Friday, November 30, 2007

Jenna Bush

What is in a name and a family. A girl whose dad happens to be a president. Not a great one at that. But there I was, in the green room, talking to Bush's daughter and setting her up for her presentation. She had spiked heels and looked, although dressed well, a little disheveled and harried. But kind and warm. Young. Politic. Greased.

So, I hugged the body whose dad spins tricks with the world. What does it feel like? One touch of me to her is not romantic, or special--it is something closer to historical. When one human being here, physically hugs the moving world, well, something changes.

I think her message is over simplistic, but she had light and warmth. It is always something, whether to the left or to the right, to exchange body-talk with history.

New Mexico tourism ad

Another reason why I live in the Land of Enchantment (which other state in the US would run an ad like this). Though I'm not sure it encourages tourism, the brain-sucking aliens and all.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Maimonides and Western Medicine

Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) was born in Cordova, Spain, the heart of the intellectual and economic Umayyad state known as Andalusia. In the twelfth-century, Cordova was dramatically different than the rest of Europe; religion was less a reason for intolerance than an inspiration for craft and art, leading to a kind of renaissance unseen elsewhere in Europe for another century. It was in this environment that Maimonides was educated and trained, not only in the Torah (as precursor to becoming a Rabbi), but also in the art of medicine. The reason behind this training was purely practical, as “until rather late in the Middle Ages, rabbis were not paid for their services…for that reason, Maimonides like any other rabbi had to adopt a profession in the world, and like many intellectually gifted medieval rabbis he became a physician.” (1)

The state of western medicine in the late 12th century was one of stasis. “In an age when the voice of authority was the most significant influence in determining belief, philosophy, and the understanding of nature, the persisting ghost of a single man loomed over medical thought like an overpowering colossus. That man was the second-century C.E. Greek physician Galen of Pergamon.” (2) To a large extent Galen’s death left medicine in a 1500-year state of perpetual doldrums. The great Arab thinker Avicenna (980-1037) changed that somewhat; his work The Canon was perhaps the most important medical writing to come out of the Arab medical system in the middle ages, and became the standard textual work in medical schools of Europe until the 18th century. But despite even his towering achievements, Galenic medicine was persistent juggernaut that stymied even the most brilliant minds.

Did Maimonides change this? Did he challenge the supremacy of Galen? To a certain extent yes, but even Moses was unwilling to completely tap the empirical keg when confronted with the sheer volume and historical march of Galen’s work. Sherwin B. Nuland’s biography Maimonides looks at this very question, of whether the Rabbi deserves membership in the pantheon of western physicians…"What was the contemporary state of “the theory and practice of medicine” in the twelfth century, and how was it affected by Moses’s teachings and his daily round of patient care? Did he add to the general sum of knowledge? Did he make any new discoveries? At his death, were the “theory and practice” of medicine of “the time” significantly different than they might have been had he never lived? And most important for posterity, did he leave a heritage that succeeding generations of physicians could look to as a model of the grand tradition of their art and science?" (3)

To be succinct, the purpose of this short essay is to bring some clarity to those questions. I intend to explore three areas in which Maimonides could be considered to have contributed greatly to the continuance and evolution of the western medical tradition. This essay will explore those three contributions, and make a case for their relevance and importance to the present state of the Great Art. Those three areas of influence are: First, a challenge and clarification of the work of Galen; second, an insistence to the separation of religion and medicine; and third, a prescient understanding of the necessity of preventative medicine. It is for the last that he is considered truly brilliant, and deserving of the title The Prince of Physicians.

Though Maimonides is less known for his work as a physician than he is for his commentary on the Torah and his Guide to the Perplexed, he remains a highly respected author and thinker even into the modern age, and it could be said that his work “Mishneh Torah, the fourteen volume systematization of all Jewish law from Scripture to his own day” remains unsurpassed. It has been suggested that to get Judaism right, one must first get Maimonides translation right, because it was he who honed and clarified the disparate parts of his faith. Though that was separate from his work in the field of medicine, I begin with it for the reason that it was the same brilliance that found him a leader in Judaic thought that underlies his work in medicine.

Maimonides challenged Galen generally through most of his medical work, but specifically in his Medical Aphorisms, a collection of 25 treatises on healing and medicine within which were approximately “1,500 passages culled mainly from Galen, with critical comments, providing the physician with a handy desk manual, reducing Galen’s 129 books to one.” (4) The heading under the 25th Treatise (last in the book) suggests an alternate title for the last chapter, “which may be called ‘The Holy War for Independent Scientific Investigation Against Galen.” (5) It is an ominous way to begin a chapter, and precludes any thought that the content will spill praises toward Galenic thinking. Indeed, “in medicine, as in other fields, Maimonides strived to reduce complexity to system and order. He chafed under Galen’s prolixity and reduced the Roman physician’s massive literary output to a single book of extracts that a physician could carry around in his pocket.”(6) Thus a clear picture arises of Maimonides challenging the status quo. Part of his influence on the western medical tradition derives from this simplification and clarification, and his bold challenges against the supremacy of Galenic thought. Maimonides contests the “arrogant presumption” of Galen, writing that he “considers himself more important than he really is.” (7) The following passage perhaps elucidates the point at hand, written by Maimonides himself.

"If anyone declares to you that he has actual proof from his own experiences, of something which he requires for the confirmation of his theory, even though he be considered a man of great authority, truthfulness, earnest words and morality, yet just because he is anxious for you to believe his theory, you should hesitate. Do not allow your mind to be swayed by the “novelties” which he tells you, but look well into his theory and his belief, just as you should do concerning the things which he declares that he has seen; look into the matter without letting yourself be easily persuaded. And this is true whether the person is notable or one of the people. For a strong will may lead a man to speak erringly—especially in disputation. I offer this in order to awaken your interest in the statements of that wise men, that prince, Galen." (8)

It is this challenge of Galen, the juggernaut of western medicine, which sets apart Maimonides as truly unique. This uniqueness sprang from an independence of thought, and an insistence on rational inquiry and historical skepticism. “Maimonides was among the first to point to the feet of clay that would eventually crumble sufficiently to bring down the entire icon.” (9) Maimonides challenged Galen, and got away with it.

Though Maimonides was a Talmudic Rabbi, better known for his religious contributions than his scientific ones, his “medical writings contain no references to Talmudic medicine, nor is there a hint of magic, superstition, or astrology, widespread at the time in medical practice.” (10) The rabbi was a natural scientist when it came to the understanding and treatment of disease. It could be said, in a sense, that he was Aristotelian, that he implicitly understood the process of scientific rationality. “In principle, Maimonides divorced medicine and science from religion,” (11) which brings me to my second point.

Certainly there was much need for this in the medieval age, a time when the monks were the practitioners of medicine (though this was the case primarily in Europe). There is a story of Maimonides, when, after becoming a physician at the court of Sultan az-Sahir Ghazi (son of the great Saladin), he prescribed a medical treatment (wine and music) that went against Islamic law. When asked why he would recommend this, his answer falls in line with his rigid insistence on maintaining the independence of medical authority: “The physician, qua physician, must advocate a beneficial regime regardless of the religious law, and the patient has the option to accept or decline. If the physician does not prescribe what is medically beneficial, he deceives by not offering his true counsel.” (12)

At a time when the lines of demarcation between scientific inquiry and religion were at best obscured, Maimonides provided the physician with ammunition to defend his profession. In contrast, St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), a famous Christian cleric and near contemporary of Maimonides, “asserted that ‘to consult physicians and take medicines befits not religion and is contrary to purity’ – and it was a popular gibe that ubi tre physici, dui athei (where there are three doctors, there are two atheists).” (13) Of course this was hyperbole from the most dogmatic of churchmen, but it gives an understanding of the confused nature of medical thought at the time, and the necessity of the separation Maimonides insisted on. To be fair, Maimonides (being first and foremost a man of god) argued that the reason for good health was ultimately desired not for an end in and of itself, but for the great praise of the almighty. One cannot praise God in a state of disease and sickness. He commented in the Mishneh Torah that “since, when the body is healthy and sound one directs oneself toward the ways of the Lord—it being impossible to understand or know anything of the knowledge of the Creator when one is sick—it is obligatory on man to avoid things which are detrimental to the body and seek out things which fortify it.” (14) This though is not a negation of separation or an affront to the authority of medical practitioners, but a conclusion as to why one would want to maintain optimal health. As such, it does not discount his original insistence on the independent authority of physicians. This then is the second great offering of Maimonides to the history and evolution of western medicine, manifested through his insistence on the supremacy of physicians in all things medical.

The third contribution of Maimonides to western medical tradition is perhaps the most important, and certainly is what he is most remembered for (within medical history). It is a cogent and surprisingly modern idea, though in his time perhaps not so much. It is a simple concept, lacking in his day, of the necessity of preventive medicine. One needs look no further than his Aphorisms for support of this revolutionary idea. In the seventeenth treatise, titled Aphorisms Pertaining to General Rules of Health, he lays out the argument. “Immobility is as great a detriment to the maintenance of health as activity is of benefit.” (15) He continues by adding “one’s attention should first focus on the maintenance of natural [body] warmth, before anything else. That which best insures this is [the performance of] moderate physical exercise, which is good both for the body and soul (soma and psyche)”. (16) He prescribes for the elderly a daily regimen of walking, something that has an uncannily modern ring to it. Likewise, Maimonides posits the benefits of massage and touch as a means of stimulating the innate ‘heat’ of the body, insofar as it rejuvenates the body naturally.

As part of his preventive medical techniques, Maimonides also intuited modern medical procedure by noting the beneficial effects of positive thinking, leading to an early form of psychosomatic medicine. Whether certain amulets or trinkets were anathema to his practice was often overlooked when the needs of the patient were at hand. He was “committed to the thesis of the mind’s effect on the body, [and] it was permissible to discard even the most cherished of medical convictions in the interest of a patient’s psychological needs.” (17) Case in point was the mental stability of the person during medical treatment, in which case amulets and other such pagan paraphernalia were permissible “lest the mind of the patient be to greatly disturbed.” (18) It was this flexibility that served Maimonides in his work as a physician, and gained him the trust and respect of his peers.

Though it may be said that Maimonides didn’t necessarily advance any of these three points to a degree that they were ultimately reality changing for western culture, he represents a marker in the road to modern medical techniques. Perhaps none of his work was truly original, but he, and to a lesser extent his Arabic counterparts al-Rhazi and Avicenna, represented a slow chipping away at the immense fa├žade that had come to be understood as Humoral Theory. Each in their own way advanced the art, each chiseled another chip from the concrete theories of Hippocrates and Galen. As for Maimonides it may be said, “of the several aspects of the Ramban’s genius, the one that was surely most appreciated by readers in his time and later was his extraordinary ability to separate wheat from chaff and to collect, classify, and correlate needed information into a helpful, compact, and easily remembered whole.” (19) This perhaps more than any other thing made Moses a genius, a polymath not unlike Galen.

In considering the above conclusion, it can also be stated that it wasn’t Maimonides’ original intent to advance the art of medical practitioners. Certainly his most profound work was in the area of Judaic law and Talmudic revision, and even to a certain extent the formation and dissemination of what is known today as the Kabbalah. Nevertheless, his work in the court of Saladin, and of course his few medical writings, earned him a hallowed place in the annals of the western medical profession. He exhibited a prescient mind; his work at separating religious and medical law, his challenging Galen, and finally his work in the field of preventative medicine, all combined exhibit an intuition of the direction and future of western medicine. As suggested above, he is more a beacon in the road than an individual who diverted the traffic, but that fact doesn’t make his work less special. He is remembered today primarily for his Guide to the Perplexed, but that is perhaps only because he is less studied as a pioneer in medicine than as a giant in Judaism.


  1. Neuhaus, Richard John, ed., The Second One Thousand Years. Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001. p. 16.
  2. Nuland, Sherwin B., Maimonides. New York: Random House, 2005. p. 155.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Seeskin, Kennith. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. p. 39
  5. Rosner, Fred. Muntner, Suessman. Eds. The Medical Aphorisms of Moses Maimonides. New York: Bloch Publishing Company. p. 171
  6. Seeskin, Kennith. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. p. 39
  7. Nuland, Sherwin B., Maimonides. New York: Random House, 2005. p. 167
  8. Id. at 168
  9. Id. at 169
  10. Seeskin, Kennith. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. p. 39
  11. Id. at 40
  12. Ibid.
  13. Porter, Roy. The Greatest Benefit To Mankind. New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1997. p. 110
  14. Nuland, Sherwin B., Maimonides. New York: Random House, 2005. p. 176
  15. Rosner, Fred. Muntner, Suessman. Eds. The Medical Aphorisms of Moses Maimonides. New York: Bloch Publishing Company. p 41, Volume II
  16. Id. at 42
  17. Nuland, Sherwin B., Maimonides. New York: Random House, 2005. p. 179
  18. Ibid.
  19. Id. at 173
D. Reese Zollinger, 2007
(fair use of above material)

Happy slogging!

Revolution in Modern China

Unlike the French, American, or Bolshevik revolutions, the Chinese Communist Revolution spanned nearly 3 generations. It is difficult to pin an exact date on the movement’s beginnings, but it is often considered to be with the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in the 1920s. Yet, although the party had been formally established, it developed very little inertia until Mao Zedong led the “Long March” to Yen’an in 1934-35. A formal ending to the revolution is also hard to exact, yet may be placed in the 1970s with the death of Mao and the arrest of the “Gang of Four.” But these dates, it must be understood, act as bookends to a series of revolutions rather than points of origin and termination to a single one. In that light, it cannot be argued that this was a single event, nor did it involve a single approach. It is this variance, the series of revolutions, which came to define modern China, and it is also because of this episodic recurrence that rifts were driven between the varying generations experiencing them.

As mentioned above, the CCP found its initial power in Yen’an. It is also here that we see the making of Mao Zedong and the formation of his revolutionary philosophy, the so-called Yen’an Way that became the ethos of Revolution until the 1980s. Mark Selden defined its principles in his book The Yen’an Way in Revolutionary China as: First, reliance on the innate creativity of people; second, rejection of domination of a technical elite; third, conception of human nature as able to transcend social and environmental obstacles; and finally, cooperation and community approach. Decentralization and self-reliance.

These principles represent in many ways the idealistic education of the first generation of the CCP. They were a colorful bunch, an amalgamation of individuals of varying age and level in the traditional society. In his book Red Star Over China, Edgar Snow wrote of that early cross-cultural cooperation, giving the greater world their first look at the Chinese Communist. His portrayal of Mao and his followers is largely positive, and of the youth involvement he wrote: “Altogether, the ‘little devils’ were one thing in Red China with which it was hard to find anything seriously wrong…I suspected that more than once an older man, looking at them, forgot his pessimism and was heartened to think that he was fighting for the future of lads like those.” (1)

Snow’s work in Yen’an gives a rare glimpse into how the CCP was molded into the party of the people, and how party loyalty began to trump traditional Confucian ideals which placed family allegiance at the heart of society. But this transformation of duty would have very powerful repercussions after liberation (specifically 1949-1976), and would make the early “idealism” expressed by Snow appear a superlative adventure, a once pipe dream.

The CCP succeeded in political unification of China, but that was only the beginning of their task of building a society, of gaining the trust of the hearts and minds of everyone. Indeed, most of the country post-unification was not communist. What was needed was social and economic change, a shift in allegiance, to bring true unification.

The original impetus for this was found in Yen’an, when Mao and the Party leaders demanded a forced re-education for those joining the cause. They forced on new comrades a shift of consciousness, a kind of mild brainwashing to a new way of thinking. As illustrated in the above quote, the focus was not on the future of ones progeny, but the revolution, the party. The Yen’an Way may have appeared eager and enlightened in the beginning, but post 1949 it destroyed millions of family’s through an escalating need for party commitment. One of the few critical first hand descriptions of this post liberation period would come to be expressed brilliantly in Liang Heng’s account of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), titled Son of the Revolution.

At an early age, Liang’s family was fractured by an anti-rightist sweep disguised as the Hundred Flowers Movement. In Liang’s own words, “its official purpose was to give the Party a chance to correct its shortcomings by listening to the masses’ criticisms…but then, with confusing rapidity, the “Hundred Flowers Movement” changed into the “Anti-Rightist Movement.” (2) Liang expresses what many more must have been thinking, that the original movement was disguised to trap the Rightists (supposed economic and intellectual liberals, capitalists, entrenched bourgeoisie, etc) throughout the Party. Many came forward and expressed their opinions, and many of those were caught and sent away into the countryside to live among the peasants in forced re-education programs. Liang’s mother was one of them. Liang describes his father’s reaction: “Father’s traditional Confucian sense of family obligation told him to support Mother while his political allegiance told him to condemn her. He believed that [to condemn her] was the only course that could save the family from ruin.” (3)

For young Liang, being raised “in the shade of the revolution” presented a confusing set of circumstances. His was a new, unproven generation, schooled in the history and propaganda but as yet unable to assist. They were overzealous to help and make something of themselves, to prove their worth to those who came before them. The fuel for the Cultural Revolution came, in a sense, from these kids, from various student factions who were following commands from head leaders of the People’s Liberation Army, determined to make the “PLA a centerpiece of cultural change. These factional fires were fueled by the anger of students frustrated over policies that kept them off the paths of political advancement because the students had the ill fortune to be born to parents who had had connections with the Guomindang, the landlords, or the capitalist “exploiters” of the old regime and were therefore classified as “bad” elements by the CCP…there were as well millions of disgruntled urban youths who had been relocated to the countryside during the party campaigns of earlier years…there were those, within the largest cities, who were denied access to the tiny number of elite schools that had become, in effect, “prep schools” for the children of influential party cadres." (4)

These students were the outcome of years of revolution, of social upheaval and a vast reworking of class and norms. They were the logical conclusion to their preceding generation, simply adopting the prevailing ethos. But in their case, where revolution and war was the dominant paradigm, the absence of an external enemy would force war upon itself. In the course of only a few decades, thousands of years of Chinese culture was challenged, with its terminal point being the PLA’s attempt to erase that history in the Cultural Revolution. It was an attempt to turn siblings into comrades and Party leaders into parents, to erase any memory of Confucian morality or cultural proclivity, to destroy the native instinct of the Chinese heart.

The forced re-education programs, often bordering on religious conversion, took Liang’s family, especially his father, through recurring bouts of self-doubt and self-flagellation. Intellectuals, represented in Son of the Revolution by Liang Shan (the father), the consummate writer and thinker, were forced into the countryside because terror of judgment within the party became too great. Others throughout traditional society, monks especially (5), were brought into a parallel world with the party line by much the same method; during the Cultural Revolution, none were free from the Little Red Book. An account by Liang during a bus ride through the countryside illustrates the point emphatically. Upon stopping for a moment in the town of Xiangxiang, they encounter a monk who is being harassed by a gang of kids. “He was kneeling and beating a gong before a broken stone tablet on which I guessed was inscribed the history of the temple or some Buddhist scripture…as he beat the gong, he chanted, “I have tricked the people, I should be punished,” and Buddhism is a lie, only Marxism-Leninism-Chairman Mao Thought is the truth.” (6)

This, it can be surmised, is a far cry from the original positive idealism of the Yen’an Way. Revolution had devolved into an inquisition under the guise of controlled criticism, where exile led to redemption and paranoia to stronger party loyalty. Snow’s account of revolution in the 1930s and Liang’s in the '60s presents a stark contrast to the ways and means employed to achieve intellectual and cultural unity. The countryside and peasantry, the great savior of the CCP and modern China, was used to bring equilibrium to a class-based society, but ended up becoming an instrument rather than an ideal. “’How could Chairman Mao say that the countryside was a great land where we Educated Youths would have glorious successes?’ Liang Wei-ping wondered. “I’m only afraid that when I go back I’ll be sucked into that terrifying whirlpool once again.” (7) The three decades following the establishment of the PRC brought unity and nationalism to China, but one has to wonder at what cost.


  1. Snow, Edgar. Red Star Over China. New York: Grove Press, 1961. p 327
  2. Heng, Liang. Shapiro, Judith, Son of the Revolution. New York: First Vintage, 1984. p. 8
  3. Ibid, p 9
  4. Spence, Jonathan D., The Search For Modern China. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990. p 604
  5. While attending a retreat at a Chinese Buddhist monastery, I had a chance to speak with a senior monk who had escaped the Cultural Revolution and fled to Taiwan, and then on to America. He shared with me a story of watching his uncle (also a monk) be torn apart by four kids (presumably Red Guards) on horses. They tied ropes to each of his appendages, with the other sides of the rope to their horses. It remained his most vivid memory of the revolution.
  6. Heng, Liang. Shapiro, Judith, Son of the Revolution. New York: First Vintage, 1984. p
  7. Ibid, p 200
D. Reese Zollinger, 2007
(fair use of above material)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gervais and the Serpent

I posted this on EO some months ago, but I think it derserves another shake.


Monday, November 12, 2007

the certainly fictional dream of the late charles darwin, as fortold by the late jesus of nazereth

there is a beetle on the mantle

the state i am in.
is the slate and the dream.
clean and white and unshuttered.
for positing, the command of language,
the real way of looking at your hands,
with apprehension and a frog pond,
a cascading ivy,
clean, with hope.
a tall pot with cordyline.
fragmented spiced bacopa,
with a phrase in a scent,
laden with wisdom,
with beauty,
with enough grit,
to live another century.

cornflower on the horizon,
and nothing but the bread cornflower makes,
like manna, and honey and
not the sense of taste.
a cool night in the desert as the mid winter approaches,
like a cake upon the pan,
and waiting for some one,
some thing,
some mind,
some soul,
to reverse it's polarity,
as though upon the horizon,
there were nothing,
and there was only one 'as though'.

the whisper of our reach,
as though i could speak for more than just myself,
also introduces for you,
the pretext and context.
(the edicts are certain circles you would circumscribe).
underline a word,
pardon the meaning for moment,
and punctuate the thing you say,
as though it were you saying it,
as though there were molecules on a ribbon of sugar cane,
which, having been rejected for molasses,
become raw,
as a federal system of integrated states:

*(" a morbid fog
and greyer cloud,
as those stately gloomy airs,
and those able shrouds,
for those stately hidden truths.
those buried very real,
are only what those dead conceal,
those from beast,
from tired crowd,
those blackened silhouetted shrill,
for toward eyes,
and crying limbs,
the shocked fence avails portent hymns,
for those unable ears.
and mind, is sane,
it twines its hand around electric pane,
for wailing; taunting whims,
in under-creaking-floor-boards wane,
scornful bows,
the sinner sees,
and frozen,
bitten, frosted miseries for toes.
while to those forted, binding
rings, though not the true or real,
there clings,
as ever glued branch to tree,
a man to a fence. that falling brings
"hopeless" cleverly subdued, awry,
concealed, vain:
those true to spy for a glimpse.
their fingers hold there own,
awaiting hours
when flesh and bone,
and scabbing skin will fry,
the brainy grey to monotone,
the holy way a man would dye.
alas, years.
and dying times.
the burning scent,
the masked rhymes.
for ears,
but simply wretched holes
to air the reddened brainy coals,
with ecstasy's brittle crimes,
and strength exhausted shriveled souls
falling where those,...
where that child climbs.
but hesitation,
rear, or gleam,
the only choice before a dream
softens churning eyelid veins
and deadens dreary burning brains
to silence.
"should i warn the child?"
"or embrace the tangled wild below?"
"or free the truth beguiled...."
by a morbid fog
or greyer cloud,
a gloomy air or able shroud,
for hiding truth.
it is buried, real,
what alone those dead conceal,
not from beast,
or very tired crowd,
the blackened silhouetted shrill....

as those,... and those nailed to a cross,
have an understanding. sideways.
laterally they blink to a forlorn state...."(,)

said the secretary of that state,
for the queen of kolob,
and what was her fate.)


the stiff november wind is a state,
and the way it whistles,
and tosses the pseudo tsuga,
has its way,
along the mountain shore of whidbey.
homo sapiens on an island,
and perception,
as the train of the incalculable;
"i suffer for the sins of the world,
when I draw the world,
like a good tide sways."
isaac said with an apple in his mouth.
"i have a juncture,
a mountain as a table top." said j.
"hence forth god is a misnomer." r said,
as though he were d-.
"alfalfa grew inside the belly of the cow," said
our illustrious hostess, the queen of kolob,
"i saw the idea before i thought it." said i.

the white shrill of snow,
whipping like a hot cross bun,
and the forward thinking messenger;
placed us deep in the petrie dish,
the orange flower, a distant thought,
the plain gas,
the sharp glow,
the ego less,
face of a planet's moon,
a far;
"keep going back." said j-
"find a way, like paul, leto."
j continued,
"blessed are those
who are the kwisatz haderach,
blessed are those who hang in the balance.
blessed are those who,
after inheriting the world, give it back;
as the musk ox and the capable cornish hen.
blessed are those who see god,
for they are the fish who can breath water.
blessed are those who need blessings,
for they shall realize the good fortune of being blessed.
blessed are the meek, the pliable, and the malleable,
for they shall evolve too."

as though he could not help himself,
j added truly, "not an iota, not a dot,
will pass from the law until all is accomplished."

like a law which is the berry of juniper,
tinctured with the yeast of a sun,
and burning like a flag, or flagellum whipping,
the judgement awaited its hopeless telling;
as william would have with isaac's apple.
the scarlet smell of jasmine,
the lure of sex,
as a loyal economist:
"all things are paid for, c.o.d."
the yellow belly of a chicken hawk,
hunger and thirst.
heaven, and the castle
of william randolph hearst.
the whippoorwill chimed in:
"all souls, a fortnight and change."
"lonesome cattle range." said 'win.

the echo in a canyon,
bounced off the canyon walls
reverberating, and constantly becoming.
the horse on a draw with a plow,
the husk on a cob of corn,
the still small voice,
like an echo in a non-canyon,
placed a long hold,
like a good notary,
or bail bondsman upon his bailiwick,
a bet; listen and feel the sway of the wind,
as it tickles their ears with their hair.
do not listen, so say,
listen as a lunch woman slopping minted spinach,
as a jack hammerer.
"call upon a nostalgia
if it helps you see it better." said j, as though
he were not i.

clip the top of this picture and you will see,
the bottom, the submerged pier.
hang a kite,
hoist a video camera.
get a wireless transceiver.

"like a sand of beach particles.
or the capable fleeting thought."


i am lying here.
the rock upon which i lay
is beholden to a certain lay,
who stand for what i represent,
and practice it upon the day,
for which i recommended
they rest.

do not come to me on your day of rest,
with your beautiful bread and water,
as though the day were spring,
and the water were refreshing.
do not come to me when you are tired,
as the november asters,
and their transmogrify,
and their lubricated casters,
please, though an orange rock rose,
is always a sabbath,
come with me on a day of my choosing,
when i know we both
are in good spirits,
and social,
as equilateral hosts.
"i will declare to you on that day,"
i said,
"blessed are the ones who,
as a fleeting thought, are remembered.":
"there is only one multi verse." said the queen of kolob.

as transparent feet on a treadmill
the four of us walked,
walking backward, while pointed forward.
the vast pacific sea,
herald and lee,
the pointer sisters,
and ho chi min,
with frank sinatra pleaded,
as they pleased us with their version
of your grandmothers biscuits,
with your grandfathers gravy.
"you ate it as you thought it," said h.
the sky was always dark now.
there were no hankerings.
no unremembered visions.
there was no fox racing through the underbrush.
other things there was none of:

back in the petrie dish,
holding like a mayonnaise to a country salad,
a string of popcorn balls to a tree.
like december kernels in november,
a stiff breeze wisps it all away with
a man in a tomb with a shroud.
with, a certain "waking up"
from a state of certain "deadness."
day two:
"still no one has peeked there head in." said j.
said you, as the crackles are made in a late blue grass,
"as a grass upon a prairie,
a hold upon a dairy.
a certain cow and its propensity to produce milk.
with the yogurt and the cinnamon granola,
and a hint of mint;
like you were printing money,
as though a goat was milked?"
"a hail mary mid november pass,
of good old fashioned american gas."

it is a stretch
to catch.
i love a good haiku as much as you.

there is a beetle on the mantle.

C2007 rrzollinger


the pages of my life i mark with used toothpicks
the plaque-detritus inks me to write half thoughts
the pages crumble like saltines
unknown memory comes when it will
not when I WILL

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A travel home

my ancestor's home... Iskeia an island tucked in the Mediterranean sea.
back in the day they were farmers and fisherman...

Now the town of Forio and the other towns on Iskeia are full of thermal baths and shopping

being on Iskeia,

i understood better my pull to ocean and earth.

but England came as a familiar relief...

so i ask myself am i an Italian or the prodigy of NYC

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Had the opportunity to meet Carolyn Jessop last night. I had invited her to the store to do a reading and signing. She escaped from the FLDS Colorado City/Hildale group of polygamists four years ago and has just come out with a book about her experience living among that group of people. She was married to Merril Jessop as his fourth wife. This was/is the group that claims Warren Jeffs as their prophet.

This is a very good and fast read. The event last night was sobering. Carolyn escaped from Colorado City in the middle of the night with all eight of her children with $20 in her pocket. In four years she has succeeded in winning full custody of all eight of her children and writing the most vivid portrayal of FLDS polygamy that I have seen.

Jessop calls this group a cult. She was a fourth or fifth generation member of this society and it seems her childhood was good. But she was married to a very powerful and manipulative man who saw her as his property. She said that when Warren Jeffs became prophet things really spiraled downward in Colorado City. Now, the core members of the group are hiding out in closed compounds like YFZ in Texas.

Strangely, Jessop's oldest daughter always wanted to go back to Colorado City. When she turned eighteen just this July 2nd, she left on July 4th to return.

I have thought alot about polygamy this week. And, about our own upbringing. How we spent our formative years on a farm with a very large family, who wanted to live their own higher order. How far were we away from fundamentalism? I look fondly upon those times on the farm out in Thatcher, where I was until I was eight. But, talk to someone like Marjean about her experience living in the basement underneath Bob and Fawn in the same house in Canada and you might find surprising similarities.

Monday, November 5, 2007


We live in the age of the image. Never before in history has such a barrage of unconnected ideas moved through our lives. From iPod to YouTube our culture has become a streaming channel of endless icons, branding with thought tattoos each individual who dares to tune in.

From the early days of western corporatism advertisers have been rubbing the bottled genie in hopes of magically increasing corporate revenue. What they soon realized was that the attention of consumers was easily bought by employing controlled symbolism to market their products, drawing the customers loyalty more through attachment to the symbol than the item being offered. When deconstructing this morbid state of affair- something that I'll attempt in this short essay - it should first be understood that it is not the image (icon, brand, or logo) that is important, but what that image solicits as an emotional response.

The fact that we can find historical precedent for modern advertising doesn’t make it easier to understand. Symbols litter our minds; from the golden arches to bitten apples our world has become a crowded arena of patented images. The consumer’s attention is battled for on the front lines of supermarket isles, in the halls of malls, or even driving down the interstate. We are told we can become members by simply buying products, as if this act was itself the sacrament. So deep has this symbolism penetrated that in Kalle Lasn’s words (Culture Jam, 2000), “advertisements are the most prevalent and toxic of the mental pollutants.”

This toxicity, rising as it has through the need to sell products, has left an indelible mark upon the human mind. Lasn continues by noting that, “Corporate advertising…is the largest single psychological project ever undertaken by the human race.” Strong words, but not altogether unreasonable when you see as Lasn does that the symbol has gone from simple iconography to complex and multidimensional abstraction. In that symbolism is historically one of the most powerful tools for uniting people, we must recognize that its nature is two-fold; first, the symbol is itself inherently benign, and second, any meaning applied to a particular image is what becomes important.

There is an old iconographic precedent that justifies modern advertising. In the year 312, while preparing to battle for control of the Roman Empire, Constantine received a vision telling him to unite his men under the banner of the Cross. “In hoc signo vinces,” the angel told him, “In this sign you shall win.” This symbol, already having ancient ties to Egyptian and Phoenician cultures, was easily accepted, and eventually became the most complex and powerful banner of western civilization.

Beyond the West we find other cultures using similar means to achieve similar ends. Chinese thought manifested as the symbolic duality of yin/yang, Judaic representation would be expressed by the Star-of David, Native American as Totem; all of these symbols being expressed in glyphs designed to establish instant connection between image and idea.

The consumer provides the fresh skin for the hot iron, so without cultivating critical minds, our bodies will continue to be treated as perfect receptors for the corporate logo. More than our wares, but our whole selves, our thoughts and deeds, should define what makes us different. By seeing necessities as more than iconographic trophies, we displace ourselves from the corporate battle. We begin to make informed decisions based not upon form, but upon function.

It was realized in the mid-eighties that (Naomi Klein, 2002) “successful companies must primarily produce brands, as opposed to products.” (No Logo) That we have allowed the Corporation to move from production of goods to the manufacturing of Icons is our mistake, one that we must claim and work to remedy. Does it really satisfy, does it bring us happiness? We should ask these questions and others as we confront the barrage of commercials from day to day, because the symbol has turned from representing deeper, universal ideas, to selling materialism. We can imagine a young man saying: “Under the shadow of the sears tower I found myself,” because it was that symbol that his city presented as most important. This experience is common. As the sacred retreats from the Vegas Strip, cowers beneath the overwhelming magnitude of the “stars and stripes,” or huddles away to avoid contamination from ethanol or elmer’s glue, we begin to understand her reticence.

Advertisers long and systematic policy of targeting the ego has produced a morally inept culture, dependant not upon deeper meanings but on colorful veneers. Once again, it is the emotional reaction to the said media that is in question, because, (William Bernbach, 1989) “you can say the right thing about a product and nobody will listen. You’ve got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut. Because if they don’t feel it, nothing will happen.” There are numerous examples of advertisers soliciting emotional responses to commercial products. Ads such as, “Drive = Love,” or “Bigger is Better,” show that the aim is our emotional insecurity. We are reminded again and again about the body’s endless needs and infinite wants, that we must have a certain thing to be up-to-date, or fashionable. What was natural and sustainable has become demonized by the consumptive majority; our new prophets are corporate leaders and tycoons.

The tendency today is to see life in monetary terms, because that is our world; that is capitalism and democracy in action; that is free-market economics, the newest revelation from the bible of modern affairs. We are looking through the glass darkly, not because we don’t own it, but because we're only leasing it. Some argue that the corporation has brought us what we love most, entertainment and material goods. They have given us a world where we may theoretically take more time to enjoy the finer things, the subtler things, but in the end we pay for it.

The corporation has hijacked the icon. Our deepest fears are played against us in hopeless tugs-of-war. Should I buy Coke or Pepsi, Nike or Converse, Gucci or Gap? The Icon rules, we are the first generations to have brand names as kings, to be raised on cartoons and commercials. It is a life we have been given and must somehow sort out. As each generation has its challenges, so this is one of ours. In a world where one watches the Super Bowl not for the game but for the advertising, we should be concerned that the wool keeps inching down.

It is ours to reclaim for ourselves what it means to be human, to redefine our approach to society. In this postmodern hyper-technical culture of competing interests we may choose or we may not. Whatever we do, the concept of marketing symbolism will surely survive, because our need of image and icon date to the very beginnings of humanity. Again, the conclusion is to not see the symbol as destructive, but to question what the symbol solicits as an emotional response. As we realize this, we can cultivate symbols with deeper meanings, ones that illicit a beneficent reaction, ones like the mythic Shiva that remind us of our mortality, that we must live well for tomorrow there may be no more living.

Reese Zollinger
cross posted from EO.