Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Butterfly Dogbane

Certain butterflies thrive on Apocynum, aka dogbane or indian hemp (shown left), but it is poisonous to mammals, may cause humans mental distress, and sequesters environmental lead. Even so, Native Americans used its fibers to make strong cordage for bow strings, fishing lines, and sewing thread. Developers and farmers have so impacted habitats that dogbane and milkweed are disappearing, and with them butterflies, which might explain why a yard full of attractors hasn’t drawn any of these important pollinators all Summer. Bicyclists dread such unsettling facts sooner than those who spend all their time in mobile or stationary shells. Why look through a glass window when you can be there?

Dogbane resembles truth itself. Might mean death or loss to some, or totally the opposite, untold opportunities for gain. Each coin has 2 sides; rungs on a ladder climb to heightened clarity; yang and yin pervade all. To survive you must master fear, proceed with caution for the dark, and rise with reverence for the light. A level approach is a basic truth. “The great art of riding,” as Alice’s savior, the futilely novel White Knight, was saying, “is -- to keep your balance properly.” Whenever acts of ascertaining facts and discovering truths reveal paradoxes, some who think they’ve got a good grip on reality react badly, but only because you’ve temporarily displaced their fulcrum.

Naval gazing again, Bike&Chain was written to expose uncertainties in an age defined by lies, prevarication, and what the definition of “is” is... really! It was produced to examine freedom, responsibility and truth, as well as exercise memory without exocranial aids: No dictionaries, documentaries, encyclopedias, internet, libraries, newspapers, periodicals, or television. Brings up what’s significant rather than delineates sides, chooses waves to surf, so that readers can further explore and participate, just as this blog has expanded upon topic for 6 years, and unfolds at a glacial pace. Introduced its own genre with a dozen new rules to which no other literature complies, which gives it a unique voice reminiscent of the White Knight’s, “It’s my own invention.” Exploits every convention, fuses all forms from essay to memoir, narrative, poetry and prose, yet uses very little symbolic language, since it's supposed to be honest, as if any such thing exists. Truth be told, analogies and metaphors lead people to believe ludicrous ideas yet better understand facts, too. Hard to exist without.

Nonfiction runs risks, particularly popularity. But, since the 1990's, film as documentary has evolved into a bankable entertainment. B&C is unabashedly filmic. Minds operate like movies with flashbacks and foreshadowing. At full novella length, 67 pages, Chapter 15, the book’s longest, isn’t just about beholding lowdown but hearing language sonorities. Vast populations listen to internet podcasts, late night radio, or television talk just to feel connected. Content hardly matters. Indistinct prattle of a stadium crowd seems a comforting backdrop. Some call organized noise music. Middle alphabetical consonants—l, m and n—are evocative of munching mushroomy snacks, nursing from a nipple, slurping umami soup, and smacking lips. Passionate vowel sounds—ah, eee, eye, oh, ooo, uuu—coo wonderful wordless vocalise. Although angry over choices nevertheless accepted, B&C could be more about how life sounds than lies said. Narrative is unreal unless you capture exactly what’s happening, including gooey, hungry and messy cravings with too much to clean up after. Fiction engages you sensually and expects you to suspend reality. Nonfiction seldom achieves that initial love factor, just bemusement, nods of recognition, thoughtful concern, or urges to act.

Said the Cheshire Cat, “A dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad." Mad cats and dogs find no balance. They foment religions, such as the Church of the Subgenius, who worship J. R. Bob Dobbs, archetypal slacker. "'You!' said the Caterpillar contemptuously. 'Who are YOU?'" When ethics are irrelevant, whatever you get away with would be called doctrine. Anarchy appeals until basic needs aren't met. "Cried Alice, losing all her patience this time, 'You ought to have a wooden horse on wheels, that you ought!' 'Does that kind go smoothly?' the Knight asked in a tone of great interest."

Why handcuff yourself? Why ride a bicycle? Why allow yourself to be so vulnerable? It’s a challenge, as is living, which can grow too comfortable. Thus you occasionally see a strange wanderer upon the lonely moor. Everything you do or say can’t earn congratulations and hugs. The weak call inconvenience and tangible agony banes of existence. Incompetence and mediocrity plague those you mollycoddle. How else can you gain independence and improve without insults, isolation and pain? “Beyond offended,” you moan? Admit you’re soft; only then will you begin to grow. If you want to sound original and stay healthy, you must restrain yourself, not greedily devour cake or take whatever you see, though the Grateful Dead sarcastically quipped, “Too much of everything is just enough.” Otherwise, don’t groan when things go wrong. Constraints you choose to endure make all the difference. Artistic geniuses produce from sparse palettes. Everything may be interconnected, but unless you set boundaries, they get muddled. Some call it discipline, which gets a bad rap for being someone else's rules. Self imposed limitations inform, inspire, and make for innovative manuscripts. Better advice might be to do whatever you can or desire, exercise your free will, but exercise, not give up or submit to tyranny. “Surely the questions decide us... not the tail that wags the dog.”—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (pub. 1871, dawn for bicycling)

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