Tuesday, April 17, 2018

All the Talk About Sustainability is Horse Crap

Especially since the 2008 crash, when the economy was in danger of outright collapse, there has been endless talk of sustainability in America, and here in Hawaii is no exception. Yet even here - in one of the most progressive regions of one of America's most progressive states - that is exactly all it's been, nothing but talk. Even after decades of agitation, there still isn't even a rational recycling system in place, and comprehensive recycling is the cornerstone of a sustainable modern society. For awhile I knew of one place here in Hilo, reasonably close by, that would take all recyclable material. They no longer do so, of course. I has always been that way.

Just as you yourself get a system in place at home to sort your recycling (no minor task for those of us in apartments I assure you) than once again nobody within a reasonable distance will take it. You are expected to haul it yourself to the dump. (And what good does it do to go galavanting miles in your car, burning gasoline, to dispose of a single household's load of recycling?) It does no good whatsoever, and any reasonably intelligent person can apprehend that fact. It seems we are supposed to believe that a nation capable of (for whatever reason) landing astronauts on the moon, can't figure out how to institute curbside recycling! If sustainability had ever been the objective on the part of those who make the decisions in America the whole waste system would have been re-engeneered years ago, so that everyone could recycle in the most efficient, and effortless, manner possible. One can only conclude the powers that be oppose sustainability with every ounce of their being! Nothing less could account for the current situation.

These endless efforts on the part of right-minded people that achieve nothing, disillusion people people democracy, and clearly that's just fine with the powers that be because to all appearances doing away with democracy has long been their first priority! But in order to do away with democracy first you have to corrupt it, and the power of vested interests, i.e. the corporate structure, has been hammering away at exactly that for generations - to the point that now it's highly debatable whether we even any longer even have a democracy. That is even true here on Hawaii Island. Nothing of significance can ever change. Superficial changes are occasionally made, mainly just window dressing, but if the people were really in power, if their interests had really be taken into account we would have had sweeping reforms by now of practically every area of our society, from education to electrical power. Think about it. Has a single significant thing been done by our elected officials to alter the utterly rigged and unfair system under which we must all now live?

"Recycling. . . Duh, we don't know how to do that."

Or take the Hilo farmer's market, for example. For all the prattle about sustainability, state and local government's have done virtually nothing to support the Hilo farmer's market. Hilo should have a fabulous farmer's market! We should also have an arboretum that people the world over would pay to see. A local climate and soil that's the envy of the world should assure that! But what do we have? Both Hilo's farmer's market and arboretum are a pathetic farce. I swear, the only unhealthy trees in Hilo are at the Hilo arboretum! I don't know how they even manage it!

Or take KTA, the locally owned supermarket's "Mountain Apple brand" program, which they say features products from local farmers and businesses. Their orange juice is from Brazil! Is it even packed on the island? Well. . . no. So what the hell is local about it? They sell it locally, I suppose, that's what! It's an insult to both our values and intelligence.

What happened to the Hawaii Island Journal? It went the way of all independent and progressive news sources in America, it was bought out by a corporation. Why? Did the corporation see it as potentially profitable. No. As always, after a brief period when they launched a similar, half-assed, and less controversial paper to take it's place, they simply let that paper die. It isn't about money. It's about silencing opposition to endemic corruption. Corporate interests operate in tandem to protect corporate interest. That isn't conspiracy theory, it's simply recognizing the obvious. What happened to the 2% for the land fund, a program to dedicate 2% of tax revenues to purchasing recreational land for the general public on the island, a measure that Big Islanders approved by referendum. The county council voted to overturn it, in a manner that I highly doubt was even constitutional. I mean, who the hell are these people to overturn a bill voted on directly by the citizens?

On Iceland, an island with abundant hydroelectric and geothermal power, electric power is free to all citizens. Here we have those two sources of power to spare, but we have almost limitless solar and wind-turbine power as well - and our electric bills are sky high! Such high electric rates undermine the entire economy, and in particular, small business. Moreover, few people here take up farming, because most of the island lies fallow and unproductive, in the hands of new class of corporate royalty, and so available land is prohibitively expensive.

The true reason for all of this is obvious. Somebody makes money the way things are, so they have the money to make sure things stay that way. Corruption is now all but institutionalized in America, and a nation incapable of change is a nation well down the road toward destruction.

So what's the solution? First, I recently read an article predicting the fall of the Republican party in the next election. I could add that to the same prediction made by the mainstream media at about this time in the election cycle in every election year. Such an announcement serves two purposes. First, in de-energizes ordinary Americans, gives them the false impression that the election's in the bag, the system is working, and they don't have to get involved. The vested interests that own American media like that. Secondly, it frames the election in such a way that any improvement at all for Republicans in the polls (improvements they can always create with a timely infusion of cash) can be presented as w wholly unforeseen Republican resurgence,. That with a little lying, and electioneering will them stave of disaster for them, that will be held up as a Republican victory. When you've seen this game 50 times, it's hard to be surprised by it any more.

So, the upshot is overthrow the party of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, and likewise the multitudinous Democrats who are really just "Republican Lite." Find the candidates who are most likely to vote in the public interest in the next election and vote. Get politically involved in the upcoming elections as if your life depended on it, because it very well might.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The State of Art in Fort Worth

I came across the above sculpture in an art magazine from Fort Worth, Texas. How I came across an art magazine from Fort Worth I cannot fathom, or recall, but until that moment I'd never confronted the notion of artwork in Fort Worth. It was a terrible thing to ponder, and I must say the art in the Magazine generally served to confirm my worst fears, but of all the atrocious art featured, one piece stood out - the absolutely appalling 42 inch bronze sculpture, Harvest, by Seth Vandable. I must admit it has a certain power; in fact I was staggered when I first saw it! How in Gods name, I asked myself, cold a single artwork embody so many iconic motifs?

The sculpture (depicted above) is of a bald, heavily (one might say over-muscled man) leaping into the air as though he were light as a feather, with a sort of ecstatic gusto, like a ballerina. Yet not only can he leap like a ballet dancer he can harvest wheat at the same time! For over his shoulder rests that great symbol of rustic virility, the grain scythe. In spite of the balletic overtones, this gives the sculpture a decidedly masculine air, and yet there's something more about the thing with the scythe. There's a bit of a hip, racy, perhaps slightly communist aspect to it, which gives the whole thing just that bit of necessary controversy, that bit of needed cachet.

Ah, wow! I get it! He's not just a bald, body-building, ballet dancer, who likes to dance while harvesting grain with rustic implements, he's also a political activist. (As everyone is in America today, and probably nobody will be again tomorrow, or whenever they feel that that is what's expected of them). Well, probably he's not an actual communist (this is Texas after all) but maybe a little inclined towards politically correctness of some sort. Whatever.

At all events, the artist has really covered some ground here! As I said before, I'm staggered! A bald, macho, virile, ballet dancing, body building, rural, rustic, sod-buster, with a political edge. Who'd have thought it possible? But wait, there's more! He's also, apparently, trying to nurse a baby! Wow, this guy can really do it all! He's a bald, macho, virile, ballet dancing, body building, rural, rustic, sod buster, with a political edge, trying to nurse a baby! Now this is a man for our times, a real multi-tasker! And I bet he does it all for $7. 50 per hour. This is Texas after all.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Who The Hell Are These People?

In seeking out what's responsible for the degeneration of American culture over the last 70 years, one finds many culprits to choose from. Pro wrestling, Joe McCarthy, cage fighting, Richard Nixon, Ayn Rand, country music, Milton Friedman, Texas, charter schools, Donald Trump, punk rock, Henry Kissinger, a congress of anti-social misfits, Clint Eastwood, Richard Nixon, and Dick Cheney all come readily to mind, among many other things! But of all the insults of an essentially injurious age, perhaps the worst is our vast array of "TV personalities."

Like many people I only use television to watch movies now, and have for decades. The reason is primarily these supposed human beings who are thrust on us by television networks night and day, week after week, year after year - people who in a sane world could only appear before the public in mug-shots, or in the case notes of baffled psychiatrists. Yet they are, to a very great degree, the people who set the tone of the era. American culture used to be created by the people themselves, but in our media obsessed age, through their incessant domination of communication, TV personalities largely create our culture - if you could still call it a culture.

I'll start with a single example, Joan Rivers! How in God's name did such an obnoxious, caterwauling, pea-brained, tattling, twit find her way onto national television? Did her agent make some station manager an offer he couldn't refuse?

It would be one thing, of course, if she was an exception, but just FORGETABOUTIT!!!

Let's have a look at a few of the wonderful people who've graced our public stage over the last half century. (I'm in my mid-fifties now, so some of these luminaries may be unfamiliar to younger people. If so, they should be deeply grateful!

Let's take another, Willard Scott! Where in hell did they find this simpering, jello-brained, hayseed? Or the film, and theater, critic Gene Shalit! Who lifted the rock? I guess they thought his absurd mutton-chop mustache and his mangrove swamp of hair made him resemble a circus clown, but without the charisma, and that that was a good thing! I can't see any other explanation, because he knew less about film, or any other art form for that matter, than Pavlov's dog! He wasn't a film critic. Like that other odious cream puff, Roger Ebert, he was a cheerleader! Neither of them ever saw a movie they didn't like!

JACKASS 14. . . "A stellar cast give scintillating performances in this never to be forgotten Hollywood classic, blah, blah, blah. . ."

Or take that vain, preening, beetle brained, closet Nazi, Geraldo Rivera. How could he have been hired to clean the bathrooms of television stations, much less to host his own show? And what kind of a society are we likely to have if we let people like that have a national podium from which to confound us with their addled babble? Then there's Regis Philbin, who should have been named, Egregious Filbin, it would have been so much more appropriate!

Even a partial list of such people would be shocking - and no, you can't tell me that someone like Geraldo Rivera is there because of insatiable public demand! I'm not buying it. He's there to facilitate a collective American IQ drop of another five points, because an educated public isn't in the interests of the ultra-rich, who now own this country.

So just for the hell of it let's go ahead and have a look at that partial list: Joan Rivers, Geraldo Rivera, Regis Philbin, Gene Shalit, Willard Scott, Pat Boone, Kaitie Couric, Bob Barker, Ed McMahon, Laurence Welk, Matt Lauer, Maury Povitch, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Al Roker, Andy Williams, Anita Bryant, Kim Kardashian, Howard Stern, Bill O’Reilly, Jay Leno, Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart, Paris Hilton, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Roger Ebert, Jerry Springer, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Sajak. . .

You'd have to hunt far and wide to find people who could cast such a blight on the intelligence and sensibilities of the public! And of course we all know this, we all complain about it. It's a truism. Yet for all the uproarious farce, it's not funny. These people, combined with a relentless attack on public education, have contributed greatly to the decline of American intelligence and moral character in our lifetime. Why do we tolerate it? The excuse, of course, is ratings, and by extension that holy of hollies, profits. But I'm sorry, there simply is no excuse. There is no excuse for allowing such people to turn us into a nation of morons. If we continue to give clowns the podium, they will eventually turn us all into clowns.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

Friday, March 23, 2018

Lucy, The Dog

We got Lucy unexpectedly, when the director of the mental health clinic where my wife worked went crazy, as they all seemed to do eventually. She (the director of the clinic) had to leave the island to go back where she came from, and one of the things she turned to my wife and I for was to take her dog, which was a year-old, and had been left alone in the house most of the time since birth. I was hesitant to take Lucy. We have a small apartment, and I'd never had a small-breed dog before. In my experience they were yappy little things, high strung, not really worthy of the noble title "Dog."

Well, I was wrong. Lucy, who was with us for 12 years, turned out to be truly amazing! I know that it's trite, and perhaps even a touch unseemly, to go bragging on your own little dog. But if anything in life has buttressed my belief in some essential goodness in the cosmic scheme of things, it has been Lucy. Two things about her became immediately obvious. One, that like a lot of dogs she was absolutely loyal, and two, she had tremendous intelligence. Yet there was more to it than that. She was half Lasha Apso. These were the dogs that guarded the interiors of Tibetan monasteries, and according to Tibetan lore the souls of Buddhist monks reside in Lasha Apsos, awaiting their entrance into Nirvana, and coming to fully discover Lucy's temperament I found the thought a little disconcerting. It was simply too appropriate.

There's a spirit in some dogs that, lets face it, puts we human beings to shame. They are courageous, forbearing of our faults, and endlessly loving. Unless sick or wounded they are ever optimistic; their spirits never falter. I've heard people put this down to stupidity, but Lucy knew well the sadder aspects of life. She had been unwittingly abandoned for her first year, and had been desperately alone. No, her good nature wasn't due to stupidity. I'm convinced it was due to gratitude, and moreover, to wisdom.

I once heard the facetious prayer, "God, please help me to be the man that my dog thinks I am." That seems to be something towards which we all should aspire, to live up to our dog's good opinion of us. They never give up on us, no matter how far we fall short of their hopes and expectations. No matter how shabby our behavior, they always believe we can do better!

Lucy was a beautiful dog. Her hair was of gold, copper, and platinum - the platinum mostly on top of her head. Several people ask me if we dyed it that color. This caught me off guard. I'm not the type of person to dye my dog's hair. When we walked her downtown people would stop and say, "Oh my God, what a beautiful dog!" Kids would beg us to let them pet her, and after awhile total strangers called out with great enthusiasm as she passed, "Hey, there's Lucy!" This also caught me off guard. As far as I recall nobody's ever made such a fuss over me, personally. I can't remember anyone calling out as I passed by, Hey, there's that Hightower Guy!" It was an experience to which I'm not accustomed.

But all of that was, at least to me, not very important - though it did serve to make me aware of how very important external beauty is to some people, and I don't even mean that as criticism, really. The darned dog was just that adorable.

In 2005, I came down with a serious and mysterious illness, and lucy took it upon herself to became my nurse. She always knew which of the sores (that are one of the worst aspects of this illness) needed treatment most, and she whined at me until I did it. She chose to spend countless hours cheering me up, even though she really just wanted to go to the park.

She never barked without a good reason, and had an instinct to seek out high places from which she could view everything going on, and report back to us if anything was amiss. She was an omnivorous food critic, with very selective tastes. Thai red curry was one of her favorite dishes, but we couldn't let her eat it because dogs aren't supposed to eat Thai red curry. She didn't know that.

There was a time she was with my wife at the park and a woman was walking two rotweillers that slipped the leash, so lucy (all ten pounds of her) ran right at them and stood them off until the woman got control of them again. She didn't hesitated for an instant, and it was lucky she wasn't bitten in two.

In the days when I occasionally drank hard liquor she once took a sip from my glass of scotch on the rocks. She savored it a moment, looked at me a little patronizingly and never touched it again. That was just one of many ways in which she was smarter than I am.

When she got older, and sick herself, she couldn't jump up on our bed anymore, so I had to lift her up. I called this the advent of Pooh, because one of her many nicknames was Luscious Pooh. (Her most official nickname being Luscious P. Codwagon, I don't know why.) She felt awkward, and touchingly, a little embarrassed about needing help to get up on the bed. So often, before I picked her up, she'd stick her head over the top of the mattress, judging the distance, to decide if she could jump, then her head would go down again. Then up again, then down again. I never saw anything as cute as that little head going up and down, like a little periscope.

Whenever I decided to leave the house, just as I would make the decision, even before I stirred from my chair, Lucy would come running and stand by the door, boyant, expectant. "Can I come too dad?" her whole being seemed to say. She knew, almost before I did. How is that even possible? They say the eyes are the windows of the soul. What do we see in Lucy's eyes? Gentleness, patience, loyalty, love, hope and a very keen awareness. I wish that's what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

Goodbye Lucy.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ode to Belladonna, Chapter Four

I regret interjecting my voice directly for a moment into my history or what have you, and promise to do so as little as possible (for I have become a tiresome old prattler and I know it) but I feel compelled to explain the outlandish fate that so implausibly landed me among the prominent figures of my age, and for a time even in the mainstream of its events. Yet to do so forces me to relate a period of my life I would rather forget, much less set down in writing and like so many things we would rather forget it took place during my youth.
I was born in Cilicia on the coast of Asia Minor to a mother, who died shortly after my birth, and to a petty merchant in a one-mule village, too small to even properly be called a village. In hindsight all I can say for the place is that it was near the sea, which inspired me to dream.
An embittered and loveless widower, and a shameless miser, my father sent me out when I was thirteen to make my living with an acquaintance of his, another merchant in far-off Alexandria. I only saw my father once again in my life after setting out on that miserable hand-to-mouth journey, my loathing of which only equaled my loathing of the merchant to whom he apprenticed me, a merchant I stayed with for three years in Alexandria. This aversion only confirmed I was no more suited to being a merchant than a fish is suited to being a camel driver! Yet there was one great thing that came out of all this: I fell in love with Alexandria. That great city was my awakening into life. I love even the sound of its name to this day... Alexandria!
When I left Cilicia I knew nothing at all of the world so Alexandria was more than an awakening, it was a phan-tasmagoria. It was a labyrinth teeming with new impres-sions, mysterious places, and exotic faces opening new dimensions of my being I didn't even know existed before! So when I wasn’t choking on the dust in the market or simply reeling from the endless monotony of hawking worthless trinkets while pretending to be interested in the wretched yarns of my father’s venerable friend I was at liberty to wander the city. In hindsight it’s a wonder I survived that experience, for Alexandria has more than its share of dangers even to the sophisticated, not to mention for a bumpkin like I was in those days. Yet somehow I did survive and emerged at the age of seventeen with two great loves in life, philosophy and sex!
As I said before recalling this is awkward, even embarrassing, but against all reason and probability it came to have a bearing on history itself! So I'm forced to begin by confessing (unsurprising perhaps considering my age at the time) that from the moment I set foot in Alexandria for the first time I became rivetingly attracted to women. And what a place that city was to first become aware of women's beauty, a city filled with women from every corner of the world! What I felt was not simply intrigue or captivation but a kind of inner cataclysm that reshaped my whole world.
In hindsight I wish I could construe this feeling into something more noble than it was – say for example that one woman in particular attracted me beyond all others, a soul mate to fill my inner void. I did have a terrible inner void in my life then, although I didn't fully realize it myself. But no, interest is such higher considerations would only come much later. At that age I was mesmerized, hypnotized by women’s bodies, by their tantalizing motion of them as they walked down the street, by their alluring fragrance, by the endless variation of their beauty, and especially by their seductive dancing.
Imagine my frustration then when for my first years in Alexandria the mere presence of attractive women reduced me to a sheer babbling, tongue-tied, idiot. Worse still, I was so frightened by the possibility of ridicule that on those rare occasions when I managed to get a woman into bed with me I was rendered impotent by nervousness (a thing that in the normal course of things, at that age, struck me as an absolute impossibility!) Such memories as those are excruciating still.
So instead of being initiated by one of those beauties I so admired I resorted to a number of encounters with lonely, older widows, who were not the women of my dreams but neither did they terrify me with awe and my inward belief that they could not actually be interested in such an utter nonentity as myself. Yet one or two of them were attractive enough and we did have something to offer one another then to assuage our mutual loneliness. Reflecting back on it I still have a soft spot in my heart for one of them particularly, but after they helped me overcome my insecurity everything changed.
From that time onward I went on a spree, recklessly searching every waterfront barrio, every hole-in-the-wall tavern and half-decent bordello with the insatiable desire for the discovery of the women of every race and variety Alexandria had to offer. Everywhere men drank and women entertained there where a handful of we half-free adolescents giddy with our good fortune to be able to haunt such places.
Hearing me describe all this you might think my expression of contrition is somewhat disingenuous and looking back I confess that is partly true – yet truth will always out in the end and in the end I had much to be sorry for. Still, what evenings those were! I was mesmerized by those dancers who came from everywhere; from India, Namibia, Egypt, Greece, Gaul, Armenia. I was mesmerized by the clinking of necklaces, the clapping of castanets, the rattle and the taut beat of tambourines struck firmly against their hips. Forgive my prurience but an old man has at least the right to remember! For brief eternities I would watch a single jewel sway back and forth and up and down in the navel of an Indian girl, watch the fresh glow of her face, watch her skin bared in more and more intimate places – it was ecstasy!
To me then those moments revealed life in all of its un-folding mystery and it may have been this revelation that in some inexplicable way aroused my curiosity for philosophical inquiry, for a deeper insight into its mystery. For those who say the pleasures of seduction are sin are both right and wrong. Where there is consent sexual relations are too complex to make such sweeping judgments and no doubt among the young sexual relations are often spiritually broadening. But those who say such pleasure for its own sake has no place in a philosopher, I have come to see are entirely correct. So to these latter people I can only say that most of this happened before I began to study philosophy yet even so it was a weakness that proved to be my downfall!
Such questions aside for whatever it's worth I must say re-assert that sexual desire did lead me to philosophy.. How exactly it did I don’t know. It may have been through a deepening appreciation for beauty and of the nature of loneliness, of the ultimate limitations of human connection, or perhaps it sparked a need for something greater, for anything greater than the horrible gray reality of commerce. None of these are questions have I resolved with certainty, although I would interject this: that one of the great slanders leveled at Athenian philosophy is rooted in this whole issue of sexual desire. Many of our enemies accused Socrates and Plato themselves of salaciousness and far worse of pedophilia. Neither of those things are true. Plato took pains to make that clear in his "Symposium." Yet many have read that work and through a prejudice inculcated in them by the church interpreted it as saying the exact opposite is true! That is the power of human self-deception! Those who want to believe a certain thing are capable of seeing that thing even where it patently does not exist.
This is not to say that Socrates or Plato were prudes. Soc-rates was married and had children, and Plato made it clear that in his view sex was not "wrong," it was not "sin," but merely meaningless in absence of a deeper communion. It was my acceptance of this view that made me renounce my former promiscuity; not that I came to feel it was a sin but that it was misguided. And let me tell you the ancients knew what the were talking about when it came to sex. They were versed in every aspect of sexuality, in the whole gamut of sexual variation and expression, and though it may be hard to imagine in this era of Christian orthodoxy, for the most part they saw it as simply natural.
I only go on here at length about this because this whole issue of the "pagan" knowledge of sex has the greatest relevance to this story. The Mystery Cults, especially the Eleusinian, Dionysian, and Samothracian Mystery Cults long understood sexuality in all its forms, and this understanding of sex in the Grecian and Roman worlds has been twisted by the new Roman Church into the most diabolical forms, as you will see! We must remember that the Roman empire never fell, it merely transformed into the Christian Roman empire, and all the former sophistication of the ancients remains available to those who understand Latin and Greek, and those are increasingly limited to the officials of Christendom. Commoners understand nothing of that ancient storehouse of knowledge and so are vulnerable to its manipulation for evil.
Getting back to my own past – whether it be shameful or ordinary – I will just say again only that these "fallen" women saved me from a life that might otherwise have been at least trivial and probably intolerable, and for that I am ever grateful.
So I sat day after day in a state of jaw dropping boredom in our stall in the market, hawking the worthless wares of my father's venerable associate (Feta was his name. Yes, like the cheese) and looking desperately forward to nights of blessed escape the question of why we live at all began to intrigue me more than how we live. I saw that without the allure of the dancers; without some relief from pushing worthless trinkets on anonymous multitudes I would someday have had to stick my head into a fire!
It was at this time one evening when wandering through the streets that I found myself passing the white marble columns of a temple. Perhaps I had seen it before (I certainly must have for it was situated in a street I had walked along many times) yet I had never noticed it before. The sunset now fell on it with rich luminosity, imparting to it an impression most beautiful and ethereal.
Soft laughter came from within, startling me with its quality honesty and freedom, as opposed to that of the marketplace with its avarice and irony. The laughter touched a chord long silent in me, and struck also a pang of envy, or somehow of nostalgia for something I had never known – or had once known but had now long forgotten.
It may have been also the architecture of the ancient Greeks, for the coast of Cilicia had been settled by Greeks and so was my heritage as well. I was raised among the ruins of temples, seeing them on the hills from the fishing boats, and they kindled a sense of curiosity and wonder in me then, because I knew very little about the past, and it intrigued me.
On the spur of the moment I decided to enter the temple and I arrived just as Ammonius, the head of the Platonic Academy in Alexandria, was beginning a lecture. To my own surprise I found myself riveted. His voice had a musical tone, fluid and resonant, and it conveyed a degree self-assurance and certainty I had never heard before, especially when it came to such lofty topics and great questions as the ones he was addressing. It was not feigned like that of the hucksters in the market with their intonation of deceit, and this was also new to me. In his calm resonant tones he was addressing the very questions that had perplexed me in the market stalls. The words were alive, nor dead platitudes or adulterated scripture. He spoke extemporaneously, and with a perfectly governed excitement kindling something in me like a fire.
I was not the same person after listening to Ammonius. I realized that I had found my true home.
And so I entered the Platonic Academy in Alexandria as a scribe (writing was the only thing my father ever taught me that I considered of value) and this decision set my future on what seems now to be an inexorable path. From then onward I learned truth itself is the light of divinity, the only thing to guide you through to the end with at least some remaining snatch of dignity, love, and communion. Yet due to the nature of the times, instead of reaching for the wisdom I had sought, I was swept into a maelstrom of events I had no control over. It was a journey that would carry me thousands of miles, through exultation and heartbreak, through conspiracies, shattered loyalties, poverty, wealth and, poverty again; through war, peace, flight, exile and repatriation into a improbable and unhoped-for old-age – all that came from that first step into the temple at Alexandria.
I needn't tell you such a journey is personal, experiential, and that to pen them one may only produce the ghost of an experience. Yet I must somehow convey that from the outset I found that Ammonius lived in a rarefied atmosphere. His presence seemed to make everything around him glow, he was worshipped by his disciples and that through him I approached the first glimmer of light beyond the cave of which I spoke of when I first started this thing.
Perhaps I will even say that I saw a delight and wonder in life that the material world could never match in beauty, tranquility, understanding and joy. Yes, I went through many changes during my connection to The Academy and surprisingly I also came to a new appreciation of Christianity; something I frankly hadn't paid much attention to before. Their vision of the human spirit as a trek through the desert attracted me. It seemed a fitting metaphor for life although I could never reconcile the contradictions in its doctrine. No. this I never did and could have never done in a thousand years! Their disputes over the meaning of Christ's life in its relation to divinity could have wearied, confused, and pettifogged God himself! I could find no rhyme or reason to it. It could never be reconciled with the nature of reason. or the ceaseless search for truth which themselves seemed to me our closest, and perhaps only, connection to divinity. Yet friendships with many prominent Christians kept us free of rancor for many years (as it had mostly done for the Academy over the previous four hundred years. Sadly, the changes in political and military fortunes that occurred in my lifetime finally broke our peaceful coexistence completely,
I'll not go on much longer with these explanations, but my story is a serpentine one in a serpentine age. So if the reader will bear with me a little longer I'll give a little more background about my early life.
At Alexandria I encountered something I had never known before, a group of free men and women who had formed a communion of mutual understanding, of fearless and unfettered thought. I was on fire from the thrill of that discovery. I felt as if I were flying among the stars! Those years were an oasis where I washed away the grime and apathy crippling my spirit since I entered in the merchant's stalls, and even before, living with my father. Perversely, I found myself still wandering the docks in the evenings, among the theaters and brothels where I indulged in the seduction of the dancers. I couldn't tear myself away.
I'm sure Ammonius knew of this and frowned on it but he never reproached me. Sometimes, when I arrived in the morning exhausted he gave me a searching look, but for myself I never made a secret of my disreputable attraction.
As time went on I gradually abandoned the "venerable" old friend of the father I never liked or understood, and was taken into the temple by Ammonius as his secretary. I made much less money than I had in the market (a matter of complete indifference to me), and I must say it turned out I had an extraordinary aptitude for Philosophy. I was driven as if it were by wildfire to learn anything and everything I could get my hands on. My health was good and the dancers who came to know me were often generous with their favors to the passionate, good looking young scholar who slept with them, so those years could hardly have been happier! I had no other vices and so as I said, this weakness for women was largely overlooked... All of which brings me to the turning point of my life in Alexandria; a coincidence of great significance haunted my thoughts and shaped the course of my life, and of the Platonic Schools, and most unbelievably even to me now, the course of history.
I had been working with Ammonius for many years, on many papers, mostly commentaries on the Platonic Dialogues themselves, when to my surprise Ammonius told me he was going to make me his successor. And then a strange fate intervened. By that time I'd mostly overcome my infatuation with the dancing girls and was setting myself the goal of complete commitment to philosophy when a new dancer appeared whose fame was so great she was the talk of the city. One a cool evening (a Saturday as I remember), I was strolling the wharf when I heard a roar from the dance hall across the street. Stepping inside, when my eyes adjusted to the dimmer light, I was instantly riveted by the woman onstage. She was of medium height and superbly athletic. Her graceful arms and legs conveyed the impression that she was tall while her wide-set, almond, eyes, were elongated with black eye-liner for a dramatic, Levantine effect. She had the most beautiful hair I have ever seen, a kind of thick red-brown profusion, a mane coming down the whole back to her beautiful buttocks. It was marvelous as it cascaded when she danced. It framed her breasts and their beautiful wide, dark, nipples. She was simply superb!
Yet... how can I say this? Something about her went beyond outward beauty, something startling and uncanny in her eyes, some aspect of a wild animal. As they moved obliquely with an expression of deep concentration on every individual in the room. She was a stunning wild animal, dancing for each and every one of us alone.
She could move her limbs independently of one another in the most unexpected ways. I had never seen the like of it. It seemed impossible, outlandish. Pushing my way through to the stage I became lost to time. In the years I had frequented the dance halls I'd never been so carried away. Such dancing, such seduction was a marvel!
After standing there transfixed for – I don’t know how long – something extraordinary happened. She made her way over specifically to me, and she danced directly in front of me for so long that the other patrons began to be angry, and finally dragged me away from the stage. Before I knew what was happening I was booted out in the street. . .
That was my "introduction" to Theodora and in hindsight it seems an appropriate one. For reasons I shall never understand, out of all the men in Alexandria she was attracted to me. I returned to the dancehall regularly until one night as she was leaving I met her in the street and she grabbed my arm and dragged me home with her. It was that simple and unceremonious and it never would have occurred to her that I would refuse, and she was right, I didn't.
As I said she was already famous then, some would say infamous, but I would like to meet the young man who could resist Theodora at the age of 19. We had sex against the wall almost as soon as she closed her door. Without thought, without consideration of any kind I found myself in a desperate struggle to get my clothes off. Absolutely nothing of the eventual results of this encounter occurred to me at the time, and I must say it behooves young people to think twice about who sexual attraction may lure into their beds and their lives. But there seemed no reason to have any qualms at the time and from then on for months we spent most evenings together in her luxurious apartment by the sea.
Once, when I asked her why she had chosen me over so many others she laughed and said very seriously that it was because I was an aficionado!
“Every one of those men wants me,” she said, “but not one of them really appreciates what I do, not really. I saw at once that you didn't just want to fuck me, but recognized me as a true artist. Besides... I never saw anyone as innocent as you Simplicious. The earnestness in your eyes was very touching, and you are very handsome. But it was really your innocence of the world, your faith, your idealism. Those things are a gift of God and not many manage to hold onto them as long as you have. I wish I could have any of those things back again, but I can't.”
I didn’t know what to say to this. It astounded me that this incomparable beauty would want me for any reason at all... but to make a long story short I became the preferred lover (No, I had no illusions about being her only lover) but still I was the preferred lover of Theodora ...the most famous beauty in the Mediterranean. She had come from Constantinople to Alexandria by way of a jilted husband; a provincial governor in some stagnant backwater in Libya whom she had married to escape the life on stage in Constantinople. It turned out that he tortured and tormented her, and she shortly found him more odious than all other men together. She became detached from life.
You might laugh to think a philosopher can accuse anyone of being disconnected from the world! But it was not like that, it was something different, a profound indifference to life. Gradually I sensed some kind of calculating ruthlessness in her not entirely concealed by her charm and her razor-sharp intelligence. But I didn't want to see that. I was too infatuated, too flattered that she wanted me to be her lover.
“So Simplicious, you are a philosopher?” she said to me one afternoon with just a hint of mockery. We were lying on silk pillows on her bed overlooking a portico and the dazzling. sun emblazoned sea below. And at that moment I wanted to laugh at myself as well. A philosopher in a luxurious bed with a famous courtesan? That would have raised a few eyebrows.
“How lucky you are!” she said.
She smoked opium then and as she smoked she spoke dreamily in a not too common state of introspection. She went on to tell me she trusted me implicitly, because like most philosophers I was the kind of fool one could trust. She said this and laughed, "the kind one can speak freely with." And indeed it took considerable openness to reveal how absurd she thought I was. Did it bother me then? I don't think so.
I think she was in love with me then, and that maybe it was the only time she was in love. At least that's what she said to me many years later. She thought of me as simply guileless, and could let her guard down with me. Anyway, I suppose there was an element of truth in what she thought about me then.
“If only I could spend my days in contemplation, exploring the higher mysteries of the soul!" She said. "You might not believe it Simplicious but I would have been suited to that kind of life. More suited than I am to this one, but I've had to live in the real world.” Theodora said the phrase, the real world with undisguised disgust.
“In Constantinople one quickly becomes acquainted with the real world, and you see Simplicious the real world is a finely filigreed dagger, exquisitely wrought and stained with blood. That's where you philosophers go wrong with your notions of the higher aspirations of man and an earthly connection to divinity. You see, I've learned a little of what you Platonists believe. I've learned a little of Everything." She took a long draw of opium and went on languidly, expelling the smoke slowly through her nostrils. “Our souls may find God after death, I don't know, but this world is nothing but a cheat and an exquisite abattoir.”
I took a gardenia from an urn on her dresser and set it between her flawless breasts. She was angry with me for a moment and dashed it away. ”Don’t lie to me, Simplicious!” she said.
“I didn’t know that you were a Christian,” I said, changing the subject.
“I am a most devout believer and have been consulting the Bishop for instruction.” There was just the slightest hint of satire in her voice. One was scarcely aware of it
“The Bishop of Alexandria?” I said, a bit surprised.
“Yes, the Bishop.”
“But he's a Monophysite. You had better be careful, or they'll declared a heretic in Constantinople.”
“I can find my way around that.”
“You can find your way around it?” I said, confounded. How on earth can you possibly do that, I thought to myself.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

Saturday, March 3, 2018


Darkness is closing in on the periphery of things;
The life-giving sun itself descends - not westward,
But outward, into the distance, towards oblivion.

We are on the brink of some great departure;
It can be felt in the restlessness of our feet,
In the unseasonable declination of the light.

Behold! Over the water a blood moon is rising;
From afar may be heard the long clarion blast,
And the wind is consumed in charcoal and ash.

Somewhere awakens an all-consuming Nemesis,
It's breath stale with the reek of blood,
Its eyes alight with the fever of the hunt.

You, who read the bloody portent of the runes,
Who hear the banshee keening in the night,
You, who know surging rivers, and the tidal flood,

Onward, through the impenetrable darkness!
Through the shriek and howl of the Moirai!
You, torch bearers, the path lies before you!

You, who with eyes open see the shadow,
Who have the courage to face the darkness,
You who bear the lamp alone, may find Elysium

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower
* Image source unknown

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Seventy Years War

There's been much talk in America over the years about war. Aside from the unjustified, and unforgivable, wars the American right has instigated against so many essentially innocent foreign nations since World War II, we've also had a war on drugs, a war on crime, etc. Even in the use of such terminology we see the inherently aggressive thrust of American policy in our era. It seems we're willing to declare war on anything, real or imaginary, living or dead! But one war that's been going on throughout my lifetime, and even long before, that's never been declared or acknowledged, is the war on education - and on the educated.

This war was spawned, in it's most modern incarnation, by The House Un-American Activities Committee (the creator of which was shortly thereafter imprisoned for corruption) leaving the field open for those men who went so far to destroy America as a nation respected and respectable - Joseph McCarthy, and Richard Nixon. The purging of liberally educated people from government, and from so many prominent areas of public life during the Mccarthy era, in the guise of expelling communists, left a dearth of qualified people in important positions. And this in turn led to the incalculable waste of excess military spending on the cold war, the grievously mistaken foray into Vietnam, and a hundred other horrible decisions made by the the stupid, and the corrupt, who were left in place once so many of the idealistic and intelligent were purged from prominent positions in American life.

It's a little, if ever, acknowledged fact, that though the McCarthy purges were not as murderous as Mao's cultural revolution, the purging of the most educated from positions of leadership and influence produced similar results as it did in Mao's China. America was set back generations; judging from the perspective of Donald Trump's America, one feels it not an exaggeration to say centuries! America's long long slide over the last seventy years from a great nation, to a mediocre nation, and finally to the butt of jokes and international derision, has been a sickening spectacle, and that fall lies squarely at the door of the McCarthy followers, and those who elected so many of his fellow travelers.

One feature of the modern war on education, and on the educated, is that so many of the original perpetrators of that war (such as Henry Ford, and Prescott Bush: George W. Bush's Grandfather) had active ties to Hitler's Nazi Party. This is readily verifiable fact - a simple google search will find innumerable valid sources of documentation - but though amply documented, it somehow remains an open secret. Even today the vast majority of Americans either don't know, or don't want to know, that many of our most prominent industrialists supported Nazi Germany. *1

The driving motive for the ultra-right's war on education should be obvious, but if the point needs elucidation, it is that education, ideally at least, leads to critical thinking, and thus to an understanding of the true nature of the state, and whether the state is run with the interests of the individual at heart. Since the ultra-right is inherently dictatorial in goals and outlook, it is not interested in the welfare of the individual, but only of the few, and therefore inherently opposed a quality education for the majority of citizens.

The latest among these seemingly limitless efforts to undermine people's ability to reason is the much trumpeted (by Donald Trump) notion of "fake news." Yes, fake news exists, in the guise of Fox News, and many other spurious sources. But these false media sources were mostly created by the wealthy vested interests who seek to undermine democracy by undermining people's ability to reason. Now, in order to muddy the waters further, and hopefully render their already deluded followers even more so, they use the existence of the false media they created to discredit what remains of genuine news media, by referring to it as "fake news!" Though the end is to destroy critical thought, the means are often very clever indeed!

Those who believe that public education is failing because it is in itself deficient, need only look back at America in the 1950s, when our public education was the best system of education in the world. It can't be said that human beings themselves have changed so essentially in the intervening years that what was possible in the 1950's is no longer possible today. No... It is precisely because our system of education was so good that the amalgamated forces of plutocracy and of aspiring oligarchy set about undermining it.

The end result is that our democracy has succumbed to oligarchy, and we are scarcely a skeleton of what we were 70 years ago. The great corporate leaders who instigated all this believed (and apparently still believe) that they were acting in their own interests. It is as if they believed they were living in some kind of vacuum, completely insulated from the destruction they've wrought on society, like some kind of mad doctor who believes he can destroy the body to improve the mind, forgetting that the mind and the body are mere aspects of the same organism. That is what Socrates meant when he said that we can't blindly follow the interests of the strong, because they may not be intelligent enough, wise enough, or good enough, even to know what's in their own best interests, much less in the interests of anyone else!

In all of this it's the triumph of private interest over public representation that's the essential mechanism, and so a referendum to end private financing of elections must be the single, overriding, goal of all reformers until it's achieved. For until that is achieved nothing can be achieved of lasting value or significance. Beyond this, we need to again set the goal of achieving the world's highest quality public education and to acquire a strong liberal arts education for ourselves. It's not just students and technocrats who need an education, and education is not just a pre-requisite for a job. It's a matter of survival. It is the only way to prevent the stupid from instituting policies, the far-reaching ramifications of which they themselves are not smart enough to understand, a situation that will, ultimately, result in our destruction.

Democracy has proven itself to be an enduring, even a great system of government, but it can only save us if we are willing to recommit to it. We must disregard the ubiquitous slogan, the false assertion, that government is bad and that all things provided by government (such as education, or healthcare) are bad, when the facts bear out just the opposite. Social security, medicare and medicaid are excellent systems, far better than the for-profit monstrosities some swindler created to get rich insinuating themselves between you and the services you need, while adding nothing of real and tangible value themselves.

Democratic government is not bad. The corruption of democratic government is bad. It is the corruption of our democracy, if left unabated, that will destroy us. So let us look again to the figures of that past who came forward when democracy was threatened with extinction - those figures like Franklin Roosevelt, whom we have to thank for that excellent government program, social security, and like Winston Churchill, who for a brief period stood almost literally alone against the Nazi terror. Let us finally rise in righteous anger against the dark forces ensnaring us.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower

1. I intend shortly to write an essay on this subject, including the most monumentally covered-up story of the 20th century, the attempted military coup against Franklin Roosevelt's administration by American industrialists, one foiled by an unsung and now almost forgotten American hero, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history, Major Gen. Smedly Butler, U.S. Marine Corps.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Understanding the Game

A central thing we do as human beings, in our interaction with one another, is learn to block out psychic pain; and the degree to which we're able to, or even want to do so, constitutes a great distinction among us. Some people block out such pain quite well, while others feel more acutely emotions like empathy, and love, that so often go in tandem with pain. This distinction affects a great deal in our lives, and I'd like to touch upon a few of those things in this essay, but because writing is of particular interest to me, let me start with its effect on our ability to write creatively.

I'll take poetry here to represent creative writing, and creativity in general, because it's the most intensely creative form of writing. Clearly, in order to write poetry, one must apprehend and experience life as it is, free from the blinders most of us develop to insulate us from the more painful aspects of life. I'll talk more about these blinders shortly, but my first point is that all artists need to apprehend life, notwithstanding its coldness and indifference to the individual, to derive any meaningful insight to communicate.

(Once, in a failed attempt to learn to draw, I studied a book entitled Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. In essence, what it imparted was that when we begin to draw, most of us don't draw what we really see. Instead, we draw a representation of what we see - a representation created by our mind - a sort of symbol for what we see. When children first draw, for example, a tree, they don't draw what they really see before them, but a symbol of what they see. Not a tree, but the symbol of a tree. And most of us, when we attempt to draw, unless trained otherwise, continue to do this to a greater or lesser degree throughout our lives. A similar phenomenon takes place with writing; yet it's even more involved, and thus harder to overcome, because we are dealing with symbols that have deeper psychic roots than the symbols we create merely to understand the physical world.)

We create these symbols (or more accurately in this case, thought patterns) to hide ourselves from the painful aspects of reality. If, for example, a child realizes that his or her mother doesn't really love them, they create fictions to account for that behavior on her part. "She's just so busy. . ." or, "she can't express her true feelings," etc. Over time, these fictions and justifications become established facts in the child's mind, and often, encouraged by the withholder, established facts in the minds of others affected by the situation as well.

Thus, when a person writes about what they know best, or think they know best, their own life experience, they don't write the unvarnished truth, but, unwittingly, the sanitized version of the truth that exists in their mind - a symbol of reality like that of the neophyte artist. In order to shield ourselves we create comfortable illusions, but these illusions lack the fire of unadulterated vision. To write, especially to write poetry, is to suffer. A prime example of this truism would be the French poet, Baudelaire, whose sensitivity to the world was so acute it bordered on masochism. But with poetry (as with so much in this world of duality and paradox), we find a great contradiction regarding this question of sensitivity: one that partly accounts for there being so few great poets in any language.

John Keats (who was himself the most sensitive of human beings) said of his evolution as a poet, essentially, that the poet must gain detachment to be great; and, contrary to the above assertion that it's necessary for poets to retain their sensitivity, what Keats said was also true, and seems true of the creative process as a whole. One must gain detachment to present their vision in a manner that others (and not just they themselves) can appreciate, and yet one must retain their openness to be a poet - retain their capacity for passion, and compassion. They must not kill those things in themselves in exchange for the numbness that shields them from pain, but is also akin to death.

For that is the great price we pay for blocking out pain. With it we block out sensation, and sensation, in its broadest sense, is not just the meat of the writer, it is the essence of life. Our most meaningful communion with other living things is inextricably woven with sensation, and such communion is, finally, the only thing that really matters. No degree of luxury can make for a pleasant solitary confinement. On our deathbeds few of us will find ourselves wishing that we'd had a better car. It's relationships alone, with people and other beings, that have ultimate meaning. So just as the artist cannot allow themselves to be too sheltered, so people in general should seek to avoid the devil's bargain in order to remain, as fully as possible, alive. For, again, to completely block out the feelings that leave us most vulnerable to pain, is to effectively kill genuine communion, and thus in the process to gradually kill one's own spirit.

So, contrarily, the poet must be like a surgeon and stand aloof from their individual view of the world in order to reach the highest plane of communication, and through these two antipodes, the intensely personal and the universal, potentially reach those moments of transcendence that all artists should aspire to. And if the difficulties of embodying these contrary aspects of human nature at the same time, that of intense sensitivity and universal objectivity, seem insurmountable, that's because they virtually are, and that's why this level of artistry's so rare.

Shakespeare embodied these contrary aspects of the poet perhaps more clearly than anyone. Though he perceived the human condition all too clearly, in all its attendant injustice and tragedy, he was yet able to present that vision with unparalleled objectivity, as if he himself didn't exist. We see Shakespeare the man almost nowhere in his work - part of the reason, I think, that people seem eternally puzzled about who wrote his works. We know who wrote them. William Shakespeare wrote them. Yet having read them we still know nothing about Shakespeare the man, and so we remain curious.

This question of our respective abilities to block out pain has implications, however, much more fundamental, and urgent, than those of its affect upon the creative process. In our world today there are many advantages for those unable, or unwilling, to feel - and particularly for those who don't allow themselves to feel empathy. They can move through life relatively free of the pain of betrayal, rejection, and the other thousand shocks that flesh is heir to. Further, those who block their feelings have the potential to exert great power over those who retain more of their spiritual totality, through the exercise of various means of cruelty and manipulation. The reason for this is, at least partly, that others simply don't want to perceive the yawning depth of lovelessness in those who exhibit this characteristic in its acute forms.

This phenomenon of emotional deadening is complex, and something virtually all of us do to one degree or another. In some people it may arise from intense feelings of insecurity, from being too sensitive to absorb the assault on the self-esteem that everyone living encounters, in one form or another. In some it is innate. Those with personality disorders, such as narcissistic or anti-social personality disorder (conditions unfortunately more prevalent than most of us know)) lack something in their genetic makeup enabling them to bond with others. In my experience, to many such people, the realization follows that such a state of being has great advantages.

Those who deaden their emotions often find it brings them power, and power is addictive. There is something deeper here than readily meets the eye, something of universal importance. In this process some people become addicted to the thrill of power and substitute it for the finer aspects of themselves that have been deadened, or don't exist. This dichotomy, in many cases this choice, of whether to be or not to be, also seems connected to the conflict of the higher and lower forces that interact in the world, defining our reality.

The most subtle, and yet perhaps greatest, power of this deadened emotional receptiveness, may be achieved through simply withholding love and approval. Parents, for example, can exert a cleverly concealed tyranny over their children, simply by universally withholding love and approval, until their victims bow to their will. Such people may also resort to more egregious forms of subterfuge and intimidation, for the hollow, egotistical, thrill they find in getting their own way. Against people whose spectrum of emotional responses are intact, such withholding can prove to be an especially ruthless weapon. It has driven many people to suicide, and rarely does anyone confront the perpetrator. It can be a kind of hidden murder.

Such people seek to assert their will ruthlessly, though it may be arbitrary, irrational, or even perverted. Destroying their own spirits, they come to thrive on hollow substitutes, such as the thrill of self-righteousness, cruelty, and manipulation. It is this deadening of the higher sensibilities. such as love, associated with spiritual transcendence, that, left unchanged, will present humanity with its inevitable downfall. It is a mindset akin to that of a pack of hyenas fighting over a carcass, and a mindset that has become celebrated in our culture. Many people now, unabashedly even, see this mindset as the defining credo of America. This is much of the explanation for America's startlingly rapid decline since 1945.

Many who read this may be saying to themselves - he exaggerates! But a mere glance at the state of human society today should be enough to demonstrate that I do not. At this juncture anyone can see something is deeply wrong with society, and that it's hidden. Clearly it is there! We know it is! But what is it, where is it?

Here is where it is.

These qualities of sensitivity, or deadness to sensation, exist on a spectrum. We rarely find a single person who embodies one or the other entirely. We all must live in a world governed, at least partially, by Darwinian survival of the fittest, and we must all somehow adapt to the nature of that cold reality. Yet it is also true that the lack of sensitivity can and does become a recognized pathology, and that the key significance of these pathologies has just lately been fully recognized.

At any rate, such coercion through negation often goes completely unnoticed, and so it is a chief weapon of those who want to impose their will on others. It isn't socially acceptable (again, for example) for parents to openly demand that their daughter stay home and take care of them until they die. So instead they may withhold love and approval, and shame her for having a normal sexual interest. Thus a person who has emotionally detached acquires the power to dominate others, exerting a malevolent influence over those who have retained their capacity for love and the higher aspects of being.

This is true in society as well as in family. How can the abused point to nothing, to negation, as the source of their abuse? When in fact, negation itself is often the most significant aspect of how we are abused? How can we say that it's what our parents don't ever say that wounds us most? How can we say it's how our employers never respond, no matter how hard we work, that wounds us most? How can we say it's how we're never rewarded for our actions, no matter how loyal or altruistic they are, that wounds us most? It may very well be (and often is in an era in which evasion of responsibility has become elevated to a Dark Art), that no matter how abused we are, we can't ever point a finger at our abusers because the method used to abuse us is hidden.

In this, it seems to me, lies the consummate evil of the corporate structure, which seeks to codify the deadening of all feeling, of all impulses of love, and compassion, toward all people, and all living things, into an unassailable and all-powerful institution. This is, from my perspective, evil incarnate, and it is destroying the world. Yet the point is, and we all need to understand this: it is not the corporation itself that is evil. it is that aspect of ourselves described above, that has created the corporation in its own image, that is evil. It is the capacity in us to deaden all human feeling in order to achieve power that is evil.

From the corporate boardroom, to the halls of Congress, to the dysfunctional family, to the bully in the schoolyard, the world is filled with those who've traded their spiritual wholeness for a deadness in life that brings earthly power, and people need to recognize this clearly if they choose to oppose evil in our families and institutions.

It's very understandable that people want to shield themselves from pain, but it's well to see that in this seemingly understandable and forgivable tendency lies the root of evil itself. The world can bring us misfortunes, but only human beings can bring us evil. In my experience, those who block their feelings utterly, often come to see themselves as superior to those who cannot, or will not, do so. And this feeling of superiority in turn justifies ever higher degrees of selfishness and callousness over time. They see others who don't want to deaden themselves to the higher sensations and experiences in life, as weak, or stupid, and as being "an easy mark."

Thus the higher human feelings, such as love, compassion, and artistic creativity, often become a liability in the Darwinian jungle such people reduce us to, to suit their own lower natures, and the very higher aspects of ourselves that might enable us to advance as a species become liabilities, and chains, that tie us to evil masters. Such de-humanized people have an advantage because it's always easier to tear down and destroy than to build and create. So the first priority of civilized society is to see that those who have retained their higher human attributes remain those who direct the course of that society and shape the future. In the world today humanity is failing this test. Thus the world is made topsy turvy, and all too commonly, in too many walks of life, the worst of us come to dominate the best.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower
*Image from University of Worcester

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Personal Note On Publishing Inner Demons

Eighteen years after deciding to pursue serious writing - that is, writing not just intended to entertain, but also to express some ideas of deeper importance - I find myself in a quandary, the nature of which is somewhat surprising to me. When I first set out to write, I wasn't at all sure I was capable of doing it. It was an act of faith. So, surprisingly to me, it isn't failure at that rather audacious ambition that poses me with the quandary, as I thought it might.

With the publication of my third book, Inner Demons and other essays, I can fairly say that I haven't failed myself as a writer. Inner Demons, for all its faults, lives up to my expectations, at least in content if not in polish. If successful, I think I can write more on the subjects involved, and more that I think is worthwhile. Where I've failed however - miserably - has been in finding an audience for those ideas.

I frankly don't understand the age we live in now. It's common knowledge the world's in desperate need of regeneration. Yet when people attempt to present new ideas it seems there's often very little interest in them. And yet...

One thing I know. If humanity is to emerge from the next century it will do so with practically every moral and intellectual value we currently hold upon the conduct of modern life discredited. The world is not veering toward the precipice of its own inertia, it's doing so because of us, and the essential failure of our fundamental outlook on life, and its meaning.

Inner Demons attempts to open a serious debate on the validity of those views, and to point toward possible new directions. Yet I know that to spend a great deal of life developing some of these ideas, and then to have them largely ignored, would be enough to make almost anyone just succumb to the strange current of torpor that seems to grip America today. Have we run out of ideas, or just the courage to confront our own inner demons?

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2008 Brent Hightower

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Riding on the Storm

Having completed my volume of collected essays, 2014 to 2017, I determined I needed to re-access my original purpose in writing this blog. I first conceived it as a place where I, along with others, could post writing in progress, and contributors could offer each other constructive criticism in a friendly atmosphere. Yet it didn't evolve along those lines. Rather, it evolved into a place where I alone have posted work in progress (along with some finished work), and though I've received a lot of interest in the blog, I've received relatively little criticism, and no submissions from other writers. So on the one hand it's been successful in attracting a readership, while on the other it hasn't worked out as I first intended.

As a result I've decided to change the format to one more logical, and I hope more enjoyable for the reader. I've decided to publish my books here one chapter (or essay, or poem, respectively) at a time, and delete the old when I post the new. I'll post the new work every week, on Thursday evening whenever possible. Otherwise, I 'll post as close to that time as I can.

I'm changing the format primarily so people can read my completed works without having to buy them. I believe the novels are worthy of more exposure than they've received, and in serializing the new work of essays, when it comes out, I hope to interest people in that book as well. I believe a writer must focus on writing in order to produce work of real value, and in making that attempt I've been unable to devote significant time to promotion. Thus, the books have had only limited exposure. All I hope is that readers will enjoy the work enough to buy a copy for themselves, and/or recommend it to others.

Those who do find these works of interest can buy them from Amazon, as well as from many other online booksellers in paperback, or on Amazon Kindle, at the very reasonable price of $3.00

Thank you all for your continuing interest,