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April 5, 2000

Bird Bites Dog

A tangential celebrity angle put this story in the gossip column of the NY Post. I don't have anything against dogs per se, and I'd like to say that most dog owners are conscientious, but the fact is that leash laws are widely ignored. Dogs are allowed to run free before 9:00 AM in most of the Park, but never in the delicate areas of the North Woods, or the Ramble, where this incident occurred. The eastern shore of the Lake is a popular (illegal) spot for running dogs. It's been reduced to a barren slope of exposed roots, thanks largely to this canine traffic. As the follow-up item (half way down the page) points out, the Mute Swans' nest is well marked. These birds have been here for years. Like the hawks on Fifth Avenue, the success or failure of their yearly nesting is a little drama which brings many city dwellers closer to nature. Last year two cygnets grew from ugly ducklings to the size of the adults, but were still a grayish brown color when they left the Lake in mid-winter. Like all children, they needed their own territory.

Territory must be protected, and this swan does have a belligerent reputation. Graceful form, and the purity of white plumage, belie the strength and aggressiveness of these large birds. And, after all, this one is a New Yorker.


April 3, 2000

Two April Intros

April cruel? The unrelenting life force that surfaces in Spring may have seemed an irony amid the wasteland of the Great War's wake. Most of a century later, that impression is no longer novel, and our need is to learn to side once more with Chaucer. Perhaps we'll need binoculars to find the way.

April can certainly be unpredictable. Last weekend saw a wild swing in the weather. Saturday was 70 degrees, and as fine a day in early Spring as one could want, but evening brought escalating winds, which presaged an unusual cold front from the south. By Sunday noon, an inch or more of snow had descended on the Park. The strange tableau of green and white did not last long. An hour before dusk, the sharp edge of the front and the lowering sun passed in opposite directions. The sky was clear, and Spring returned, unperturbed, it seemed. As the light faded, few traces of the snow remained.

Less cruelty than a passing jest, I think. The season won't be stopped. The first flush of Spring has been, and all the rest must now unfold. It happens every year. That, I think is what Eliot was getting at: the necessary consistency of nature's pattern, in despite of our human circumstances. His formalism refigured the Romantic linkage between outer world and inner mental state.

Wordsworth, in English poetry at least, best represents that Romanticism. Chaucer is another story. An innovator with a young language, he nevertheless engaged a long tradition when he took April as a conventionalized entry point for his Tales. Prior to Christianity, Spring was the New Year season (thereafter, Easter assumed the position of rebirth). Accommodation with paganism allowed the Spring tradition to persist, and its phenomena were close at hand, in a world less urban, less industrialized, than ours.

Today we view Spring with mixed feelings. People often express disappointment; the season is abrupt; short or indistinct. From too cold to too hot, with no between. So goes the plaint. I've voiced it myself, at times; even now, I'm finding this year perhaps less spectacular than last. Storms have shorn the first flowers, erratic weather distorts the patterns, but everything still happens. Barring the truly abnormal, (an extended cold snap, some genuine blight), the same trees will put forth their flowers and their leaves, the usual birds return. The grass again grows green.

From year to year the Spring will show some variation, but often the impression, I suspect, reflects our inner world more than the outer. A windfall of love or luck buoys us through one greening season, while another year is dimmed by some vicissitude. Impassively, the body of the Earth rehearses yet again its moves, whether we view them through joy or in a gloom.

My goal then, is not to project my psychology upon the season, but to imprint the Spring upon my Self. Let verdant patterns program mine! Through incremental will, induced by my desire, I have found that I can make changes in my life. Not the willful changes of the ego-driven Self, but little changes, in eating and in sleeping times, in ingrained habits that deflect me from my purpose. That is to say, the purpose of the Spring. Which is, of course, to burst forth, in an orgy of existential ecstasy.

Such ecstasy drives every purpose of our World. Let me be frank; it is the product every economy aspires to produce. Still the Source remains unique. It's available virtually for free. The only price is life. All that grows and dies, in but a year, then grows and dies again. And looking on, we all the while comprise the same such rhythm on another scale.

Others may find their ecstasy elsewhere, but I say none is better. At least I'm sure that I'm a better man for taking cues from seasons, and happier, too. All ecstasy is rooted in the same thing, and that is God. Little portions are served up to motivate the World. When the culturally sanctioned modes of ecstasy fail, alienation results. We will seek in strange places. There is little choice; the World about me seems more and more a strange place all the time. Tradition is our guide in unfamiliar places. Not to be followed like a rule, but as a star that fixes our position, indicating direction, so that, even though we choose to turn, we know which way we came. There's ample opportunity for ecstasy upon this path, if you look closely enough.

Chaucer's Spring and Spring in the year 2000 are much the same, minus the six hundred years of cultural accrual. That fact may alleviate, or aggravate, the alienation which Eliot diagnosed. The difference lies in whether we prove an imposition, or can comply with the contours of Spring's landscape, finding therein the place where its Tradition is honored. Even in that sanctuary, the World must prove both cruel and sweet, but I have learned enough to choose a day like that strange Sunday, which saved the sweetest for the last.

[link] [2 refs]

It should be noted that the aforementioned owl sighting represents a reward for my advocating of the Goddess a bit further down the page. The sapient avian is sacred to Pallas Athena, and Sophia Herself; the Queen of Wisdom. I don't want to belabor the point, so I'll just assume this is understood. She is humble, and doesn't require anyone to spend eternity telling Her how great She is. Not unless you want to, of course.

Some might say that there is no such entity. The whole thing is no big deal; there are plenty of owls out there, and enough goes on in the Park that one can't help but stumble onto little wonders all the time. I say, that is the Goddess, in a nutshell (or a pine tree).

[link] [1 ref]

April 2, 2000

Te Whit, Te Whow

Here I am again, working on another overwritten post. I can't really deliver the Park; I have to turn it into something. I've got an idea, well, maybe a angle, as they say in journalism. Given enough time, and concentration, I'll get it down, but right now, I've little of either to spare.

The Park demands them. Spring is going on. While I'm at work, while I'm asleep, while I'm distracted. Spring is happening right now. Had to fit in a quick trip this evening. Lengthening days, and the switch to Daylight Savings Time now make it possible to run up after work. A cold wind blew, but green was everywhere, and studded with flowers.

I almost didn't go; the time and effort, (I've got writing to do), the weather not inviting, but every time I get there, the Park delivers. I was happy enough with the vista of the Lake at sundown, Willows glowing like a black-light poster, the skyline looming beyond. The Sugar Maple at Strawberry Fields, dangling its ectoplasmic blossoms. Fox Sparrows along the Gill. All going on, with or without me.

Just across Bow Bridge, heading towards an exit, I was alerted by some local birders to one of the Park's passing wonders; a Saw-whet Owl, roosting in a little pine at the foot of Cherry Hill. This owl is about the size of a grapefruit, and was well hidden, but it's relatively tame, and allowed a good view at close range. All I had to do was lie on the ground, in my coat and tie.

This is the sort of thing I'd never see on my own. I'm told it was found by Tom Fiore, one of the Park's more skillful birders. He's also a notable documentarian, consolidating sightings from many birders into terse but detailed accounts which appear in the invaluable Bird Log, at the Boat House. Apparently, the little owl was revealed by harassing sparrows, who objected to the predator's presence. I felt the opposite, but did appreciate the information.

When you've got an owl under observation, the obvious thing to do is wait for dusk, when the bird is expected to take wing, as in this 17th century British drinking song, which celebrates the nocturnal life:

Of all the birds that ever I see,
The owl is the fairest in her degree.
For all the day long she sits in a tree,
And when the night comes away flies she.

This owl did not disappoint. It roused itself just as the light was failing. It took flight in an instant, but posed for a moment on a nearby fence, then flitted back to the tree, where it paused again, turning its back and its face to me at the same time, in that particular way that owls have. Then it was gone, into the dimness, as the green disappeared into gray. Rodents, beware.

That's about all there is. I've got to get back to that post, you know; make something out of all this. I'm sure I should be able to provide some profundity, but at the moment, all I know is that I really like seeing an owl. A bird in the bush is priceless.


April 1, 2000

The Key to the Mystery of Being


March 29, 2000

A Couple of Early Bloomers

A Word About the Goddess

This is Her season; Persephone emerging from the Underworld. But who exactly is She? I've mentioned the Goddess a couple of times in passing, but I haven't tried to define the usage. I've spent more time explaining my use of the term "God", so perhaps you can see that I'm not treating these as equal concepts. Most mature spiritual speculation concludes that God represents the limit of such conceiving. Beyond sexual manifestation, even beyond living and unliving, It is the context of creation. Within that context, we can approach the boundary only through metaphor, or through the kind of ecstatic experience that enlightens, but leaves us hard put to say how.

Perhaps this sort of God is too impersonal for the popular consciousness. Always we personify; no doubt because we are people. These personifications are legion, and like us, they are sexed. One way of looking at it might be to say that God is like cosmology, while the gods and goddesses of legend are more a form of psychology. This, however, is a reductive notion, and the antithesis of Mystery.

The Tradition which I pursue insists upon the reality of the divine, and approaches its manifestations as genuine beings. To do so requires Faith; the probe of Mystery. Engaging Faith is not a matter of blind trust, but rather a declension of the self, allowing the stream of Tradition to flow through, submerging the ego. Traditional pantheons may represent a form of psychology, but they do not separate theory and practice, as does the modern discipline. Initiation into the Mysteries of a particular deity constitutes "treatment" as such: to know a god or goddess is to recognize their "psychological" principle within yourself, and to better understand thereby your place within the Tradition.

A typical course of Traditional "treatment" involves a psychic, or rather spiritual, joining of male and female qualities. Often represented as a marriage, this melding, or balancing, of sexual polarities is considered a prerequisite for spiritual attainment. That the male principle exerts undo dominance in our culture is by now a New Age, as well as a feminist, truism, with political implications which I will not treat here (except to note that politics and spirituality are ever interwoven.)

If the female has been repressed, it has never been extinguished. The renewal of Spring has always been seen as a manifestation of the reproductive capacity of a feminine Earth. Mainstream Western religion has failed to accord equal status to the distaff, but that voice has not gone unheard; poets, mystics, and anyone who walks in the woods can quote Her. Nor is it any mistake that the apex of Christianity, in the late Middle Ages, was reached under Her auspices. Though excluded from the Trinity, Mary was the people's choice; Her cult, more than any other, moved the troubadours, and raised the vaults of the cathedrals.

The Reformation, and the rationalism that followed, have held Her to a whisper. Even so, we need Her all the more, and She emerges, if not from the Earth itself, then from within us. Beyond theory, beyond doctrine, we each, alone, confront the Mystery of Being. Turning within is turning towards Her. Since we are not self-sufficient, our aloneness implies an Other. And since we live so much at odds with the male god-king we claim as deity, we should not wonder that it is Her voice that offers comfort: when Father beats you, run to Mother.

Faith is a chance worth taking. A chance to find what we need, whether in fact, or in the mind. For my part, I've learned to seek Her whisper there, or at the boundary where mind meets with Tradition. It is to Her that I address my private musings, partner in the inner dialogue. To Her I put the question; to Her I credit the reply. To thus conceive Her constitutes the worship of Her. To worship Her is to receive Her.

She asks for little, and gives us Springtime. I can muster only a lesser gesture, from the border of Spring and Winter: the flowers, once again, of the Red Maple. This time they are female. The tree in the Wildflower Meadow, with its fuzzy globes, is male, but here we see the more pendulous pistils, ovaries already fertilized. The red, winged seeds will soon be discernible. The Maples are a curious lot, not bound by human notions of sexuality. Their flowers are separate, male and female. A tree may be all of one sex, or bear both types: polygamo-dioecious. It's even said that some trees change back and forth. It's all rather confusing. I think the big one in the Meadow is consistently male, but I'll keep watching. Botanists call the type of flower which combines the male and female organs the perfect flower. If that name agrees more with esoteric spirituality than with mainstream sexuality, it just goes to show that, if you spend enough time with plants, you're bound to learn a thing or two in the process.

Plants are properly the province of the Goddess, and true to Her humility, they teach a truth bigger than She is; that sex is but a convenience of deity, necessitated by our fractured state. It is Her way to point beyond Herself. She points to what I have called "God".

I suppose that should leave me with a small "g" god and goddess, subordinate to God, whatever that is. The language is a mess here, and I'm open to revision, but it seems to me that I will continue to refer, as necessary, to God, but not so much to god, or gods, and if I do, I'll try to name them. The Goddess, though, deserves a place of honor here, and warrants capitalization. That's my kind of affirmative action. I've been remiss; distracted by the Winter: this page should long since have been dedicated to Her. I do so now, in this, Her season. As for Her myriad specific faces, if one should turn to me, I'll try to get a picture.

[link] [4 refs]

March 21, 2000

Verging Vernal

This is the first day of Spring. A day that I await, and even run to meet. I was ahead of schedule, but I couldn't take today off, so it was on the last day of Winter that I celebrated Spring. The Equinox, really; I hope to celebrate Spring for weeks to come. On the days when light and dark are equal, I arrive in the Park at sunrise, and remain until sunset, observing twelve hours of light, though not of dark. Actually, there is more light than dark. I'd need another ninety minutes to account for first light before dawn, and the lingering glow of sundown. I want them too, but twelve hours is really too long for any one to be out, wandering on foot, without food, in chill weather. It seems I've found a new ascesis, plying the edge between celebration and obligation. I did feel obligated to stay. I could have left with Mike and Linda, whose appearance burnished the afternoon. I could have left at any time, but I had a commitment to honor.

This incipient ritual began last year on the Autumnal Equinox. I'd only recently taken up birding, and was pushing myself to get out early, while there were still some migrants about. As it happened, I arrived just at dawn, only realizing the implications over the course of the day, finally deciding to stay throughout. It seemed a wholly appropriate gesture to the occasion; the more so in that it was not planned. When you do just the right thing, without even trying, you're truly on the path.

This time inspiration turned to observation. My conscientiousness compounded the spiritual gravity of the event, creating an etheric stress. Not that I didn't have a good day, but it was a long one, cold in the morning, and tiring by evening. Like many an early rising flower, I might have been nipped in the bud. Happily, there was sustenance to look forward to, and good company, at a festive dinner with DMTree and friends. I was ravenous, which is not the same as eating like a bird. (No ravens in the Park, lots of crows, though.) With wine and good cheer, we ushered out the old season, and welcomed the new.

It was back to work this morning, and I've still got a sleep debt. A sweet one to repay, if I could only find the time. Longer days mean less sleep, but these things will have their own way, with or without me. If this one day is balanced between light and dark, the whole year will find balance over its course. To keep our own, we must maintain perspective at a given point in time.

Well, I just wanted a post with this date. There's more to say, but I can't muster it just now. Spring is here, and that is enough.


March 17, 2000

Saint Patrick's Day

Saint Patrickís Day is come, wielding the color green. Itís a significant holiday in the Arboretum. Falling close to the first day of Spring, it provides a focal point for local concerns. It is the Celtic Holiday.

Though thoroughly American, I pretend to Scottish heritage (Patrick was born in Scotland). I have always recognized a kinship with the other Gaels. Mostly I learned it through their music, which Iíve listened to since childhood. Even then it evinced in me a deep nostalgia. The definition of nostalgia is ďhomesicknessĒ; a longing, not so much for the past, as for our point of origin: the source from whence we issue. As such, it is the preeminent Gnostic emotion, and it is articulated by means of Tradition.

Is emotion the right word for what Nostalgia is? You might phrase it a sentiment, though thatís not quite right either. Saint Patrickís Day abounds in sentiment. Never mind the drunken rout; inebriation only makes us more sentimental. After the fight, anyway. Thereís more than one tradition.

The Tradition continues. Celticism is enjoying a vogue of late. I wonít disparage here the commercial excesses, for they reveal the vitality of our desire for reconciliation with our heritage. Iím pleased to see people approach the Western Mysteries from any direction, for Mystery teaches its own wisdom, correcting the initiateís intent. Let many achieve it, even though they enter at a vulgar gate.

Heritage is History, and central to this particular history is the English language. Diversity aside, it's English that allows us to trace our history back further than the colonial era. The British Isles are the closest America can come to a common Ancestral Home. Identity politics may fairly critique this notion, but all who speak the language are tied to its history in myriad ways, conscious and subliminal. A people cannot do without a History; the arena in which Tradition is deployed.

It is this sense of loss that that lends Nostalgia its characteristic Melancholy. Here we are approaching the sentimental tenor of Saint Patrick's Day: a drunken cheer that cannot fully mask a sweetly melancholic longing. Neither could the Saint's conversion mask his heritage: the famous Breastplate of Patrick is clearly a Christianized reworking of an ancient Celtic prayer (or charm) form.

Another major form of Celtic literature is the Triad. The corpus of their law and wisdom was embodied in these tripartite verses. Itís said that the Celts couldnít grasp the concept of the Christian Trinity, until Patrick had recourse to the shamrock, showing how a triple thing also could be single. More likely, the legend derives from the Celtís deep cultural affinity for trinity, which Patrick shared.

To honor then his Holiday, let me employ the form, and so engage Tradition. For I begin to see something worthwhile, and fit to be so rendered. Moreover, I thus structure my regard for the incoming season, and give myself something to expand upon as it develops.
Here then, my Triad:

Three faces of Spring:
Saint Patrickís for the past time;
Easter for the future;
May Day for the moment.

More on this later, but today, wear, or better yet, do, something green. Sure, and get Home safely, wherever that may be.

[link] [2 refs]

March 13, 2000

In Transition

Maybe I should have taken Lent more seriously. Now Iíve got hardship enforced upon me. After a week of warming weather, Saturday served reminder of Winterís tenacity, as March honored its reputation with gusts of cold and wet. Iíve extolled this Winterís adherence to type, in the face of the global warming trend, but now I recall fondly last yearís milder season, and the drought that followed. It took me a while to realize that the lack of rain was a chronic problem, not my good fortune. Week after week of mild, dry weather allowed for a prolonged and lazy Spring, with flowers lingering long on branches that would have been shorn by the normal storms.

This year, I missed, maybe by an hour, the best of the flowering of the Red Maple in the Meadow. An early drizzle soaked the blossoms, degrading their spherical exuberance. I took a few feeble pictures, in the damp gray light, but it was clear that the tree, despite its best efforts, would not match last yearís performance. Many bud bearing twigs were lost in the glaze storm, and more were eaten by squirrels. Snow cover means less food on the ground, so the rodents look to the skies for sustenance.

I looked to the skies, and found mostly cold rain. Nevertheless, down the slope from the Maple, where the Willows give a little shelter, there is a spot where Spring is incubating. Not much to see, really, just a bit of stream, backing up in a tangle of briars and decrepit Willow, but feeding early grasses, green even now, with a green thatís spreading. It creeps back into twigs, like warmth into fingers held before the sunís fire.

Nearby, high atop a Cottonwood, big, coarse, green buds are burgeoning. As in the related Willow, the sap rises early in this big Poplar.

Around the Pool, other Red Maples were picking up the slack, with plenty of blooms. From certain distant angles they coalesced into red clouds, that merged into Willow yellow and Elm-flower green. These colored hazes have begun to blur the vacuous scaffolding of Winter. I still hope to see the sun set them alight, but Sunday was much like Saturday, if a little drier. To top it off, I lost a dayís photos in a downloading glitch. Not that there was much that could be recorded, subtle in the dim light. In despite, these things lead me into hope. Spring is poised to arrive, on a fair day, or a foul one. Either way, Iíll meet you there.

[link] [4 refs]

March 8, 2000

Revelation Through Deprivation

Last weekend was the first that truly smacked of Spring, but Iím withholding, on this Ash Wednesday. Itís still Winter, despite a crocus giving notice. Winter for a little while. But Lent? Iím not so sure.

If Iíve vouched for asceticism, itís probably been to rationalize my own difficulty in managing my humanity. I find it a valuable perspective, notwithstanding. It crops up in just about every culture, and is, in fact, uniquely human: you wonít catch plants or animals fasting, if they donít have to.

You might say the practice mirrors the seasons; Summerís indulgence earns Winterís want. And vice versa. Thatís a cycle, but thereís another vector in ascetic practice; away from cultural norms, and into the mystic.

Isolation, abstinence, even self-inflicted damage, can realign consciousness. Todayís wan religions are more concerned with conscience than consciousness, but a look at Shamanism reveals the practical application of asceticism. By resisting the common mode, one gains the perspective of the outsider. A position of extremity, but one from which Mystery may be effectively approached.

So Lent is the Ascetic Holiday, to be observed, rather than celebrated. Or say that its lesson is that observation and celebration are the same, even if we must behold that which we would rather not.

Let me tell you then, (in keeping with the theme, I will resist the temptation to show you), let me tell you how in Central Park I have observed things squalid and disturbing. Things that confound me and appall. Things that break my heart. And all these are like the squirrels and sparrows; anyone can see them with little effort.

The homeless are there. Men and women of who knows what sad circumstance; many of them mad. Some appear cheerful, others wail in lunatic agony. Like birds, they are most evident at dawn and dusk, inhabiting the margins of the dark, as of the public conscience.

There are the party spots, used at night, after the Park is legally closed. I do not resent so much the activities, as the disregard for the landscape that the participants evince. Not just trash, but trash thatís foul in bizarre and perplexing ways. Always some odious, oozing, hog-tied, half burnt mystery bundle, perhaps hanging from a tree. These places have an unwholesome air about them, exacerbated by the fact that they are typically the most inviting spots in the vicinity. From time to time some lurid crime brings one of these sites into the public eye, but only for a moment.

Trysting is another problematic activity, and one youíre more likely to run into in progress, notably (though hardly exclusively) in the Ramble, with its famous cruising scene. Asceticism aside, Iím not out to manage anyone elseís sex life, but Iíd rather not have the same thrust on me, so to speak. Used condoms are just a nod and a wink, but the forensics of discarded clothing patterns provide more suggestive details. Powerful passions leave their mark, and itís not necessarily pretty. And just how did they get home without putting that back on?

Other sorts of wantonness abound as well. Mountain bikers ride off trail, and dog walkers ignore leash rules, accelerating soil loss and plant damage, while destroying animal habitat. Even my own forays off the path, if not technically illegal, are damaging to some degree, no matter how careful I try to be.

Thereís plenty more, from banal garbage to evidence of cruelty to animals. There are inexplicable discards, and mere literal shit, but I do not dwell upon it. Ignoring things is also a technique of asceticism. Neither do I write much about the pigeons and the rats, though they are as representative as the flowers and the hawks. To further Lenten humility, let's note that the most successful local species are those best adapted to the human dominated environment. That we disdain them, despite our contiguity, is an index of our own character.

That said, enough of mortification! Soon it will be Spring; just cause for celebration. I will not temper my regard out of some Christian obligation. Confounding the circuit of Earthís seasons with supernal deity is an attractive temptation, but it may blind us to necessary observations. This year, Iím giving up asceticism for Lent.


March 1, 2000

If I Can See You, Can You See Me?

Would you say that a hawk has an eagle eye? This Red-tail watched intently as two more flew in tandem over the North Meadow. Whether in consort or in competition, I cannot say, though it is mating season. It's not much of a picture, but close-ups of birds are hard to get. This one was within thirty feet; more often they soar above, ascending out of range of my eyesight, but not theirs. Raptors are known for their powers of vision, spotting prey from great heights. The DMTree digital camera is a remarkable instrument, but it can hardly compete with human eyesight, let alone birds of prey. Some scenes just frustrate the Park photographer. There are sights that can only be seen by being there.

Actually, technology stimulates appreciation of one's own eyesight. While the camera takes what seems an interminable moment to zoom in or out, I can look from here to the horizon in an instant, without consciousness of the enormous shifts of focus involved. The hawks can see even more. Certainly I think they see me. I've followed them through the binocular, soaring in lazy circles that finally center on me, seeming to hang directly overhead, as I crane my neck to look straight up, while the bird looks straight down. What else can it be looking at? Luckily, I'm a little too big to eat. Rats, squirrels, pigeons and songbirds have less security. They also watch for hawks, but to them, it's a matter of life and death.

Lately, the hawks seem to be everywhere. Like gatekeepers, one greets me upon entering at 103rd Street in the morning, while another is waiting at 59th Street when I exit towards evening. They dominate whatever landscape they descend upon. Squirrels bark at them, while songbirds huddle in bushes, or sound alarms from a distance. Crows harry them, but to little avail; the hawks act with impunity. Life is good at the top of the food chain. Many of these Buteos are offspring of the pair that continue to nest atop a cornice on Fifth Avenue, across from the Conservatory Water. Local birders know them as Blue and Pale Male, and dully note their activities in the Bird Log at the Boathouse. They've fledged numerous hatchlings, some of which remain in the Park, enjoying the easy lifestyle.

In Winter, the hawks can see more than ever. Without foliage and underbrush, their prey is exposed to view. You could say that a lack of privacy creates a security risk for the potential victims. Privacy and security are big issues both online and off the beaten path, causing much consternation. These are thorny areas indeed. A thorn bush is a good place to hide, but hard to see through. My natural assumption would be that privacy does in fact reinforce security, but I've also noted the opposite effect in the Park, and on a more personal level.

Like the hawks, I can see further into the barren landscapes of Winter. There's an effect of looking right through the layers of leafage that partition Summer's views; an x-ray of the Goddess, so to speak. An advantage of this situation is that you can see if anyone else is approaching. I'm not paranoid (not much, anyway), and I generally feel safe in the Park, but security is still an issue, as there are definitely some questionable types about. It's a good idea to steer clear of anyone who stimulates your flight-or-fight response. That's much easier in the denuded season; at other times, people seem to pop up out of nowhere, but now I generally see them coming at a distance, which gives me the information necessary to manage my security.

My privacy, however, is reduced under these circumstances. I am also exposed, and cannot easily maintain the personal space necessary for intensive observation. The true engagement experience is essentially private. I enjoy company from time to time, but I always find more points of interest when I am alone. I can get so involved in watching a particularity, that I lose track of the larger scene. Next thing you know, I'm startled by some innocent passer-by. Binocular viewing exaggerates the phenomenon. Consciousness enters a dimension that exists only through a lens: a truly private experience. I forget about my body, let alone its surroundings, leaving me exposed and vulnerable. The more privacy I have, the less security.

Privacy and security are two things that everyone wants. There appears to be a relationship between them, but not a stable one. In trying to develop a dialectic, I find that they do not form a true binary pair, where each quality is expressed as the absence of the other. They may, however, offer a kind of mediation between two such pairs, as each term is part of a binary. Private/public and secure/vulnerable form the pairings. Such polarities require opposed terms in order to define something that is not easily described. They do not represent differences, so much as they reveal something that will not accept a single name. They are "two sides of one coin", and so, in a sense, the same thing.

A thing that will not surrender to a single name is a Mystery. I do not use the word lightly. Indeed, I regard even the most quotidian mysteries as portals into the spiritual domain; they are always well worth contemplating. Confronting Mystery disarms reason. One is left with a different species of understanding. Thatís what Gnosticism is.

My Gnosticism holds that all the mysteries are facets of a single Mystery, which goes by the troublesome name of God. It is both our Source, and our Destination. In between, we experience the fragmentation of the Fall; a space defined by indeterminable points, each retreating from every other. The Wonder amid this separation is That which moves in the opposite direction; uniting rather than dividing. The uniting of particles into Life is but a preview of the ultimate congregation of All at Once in the Same place.

If nothing else, this teleology provides a perspective on the privacy/security conundrum. To wit: in God, there is no privacy, but there is total security. This is understood in the popular notion of God as an entity who can read your thoughts, or ďsee into your heartĒ, and is therefore in a position to render judgment. The history of this idea makes me leery of its anthropomorphism, but my conception is largely congruent. When everything is united, nothing can be hidden; the private will be revealed. Our secret shame will be defused through collective recognition, and no dissemblence will be possible in the light of full disclosure. Therein lies a security unavailable to us here, but not inconceivable. And by conceiving, we draw nearer.

All this is metaphor, but we are also on a technological vector heading in the same direction, and with increasing velocity. All information, linked and simultaneously accessible, is now a possibility more real than any concept of God, though they may prove indistinguishable. I hope a little movement in that direction is accomplished on this page. Until we get there, watch out for aerial attacks, but do not fear the all seeing eye, for as Meister Eckhart said: ďthe eye through which I look at God, and the eye through which God looks at me are the same eye.Ē

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February 23, 2000

Winter Blooms

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