels that any employee of the university ought to be glad to hear those sentiments. But that he didn’t seem to know where he was. That it was the faculty that he was addressing. That indeed there was only one employee of the university present in the hall and that was him, Eisenhower. “We,” the faculty member resonates, “are the university.”
Right. Or that’s how it once was. Till Columbia starts accepting Fed money for cyclotrons. It’s still the big question: what is a university? To the founders of Yale, the university came into being when they put their books onto a common table. The university was the library. To my Eisenhower story guy, it was the scholars themselves. Why don’t the students found a university that is the students? Especially once there’s no shortage of faculty or books. That’s what I always wanted. Meantime, I most respect the Yale library, and second most respect the Columbia faculty. And the university that is the students doesn’t fare very well. (Right after founding FLEX, I made the acquaintance of Free U, or rather they made mine. They were all both students and faculty. They had disbanded but were reforming. Theirs was the first meeting I attended or even imagined where everybody was some sort of anarchist. They then took over some Quaker printing press and that’s where I did all my publishing. I knew them long enough to see love and kisses turn to bile and paranoia. I have them on tape too. Don’t even remember any names but one, from when they all chose their own names from mythology or fiction or from any source they chose: Mercury. And Christ, did that dyke stink of amphetamines!)
What I don’t respect in a university is the state in intellectual disguise. The sprawl of the propaganda machine. Or the euphemized day care center. The “university” where the administration is the university.
Which relates to another thing I’ve scattered comments on over the years. Who owns us? If no one, if the concept of ownership is inappropriate, then what’s this military draft business? Can these cretins possibly imagine that I would have no interest in defending my interests from attack? That I wouldn’t myself initiate a defense? Or join the first I came upon? What the hell is a tax if it’s my money? If income tax is “voluntary” as it says on the form, how can anyone be in jail for not paying?
(And if we don’t volunteer enough taxes, then why shouldn’t the state fail? Then there’s my other favorite joke: the teacher calls in Rocco’s mother to complain of Rocco’s profanity as she passes out the kindergartners’ milk: “So,” Rocco’s mother says, “don’t give ’em no fuckin milk.”)
In other words, our constitution, our laws are too often euphemisms for quite other values and behaviors. BUT: when you’ve got a law, you can sometimes succeed in insisting on its power. But too seldom. Why wasn’t Nixon actually impeached? And impeached for treason as well? For perjury in oath? It wasn’t in the people’s hands. But then the people didn’t take it into their hands. No law is a law until something is forcing it to be law. Or forcing it to cease to be a law. Jesus cut the Gordian Knot of the Pentateuch. But he was also a law maker. A new spirit of law. That we haven’t chosen to learn.
I had within this past year experience with a college that you can thank heaven Haverford isn’t. An awful lot of personal history got squeezed into the drive past Washington, me exhausted, loosing my voice, and you getting madder and madder at me. With the approach of November my previous landlord wanted me to start paying rent. Fine. I was wrapping up the new “Week Three” and getting it off. Then I’d find some sort of minimal employment: enough to pay $160/mo. and to eat on. First choice: of what was local?: there’s a community college up the road. I bop up there and introduce myself to the English Chairman. Five minutes in her office and she’s hired me for one course to begin in January. She takes me over to the Personnel Office to start the paper work. She’ll mail me the papers. Though meantime I should call her. Next week. It should all be going smoothly by then. The Director of Personnel requires all this shit I haven’t thought about in decades: transcripts, recommendations … I explain that I have no idea who’s who these days at Colby or the New School but that Ron Gross, Ivan Illich, Dan Laurence, Robert Clements, wherever they were around the world were nevertheless all in Who’s Who. I check with the Chair the following week. She’s a different person with me. The Director or Personnel hasn’t gotten the materials he needs yet. I check with him after a couple of weeks. Everything’s fine, I’m qualified, it’s up to the Chairman. What? She’d already hired me.
No she hadn’t. She wasn’t the university. The state man was. And he clearly didn’t know what to make of the unconventional. Trips and letters for a single semester job that paid $800 total! Fortunately for me, I had by that time gotten a load of some of the students. It was fairly easy for me to reassess how pleasant teaching a regular course for the first time in so long would have been.
I think I told you about using their library when rereading Shakespeare last winter. One copy of All’s Well. Some 1901 book club edition. And the pages were still uncut! The borrowing card was original to the founding of the college. Never once taken out! Last week I went back there to find a glossary of math and symbolic logic symbols, for a more careful reading of Tractatus. They put me in touch with the Chairman of Math/ Physics/ Chemistry … He couldn’t understand what I was asking. I started again, a little broader, a lot slower. He had never heard of Wittgenstein! When I explained that he was an important philosopher, logician, and mathematician he defended himself by claiming that that was a matter of opinion! Of course it is. In an area where he’s defaulted on any title to have one. The state may not have all it wants in the way of professors; but it does have all it deserves.

1990 November 13, PM
Dear Brian,
The garbling of pbf3.bb0 spoils among other things my efforts to design file names and extensions that would form a series involving no editing or renaming on your part and still have your C: agree on our file names.
This series is the best I can recover and reconstruct. The first 224 lines here, except for a few changes and additions, duplicates pbpk1.bc0. Its last paragraph had stopped short of a good sentence. And the remainder of its paragraphs. Once you have this, pbpk1.bco is an incomplete redundancy which you may delete.
Save pbpk3.bc0 however, at least long enough to read it into where marked.
Tying into my opposition of official civilization’s factitious prolongation of dependency beyond the need for biological maturity, learning survival skills, etc., using that as a cover for indoctrination into the status quo ante pecking order (you may rise in the pecking order but may not challenge the pecking order, not while we’re in a gradualist phase):
… compromising the socially determined juvenile’s maturity and independence, I’m not protesting just for the juvenile’s sake but also for the jailer’s. The jailer is necessarily himself in a kind of custody.
That may be my favorite meaning of Raymond’s great joke: minister invited to discuss Life and its Beginning on TV. Uh oh, better have a priest too. Uh, better call in some rabbi as well. Let the opposition go first. Priest: Life begins at conception. (What did they need him there for when we all know the script?) Minister: Life begins at birth. (Why even have the program?) And, oh: we forgot
the um irrelevance. Rabbi: Life begins after the children have grown up and gone off to college.
Sexuality maturity has thus far been a condition for
reproduction. The adults bear offspring. That’s a major part of what it’s all about. And what it’s all for. Or: it’s a minor part, but we can never know what the major part is. !!! Just believe there is one. Or may be one. Same difference, at that level.
Trees devote a tremendous portion of their vitality in churning out the seeds and the pollen. But when wind, animals, gravity … take the seeds, the trees’ job is done till next year. The oyster spews fertilized eggs by the million. And can then enjoy being an oyster till next year. And across a continuum of finites the strategy changes toward our extreme of one or two eggs, longer gestation,
nurturing, and then education. There are other species who educate past a few weeks. The mother cat weans the kitten and in another month they don’t even know each other. The son is as much a candidate for husband as any other Tom. The colt trots after its mother a bit longer. The elephant, the whale longer still. (All mammals, notice.) And then there’s us. The pathological extreme. As crazy in our way as would be some bacterium who didn’t even care if it was jerking all of its spore down the volcano.
I know you know the latter. My intention isn’t to waste your time but to make sure you notice the spectrum of reproduction strategies AS A SPECTRUM and distinguish our wing of it. (Best treatment I’ve seen is Lovejoy’s section within Johnson’s Lucy.) We have derived great advantage from our extremism. But I believe we have taken the extreme
to an extreme that will undo us. And maybe of course that’s exactly what we’re doing and should do. Our plague a blessing to all other life. Fine. I don’t expect to know the strategy that my strategy is contained in. However many times I penetrate past the envelope, the penetration becomes the envelope, but there’s always another envelope. We can’t go outside the universe simply because we take the universe
with us.
The antelope mother who sees the leopard capture her lopling is devastated. Short memory helps her recover. But in another month her baby is just another mare that the lioness has culled. And not knowing must be very healthy for the mother who’s already devoted an awful lot of energy to what has simply turned out to feed the lions more than the herd. Hey, they knew there were lions. And they live
with it. The healthier for the limit to their concern AND for the presence of grazers keeping them on their toes. The lion will never decimate the herd: the absence of lions could kill the whole herd in a different way. (Even decimation is only 10%.)
And of course it’s hard, impossible to know what’s right for us, because we are in the unusual if not unique situation of needing to be our own leopards and lions as well as being our herd.
And … I leave the implications and tie-ins to you. I just wanted to insert a casual formalization of the ecological perspective in terms of the range of species’ strategies. With the continuation of emphasis on the desirability of the parent’s job at some point being done: for the heath of everyone. (Then why am I writing you? foremost, as a disciple/colleague/fellow suffering philosopher; secondarily as a son.)
Though of course (sarcastically at least) I don’t need to confess to too many people that really I don’t give a shit about the child or the parent, the inmate or the warden: my basic care is me. And I don’t want to live in that, I mean this, world. No choice? Well, at least I’ve tried to live AS THOUGH another were possible if not actual. And if some of us don’t do that, then how could another world become possible? When the catastrophe strikes it all down as always inevitably happens sometime, the variety of seed must be present for every possible outcome. Or we have a sterile planet where life failed. That is: “we” don’t have anything because we don’t exist. Except maybe as a fossil. With no fossil collectors that we know of.
Which ties right back in with my points about virginity
and innocence. The male is programmed for a variety of fertilizations; the female to be fertilized but a bit more selectively. And its the cybernetic mix of the population which is healthy or not. But, on the selectivity of the female: she’d better be selective: she’s the one who will have her own vitality much consumed by the fetus. Then
She’ll have to feed it no matter where the father is, dead or alive. (Or do something even more taxing to her nature.) Ah, but now we have a whole spectrum of selectivities. `That one qualifies: he’s got blue eyes; or he’s over 5’9″; … At one extreme we have Charlotte Rampling’s Hollywood original Chandlerism when Mitchum says he’ll go pack a toothbrush: “You have everything we need already with you,” she says. At the other, past pathology to sterility, the spinsters of A Room with a View. They’re so selective that no one qualifies. And they die maybe never even having pulled on themselves. Candidates not even for parthenogenesis.
Except: at that same extreme we have still another category: the virgin priestess who dies never having been claimed by the god. What’s missing there is the god (or the god’s claim), not the fertility of the hyper-selective.
In the Hollywood GBS Androcles and the Lion, Centurion Victor Mature tries to dissuade Jean Simmons’ Christian Lavinia from allowing herself to be thrown to the lions. There are outs. All the establishment asks is a little hypocrisy. Throw of pinch of spice onto their altar. They don’t care if you mean it. Die gedanken sind frei. Or so he thinks. Maybe your God doesn’t even exist, he says, getting desperate, as who wouldn’t, for Jean Simmons. Then I’ll exit till he comes, she says. (Which also belongs in the pbh series.)
None of that is quote. If I had the book at hand, I wouldn’t take the time to check. Not in present circumstances. And of course he doesn’t use German clichés. But, Brian, I swear that the spirit is correct. Creative evolution, was GBS’ term for it. Or Butler’s, and GBS [George Bernard Shaw] used it. (Now I can’t wait to elsewhere quote you a bit more Erewhon.)

Now: selectivity may be the female characteristic, but it isn’t only females that have it. (And again GBS echoes in my head: his Caesar addresses the sphinx: part god, part woman, part lion, nothing of man in her at all. Just like himself.) Like the Tai Chi. There’s yang in the yin and yin in the yang. (One of my favorite effects in The Model [First Week].) Wittgenstein begins the Tractatus saying that perhaps no one who hasn’t already had its thoughts or similar thoughts will understand it. Right. And I read that as though …
No, wait: one of my favorite recollections: my favorite refutation of solipsism from my mid-twenties: About the heaven and the earth I wasn’t sure, but I knew that when it came to War and Peace and to the Tractatus, I couldn’t have written it! even though my thoughts were in them! (Were the Moslems joking when they declared that the Prophet had to be inspired because only Allah could have written such perfect Arabic as the Koran?)

Anyway, do you see? The priestess may die not bearing; but she knows she’s fertile. Or believes so. What else does “know” mean? Or she hopes she’s a worthy vessel. At the very least, that’s what she’s done her best to be. And what’s the new god but a necessarily sub- or pre-articulate evolutionary yearning? A prayer that the race be on. Meantime, you’re not doping the other horses; but you are trying to make sure yours can run. (Unless you’re an N generation priest. In which case doping the other horses is exactly what you are doing.)
1990 November 13, AM
It’s taken me far longer to recover chunks of pbf3 than it took me to write it (not longer, unfortunately, than I spent shuffling it around), but I’ve been too numbed by the disaster to do anything but keep on manually selecting the clusters in different orders, each time coming up with a file differently bolixed than the others. It still would have been clearer if I’d just sent it the way it was forty hours ago.
Sorry about all this. I hope you are finding the files interesting. It’s been highly cathartic for me to write them. (Catharsis is Aristotle’s word from his notes on tragedy. Did you know that catharsis was a 5th Century BC medical term for a purgative? Did you know that Aristotle’s father was a doctor? It means `puke it all out.’)
Anyway, do you see? The priestess may die not bearing; but she knows she’s fertile. Or believes so. What else does “know” mean? Or she hopes she’s a worthy vessel. At the very least, that’s what she’s done her best to be. And what’s the new god but a necessarily sub- or pre-articulate evolutionary yearning? A prayer that the race be on. Meantime, you’re not doping the other horses; but you are trying to make sure yours can run. (Unless you’re an N generation priest. In which case doping the other horses is exactly what you are doing.)
[My first recoveries had also missed these couple of paragraphs.]
Now further: à la my “problem” with The Model: After six novels, all unpublished, GBS discovered that it wasn’t that his writing wasn’t good enough. It was more than good enough. It’s that his meaning ticked everybody off. The religious will recognize some of what I just said, but won’t recognize, will be alarmed at, the rest. That science stuff isn’t in their control. Their dope didn’t take on that horse. That horse is beating their fucking asses. But worse than that: they no longer see the meaning of the race. The prize has become worthless. The race doesn’t go anywhere. Value has been lost, subtracted. Now they MUST cheat (as though they hadn’t been already since before they can remember).
But the scientists too: they’ll discover some savant in the idiocy. `Well, only this part is my specialty but I recognize some sort of a point there. But what difference does that make? All the rest of this drivel: we left that behind long ago.’
The Anti-Literary Nature of the Study of Literature:
(Trust me, this too will tie in.)
Even your mother doesn’t know more than a tiny part of the story of my orals. You’re the first person I’m telling (not counting one who’s part of it). But background:
It wasn’t just to finally have some sort of a job that made me go off to Colby. I was past the point common enough in graduate school where I just couldn’t bring myself to do another thing. College had been stimulating. And a challenge. Grad school was like going back to public school. I genuinely did need to broad-base my reading if I was to claim knowledge of “the field.” Reading assignments were always a moral agony for me anyway. We arrive at Columbia, are told on Monday to have read a third of The Illiad by Wednesday? Another third Friday? Finish it by Monday? It’s illusion, or just plain dishonesty that’s being assigned. Reading becomes another word coopted to mean something opposite.
(I’d like to write an essay just on that subject. But it’s no emergency. And it’s been done. McLuhan for example compares different types of memories, information storage and retrieval in aural man, oral man, print man, etc. Gain here; lose there.)
But what? The core of an entire culture in a week? An alien, ancient culture? In an unfamiliar genre? Victorian novels that were intended to be read over six months or a year we’re supposed to gulp in a week or less? For one course out of five or six? (Though lit isn’t nearly as absurd as say math, where children are supposed to care about something it took geniuses millennia even to pose as a question. Churning out “explainers” of Pythagoras is worse forgery than can be committed against any treasury.) I soon learned that reading wasn’t what they had in mind. Reading was already long on the way out. Skimming too is a skill, what was soon to be called speed-reading. But it isn’t reading.
Now in my rereadings of The Illiad, I have learned that that mass of poetry stands its bulk up on end and moves. I won’t say it flies because you don’t see anything while flying. Whole books of it go by like train stations … once you know the medium, the characters, the spirit. A Dickens novel might take me a year or more of real effort to read the first two hundred pages. Typically though, the remaining six hundred pages go by in the rest of one night.
Well, I never thought that modern scholarship and I were designed for each other. But then if I had one possibly disabling liability I had other compensations: the professors were flabbergasted if anyone seemed to understand the least thing. They’d go berserk if they saw a response to the spirit of a thing.
(I long wondered what Prof. Leefmans could possibly have had in mind when he told me he thought I was one of the two smartest people in the graduating class (and I wasn’t in the graduating class!). I’d cut 60% of his classes. Hadn’t read half of what the papers were assigned on. I have only one theory. Once it came to me I felt sure of it. Long after we were supposed to have finished Moby Dick, he sprang a class essay on us. The bell rang with me midsentence of a very brief attempt at invented plagiarism, no source for it. I’d talked about the cleaning up of the ship after a kill. Ahab, the captain. The maritime fixation on Order!)
Wait. I didn’t mean to go into all of this. You know some if not all of it anyway. Returning to what I don’t think you do know all of: there was never any way if I took ten years to get the Ph.D. that I was going to read all of what I was supposed to. But then I’d look at the other students and they hadn’t read half of what I had. They just went on piling up the credits. Meanwhile, the intellectual level of the lectures and discussions was beneath contempt. I’m slow but I keep going. By 1965 I had indeed read many of the books I was supposed to have gobbled. I was needed there: to explain their profession to these boobs.
[Brian: We now arrive at my intro to the id insert. Delete one or the other up to the NYU rubric and insert pbpk3.bc0.]
As I’d approached telling you about my oral exam, a medieval initiation passed down into new levels of Byzantine bizarrity by modern times, I’d decided to share something from id. Those part random neuron firings were still much in the gravity field of the Isabell-FLEX binary of galaxies.
(I beg you to look into Timothy Ferris’s book on galaxies sometime as a good place to see photos of colliding star systems distorting, sucking wisps from each other.)
The id version is full of asides which I deleted in pbf3 as not immediately germane. This editing will be more perfunctory. I do want you to see the context, but press on to the story whatever.
[and here inserted was hole.pk, expurgated.]
Which brings me to the point of the story. I’m sure they, the majority of the professors there knew that I hated them: that it wasn’t their scholarship that I didn’t respect but their intelligence. Nay: their wisdom. I never doubted that the least of them had a hundred times more scholarship than I, had “read” all the books of and on. But their sense of literature halted. I loved my thesis, was anxious to work on it, but after six or eight months of outlining it I had not one clue that, Richard Harrier, my supervisor, knew what the fuck I was talking about. Giving me “A”s doesn’t show me understanding.
(Now, after a decade of seeing people’s numb stares with regard to Bateson I understand a little bit better: my thesis was that the sonnets, like life, evolution, and the rest of Shakespeare’s drama, are cybernetic. That their paradoxical, contrastive structure is the structure of modern physics, math, and biology. (Though here I am speed- writing.) Of course Harrier wouldn’t follow it. (Nor could I say it then the way I would now, never having then heard of cybernetics. My vocabulary was the traditional one: oxymoron, paradox, contrast … I used a few analogies from the physical sciences: voltage, potential difference. And I had already written the light/dark, heaven/earth stuff of “The First Week.” You may here see the influence of the poetry of Genesis on my understanding of the poetry of Shakespeare. And Mad comics. And everything else.) Imagine my joy a dozen years after all this to discover Leonard Bernstein presenting Beethoven in those same Genesis terms.)
Phil and I had agreed to submit to a university’s medieval rituals not as believers but as spies. Paul, the observer, may be a spy, but didn’t always improvise the best sort of penetration. Another word of background may be appropriate.
You know about the play I put on in Leslie Marchand’s Byron class. Your mother was a participant. I’ll show it to you sometime. Though to have much idea as to its accuracy, you’d have minimally to read Manfred, Childe Harold, and maybe dip into The Giaor (sp?) or Lara as well. A few years later I realized that that play was the egg for my thesis on Shakespeare. I now see it too as cybernetic. The way I believe much great art in general is. For example, I distilled some few dozen major themes in Byron’s romantic stuff, culminating in Manfred, and had planned to make clouds of them, to hang these dynamic binaries of Byron’s work at random from the ceiling so that it would be staged in a world of Byronic “truths.” Then, in my script, I let them war with each other. (Remember GB’s point about a man walking never being in balance but rather in a dynamic correction of imbalances.)
Though basically, what I was really (also really) doing was satirizing the fucking dullness of this preposterous class on one of the most exciting people who ever lived! A Byron class should be a goddam circus. A Fellini movie. I had Phil shooting me with blanks; David Smith and your mother interrupting; I even wrote ad lib interruptions for the professor should he want to join the fun. I dropped the papers I was reading and pretended that they got shuffled as I picked them up, all to signify that my points were valid no matter what angle you approached them from. Though Shakespeare’s sonnets, as published (with no particular authority for their correctness, order, or anything, since they were printed only by a pirate) have certain sub-orders, the basic order I was talking about was galactic: true from any perspective. True no matter what order you published or read them in. (No, I would not have made a metaphor, an identity, between the sonnets and say Jackson Pollack’s action painting; but an analogy, yes. A ratio.) Marchand took the cybernetic Byron like a lead balloon. (Then, later, decided I was the greatest thing on wheels.) (And a few months later Goddard releases a movie with Belmondo, Pierrot Le Fou, where I was sure that he had tapped into my play.)
After a while I saw it as hopeless. I wrote things a bit more like the papers they wanted to see. Though every time they said something couldn’t be done, that was what I did in my next paper. Max Patrick outlawed the first person pronoun: I immediately make an exception to my then general non-use of it. Sure he had a point about inane subjectivity, but how did that translate to forbid?
If I had satirized them to their face once or twice before going off to Colby, it was twice as true when I returned. NYU seemed to have regressed even further into a school for the retarded in those two years.
By the time I scheduled my orals, the only testers to chose among were people I had deliberately offended, satirized, given the intellectual finger to. Except the medievalist whom I’d never studied under. Lillian somebody. The day before I was as relaxed and confident as I think one could be. No way to read the million things still unread by tomorrow, but then I’ve got killer things to say about so much of what I have read, and from all of these periods … I went and took a sauna. Nice dinner with you guys. Failed then to sleep for even five seconds. Toward dawn your mother gave me one of Emile’s horse pills. No effect. Not sleep anyway. But that ought to be all right: I’ve been plenty alert before when circumstances demanded it.
I arrive. The six file in. Dean Buckler is saying something to one of the others. I don’t remember what it was but it happened to dovetail with a well-tooled point of my own. I felt no embarrassment at entering directly into their conversation. “Invalid analogy,” Buckler said icily to me through lowered lids. Then turned his back on me to continue talking to whomever.
(Just like another time when Patrick had accused me of one of the classic “fallacies.” “That’s one of my favorite fallacies:” I began. He glowered and never let me balance the deliberate offset. To this day not one of them knows my refutation to each of the lot of the named “fallacies.” (Each of which gains meaning to anyone (i.e. no one) who knows my single sympathy with The Republic: Plato’s attack on irresponsible science from poets. But that belongs elsewhere.) I once introduced a point to Patrick by saying, “I recognize no necessary difference between poetry and prose.” I got no further than the introduction, the deliberate challenge to convention. If you show the least curiosity I would happily present to you the several things I would have illustrated to him.)
I try to ignore the Uh oh feeling. They’ve got the paddles, I’m supposed to bend over, I remind myself. Can’t act like a brother till you’re a brother. Though I already knew that I would never understand why their perpetual response to a challenge was uniformly to pronounce it incorrect, not to ask what the hell I meant. What I had said was the challenge, not the fight. Except of course that now I believe I do understand it perfectly well. It’s exactly what all these i and f files are about. No philosophy can prosper when the heretics aren’t allowed to speak. Anyway, this pledge had spoken before being spoken to. (And cf. my point in pbh about Justinian and the error of any established dogma.)
First part: medieval. Lillian asks about The Wife of Bath’s Tale. Perfect. My whole thesis is a continuation of a point I’d heard John Hurt Fisher make about that astonishing work. Opening words: “Experience, though none auctority were in this world, were right enough for me …” The Church had gotten itself onto rocky ground when common Christians found its authority to be at odds with their experience. And the Wife of Bath is up front telling you that she takes the Nominalist side. The formal war was between: the Realism which became orthodox, the enthroning of St. Thomas Aquinas’s largely independently invented Platonism, that the true reality is in some eternal Form of things; and the heretic Nominalists, Abelard, for example, who thought that a set of things ought to have something to do with its members. The extreme statement being that there is no set; only the members. (Not that they used the math term.)
Courtly love (the pornography of the troubadours, the elaborate and ironic pretense that these over-privileged pillagers were all virgins who just loved their chastity, that underlings just loved their overlord, or at least their overlord’s wife, meaning that Knight Lancelot wants like crazy to fuck Arthur’s Queen Gwenivere, but for his life, he’d better not (though for his life he did), etc.), after the discovery of the Greek manuscripts, got all wrapped up with a fragmentary real Platonism, and emerged as the Medieval Ladder of Love. Lust is animal, but if you climb the ladder of abstraction, the beauty of the lady’s face or hand or whatever becomes a lure for seeing the structure of God’s plan, etc., till the lover achieves toward, if not to, a vision of God. See Dante.
So when a Renaissance sonneteer is talking about his blond lady he’s talking about Christianity’s binary Manicheanism, via Thomas, to orthodox ersatz-Platonic Christianity. You don’t fuck these women. But the Wife of Bath was no virgin, leading directly to Shakespeare’s syphilitic dark lady. The lower case “r” real. The Nominal. Experience. We imagine Dante’s Beatrice; we experience Chaucer’s Wife of Bath.
I’ve hardly completed the first sentence. I haven’t gotten anywhere near the point where I plug Shakespeare straight into Dr. Fisher’s interface to Chaucer. A twelve pinner tooled at close tolerances. I’m only starting to identify Realism with Thomistic orthodoxy and Nominalism with the somewhat more Aristotelian heretics, blazoned in that first word “Experience” and ratified in the negative presentation of the orthodoxy “though none auctority,” when Ms. Frau Doctor interrupts: “I thought it was a story about “the wo that is in marriage.” Which is of course the completion of her opening sentence. “Experience, though none Auctority were in this world, were right enough for me to speke of wo that is in marriage.” (And of course there’s still another set of gorgeous ironies just in the marriage business.)
But I was interrupted before I’d gotten to that part of the single sentence! The story of my life. (Did they think that I wouldn’t wind up there? Is it that even the doctors don’t have the attention span to follow the first ninety seconds of my arguments? Or that they do see? Sense. Fear. Uh oh: UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY. And refuse to look?
But these people were on the same faculty as Fisher. He was their top star. Secretary of the MLA, for chrisake. The Stalin of American English scholarship. He was their main Chaucer man. And she interrupts the part that was his analysis of the Wife of Bath’s Tale, still far and away the best I’ve ever heard, with some little anti-intellectual literalism.
Well, Buckler dismisses, mislabels, turns his back. She interrupts, prevents … The kind of insult the Fundamentalists show in their desperate, infantile name calling. (Categorizing and name calling aren’t the same.) If that’s the first two minutes, these are going to be a long two hours. Should I just hold out my arm for the tattoo? Clearly it isn’t reason or knowledge or critical facility that’s being tested here. I had figured that some of this hazing was inevitable but I certainly hadn’t expected the kangaroo court blatancy.
Still, I’m calm. Just like the army, I’m expecting that any second now, they’ll stop the nonsense, apologize, thank us for being such good sports, peel back the curtain disguised as the Fort Dix boondocks over there, and reveal the swimming pool, the girls, the refreshments. But as it continues, the interruptions, the second questions inserted mid-way through my organizing my answer to the first, and you know me, I never answer a complicated question without a bow to the complications (can’t tell what the asker is aware of), I realize that something is wrong. My usual faith that I can start a sentence and that the facts and names and diction will always come in time for the next word, a faith not quite so solid now as I get older and forget my own name half the time, is being strained. I’m stuttering over titles. And I don’t think it’s their trying to unnerve me. They never did unnerve me. But I wasn’t myself in two respects: my brain was getting a little out of phase and I was by the second less and less willing to put up with their horseshit, thereby breaking my word to myself and to Phil.
There was an interlude. Kenneth Neil Cameron, the Shelley man, a man I had held in contempt ten times more acute than that for Marchand, asked me factual, not interpretive questions, including one so obscure I couldn’t believe he was asking it. I couldn’t imagine how anyone who hadn’t nearly memorized the first two volumes of Marchand’s half-million word Byron could have a chance of ever having even heard of this guy Byron had once written a letter to. “That the hardest question I’ve ever been asked in my life,” I said as preface to my correct answer.
And Victorian Buckler took over. By the end I wasn’t even trying to answer his questions, even when the answer was simple, factual, and I knew the fact. I’m sitting there cursing myself for not interrupting them back, for not forcing them to understand at least one thing I was trying say, especially since I always tailor my answers to what I think they’re missing, not to what I believe they know. Though even with the Wife of Bath, all I got to warm up on was just review of the known, before beginning my To Prove: and 1, 2, 3. (Can they possibly not have recognized Fisher’s analysis? They may not have known it!)
They went into conference for a long time. Asked back into the room, they asked me what I had taught at Colby. I started listing: “Freshman composition, sophomore survey …” And they interrupted to ask another before I got to any of the good stuff: not just the Renaissance course but the more interesting study-supervisions: play writing, film making … The two hours hadn’t been enough for them to pay me back for showing that I knew who and what they were. Then they warned me that I mustn’t think that they objected to my “flamboyance”: they “admired” it, Buckler spitting the emphasis as though it were a strand of gristle caught between his teeth. But they wanted to do this all again with me in another couple of months or so. “Don’t disappear now,” Max Patrick roared (one of his courses I had cut all but the first class of). Cameron or all people said that I certainly had the Romantics cold and that he looked forward to reading my thesis. So it’s my thesis they’d been talking about all this time!? Anyway, I stood there, still trying to smile, to pretend that it was all such fun, and being totally unable to figure out what the fuck had just happened.
It was already months since I had first read Illich. Months since I’d been sure than Richard Harrier was never likely to show any response to my thesis. And it wasn’t that he didn’t seem to think that my work was good: he’d gotten me the job at Colby. Though at my return he’d stood like Saul before the Oberst when Robert Clemens advised him to “bring out the genius in this young man.” Maybe he thought I’d come back tame.
Beyond telling your mother that they didn’t seem to like anything I said, I didn’t mention details to anyone until a month or more later I ran into Myron Schwartzman. He grilled me about it. Especially about the unaccustomed a-phase of facts. “What kind of sleeping pill had you taken?” “No, it wasn’t that I was tired. I’ve been tired plenty of times. Once I’m on my feet and …” This interruption was friendly: “What kind of sleeping pill?” “I don’t know. I’d never taken one before in my life. Even apart from its no effect, I don’t expect ever to take another.” “Barbiturate?” “Yeah. That’s it.” I’d heard Etta or Emile or somebody say at least that about his monster pills. “Affects the memory,” Myron said. “But more than that, they make you hostile. Very hostile in my experience.” And Myron did know his drugs.
Wow. Before screening that info against my memory of those events, I reflected on my experience with Emile! Could it be that I had failed to conceal my contempt for their conduct that one special time? Maybe then the curtain would have opened and out would have come the ice cream. (That feeling, which by the way got me through many a long Fort Dix march, was the background for the switch at the end of Judgment Day. Hell can only be a joke, a charade. Or the army. Or life. Human life.) Though it shouldn’t have made any difference, even if true; it had been my ideal to go mum before the Gestapo since failing to read The Red and the Black quite along with my classmates, but following their reports of it with great interest. Of all the books I’ve never finished, it remains one of my most influential. (Shoot, that’s just that silly sentence for Dan Simmons again.) (But remember what I told you about Terri? The matricide?)
I can imagine talking to a thousand Ph.D.s who would recognize no part of what I say. I wouldn’t claim they were lying if they reported no such behavior on the part of their testers at their orals. On the contrary, they probably received patience and perhaps outright prompts and hints at a problem. But they didn’t insert a contrary epistemo- logical point into the midst of one of the testers’ private pontifications.
(If I could remember exactly what Buckler had said I could instantly repeat the response, modular with me, however unknown to the world.)
Further apropos of all this I would enjoy sometime telling you about and perhaps showing you an example or two of some satires I submitted in response to Cameron’s assignments. One on Blake was science fiction, with imagination traveling at only brain speed, but its scope in space faster than light. Cameron gave me Ds on those papers: he said that his TA didn’t know how to read them and therefore he wouldn’t try.
And all that remained of pbf3 was more tail.
It was years after Columbia that I started discovering the excellent scholarship of professors I’d thought boors. Lionel Trilling. It was after 1970 that I read some of Cameron’s work on Shelley. The man is great. But no teacher. More than the others, he pretended to earn his faculty salary (a second salary for him) by assigning some Victorian error to us and then correcting it. We’d get on fine if we said: `Oo, I thought Wordsworth was sentimental clap trap, but now I see …’ and go on to champion his view. Hardly different from what I’d started out with. If not in 1956 then certainly before 1965.
I’m saving all this myself as pbf3 again. This time pbf3.bd0. There will be a pbf4 telling you about my most recent experience of the same thing, now degenerated to Sebring Gardens. But I’d better send this before anything else happens.
An argument for Jehovah might be the Plus’s loss of my reflections on Sacrifice. Apropos of Sol and Rachel in Fall. But approached through The Golden Bough. How about my poor pbf3? Looking through it here my tone certainly is vulgar and petulant as well as irreverent. Not something I would want to publish far beyond myself, someone who knows the reasons, who feels the impulse. But then you’re Brian. I trust you will read it as an at least partial overlap of myself.
1990 November 12
Dear Brian,
This is the recovered first section of the lost pbf3. I think I can reconstruct:
Tying into my opposition of official civilization’s factitious prolongation of dependency beyond the need for biological maturity, learning survival skills, etc., using that as a cover for indoctrination into the status quo ante pecking order. You may rise in the pecking order but may not challenge the pecking order.]
… socially determined juvenile’s maturity and independence, I’m not protesting just for the “juvenile”‘s sake but also for the jailer’s. The jailer is necessarily himself in a kind of custody.
That may be my favorite meaning of Raymond’s great joke: minister invited to discuss Life and its Beginning on tv. Uh oh, better have a priest too. Uh, better call in some rabbi as well. Let the opposition go first. Priest: Life begins at conception. (What did they need him there for when we all know the script?) Minister: Life begins at birth. (Why even have the program?) And, oh: we forgot
the um irrelevance. Rabbi: Life begins after the children have grown up and gone off to college.
Sexuality maturity has thus far been a condition for
reproduction. The adults bear offspring. That’s a major part of what it’s all about. And what it’s all for. Or: it’s a minor part, but we can never know what the major part is. !!! Just believe there is one. Or may be one. Same difference, at that level.
Trees devote a tremendous portion of their vitality in churning out the seeds and the pollen. But when wind, animals, gravity … take the seeds, the trees’ job is done till next year. The oyster spews fertilized eggs by the million. And can then enjoy being an oyster till next year. And across a continuum of finites the strategy changes toward our extreme of one or two eggs, longer gestation,
nurturing, and then education. There are other species who educate past a few weeks. The mother cat weans the kitten and in another month they don’t even know each other. The son is as much a candidate for husband as any other Tom. The colt trots after its mother a bit longer. The elephant, the whale longer still. (All mammals, notice.) And then there’s us. The pathological extreme. As crazy in our way as would be some bacterium who didn’t even care if it was jerking all of its spore down the volcano.
I know you know the latter. My intention isn’t to waste your time but to make sure you notice the spectrum of reproduction strategies AS A SPECTRUM and distinguish our wing of it. (Best treatment I’ve seen is Lovejoy’s section within Johnson’s Lucy.) We have derived great advantage from our extremism. But I believe we have taken the extreme
to an extreme that will undo us. And maybe of course that’s exactly what we’re doing and should do. Our plague a blessing to all other life. Fine. I don’t expect to know the strategy that my strategy is contained in. However many times I penetrate past the envelope, the penetration becomes the envelope, but there’s always another envelope. We can’t go outside the universe simply because we take the universe
with us.
The antelope mother who sees the leopard take her lopling is devastated. Short memory helps her recover. But in another month her baby is just another mare that the lioness has culled. And not knowing must be very healthy for the mother who’s already devoted an awful lot of energy to what has simply turned out to feed the lions more than the herd. Hey, they knew there were lions. And they live
with it. The healthier for the limit to their concern AND for the presence of grazers keeping them on their toes. The lion will never decimate the herd: the absence of lions could kill the whole herd in a different way. (Even decimation is only 10%.)
And of course it’s hard, impossible to know what’s right for us, because we are in the unusual if not unique situation of needing to be our own leopards and lions as well as being our herd.
And … I leave the implications and tie-ins to you. I just wanted to insert a casual formalization of the ecological perspective in terms of the range of species’ strategies. With the continuation of emphasis on the desirability of the parent’s job at some point being done: for the heath of everyone.
Though of course I don’t need to confess to too many people that really I don’t give a shit about the child or the parent, the inmate or the warden: my basic care is me. And I don’t want to live in that, I mean this, world. No choice? Well, at least I’ve tried to live AS THOUGH another were possible if not actual. And if some of us don’t do that, then how could another world become possible? When the catastrophe strikes it all down as always inevitably happens sometime, the variety of seed must be present for every possible outcome. Or we have a sterile planet where life failed. That is: “we” don’t have anything because we don’t exist. Except maybe as a fossil. With no fossil collectors that we know of.
Which ties right back in with my points about virginity
and innocence. The male is programed for a variety of fertilizations; the female to be fertilized but a bit more selectively. And its the cybernetic mix of the population which is healthy or not. But, on the selectivity of the female: she’d better be selective: she’s the one who will have her own vitality much consumed by the fetus. Then
She’ll have to feed it no matter where the father is, dead or alive. (Or do something even more taxing to her nature.) Ah, but now we have a whole spectrum of selectivities. `That one qualifies: he’s got blue eyes; or he’s over 5’9″; … At one extreme we have Charlotte Rampling’s Hollywood original Chandlerism when Mitchum says he’ll go
pack a toothbrush: “You have everything we need already with you,” she says. At the other, past pathology to sterility, the spinsters of A Room with a View. They’re so selective that no one qualifies. And they die maybe never even having pulled on themselves.
Except: at that same extreme we have still another category: the virgin priestess who dies never having been claimed by the god. What’s missing there is the god, not the fertility of the hyper-selective.
In the Hollywood GBS Androcles and the Lion, Centurion Victor Mature tries to dissuade Jean Simmons’ Christian Lavinia from allowing herself to be thrown to the lions. There are outs. All the establishment asks is a little hypocrisy. Throw of pinch of spice onto their altar. They don’t care if you mean it. Die gedanken sind frei. Or so he thinks. Maybe your God doesn’t even exist, he says, getting desperate, as who wouldn’t, for Jean Simmons. Then I’ll exit till he comes, she says. (Which also belongs in the pbh series.)
None of that is quote. If I had the book at hand, I wouldn’t take the time to check. Not in present circumstances. And of course he doesn’t use German clichés. But, Brian, I swear that the spirit is correct. Creative evolution, was GBS’ term for it. Or Butler’s, and GBS used it.

Now: selectivity may be the female characteristic, but it isn’t only females that have it. (And again GBS echoes in my head: his Caesar addresses the sphinx: part god, part woman, part lion, nothing of man in her at all. Just like himself.) Like the Tai Chi. There’s yang in the yin and yin in the yang. (One of my favorite effects in The Model.) Wittgenstein begins the Tractatus saying that perhaps no one who hasn’t already had its thoughts or similar thoughts will understand it. Right. And I read that as though …

No, wait: one of my favorite recollections: my favorite refutation of solipsism from my mid-twenties: about the heaven and the earth I wasn’t sure, but I knew that when it came to War and Peace and to the Tractatus, I couldn’t have written it! even though my thoughts were in them! (Were the Moslems joking when they declared that the Prophet had to be inspired because only Allah could have written such perfect Arabic as the Koran?)

Anyway, do you see? The priestess may die not bearing; but she knows she’s fertile. Or believes so. What else does “know” mean? Or she hopes she’s a worthy vessel. At the very least, that’s what she’s done her best to be. And what’s the new god but a necessarily sub- or pre-articulate evolutionary yearning? A prayer that the race be on. Meantime, you’re not doping the other horses; but you are trying to make sure yours can run. (Unless you’re an N generation priest.
Dear Brian,
As I’d approached telling you about my oral exam, a medieval initiation passed down into new levels of Byzantine bizarrity by modern times, I’d decided to share something from id. Those part random neuron firings were still much in the gravity field of the Isabell-FLEX binary of galaxies.
(I beg you to look into Timothy Ferris’s book on galaxies sometime as a good place to see photos of colliding star systems sucking at each other.)
The id version is full of asides which I deleted in pfb3 as not immediately germane. This editing will be more perfunctory. I do want you to see the context, but press on to the story whatever.
Initiate Scavengers
Good Gosh AMighty! 52 years old and I try looking into Russell’s Principles of Mathematics for the second or third time since giving up on his Principia for the third or fourth time. I see a mark or two in the Intro so I must have read at least that much of the Intro before. But this time, it’s easy. It glides. Yes, Yes, WOW, exclamation points get added to the margin. And then I’m shot between the eyes. Finitism. The basic epistemological questions of my life, the ones that the establishment in my experience has always simply turned its back on without answering. Can’t answer? don’t hear? don’t understand the question/objection? don’t know. but here it is, with a name, a history. evidence that others before me had made it. and formally, not just sort of like Carol Emshwiller in Mr Morrison. Or the guy who discovers that he has no nose in Mind’s I. Not only that, Russell sees its implications and doesn’t simply turn his back on them! Has the guts to admit that the disasterousness of the consequences has no bearing on a theory’s truth. Sees the improbable solution: only “a complete theory of knowledge” could answer or test it. But of course the establishment never volunteers that it lacks such: though to give it some credit, it’s seldom loud in proclaiming that it is totality. Neither does it censure those who would so attribute it.
Now I certainly claim no such thing for myself; neither do I believe that knowledge is impossible: Finitism isn’t my creed. I only wanted the teachers to touch that base. They never saw it there even when shown.
BUT: and if there’s any single reason why GB is so important to me, it is that it’s the first giant step I ever saw toward such a theory. One can go with this, it explains a zillion time more, doesn’t dismiss anything as the enemy beneath contempt, and is a jillion times more humble.
Simultaneously, I’m rejoicing about how much I’ve expressed to Brian in these past couple of weeks, but also recalling the despair accepted as chronic a year ago that there are certain truths I cannot possibly communicate to him … [though I guess I’m trying again.]
Simultaneously other JD permutations are parading: JD as a series of ss in which J is this or that logico- philosophical type. When he’s a Finitist, the whole of Eternity is spent failing to prove the first point: that Adam, the first in the dock, is a Man.
Simultaneously I’m thinking about the tail I didn’t include in any of the i files. the knatz’s tendency to fight whoever or whatever is tying to help them. Hilary responding to love as if to attack. Bk too. They can’t both inherit it from me. Cause H had it when I met her. But we’re not alone. And then my mind is back on College Walk, and then on Broadway and 115th in 1957. The Platonic Original inappropriate response to aid.
Memory kissed yesterday’s report of the unwritten Neighborhood Free Fuckery to bk, the first time it was even put, in any part, on “paper.” And of course I never wrote the story of that night. A week after I’d announced that it would make a good story, DeJong comes and hands me his execution of it. Sheesh, what bull shit. “I love you,” the narrator calls down into the sewer. But it wows Prof. Nobbe. I had no impulse to fictionalize it: just to sort of dreamy report it.
So, thirty-three years later:
It was the first semester of my sophomore year. Fraternity initiation time. Had nothing to do with me. I had circulated for a beer or two the first semester, then yielded only to Walsk’s entreaties from SAMmy the second. What were the Jews chasing me for? Now it’s my third semester of such shit, and until the following happened I wasn’t even aware that this was the night for fraternal climax, unaware that the wooing had been going on. It’s midnight or so. I’m walking across College Walk, back toward John Jay having just gotten off the uptown subway. I don’t remember where I’d been: I wasn’t yet a regular at the White Horse. I seldom go to the movies in those days. Birdland hasn’t yet closed. I was never at the latter nightly. Nor weekly. Not quite. Just more regularly than anywhere else. Maybe Basie was in town. It seems to me I must have seen Basie ten times more regularly than anyone else those couple of years before Birdland closed. On the other hand, if Basie was in town I’d be getting in much later. But that’s speculation. I don’t know where I had been. Downtown. And now it was time to go home: too late to do any studying: home to feel the tiniest, most resistible, sense of waste of the expensive excuse I had to be in New York and eating while unemployed. If the assignments were all more than I could do no matter how hard I worked in one day and night, then how this time was I going to cram it all in a few hours before the final? Didn’t know. Didn’t much care. It was time to crash.
Before I get quite to the Sundial two Black women come staggering from Amsterdam Avenue. I guess I was the only male in sight, cause they come straight for me. Umm, skinny little me. Did I back up? Shuffle sideways? I know I neither fled nor advanced.
Now, I had been smooching pussy with my eyes, dipping my fingers in it, since barely past toddlerhood. …
So, still on the Broadway side of the Sundial, these two bodies come reeling at me. I’d no doubt had a couple of drinks myself, but Shaish! did they reek of booze. And other smells I wasn’t used to. The shorter, fatter one stank and reeled far more than the other. Shorty was also the aggressor. “How about a kiss, Honey?” I stand my ground but flinch away with my face. Then I realize that her sally was a cover, a feint: was she really going for my dick? My God! she’s there. And I didn’t flinch that away.
A mistake. All those years of holding back. …
[And you don’t need to see this record of pk’s phallicism (and don’t anyone dare think that that’s even the major aspect of his sexuality). Culminating in a recellection from the seventh grade when a girl had stuck her hand in my pants and pinched the wrong thing.]
So boozer goes for it. Yoi. My knees sag inward. Stupid cuny (Bowdlerizing K. 2016 07 29) has given the fruit a very ungentle squeeze. I pitied even the dead chicken carcass being plucked by that set of beefy pincers. Had she gotten the dick and not my nuts I believe it still would have sent me sagging. “Five bucks,” she says, “for both my sister and me.”
By which time I’ve got my hands covering my wretchedly spasming groin and have backed up. But come on, Knatz. What ever she did to you, remember, you’re cool. And I fought to keep a froid face as I declined, politely. Then comes the stream of “motherfucker, faggot, …” But they’re moving on toward Broadway.
I’m past the sundial and angling down the steps when a crowd erupts from the quad. Drunk, loud, aggressive. “Where the fuck are we going to find a whore?” one complains. Was it because I hated these boors that I suddenly decided to be cooperative? Quick directions and the platoon was off. One or two though laid back a bit to thank me. I received an explanation as part of the thanks. They were pledges to Greek XYZ. This was initiation night. They’d been beered and paddled, whatever, and sent on a scavenger hunt. They had gotten everything: a fifty cent orchid, somebody had known about Time Square; the Wall Street Journal from last February 12. They even knew where, last thing, they’d collect the NYC manhole cover. But no whore for the brothers. And they’d already been all over Times Square.
I decided to wander back toward Broadway to see if they caught up with the merchandise they would become merchandise to. They hadn’t had to. Sister and sister must have felt the hoofbeats, because they had turned back. It was still on College Walk that I saw the really drunk one counting her prospective wealth with her finger, losing her place and beginning again. “Ooho Wee, fi’ dolla, ten’alla, fiteen’alla, twenny dolla …” while big sister looked to swoon with happiness. One of the times she lost count was when her finger punctured the air in my direction. My gestures subtracted myself from her accounts. She didn’t at first recognize me. I doubt that she knew how disabling her ardor would have been even to a willing consumer. She had given up her summing by the time they all headed off toward 115 Street. “Tweeny’fi’ … ooo, lots and lots of fi’dollas.”

And another reflection from many years past: how adult the college freshman appears to the high school student and to himself. Yet the sophomore will see the beany coiffed cherubs and think: what are these children doing here? A few weeks later the beanyless fraternity initiates maraud the streets like footballers the Saturday night they’ve won the championship. Down in the Village it was fortunately only once a year or so that we’d all have to flinch and say: Uh oh, here they come. Fag, hippy, and just plain visitor alike. `We’re men, right? No? You wanna punch in the mouth?’

Now here’s cool Paul: walking home after an evening of the most sophisticated entertainment, Miles or Basie or Brubeck or whatever it was that he had done that night. And here’s the first whore he’s ever seen in his life. How could he tell? Cause she’d had poked his privies and given a price. And the initiates? They were given a map.
By the guy who had himself only that minute been given one impossible not to interpret. The first such recognition in his life, and, he is sure, in any of their lives. Cheesh, the guys had just roamed Times Square! Maybe one out of five women they saw … Maybe nine for ten. Maybe ninety-nine out of a hundred. By the time you get to Cully’s point of view in Vegas, you err in the other direction and call it one hundred percent.
[Hmm. Maybe I’ll leave this one in this time.]
It’s only another month or so later that Myron and I leave the Composer Room. Much as I had enjoyed listing to John Mehegan, sitting at his table, being in the inner sanctum, having Mingus shuffle by to mumble his good night, weaving over us, “Sheee … mo’fo … sheee … mo’fo … gu’ni, John” (Mehegan barely raises a finger. Professional cool. Me? “Night, Mingus,” I cry), this is the time I had looked forward to. Having Myron to myself. For at least the half hour it will take us to get back to Morningside Heights. I had never been alone with him to just talk. But we’re not three steps down W 58 Street and Myron is looking at the woman approaching. She’s a goddam adult, for chrisake. Thirty, or thirty-five. A haggard twenty-six, at least. Myron has flagged the taxi that wasn’t even passing till that second. He holds the door open for the approaching woman. Rain coat. No make up. She says “Thank you,” very nicely, and gets in! “See you, Paul,” and there goes my conversation with the genius. All of just turned sixteen, and he knew. I don’t see him for weeks, and then it’s all just telling me about how she kept sucking even after he had come. The first time I ever do get to talk to Myron, even after (ahem) sharing an apartment with him for a semester, it’s years later and he’s an exjunkie, exjailbird, very ordinary graduate student. Uttering coherent sentences, but ones only ordinarily worth hearing. When I’d first met him, his sentences were hardly coherent, but man, were they killers. Only later realized he was quoting the soon to be murdered Bobby Fractor half the time: “Like … you gotta … Listen . . . BETWEEN the notes.” But i hadn’t met Bobby yet.
Anyway, the pledges have gone to become brothers. I run into I forget whom and we head to Riker’s for coffee. It’s three or four in the morning. The wind is blowing a minicyclone of trash that confines its wandering to the limits of Riker’s big front window. I should check this out from the other side of the glass. Time to crash anyway. My opening the door must have disturbed whatever was holding the litter spinning. Though it starts up again. I skirt around it to see it with the street light behind me. Who’s coming up 115th, still counting? It’s actual cash she’s got in her hands now. Her sister is in the same mellow heaven of wealth I’d last witnessed. I don’t think she’ll tweak me now. I hold my ground. Think I’ll say something congratulatory to them. So far, they don’t recognize me. So far, they don’t see me. Both sisters had been boozed, but I wonder about the mellowness of the big one.
They’re within ten feet of me, beginning to tuck their treasure away before they get to inhabited Broadway. I see it as filmed by David Lean. Something from the not yet made Lawrence of Arabia. The slow telephoto of Omar Sharif’s galloping approach to his well. For all the one’s brutish everything of before, their stagger is now lyrical. Big sister is weaving a head taller than her banker.
Suddenly, before my eyes, big sister is much taller. Piggy sister’s head is at the other’s waist. I can recollect its plunge, still counting, savoring, past her bosom as it continues its descent: shrinking to thighs, passing knees, ankles, and … She’s not there! I’d never seen, I’d never imagined, anyone disappearing like that. Time slowed even further in my bewilderment. Big sister’s eyes grow wide. The moment was absolutely silent. Or my mind could register, fumble with, only one input at a time. I stood there without a clue, looking where I had been looking, at the two heads of vertical space where two faces had been. Perhaps those long moments took only a hundredth of a second. I hadn’t moved my eyes. Then sister is starting to look down. I’m shifting my eyes. And I hear, hear as memory as well as hear, the Whoosh, the bump, the Ooof on steel, the bouncing and bumping, the scream, the plosh of flesh, the impossibly sharp crack of bone, the splash.
Sister starts to buckle. Now I see it: the open man hole. Sister’s ankle is turning at its brink. She’s catching herself just as I’m ready to leap and push her back. I’m thinking: open man hole, the fraternity scavengers, one of them had said they knew where they’d claim the final souvenir … Then big sister is screaming. Her screams are in the open air; moaning up from not yet perceived depths echo the screams of Piggy. I hold my arms out to keep people from walking near. I don’t know if there are any people near to guard. I’m only looking at the hole, down the hole, as I get closer. Some foul mist is rising with the screams. I see a cross-conic of light penetrate a few feet of the top. A ladder of steel rungs descends like an infinite series into the dark. I’ve never looked down an open manhole before. It’s deep. Very deep. It goes for ever. I can’t believe how deep it is. It’s maybe only a second since I was first able to move after seeing her body swallowed. It’s just beginning to occur to me how long it had taken to hear the splash. I don’t know when I heard the splash. I can’t trust my processing. Actually, I was probably thinking faster than usual. So fast everything seemed to be a vast glue.
“Somebody get a cop,” I called. “Keep back from the hole, Sister,” which the latter was doing on her own. Or rather she was on her knees, looking in the dark, calling to her sister.
And things started to return to “real” time. Big sister was secure. I was secure. I looked around. There were people and they were respecting the hole, craning over to look. “Did anyone call a cop?” I ask. Someone gestures to the occupied phone booth nested between Riker’s and the Robber Baron’s. Or Take Home, if that’s what it still called itself after the renovation into a fancy deli and mini mart. Riker’s became Sutter’s Book Store, then I forget what after Chris went out of business.
The cops came within a few minutes, time racing then. It’s cool autumn as well as predawn. The one cop shucks himself out of his outer cop coat, simultaneously wrestling himself free of big sister’s grotesquely physical entreaties for help. His undervest puffs insulation from an untailored arm hole. All his batman-cop junk still festoons his belt and shoulders and pockets as he starts down the ladder, not too slow for all his bulk. I doubt that he was taller than five ten but must have carried two thirty-five just in flesh. I see this or that kind of shit slime the plaid of his frayed flannel shirt before he has drawn below the wedge of light.
Piggy’s screams are ardent but discontinuous. She could, should, be unconscious. But seems to be only for intermittent seconds. Big sister’s howl in continuous.
The true depth of the hole wasn’t apparent until we had a long couple of minutes to trace the cop’s descent. The second cop is keeping everybody back. Sister is hopeless, but not an apparent threat to chute down on top of the rescuer. I yield maybe a foot. My squatter’s right is respected by the cop and the crowd. Crowd? Maybe a dozen others by that time.
A shadow of beam rises from the cop’s flashlight. Now we hear him begin his assessment, much interrupted by Piggy’s tortured enthusiasms. She’s got at least two bad breaks. No room to get her into a bosun’s sling, too narrow to keep her clear of the walls hauling her up. He’ll have to fireman her.
“Oh, save me,” Piggy is screaming louder than ever. If we can hear her like that up on the sidewalk, what decibels are assaulting the poor cop?
We hear him struggling with her. We hear him start his ascent. And everyone there not drunk or stoned or blighted with bestial stupidity can decipher that a blasted eardrum is the least of the cop’s problems.
“Save me,” Piggy is shrieking. “I fuck you,” blubber, “I suck you,” blubber, “I eat yo ass. Save me.” Blubber. “I don’t charge you nuttin.”
I didn’t think it was in any degree funny till quite a bit later: but we hear the cop struggling to keep his grip on her in all the crap. He must have been a third of the way up before we hear an ultimatum: “Keep your hands off me or I’ll drop you.” A bluff, I presumed. Moans only from Piggy thereafter. He could have belted her one for all I know: like a lifeguard the failed swimmer who threatens to drown both of them.
It was a long time of huffing and cursing before his hand gripped the lowest rung visible. His filth smeared brow caught the light before her rump became apparent for what it was. The standby cop’s help is grunted aside until her rump comes almost level with the sidewalk. Her one hand gripped her carrier’s sleeve by the biceps. The other arm hung useless, shaped funny. Another rung and I could see the jagged thigh bone jut not just through her flesh, but through her clothes! That bone was the only thing I didn’t see slimed. Shit smeared her cheek right to the edge of her mouth. Still working, and I mean working, from the hole, the rescuing cop took care to see her gently secured onto the sidewalk before hefting himself the last few rungs and out. Some of the now mucky money still showed from where Piggy had been stowing it. I can’t imagine any cop ever better or more gladly relieved of a burden. Immediately, he begins stuffing his shirt back down his pants, tugging his fly into place. I’ll never know how much of his disarray was from her trying to reward him down in the pit.
These decades later I picture something I don’t think occurred to me then: some portion of her earnings floating away far below.
I had lost track of big sister. She had been removed to the squad car. Even at her sister’s emergence she remained back. Both must have figured out that the cops were best left to their business.
An ambulance was there. I hadn’t noticed it arrive. White coats were taking over. So far as I can tell, I was the first person there, the first person to act in any way. Not that I did much. It wasn’t me climbing down the ladder. But by then I was just another rubber neck. I didn’t hang around till it all dispersed. Emergency flags were placed to guard the still open hole. Somebody told me the hole was still open later that day. I’d told neither whores nor cops that I knew what had happened to the steel cover. What paroxysm of Columbian paternalism would have quivered to life had I? But no: Paul: the observer.

One who didn’t know how busy I’ve been or what difficulties I work under might think it inexcusable that I put this letter up here a while back but haven’t yet edited it way down. Someday.

2013 09 17 This is such an important letter, too bad it’s such a jumble, every attempt at editing, twenty-odd years worth now, adds to the gerrymander jumble.
You know the phrase in loco parentis, for course: Latin: in place of the parents, in lieu of the parents. The college acts in place of the parents, lots and lots of iffy assumptions involved. I intended also an overtone of Spanish: where loco means crazy: crazy parents. Crazy rebellion, crazy parents …

We don’t know where evolution is going, or even if it’s going. We don’t know where history is going. We all affect it, some more than others, some much more than others, none of us control it.
I love the idea of Jesus and God trying to influence it without being in control!

I’m eliminating the intruded line breaks that turn up in translations of old DOS files, or any platform switch: there may be more I’ve missed.

File Tail

I’ll never forget the first time I tried word-processing: my speed typing was pushing along a string of typos: I was inserting, not replacing. Funny to remember these things after decades of becoming spoiled rotten by the Mac, by this and that pro app: Quark …


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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