Rosa Bolgs

May 2nd, 2020

Mourning Sickness by Keith Smith

mourning sickness
growth and change
dance this dance 
with loss and pain
see the furred petaled and winged world
eating destroying being born and unfurled
searing fearful horrific and blind
peaceful potent serene and sublime
testing, testing
are you ready to conceive 
to deal with 
what is dealt
from the magician's sleeve
you are pregnant with God
you are great with soul
giving birth to yourself
is life's greatest goal
do not be stillborn again 

April 28th, 2020

In order to understand what Kabbalah is and what it isn’t, let us use the following illustration.

A researcher sits in his lab examining all sorts of atomic phenomena. He smashes atoms at great speeds, and records what he sees happening. He is very meticulous in his work, and may even draw some immediate conclusions from the data at hand. But he leaves it at that.

A great scientist picks up these notes, reads them and ponders their meaning. He begins to construct a mega-picture. He tries to envision what the entire system may be like. He knows that there are no instruments, nor can there be, to actually see the particles he imagines, and therefore he gropes for metaphors that will accurately connect the bits of data that the physicist collected. Thus, he begins to speak of “super strings,” “atomic tunnels,” “energy bridges,” and “ten dimensions.”

A third person, who has a highly fertile mind but with no sense of science, is eavesdropping. His imagination has been fired and, in no time at all, he is carrying forth about people that have mysteriously disappeared in “atomic tunnels,” and unlimited sources of energy contained in various of the “ten dimensions.”

These three people illustrate the different approaches to Kabbalah.

April 25th, 2020

“Back in the 70s, [Elliott] Gould asked to meet Presley in his Las Vegas dressing room. They were at close quarters, Gould recalls, made all the more so by the conspicuous, gilded .45 automatic in Elvis’s belt and the watchful presence of his manager, Tom “The Colonel” Parker, as well as the singer’s father, Vernon. It was clear to Gould that they would not let their “cash cow” out of their sight and he said so, urging Presley to “leave ‘Elvis’ here and come out, be a free spirit”. “Elvis says to me, with his gold gun in his belt: ‘You’re crazy, man.’ I said: ‘Elvis, I ain’t crazy. I’m scared, just like you.’”

[Bess] enlisted as a private and, like many artists, was assigned to design camouflage. Bess threw himself into his work and rose to the rank of captain in the Corps of Engineers. But with the winding down of the war, his project was shelved and he was sent to MacDill air base at Tampa, Florida, to teach bricklaying. The lack of responsibility and challenge in his new duties frustrated Bess, and one day his colonel bawled him out because of his attitude toward his class. Bess left the colonel’s office, and just as he closed the door he said out loud, “Why, you damned smirking hippopotamus.” Bess went back to his hotel and went to sleep. During the night he had another vision, which he described in his letters a few years later. He awoke crying and “fell through my bed in the hotel into a yellow room with two horrible animals—one a fuzzy horse teeth showing and blood red eyes the other a hippo with eyes almost closed and an unbearable stench—both were nodding their heads.”

Bess packed his belongings and took a taxi to the base. On the way, he felt as if his entire body were being flushed away from the inside with hot water. At the base’s mental clinic he was given a sedative. Afterward, he had two more visions. He was granted a leave of absence and cried for hours at a time over a period of three or four days. He described his whole world as turning yellow-amber. “And it could have been about this time that I separated the mind and the body,” remembered Bess. “The mind could be given free reign unfettered. It had unlimited visions.”

There’s usually a good deal of tolerance for eccentrics in small towns. Forrest designed crab traps and a hurricane-proof roof, so he was considered to be useful. My mother and her friends appreciated his ability as an artist and encouraged him by commissioning portraits. His dream work was not well received, however. My parents—who were very square—enjoyed visiting with Forrest at his camp at Chinquapin; they would sit and talk and drink Forrest’s strong, dark coffee, which looked like it had been brewing for three weeks. On one visit to Chinquapin, Forrest started talking about his correspondence with Jung. I guess he thought that I would know who Jung was and be impressed, and at first I was. He said, “Jung is very interested in my ideas.” Then Forrest squinted his eyes and puffed his pipe, looking very profound, and added, “Something he said reminded me of the fourth canto of Goethe’s Faust.” At that point, I became skeptical. I felt like he had grandiose intellectual pretensions, and I eventually learned that you had to discount a great deal of what he said, but he was always interesting to talk to.

—Margaret Furse, and old family friend now living in Austin

As Bess turned out small, distinctively colored paintings of his visions, he began to understand the process of creation, if not the meaning of the symbols. He felt that he was “a conduit through which they pass and are put on canvas” and that his conscious mind was now totally divorced from the act of painting. It was a realization that filled him with excitement and dread. Perhaps these symbols from an unknown source could help him uncover his own identity, a process he regarded with ambivalence. He also began to wonder if his quest was linked to a much greater discovery that could benefit all mankind.

“But Bess accepted his local notoriety almost as a matter of course; his real work was of such immense importance that merely becoming an artistic celebrity could hardly reward it. He continued to wage what he described as a ‘tremendous battle through correspondence’ with almost any expert he thought might be interested in his theories. He compiled a notebook of sketches, clippings, quotations, and other data that might corroborate his theories. He also produced a step-by-step manifesto based on an obscure manhood rite practiced by Australian aborigines, which involved the mutilation of the male genitals. ‘All symbolism in art,’ Bess wrote in his treatise, ‘points towards this mutilation as being the basic step towards the state of pseudo-hermaphrodite as the desirable and intended state of man.’

The manifesto dropped like a dark curtain between Bess and his closest intellectual companions. Meyer Schapiro dismissed it and Bess called him a chained slave. Betty Parsons declined to hang what he called his manifesto as a show, and he wrote her angrily in 1959: ‘Art to me is the search for truth so death will end. To you it is a matter of aesthetics.’ But Bess was, strangely, given hope by Jung’s final reply to all his correspondence, entreaties, and theses. ‘What you have found is not unique,’ wrote Jung. ‘It has been found possibly once each century since the beginning of time. It invariably leaves the individual with the feeling that they have made The Great Discovery. Let us return to the safe basis of facts.’ To Bess, the ancient history of his thesis indicated its timeless significance, and as for ‘the safe basis of facts,’ that was all right for Jung. Jung, after all, wasn’t an artist. Jung was just scared.”

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