Monthly Archives: August 2011

The intention statement i promised myself. Tomorrow… the beach.

Tree

An intention statement

Neil Crummett

What I want is to sit under a Tree. I want some teachers, those with -please!- some wisdom, to take me up on my “free trip to Maui” offer and come and simply spend an afternoon with me. I want to listen to their advice and I want to follow it. I’ll live as casually cloistered as those beery monks. I’ll follow schedules. I’ll keep a daily log: weather, body, mind, spirit; each day gets one hour (I want an hourglass, too) because I’ll be writing the book, after.
I want to sit under the Tree and not eat; a religious fast like those of the prophets.
I want to relate, to have a glimpse of what’s seen through their eyes as they suffered in the name of something. I want to have a a moment of compassion for the lives so many saints and sages lived, not merely the ways they died. I want to do something difficult.
And then I want to write about it.
While I’m doing all of that, on a low-slung platform with a peek-a-boo view of the sea, but with sunsets painted by the ancestors of dead men, I want it documented. Western medicine doesn’t know a lot about fasting, so we’ll be monitoring me in the name of science. I want my friend, Ted, to direct it because I feel, after seeing his documetary, “Misdirection”, like he could understand and give universality to the story of a man searching for meaning. His last movie was about children, teen-agers, searching for meaning and finding it in illusions. I know enough about both sides of the God argument to find it poetically ironic: I want the magician to perform miracles, too.
I have Ted Wallach on board, Roar Skau Olsen (an a/v guy par excellahnce), Mark Matthews, and people with families, so many waiting to mobilize, waiting for the call. There’s Elijah who’s barking to bring me coconuts to drink from (300 calories a day according to Dr Bloomer {National Institutes of Health, donchaknow?} is in six coconuts), and there’s Dick Gregory, the guy from the seventies who fasted. Ghaddafi loved him. There’s Rachel, the hot yoga girl who’s ready to have her lessons with me filmed. This is gonna be great.
I want $40,000. I want $3500.00 for me, to pay my bills, so I have a home to come home to. I want the rest so Roar and that magical woman of his can work as crew and advisors, so we can get the effects (the time-lapse shots of me sitting in the same place, at the same time, wasting away, for forty-nine days, for example), the batteries and cameras, and rain gear for at least a couple of people. We need to house our experts but we’re also presenting them to the community in a lecture series we’ve planned for Studio Maui, so we’re definitely giving and giving back.

I want forty thousand dollars. That’s how much they assure me we can do it for.
I want to sit under a tree.

Humbly grateful,

Neil Crummett

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Only an angel could imagine it.

Sometimes it’s easy to believe that I’ve gone a little nuts. The things I think, the way I think about them, the feelings that thinking creates… they can all be a little overwhelming.
An example? I can do that. I’ve been thinking about something I read in James’ “Varieties…”, of a man who had a spiritual moment, an awakening, who described his mere walking as worship, with one foot striking the ground with a cry of “Glory!” and the other with a shout of “Amen!” I’ve been thinking about how happy he must have been, how satisfied with every moment, and I find I’m cynical. I wonder what it is he’s run away from. I wonder how awful he feels he must have been.

I’m suspicious of people who experience “awakenings”, those AA born-agains, those mid-life crisis women and men, the cocaine-Christians, the bottom-of-the-barrel Baptists. I believe in their conversions like I believe in “blacking out”. Yeah, it’s possible, but since it hasn’t happened to me…

Oh… but to feel that in my heart – I yearn for it. Glory with every right step, praise with what’s left! Could it be legit? Could that satisfaction be something I can feel? It seems I feel so little as it is; something that big, something to set me on my knees, who would rebel? Only an angel could imagine it.

A Paean to 6, unedited

6 is unappreciated. If 6 could feel, 6 would feel forlorn. Even the curve of it suggests a pout, an insolent frustration – and wouldn’t you be, too? Relegated to a single finger or thumb of your other hand, six – in America, today – has few friends. On friday nights, even 9 lords superior, the top in an obviously unhealthy relationship: Who even 69s, anymore? Or for long? 9 goes to a silver-lined heaven with (maybe) a little somnambulitic regret and (maybe) a little embarassed smile, but what of 6?
6 is recognized by its strangeness; think “Six” from the television series “the Prisoner”; think “Six”, from televison’s Blossom; Think “Six” from Battlestar Galactica. One alienated and isolated; one alien and impossible; the other, the last, – the tall one – alien and fantastical.
Insects, as we define them, have six legs as well as being the number of sides of honeycomb cells (which, incidentally, are often percieved by those on psychedelics – form constants, don’t you know?).
We associate 6 with waste and decay. It’s the burial number, the funeral numeral; ‘deep-six’. “Six feet deep below the street,” is the same as the six fathom burial-at-sea; the body is disposed of. No wake, no wakeman. So sail away, Sao Gabriel; leave the Indian Ocean and some sinking men behind you. Interestingly, the Magellan’s nau drafted 6’6”; an auspicious number (echoed in its full complement of 66 men) if you’re like the carrack’s designer and inclined to numerology. Dias’ little Armada was due to leave in June (the sixth month) but was delayed by two weeks by logistical complications.
These strange associations, however, aren’t at all what six is really about. Six points in the Star of David suggests the divine attribute for 6. Islam’s ‘Six Article of Belief’ underpins it. The six days of great work before the deity took holiday should also be noted, at least by those with a semiotic interest.
Mathematically, 6 becomes difficult to describe. Like an emperor with many titles, 6’s many qualities can be exhausting to enumerate: It is the smallest perfect number (the next being 28) and the length of the perfect ruler (according to Golomb, Babcock, and Sidon). It holds the distinction of being the only even number that is not the sum of successive odd cubes and is the only number that is both the sum and product of three consecutive positive numbers (1, 2, 3). It’s the the first discrete biprime (2.3) and, of course, the firstborn of that family. 6 is veritable royalty in the realm of trigonometry; six functions, after all.
6 is the atomic number of carbon, which, in the form of a diamond, has the highest hardness and thermo-conductivity of any bulk material, and looks swell in many a perforated ear. And as crystalline structures go, the six-fold symmetries of snowflakes can’t go unmentioned (by this amazed author).
Standage believes that the history of the world is scrawled by the hands of drunks; six different alcohols for the eight corners of the Earth, with everyone, everywhere connected by Guare’s lattitudes (and we wonder sometimes if we know that person… a tingling of our sixth sense).
Six, spectacular six. The meatloaf emerges at five before six. My brother serves potatos and brocolli while my sister turns on the news. I hold my mother’s apron-strings as she does her final tidy before sitting us both at supper, my sister with a book in her hand, my brother with a knife and fork. The most trusted man in America spoke to us and, as darkness gathered outside, my family and I would watch a war wind down.

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I think most people are unhappy with themselves. I am.
I think most people think they’re not good enough. I think I’m not good enough.
I think most people get scared of living. I did.
I think most people sometimes wish for an end. I know I have.
I think most people want to be ok. I want to be ok.
Tree is my dream. I want to do the thing I’m most scared of. I want to face my life, at the risk of death, to find some intrinsic value in myself.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a good person. I don’t hurt people on purpose. I’m remarkably gentle with animals and insects. Even good-natured bantering/posturing among friends, I’ll usually decline, letting the people who want to play their alpha games play their alpha games. Instead, I’m talking about ‘feeling’ good; being good is easy. It’s also meaningless, thanks to relative morality.
I want to feel good. I want meaning.  Is that so hard?

Anxiety and awareness, with a nod to Mark Matthews.

Get it together, Neil.
Now you’re having shameful panic attacks re: being homeless where, before, you were having crippling anxiety about going to a tree. You can do better.
I had a plan. A plan. And now, cracked… like a mirror. In the reflection of my plan I see an optimist trying to be hopeful, a dreamer trying to fall asleep.
I see how little I was willing to put forward and how much another man was.
Don’t worry, brother. I can change.
Here’s what I want… here’s my statement of intent. And now, why now? Why now do I finally get that the only thing I’m missing is a reason. I better get that out there.
My plan was to plan later. My plan was to do this thing, this beautiful crazy dream of mine, this ‘sit under a tree until I learn how to be with myself’ thing. Once there, I thought. Once there, I’ll surely know what to do. I’ll have a purpose and I’ll be able to do it. In the meantime, fatten up, try and relax, and don’t think too much about it.
God, I’m an asshole.
Would be you believe it just took till today to realize that I could have been more useful?
Here’s my new reason for writing every day: I want to help.
Here’s the “Big Picture” reason: It’s not me on this boat, alone. We’re all here. And I’m grateful.
Treee!

What can I say?

In the same way that vanity leads to disgrace, expectations lead to disappointment. And that’s okay. If it weren’t ok, people would quit after their first failures and civilization would still be muddy and bloody.

I’m disappointed that the KICKSTARTER fundraising effort didn’t pay immediate dividends. Kind of heartbroken; sort of angry; understandably sad. But HOLY MOLY! I’m also terribly proud of Mark Matthews who, like a beast, has carried our banner and purpose, our prayer and burden, through all of what has come, toward all of that that will.

He’s not giving up.

My promise is to help more. Write more, tweet more, video journal more.

Damn I wish I could play the ukelele like him.

Analysis Paralysis

My thoughts scratch
Against the walls of Time
But my heart beats only Now.

I love the way stories get built, with one layer – say… a girl and the little drama of her life – constructed under the other – the stories of those around her. Why does the old lady come to the door? Why does the cock crow at midnight? Every character careful to express their own desires. Quilting is no easier. Just take as many imagined fragments of life as possible and skillfully combine into a thing of beauty. Some might object that that’s too easy a dismissal of quilting, but …. ah crap…. I’m just rambling to avoid talking about things. 
I’m not thinking about them. I’m being resolute. I’m ignoring every impending thing and breathing to my gut and being sure that I’m as unsteady and unready as I could be. It’s kind of fun.
Oh, actually, it’s thrilling.
The last 48 hours of the campaign has got me so… interested. I am rapt. I am… thrilled, that word again. I’m scared. Come on! This is exciting. This is what doing things feels like. So many people have jumped to and shipped ho to bring us to this point and we’re close. We’re very close. I just want to be there. I want to breathe again without reminder. Just ignore it. That time-clock.
Fucking eek.

I’m still not thinking about tree. I dont want to do it: think about tree that is. I want to think about other things, books and films, concepts, ideas… other stuff.

I was reading about the small intestine, how, with its hundred million neurons, is another “brain” that thinks within us. It occurred to me that I conceive of my mind as something that exists with my skull, between my ears, behind my mouth, nose, and eyes. What if that’s not really the case, but merely some easy way to conceptualize the mind as having some sort of box. With the vagus nerve running information back and forth between the brain and the gut, is it possible that the Mind exists “outside” the skull? Sure, we can recognize that the skull contains the brain and we can acknowledge that without a well-functioning brain, the mind sort of ceases to exist (or at least ceases to be measurable), but what does it mean that the lower intestine has a brain that communicates with the one in our skull in a language we don’t simply understand? Do we have to redefine, or at least relocate in our imaginings, the seat of our Self when confronted with

And what does it mean that when we close our eyes we can still perceive light just by tapping on our lids? Does it mean that the quality of perception is independent of the quality of the input? If that (surely ridiculous) observation is valid across the fields of our senses, then it seems to really suggest that the qualities that make up the reality of our experience are entirely dependent upon the consciousness of the person who experiences it. That’s both reassuring (for those who like to claim mastery of reality, all of those little Buddhas and manifestation-geeks) and a little scary (for those who like to put the causes of existence outside themselves).

Me? I’m furious and exaggerating. It incenses me (you know… a little incense) that I came all the way to here and I never saw that along my path. I feel like my mother was smart and gentle enough to figure out how to make me understand, but she didn’t. She may have thought she had with her, “You can be anything you want” speeches and her “You can do anything you put your mind to” talks, but she hadn’t. She was on the right track (of course), my mom, but she wasn’t willing to go to the end of the line; she got off the ride too soon. Fine example. Thanks.

She could have told me that most of the premises of applied psychology are correct. They have to be. It’s just brains at work, toiling away, creating habits of thought for themselves. We can even dispel Jung’s cloudy mysticism if we’re willing to admit how capable our cortices are and, from there, it’s just a trip to the pharmacy to pick up the remedy; a quinine and gin for some of us, a mantra for others, a goal or two scattered among the rest, whatever it is we need to placate us, to distract us from the absolute responsibility of our lives.

And that countdown clock freaks me out.

TREEE!

Why?

Why? Like Cee-Lo, “Why? Why? Why? Why?”
Why do this?
This is an ‘I Believe’ moment.
I believe that people are good, that they want to be good. It used to be that the argument was between the “Noble Savage” and the “Fallen Man” and they used to go at it: Rousseau and Hume, Montaigne and Pascal, most of the Enlightenment guys were on one side the fence or the other. The Tarzan myth (the feral child with an inherent idea of righteousness) emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century in fiction with Burroughs but it’s obvious that the roots of the idea of this “daydream figure” are deep in the soil of the previous century’s philosophy.

Here, on the topsoil of the 21st century, with repeatable results, we find that out bodies are built to experience the suffering of others. The discovery of Mirror Neurons in our two brains (we have one in our bellies) ends the discussion: our DNA creates us to be nice, to feel for others, to experience compassion. A function of our body – no matter the mind – is to experience the suffering of others as if it were our own.

How did I get so selfish that I was willing to ignore the signals from my own body? Was it the grief at a mother passing too young? Is it our culture of television and manufacture that disconnected me from others? Maybe it was the production-line education that inculcated me with facts but failed to give me any understanding of others; Bolivia is down there, but I have no idea how you’re feeling.

I believe that I’ve lived this life poorly. On the face of it, that statement looks bleak and fatalistic, but I intend to out-Spinoza Spinoza: the valuable lesson to be learned from repentance, from guilt and regret, is how useless they are. If the goal is happiness (and what better goal can you think of?) then get into regret, get into guilt and worry. Spend time deep in it, get to know it, see what it does. Then get over it.

I’m done hating myself. That’s kind of the result of not knowing anything about me. How can I hate something I don’t know? I don’t have an dogma that’s determined to drive anyone into the sea. None of my beliefs involve denigrating others because of what region their people come from. So I’m giving it up, the whole program of lousy self-talk and self-sabotage, of guilt and regret and being bad to get what I think I deserve.

Forty-nine days. Tibetan Buddhist thought has it that seven weeks is the period between death and rebirth. As metaphors go… Perfect.

Treeeeee!