View Electronic Edition

The Bible

Okkkkk, I think I've got it.

For a week I've been here in this Lemon Street house donated by this woman I have never met perusing everything that has come past, the back issues of the catalog and it's supplements, the box of correspondence that came in over the last month down at the Whole Earth Truck Store, the TV channels, the Chronicle, the Barb, KYA hourly news (con-el-rad just rang for the first time in years? what!!!), the various gauges of gage dropping by with various friends (grass getting a grand gold star this season; Luther Burbank has finally made it south of the border), all the books and periodicals left lying about by the absent queen of this little castle on Lemon Street, the phone calls concerning my wife who had been at the airport ready to fly down when complications in her four-months pregnancy sent her instead to the hospital where she has been these three days while I stew and read and pray alone in a strange sunny house six-hundred miles south of the Ching...walking the carpets...reading the Bible...lying in bed by the phone, polishing my head...(Sherryl, the eight-year old daughter of my brother Chuck, once wrote this poem about her father:

"Every morning my dad lies in bed;
Picks his nose and polishes his head.")

And now I think I've got it.

Or at least a lead on it.

Or I hope enough to hold me until Krassner gets here. Where I get it from, other than the general perusal of the pertinent input, is from the three identical Chings I have thrown to ask the oracle just what the hell I am doing down here away from my unplowed spring and my ailing Faye, and from the first page of the first Whole Earth Catalog, (Fall, 1968) under the heading of procedure: The CATALOG functions primarily as a pointer rather than a seller and prefers to be absent from most of the transactions it encourages.

And the thrice-thrown Ching was:


This doesn't mean to me just the catalog, it means, to me, as I find myself almost exactly a decade later right back in the same place involved with the friends in what is, to me, the same task we started ten years ago (usually things come down fast and subtle, demurely slipping past our poor zombied consciousnesses so that all we usually get is the toss of a vanishing coyness to give us a hint of what we've missed, but sometimes things come down broad and imperious as though underlined with ALL RIGHT GET IT THIS TIME FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! so that I can imagine the WHAT that has been SPOILED to be nothing short of what I shall call THE REVOLUTION and the WORK to be done is to try once again to function primarily as a pointer rather than a seller.

Now about pointing as opposed to selling: There's an old friend of mine, a big beautiful Sierra Club book called IN WILDNESS from the Walden position that "in wildness there is preservation." It is a book of photographer taken by an octogenarian bird photograhper named Eliot Porter. His eerily profound pictures of rocks and flowers and trees convey a concentration so intense that my first time through the book I remember becoming nauseous when I found myself tripping on the pictures to such a degree that I thought I had been dosed. Take, on the other hand, one of the wildlife paintings that have appeared in prime magazine space all my magazine-reading life, courtesy of the Weyerhaeuser family and their tree-eating empire. Compare the two pictures. Do you notice something different in the two pictures? Very good. Now since they are both pictures of the same thing, what exactly is the difference in the two pictures? The consciousnesses on the other end, excellent! Now, one further question: how do the two consciousnesses differ. Precisely: Eliot Porter is in relation to the world he pictures whereas poor old Weyerhaeuser is in possession of the forest he pictures.

Now apply these two positions to any revolutionary issue of your choice. Women's Lib? The American Negro? Our ecological fuck-up? Isn't it always the I/Thou consciousness trying to point out the advantages of being with God to the I/It consciousness who is trying to sell I/Thou some of his groovy possessions because if you can't sell that stuff to somebody then what-the-fuck value is it?

Send in that Quaker from Omaha again and I'll see if I can't interest him in this nice '64 Thunderbird...

So what's new after ten revolting years? We're all older, for one thing, but the double-edge of maturity is not quite as safe as the single blade they let us use to chop with as kids. Here's a poem by William Carlos Williams just in time:

music and painting and all that
That's all they thought of
In Puerto Rico in the old Spanish
days when she was a girl

So that now
she doesn't know what to do
with herself alone
and growing old up here--

Green is green
but the tag ends
of older things, ma chere

must withstand rebuffs
from that which returns
to the beginnings--

Or what? a
clean air, high up, unoffended
by gross odors.

And certainly one of the things you do notice getting older is that Weyerhaeuser is getting old a lot faster than old Eliot Porter, but I still cannot, in all consciousness, list age as my most valued tool. Steadfastness would take precedent over age. This task of revolution turned to with conscious purpose ten years ago has demanded nothing less than full time effort of everyone aware of the job to be done. No one has fucked off--laid back, maybe, or fucked up, but not really fucked off--because the person who can still take a vacation has never gone to work--and very few have defected back to their former jobs. Who wants to take a train back and forth every day from one schizophrenic life to the other?

Yet, while there's no gainsaying the steadfastness of the workers neither is there any getting around the fact that the industry has suffered some depressions. I have watched faith fly high and fall in shreds, in impossible shreds, in the course of an hour. Movements rolling like a fleet of diesels were to be discovered a few miles further on in steaming, cracked-block and dirty-carburetor dejection. Wise young Davids with a people's future in their pouch set off against Molech's Goliath and were busted halfway to battle in the bus station toilet, tying off with their slingshots. And, while these fuck-ups are blameless and perfectly understandable, they finally get so tedious that we are compelled to learn a few what I believe they call hard truths to help us in our work. These are our tools, then, and for me to stick to the CATALOG'S purpose of pointing to tools rather than selling them I intend to point only to the tools I own and use and let other people point to theirs. Sellers are generally people employed by the I/IT possessors and sell because they all secretly feel if they sell enough Betty Crocker instant Devils food that they'll be cut in for a slice out of the real cake later on by the Big Boss but I aint gonna work on Maggies farm no more!

In these depression times, however, it's often a long strange time finding work after leaving Maggie's place:

"Sometimes the light's all shining on me;
Other times I can barely see;
And lately it occurs to me
What a long strange trip its been."
Bob Hunter writing for the Grateful Dead

Certain specially-tuned compasses are then discovered to aid us through the magnetic storms of unemployment:

THE NEEDLE First, brothers and sisters and spirits of our sphere,
I wish to make one thing perfectly clear;
During these last ten turnings of a year I have been
Jacked-up, jerked-off, brought down, strung-out,
and I've
Holed up, come on, cooled off and hung out,
and I've
Rushed and flashed and flushed and twitched
and I've
Sniveled and snorted and bellowed and bitched
and I've
Been spaced out atoms in the heartless void
And a slightly-plotted tightly-knotted paranoid,
I've watched friends grin goodby as I spiraled
down the drain?
I've had doctors shake their fingers at the fungus
on my brain;
And I have called, friends and doctors, oh I have
roared out my soul
From the compass busting bottom of the false
magnetic pole,
But it was a place beyond friends or medicine's
A senseless 3-D cry from a binary breach--
And the heartless void can listen but doesn't seem
to care
And my call was never answered until the needle turned to prayer.
Robert Service

Jerry Garcia says that a man's theories about himself will build up, like tartar on a tooth, until something breaks the shell or until he succumbs to the twilight security of an armoured blind man. The first drug trips were, for most of us, shell-shattering ordeals that left us blinking kneedeep in the cracked crusts of our pie-in-sky personalities. Suddenly people were stripped before one another and behold! as we looked, and were looked on, we all made a great discovery: we were beautiful. Naked and helpless and sensitive as a snake after skinning, but far more human than that shining knightmare that had stood creaking in previous parade rest. We were alive and life was us. We joined hands and danced barefoot amongst the rubble. We had been cleansed, liberated! We would never don the old armors again.

But we reckoned without the guilt of this country. And when something isn't cleaned up that you know in your heart ought to be cleaned up, you must justify yourself to the mess and the mess to yourself. So, what with justification being the spawning ground of theory and theory being the back-up of justification, it didn't take us long to begin to take on new shells--different shells, to be sure, of dazzling new design, but, if anything, more dangerous than our original Middle-class-American armorplate with its Johnson's glo-coat finish--because drugs, those miracle tools that had first stripped us, were now being included in the manufacturing of our new shell of theories. The old story.

But something there is that doesn't love a wall. Another round of treatments wasn't long in coming down. Only this time the shocks went deeper. To the heart of matters, so to speak. It's about four years ago in my hometown of Springfield. Summer. Sundown. We've just had a family supper at my folk's house and I'm driving my mom's Bonneville over to my brother's creamery. In the car with me are my daughter, my youngest son and my dog Pretzels. The radio is playing and Shannon is prattling plans and the windows are down to the fullripened Oregon day...

(I've told this tale a lot since, and each telling has drained a little from the event. I've tried to be judicious in my allotment of the tellings because of this depletion. I hope I can tell it this time for good and save what's left for my own lost times ahead.)

We're traveling on old West Q street, which used to be the main artery to Eugene before the freeway came in. The house where my mother and father and brother and I lived all our school years until Chuck and I left to get married is just up ahead, dwarfed now by the freeway that came by a few years ago like a sudden river of cement and Chevies. This was the river that forced my folks to seek higher ground in the tract house where we just ate. I never lived in the tract house so the old house up ahead there on West Q is still what I consider home in my sentimental mind. I used to lie awake late across my bed with my front teeth resting on my windowsill until the sill was gnawed paintless. I could see past the raccoon cage, the blinking radio tower of KEED and beyond that the friendly outline of the Couburg hills where a little logging train used to come from a few times a week at 11:45 and then fewer times and fewer times until, well, I guess it's been clear back in high school I can last remember hearing a train on that track about a block from my house and thirty feet from the front of my mom's Bonneville and when I'd hear that whistle, lying there blinking out past the coon cage at my mysterious futures I'd think, "Someday I'll go someplace on that train...but it stopped running and I grew up and there it is ten feet away coming across the road and the Bonneville is already on the tracks and for once added power is important and I tromp at least the front half of the car across before that awful black noise running on a track red with rusted neglect ripped away everything from the backdoor back and sent the rest spinning on down West Q.

Shannon was crying and bloody. The Walkers, our old neighbors, were helping her from the mangled door. My head hurt but I felt whole. On the floor my little dog whimpered, her teeth through her lip. The train was stopping somewhere behind me. Where was Jed?

I picked him up and carried him into the Walker's. He didn't look hurt anywhere but oh he was such desolate heaviness in my arms. I sat down in a chair, holding him. And he sighed, a curiously familiar sigh though I'd never heard another like it before, and I felt the life go out of him as though that soft sound were wings assigned to bear its essence gently away. My ear found no beating at his chest. I looked up. There I sat across the room in the Walker's big dining room mirror, holding my dead son in my arms. In the middle of my forehead a two-bit sized bone plug had been punched neatly from my skull and hung on a piece of skin like an open trap door; the hole and the plug joined thus formed a bleeding figure eight. I blinked at my garish image and thought "if anything ever counts, this counts." Then I closed my eyes on my reflection and called aloud:

"O dear Lord, please don't let him die."

Then things became completely calm. Shannon was trying to hush her crying; the Walkers stopped rushing about and talking and waited...the frantic phoning paused (things will make a space)...then I knew what to do. Opening my eyes I leaned back to Jed and began to give him mouth to mouth resuscitation. The ambulance drivers came in but made no move to interrupt me, though one of them reached down and neatly popped the plug back in my forehead while I worked over Jed. Finally Jed sighed again, the same soft wings except this time they bore the life back into its sacred vessel.

I knew I had participated in a miracle and I was absolutely amazed. As the days went by and Jed drew out of danger in the hospital I found that it wasn't the miracle that had amazed me. That returning sigh will sound through all the rest of my life and I will be ever thankful. What amazed me, though, was that when the chips were down I knew where to call, and that I knew Who answered. I had interceded in my son's behalf, and talked the powers into letting us have him for a time more, Thank God.

The first tool I would like to point out, then, is the Bible. All of it. All the rest of your life. I won't list an address where to send for it. You can pick one up yourself, look in the top drawer of the next motel desk you come across if need be. It's nice to have your own, too. Get familiar with it and it's drama. Take your time. Get a purple satin bookmark and keep your place and ease through a chapter or two before you go to sleep, (it'll wipe the slate of your mind clean of Lever Brothers and you'll dream like Milton), or just cut in here and there now and then during the day, in a little quiet place with a bit of hash and some camomile tea with honey and lemon in it. A little at a time, steadfastly, and maybe a big hit once every week or so, say, for instance, on Saturday (for the Old Testament) and Sunday (for the New). Keep it up a while. You'll be amazed.