Jacqui (jacqui) wrote,

Tom Wolfe and Vivisection, Cancer, Halloween, and Tantric Chats

10-14-05 Friday

Thanks Everyone for putting up with my moody sensitivity and lack of energy lately. I'm doing a little better today. Each day I seem to be able to make myself do at least one or two errands before I get too worn out to continue, so I think I'm getting better, but my lymph nodes are still just as swollen. I guess I'll know more by early next week after I have some more tests, x-rays, and get the results of the blood tests. Martha and Oprah are becoming my best friends as I lay here watching television day after day...

I borrowed this quote from arriss_tenoh who posted it in literaryquotes;

Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity... we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access, reassurance. -- A.E. Newton

I bought a newish Tom Wolfe book today that I hadn't read and thought I might enjoy. I'm way late in coming to this party because I'm budgeting things so tight these days that I can't even go to a bookstore or Amazon and pick up the latest hardback, but that's not such a big deal when you consider what a bookaholic I am, and how very many books I still have here that I haven't gotten around to reading yet, and it's not exactly like my house filled to the attic with swampy sewer water, so it's clear I've got nothing real to complain about.

It's just that for me, there's nothing quite like the thrill of discovering and beginning a new book. In this case, I was at the market with Beau, getting the minimum amount of our basic marketing necessities when I saw the book in paperback and thought I'd check it out. It sounded interesting, but if I'd bothered to read the intro I would have known I should not, in good conscience, have given a dime of my money to this book.

I am so disappointed to report that the very first page of it begins with the story of an experiment conducted on cats; an experiment to help some research assholes understand the amygdala. You don't have to surgically remove the amygdalas of thirty-three helpless cats and torture and murder thirty-three more control subjects to understand how the amygdala of a human being works.

Anyway, to say the least I was horrified, and so upset. Then I didn't know what to do, burn the book, give it away, throw it out, or write to Tom Wolfe and tell him that I won't read anything that uses animal torture, mutilation, or murder to make a point of any kind. Insensitive bastard, and I had thought that despite his political leanings and foppish dress and manners, that he was at the very least a cool writer, a bit full of himself, but fun to read nevertheless. Now, I feel the way I feel when I won't cross a picket line to get somewhere I really want to go; I can't read the book, even though I want to read the book. You quote animal research and I'm outta there. I liked the dedication of this book to his two sons. I liked The Bonfire of the Vanities. Now I don't like Tom Wolfe. I don't care that he was trying to make a point about sociology and sexuality. Fuck him, pompous, insensitive, latin quoting shit of a man. There, I got that off my chest, thanks.

PS: Tom Wolfe, your book went out with the cat litter, and here's a wee bit of Latin for you and the animal torturer you admire so much who stumbled into a Nobel prize by accident, and has made me think much less of them by doing so; Es scortum obscenus vilis. Pedex perfectus es. Stercorem pro cerebro habes. Te odeo, interfice te cochleare. Lege atque lacrima. Oh and BTW I was thrilled to learn that you won the Literary Review's Bad Sex In a Book Award, looks like you're not getting any.

I hate cancer! I think it's evil! I have friends who don't like my demonizing it -- giving it that much power, but I deeply and truly hate it. Fuck you cancer! I hate you and can't wait to see you destroyed, but I don't want living, sentient beings to suffer in order for this to happen. People who I have loved have had cancer and recovered from it. People who I have loved have had cancer and died because of it. People who I have not loved have lived and died with it. Last night I learned that , Kristi, closetmonsters, a wonderful, sensitive, amazing writer and friend here on Live Journal, who had been fighting stage four breast cancer, died, and I'm shocked, and furious, and heartbroken for her, for everything she and her family had to go through, for all of her suffering and pain, and still it's just not okay with me to subject other species to our experimentation, because we have the ability and the desire to do so. It's so clear to me that it's wrong. I don't need to debate this, I just feel it down to the core of my being, plain and simple, just...so...wrong. There haven't been any gains in medical sciense that were based on animal trials alone. It takes human trials to make something viable for use on humans because animals and humans are simply different species. There are many medicines, life saving medicines, that were held back because of the adverse affects they had on animals, while in humans they had the exact opposite affect. You simply cannot extrapolate data from one species and apply it to another, it's more than moral bankruptcy and speciesism, it's outright fraud, and so few people I know get this.

BTW, if this aspect of my writing upsets you, please, please just leave it alone, or skim over it. There are other things about my writing and me that you might like. Please don't debate this with me, it hurts too much, and there are just so many other places where you can do this. If you disagree, then let's simply agree that I have a right to say whatever I like in my own journal, and we can leave it at that, we disagree. It's really a hot potato subject for me and best expressed and then let be.

I love bugs, moths, beetles, butterflies and all kinds of crawling, hopping, and flying creatures, but it makes me super sad when people kill them to collect them.

I had so wanted to write a light hearted post to chase away the blues. But then I put on my DVR taped, or grabbed, (Can anyone tell me how we say this, taped, copied, what?), episode of today's Martha, and here's this little boy, this 4H award winning boy, who loves bugs, loves them so much he's killed thousands of them, trapped them and stuck pins right through them, in order to collect and show them to us.

I'm looking at this frozen image of a beautiful Luna Moth on my television screen right now. I can't tell you the joy and wonder I would feel if I were to see a living example of one of these beautiful creatures. I'm still flying high on an encounter with a great big moth of some kind that I saw hanging on to the wall of a restaurant where I had dinner after getting off rehearsal one night years and years ago. I just stood there, frozen to the spot, staring in wonder at this big fuzzy creature, wanting so badly to touch it, to bring it home and make it mine, but it wasn't mine, any more than any other living creature belongs to me or anyone else. Why don't people get this? I call our cats and dogs and animal friends mine because it's just easier when writing about them to refer to them in this way, but the truth is that I see myself as a lucky caretaker, someone who gets to share a life with them, if there's any owning going on then it's they who own me. But they really aren't mine in the sense that I own them and can decide their fate -- I look to them for that.

Moving on to happier things; the haunted Halloween yard decorations are progressing. It looks more or less the same as it's looked for the last couple of years, and I've been leaving a lot of it up to everyone else to set up for me, so I feel like I'm letting myself down; I want to invent something new, create something wonderful and exciting, do something that we haven't done before, but I just can't when I'm this worn out. We add a few new pieces to our collection each year and move things around a bit but it's still pretty much the same. I can only hope I'll find some energy somewhere soon before too many more days pass. I don't even want to think about the upcoming fashion show on the sixth, with all the many things left for me to do before that happens.

I wanted to buy another black warty pumpkin like the one I found and loved so much last year, but haven't seen anywhere this year, (I found what's called a blue one, and bought that, but it's really more of a grey green), and to my surprise it turns out that for some reason it ended up in Ana's room, (formerly our library), and has been there ever since. I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds as if it simply dried out. I wonder if I should coat it with something to preserve it.

Coming home from my two daily errands, (Hey, this is progress, anything more than zero is up by one), with Beau today, (the pet store and the market), I saw a Mom and two little kids on bicycles with helmets and training wheels who rode up to and stopped in front of our house to check things out. The kids were so little and sweet and so easily impressed with the little bit of decorating we've done so far. They kept pointing at things and oohing and ahhing.

I had promised Atra that I would try to get a few more of the decorations up before her friend Gita, who has been here visiting, goes home, and because she was having another one of her dressy dinner parties, (I was invited, but didn't even have the energy to drag my sweaty ass over to the shower, let alone get super dressed up for one of her Diamonds-and-Stilletto-Heels-Persian-Dinner-Parties where all the women, and the men too, look me up and down to decide whether, as the token American, if I really am all that Atra says I am, and if they should welcome me into the fold. There's a hell of a lot of weight scrutinizing that goes on at these parties too -- there's just a lot of scrutinizing in general going on -- I can feel it. This kind of thing is exhausting on a good night, let alone when I'm feeling weak, am fighting the chills, and my idea of a good time is laying in my bed with a dozen cats draped all over me), and wanted her friends to see the yard at night with all of the lights and effects.

I thought I should at least try to make things look a bit more finished so I stayed outside for a while tacking up the giant ants -- so they'd look like they were climbing up the front of my house -- and connecting a black light that shines on this kind of ghostly, Disney-Haunted-Mansion-esque figure that Eduardo suspended for us over the yard, by running a rope from the second story bathroom to a tree in the yard. He also hung a vampire bat for me as well, and put some red rubbery flesh in his mouth. I'd jump up and fetch it down but there's no reaching it.

I've been trying to eradicate all of the gross fleshy bits even since 9/11, but every once in a while a severed arm or a leg will work it's way back into the decorations and I'll have to pluck it out. At first Beau balked at this, but even he doesn't like the gore now and understands that it needs to be a tad softer for the little kids, who the whole Trick or Treating part of the holiday is really all for anyway.

A short while later a young mother and father with a baby in a stroller and two soft black Labradoodles, (I know because I got down, petted and was licked by them), came by to check things out. They said they'd been watching our progress and were excited. I told them to come by on Halloween early when it wouldn't be as scary for their little guy in the stroller and they agreed. They just moved here a month ago and said they've been coming by every day to watch the progress.

A father and his little boy, also in a stroller, came by a few minutes later, (I swear I'm beginning to think I should simply plant myself in a chair in the garden so I won't miss out on all of this wonderful connecting with the neighbors and their kids), and he said that since moving here three years ago that coming by our house on Halloween has been the highlight of living in this neighborhood. Wow. Shortly after he left another Mom and her kids came by and she said, "Thank you so much for doing all of this for the kids. They love it so much!" I remembered her little girl from last year because I had just been going over the Halloween pictures and she really stood out because she was soooo cute and was dressed like a cat, with little drawn on whiskers. She told me that she's going to go as a fairy princess this year. I told her that I'm going to be a corpse bride. I invited her and her little brother into our tiny front garden where they walked around and looked at everything, and then I pulled out all the stops and let them peek at the kitties through the front door. They were so excited. As they walked away I overheard their Mom talking to them, answering their questions, she said, "People drive from far away just to come here to see this." And then her daughter said, "Mom, I think it's scary and it's not scary. I think it's scary fun."

This is what makes all of the collecting, decorating, and expense more than worth it. It feels like the biggest gift in all the world, getting to meet and interact with all of these many families who come by and spend time looking at our cute little yard, who say hello and thank us -- and I never seem to remember that this happens every single year. So many people come by and say hello and compliment us on something that really doesn't feel that extraordinarily hard to do. We get so much feedback and it seems to make so many people happy, that I honestly wonder why even more people don't do this.

I learned a trick about fog machines today. You need to keep the fog cold to prevent it from flying up into the air and misting everything up. It's better and spookier when it hangs low to the ground. There's a special low laying fog machine that you can get at Ahhhs but one of my neighbor's told me that you can run the fog through a cooler and that will do the same thing. I doubt I'll get it together in time to do this, and I hate how everything gets so misty that it's hard to see, but it's a good idea.

Beau added some more guppies to his fish tank today. But we also added four goldfish because the woman at the fish store said his aquarium, (at a whopping ninety gallons), really needs something bigger than guppies to add beneficial bacteria.

I think I've rambled on enough for one entry, but I wanted to share this story that cheered me up today when I was feeling sad about the cat amygdala horror story.

Investigating the Sangha by Koa Kahili

The rain fell from the gray heavens as I peered out from under my black umbrella up at the omnipresent eyes of Adi Buddha. The great stupa of Boudhanath stood before me ignoring the elements. Its bleached out and tattered prayer flags hung lifeless in the relentless summer monsoons. A passing figure clad in wet maroon robs walked by. I took the opportunity of asking the location of Kopan monastery. This unusually tall monk silently motioned me to follow. We started to circumambulate the stupa till the monk disappeared through a muddy alley that led into the twisting back streets of Kathmandu. I quickened my pace splashing through the raw sewage. After a short walk through the labyrinth of unpaved streets the monk stopped and pointed to a hill in the distance. He simply said, Kopan. Through the mist of the rain I could make out a steep hill that rose out of the rice patties and corn fields. The hike only took and hour as I meandered along the muddy road not knowing what to expect.

As I stopped along a narrow trail to admire the view and catch my breath I was amazed by the clean air. When I reached the top of the hill, monks of all ages and sizes ran around with saved heads wearing maroon robes. It reminded me of an old episode of Kung Fu. Over 200 hundred monks live and study at Kopan. The monastery was established in 1970 by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche as a site for the monks and nuns of Solu Khumbu and as a center for Buddhist study welcoming visitors from around the world. I checked in and was shown to my room. The accommodations were of a much higher standard then I expected. The room and toilet were nicer then my living conditions in Kathmandu and the food was a culinary delight compared to the curried eggs and bhat served at school.

Once in my room I took off my back pack and shirt, soaked in sweat. The rain had stopped and the humid air filled with the buzzing of insects. I lied down and took a deep relaxing breath. That was when the chanting started. The low guttural chants of Tibetan Buddhism vibrated through the building. The room I was staying in just happened to be above the prayer hall. Then the drums and symbols started in a hypnotic harmonious rhythm. I drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to the same chanting and went down stairs to investigate. It was around 6:00am and the morning prayers were just starting. I sat down cross legged behind a long row of monks, silently observing. The rich full tones of the young monks enveloped the hall. A little monk walked through the rows of his sleepy eyed brothers swinging a metal vase that overflowed with perfumed smoke. The incense smote the crimson figures as their torsos swayed to the rhythmic unobtrusive chanting. I sat in a trance, my mind floating along with the low tones. A hot butter tea was then brought in by a few monks who filled the waiting cups of the singers. About a hundred monks received tea from enormous steel tea kettles accompanied by a big buck wheat pancake. As we sat in silence for a brief moment the lama or teacher spoke a few words. The chanting then resumed with a renewed vigor. Two hours passed and my legs felt incredibly stiff. I was not use to sitting cross legged that long, and when the chant session ended I slowly stood up to put on my sandals.

Later that day as I took shelter under the edge of the monastery from a passing thunderstorm, I noticed the head lama was standing besides me. He greeted me with a big smile. I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about Tantric Tibetan Buddhism. His answers were in the form of amusing riddles till I asked him who his Yidam was. (a personal tutelary and protective deity) He said it was me, and burst out in hysterical laughter. The lines of his face turned into a complex map of extreme joy. I had to laugh as well realizing what a precocious question that was. He finally calmed down after a few minutes and said his Yidam was Avalokiteshvara, the most compassionate of compassionate beings.

The next day while having breakfast I noticed another monastery on a nearby hill and decided to spend the morning on pleasant walk. As I cut across the steep terraced landscape, through authentic Nepali farms unchanged after thousands of years, I was filled with a great sense of peace. Stopping at an old abandoned farm house at the top of a lush hill, I leisurely smoked from an elegant little elephant pipe made of porcelain that I acquired at Svayambhunath, the famed monkey temple. I gazed in wonder at the valley below, absorbing the exotic geography, unique history, art, and culture that was sprawled out before me in vivid color. For the first time I began to realize where I was, but It still remained a mystery as to why I was in Kathmandu.

I reached the monastery of Pullihari excited, camera in hand, preparing to record the moment for posterity. The gompa did not fail to impress. It was built in 1992 and had the most amazing traditional art done in an extremely modern fashion. Appliqué tankas made form day glow neon colors took on a surreal and supernatural appearance. What a contrast from the tattered and aged paintings seen in Tibet. Tantra, at that moment came alive in the dawning of a new millennium. I was overcome by a new era of beliefs, where the west will play an ever increasing role.

That night as the tips of the swaying bamboo trees caught the last rays of golden light, the terraced landscape melted in a sea of emerald green. I lay in bed half asleep listening to the monks vigorously debate and chant beneath me. Then I heard a cat incessantly meowing as I drifted into another state of consciousness, pass the eight visions of the death process, through the mirage of clear light and meditative control. The cat’s cries and the monks chanting blended into a magical rhythm till I could no longer tell if the cat was following the chants, or if the meows were leading the monks. Ommm.

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