This book is terrific. When I was young, Ursula K. Le Guin’s name, I’m ashamed to say, freaked me out. I’m sure Disney caused this anxiety of mine with their own Ursula. But I’ve hatched. Moved on. Tucked her books into my napsack and squealed with some glee when the sea turtles showed up. 
I picked up The Lathe of Heaven because I’ve been reading back issues of Dark Mountain, a British journal dedicated to ‘uncivilization’. Their manifesto contains items such as, “Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will attempt to step outside the human bubble.” And “We will celebrate writing which is grounded in a sense of place and time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.” 
Their journal is filled with interesting nonfiction. And truly awful fiction. 
But the ideas and opinions in their pages are gold to anyone seeking a narrative outside of the mainstream. Some people think that the answer to the problems that technology and industrialization have brought to us, is more technology and industrialization. Are we to say, “Hurry quick, technology,” while we go through the hottest June on record and the sixth extinction. 
In the first issue of Dark Mountain, there was a suggested reading list. Le Guin was on this list, appearing with John Berger and Mary Shelley. I added several of her books to my reading list. When I popped in at the bookstore, none of those books were there, but this book was. 
And it had sea turtles on the cover. 
And it quoted the Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu. 
Being a good Taoist and aquatic-species fanatic, I bought it immediately. I read it on the train in Chicago and stashed it in my satchel while walking around the Art Institute. (I saw the Magritte show, but to be honest, I was there for the Hockney.) 
But the book is good. What is a dream and what is not a dream. It’s sort of about this: “Once upon a time, I Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, flitting around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang Tzu. Then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang Tzu again. But I could not tell, had I been Chuang Tzu dreaming, or a butterfly dreaming I was now Chuang Tzu.”  
It’s also about the ground shifting constantly below you. How a “problem” can be “solved”, but really it will still be there, in a different form. Or how “solving” one “problem” will lead to other “problems.” I put “solved” and “problem” in quotes because I pretend to be a “good” Taoist. 

This book is terrific. When I was young, Ursula K. Le Guin’s name, I’m ashamed to say, freaked me out. I’m sure Disney caused this anxiety of mine with their own Ursula. But I’ve hatched. Moved on. Tucked her books into my napsack and squealed with some glee when the sea turtles showed up. 

I picked up The Lathe of Heaven because I’ve been reading back issues of Dark Mountain, a British journal dedicated to ‘uncivilization’. Their manifesto contains items such as, “Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will attempt to step outside the human bubble.” And “We will celebrate writing which is grounded in a sense of place and time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.” 

Their journal is filled with interesting nonfiction. And truly awful fiction. 

But the ideas and opinions in their pages are gold to anyone seeking a narrative outside of the mainstream. Some people think that the answer to the problems that technology and industrialization have brought to us, is more technology and industrialization. Are we to say, “Hurry quick, technology,” while we go through the hottest June on record and the sixth extinction

In the first issue of Dark Mountain, there was a suggested reading list. Le Guin was on this list, appearing with John Berger and Mary Shelley. I added several of her books to my reading list. When I popped in at the bookstore, none of those books were there, but this book was. 

And it had sea turtles on the cover. 

And it quoted the Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu

Being a good Taoist and aquatic-species fanatic, I bought it immediately. I read it on the train in Chicago and stashed it in my satchel while walking around the Art Institute. (I saw the Magritte show, but to be honest, I was there for the Hockney.) 

But the book is good. What is a dream and what is not a dream. It’s sort of about this: “Once upon a time, I Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, flitting around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang Tzu. Then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang Tzu again. But I could not tell, had I been Chuang Tzu dreaming, or a butterfly dreaming I was now Chuang Tzu.”  

It’s also about the ground shifting constantly below you. How a “problem” can be “solved”, but really it will still be there, in a different form. Or how “solving” one “problem” will lead to other “problems.” I put “solved” and “problem” in quotes because I pretend to be a “good” Taoist. 

The Songlines I read because of a bag of chips. 
I was in Pennsylvania at a Wa Wa, about to leave for Canada with Kevin. And there, next to the hot dogs, were these chips with the word UTZ on them. “That’s funny,” I thought, “There’s a novel called Utz.” I only knew that book because I read about it in John Gray’s Straw Dogs. That book I was reading, because I had seen Gray’s Immortalization Commission in the science section of Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa. 
But after seeing Utz, the chips, I found a copy of Utz, the novel. I read it last year while I was in California. It’s a short book, but a good one, about a figurine collector. 
Recently, though, I found myself reading another book called The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. Its subtitle is Perception and language in a more-than-human world. Abram writes about the relationship of nature to language. The rain has a voice. The breeze has a voice. Birds, of course, have a voice. And our voice joins with them—sometimes literally, since he talks about a language that incorporates bird songs into its vocabulary. The hermit thrush’s whirring phrases that sound at night make the words, sook’eeyis deeyo, which translates to, ‘it is a fine evening.’
But Bruce Chatwin, who wrote Utz, the novel, shows up in The Spell of the Sensuous, writing about the Australian aboriginals and their songlines. These are songs which name a route over the country, describing the features of the land with stories to go along with each. I put Abram aside for a while to read The Songlines. 
That is the full route to get to The Songlines. I could have traced back how I found Prairie Lights or why I might have been looking in the science section, but we’d get mired, soon thereafter, with details of my grade school, the color of my hair, and the time I got sick and had to eat nothing but baby purée. 
The Songlines is good, but abbreviated. He went to Australia to learn about the songlines. That’s the first half. The second half is a collection of notes he took in a moleskine notebook about nomadism and violence. 
Berserk, he informs us, is a word that comes from the word bearskin. He theorizes that early humans weren’t violent against other humans, but violent against predatory animals. Enormous cats. In sparring, then, one would play as the predator so that others might practice. That one would then go berserk against the others. 
Chatwin’s other notes follow a muse that says humans aren’t inherently violent, they are defensive. And the one’s that are sedentary are more violent, or meaner, than those who are moving. The same, he finds, with migratory birds compared to non-migratory, territorial birds. 
Towards the end, there is this: 
"Wendy said that, even today, when an Aboriginal mother notices the first stirrings of speech in her child, she lets it handle the ‘things’ of that particular country: leaves, fruit, insects, and so forth.
"The child, at its mother’s breast, will toy with the ‘thing’, talk to it, test its teeth on it, learn its name, repeat its name—and finally chuck it aside.
“‘We give our children guns and computer games,’ Wendy said. ‘They gave their children the land.’” 

The Songlines I read because of a bag of chips. 

I was in Pennsylvania at a Wa Wa, about to leave for Canada with Kevin. And there, next to the hot dogs, were these chips with the word UTZ on them. “That’s funny,” I thought, “There’s a novel called Utz.” I only knew that book because I read about it in John Gray’s Straw Dogs. That book I was reading, because I had seen Gray’s Immortalization Commission in the science section of Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa. 

But after seeing Utz, the chips, I found a copy of Utz, the novel. I read it last year while I was in California. It’s a short book, but a good one, about a figurine collector. 

Recently, though, I found myself reading another book called The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. Its subtitle is Perception and language in a more-than-human world. Abram writes about the relationship of nature to language. The rain has a voice. The breeze has a voice. Birds, of course, have a voice. And our voice joins with them—sometimes literally, since he talks about a language that incorporates bird songs into its vocabulary. The hermit thrush’s whirring phrases that sound at night make the words, sook’eeyis deeyo, which translates to, ‘it is a fine evening.’

But Bruce Chatwin, who wrote Utz, the novel, shows up in The Spell of the Sensuous, writing about the Australian aboriginals and their songlines. These are songs which name a route over the country, describing the features of the land with stories to go along with each. I put Abram aside for a while to read The Songlines

That is the full route to get to The Songlines. I could have traced back how I found Prairie Lights or why I might have been looking in the science section, but we’d get mired, soon thereafter, with details of my grade school, the color of my hair, and the time I got sick and had to eat nothing but baby purée. 

The Songlines is good, but abbreviated. He went to Australia to learn about the songlines. That’s the first half. The second half is a collection of notes he took in a moleskine notebook about nomadism and violence. 

Berserk, he informs us, is a word that comes from the word bearskin. He theorizes that early humans weren’t violent against other humans, but violent against predatory animals. Enormous cats. In sparring, then, one would play as the predator so that others might practice. That one would then go berserk against the others. 

Chatwin’s other notes follow a muse that says humans aren’t inherently violent, they are defensive. And the one’s that are sedentary are more violent, or meaner, than those who are moving. The same, he finds, with migratory birds compared to non-migratory, territorial birds. 

Towards the end, there is this: 

"Wendy said that, even today, when an Aboriginal mother notices the first stirrings of speech in her child, she lets it handle the ‘things’ of that particular country: leaves, fruit, insects, and so forth.

"The child, at its mother’s breast, will toy with the ‘thing’, talk to it, test its teeth on it, learn its name, repeat its name—and finally chuck it aside.

“‘We give our children guns and computer games,’ Wendy said. ‘They gave their children the land.’” 

I drew the backyard. I drew the front yard. Invite me over and I’ll draw your lawn too. I don’t know foreshadowing or churroscurro. I mean chiaroscuro, of course. But churros!, you say. Katrina is watching Orange. I was reading John Berger. “Stories walk like animals or men. Every step is a stride over something not said.” I am having wine. Before this, I fed Katrina a cherry. 

Rain. Speech. The world of buildings.

"Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By ‘they’ I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness. 

"The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities. It fills the woods with an immense and confused sound. It covers the flat roof of the cabin and its porch with insistent and controlled rhythms. And I listen, because it reminds me again and again that the whole world runs by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognize, rhythms that are not those of the engineer.

"I came up here from the monastery last night, sloshing through the cornfield, said Vespers, and put some oatmeal on the Coleman stove for supper. It boiled over while I was listening to the rain and toasting a piece of bread at the log fire. The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows! 

"Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks, I am going to listen.

"But I am also going to sleep, because here in this wilderness I have learned how to sleep again. Here I am not alien. The trees I know, the night I know, the rain I know. I close my eyes and instantly sink into the whole rainy world of which I am a part, and the world goes on with me in it, for I am not alien to it. I am alien to the noises of cities, of people, to the greed of machinery that does not sleep, the hum of power that eats up the night. Where rain, sunlight and darkness are contemned, I cannot sleep. I do not trust anything that has been fabricated to replace the climate of woods or prairies. I can have no confidence in places where air is first fouled and then cleansed, where the water is first made deadly and then made safe with other poisons.

"There is nothing in the world of buildings that is not fabricated, and if a tree gets in among the apartment houses by mistake it is taught to grow chemically. It is given a precise reason for existing. They put a sign on it saying it is for health, beauty, perspective; that it is for peace, for prosperity; that it was planted by the mayor’s daughter. All of this is mystification. The city itself lives on its own myth. Instead of waking up and silently existing, the city people prefer and stubborn and fabricated dream; they do not care to be a part of the night, or to be merely of the world. They have constructed a world outside the world, against the world, a world of mechanical fictions which contemn nature and seek only to use it up, thus preventing it from renewing itself and man.” 

—Thomas Merton, in the first three pages of Raids on the Unspeakable