we unconsciously haul
our childhood home.
Even as adults we retain
the incubative space when our model of
reality was made with neurons that survived their
perilous migration upward to cast a mind.
in the elevator, not sure
on which floor I live;
door my key opens. Or, i am trying to find the
mailbox with my name on it, crammed with letters not relevant
Because of such scenes, i am now a trickster
caught in the net in his dreams.
Latin word for the sacredness of a place is cultus,
the dwelling of a god, the place where a rite is valid. Cultus became
our word culture, not in the portentous sense it now
has, but in a much humbler sense. For ancient people the sacred
was the vernacular ordinariness of things: the hearth, primarily;
the bed, the wall around the yard.(1)
entrances open to appearances from another age. "Preservation
recognizes the necessity of the images of the past for the animation
of the present. And it is a form of adornment,
giving body, sensuality, attractiveness to the imagination of
and soul to the imagination of
physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg visited
Kronberg Castle, Bohr
said to Heisenberg: "Isn't it strange how
this castle changes as soon as one imagines that
Hamlet lived here?" Later,
Bohr continued, speculating that to
the dismay of some archaeologists, (Jacques) Cauvin
argued that major changes in thought preceded changes
people changed their religion and symbolism before
they became farmers, not as a result of becoming
and adaptationists, this is heresy, but, somewhat
doesn't matter if Hamlet actually lived there.
What matters is "the
questions Shakespeare had him ask, the human depth
he was made to reveal."(3)
the Neolithic, walls "were like
between components of the cosmos;
behind them lay
from which spirits and
and be induced to emerge."(4)
Ancient Rome, Forculus was the god of doors,
goddess of hinges and handles, Limentinus
deities of the threshold.
Japan, two Niō protected temple entrances,
one's mouth was open the other's closed;
between them the span between birth and death.
west across the New World, immigrants never lost sight of
the home they
left. Thus, Queen Anne, Victorian, Italianate
and Mediterranean architecture magnify these streets. In his
Without Nature," James Hillman says: "The
great question in psychology is, Where is
the subject, not what is the
where is it?
Where does the unconscious stop? Where does the psyche stop?"(5) Hillman's
mentor, C.G. Jung, said: "Nothing
has ever been projected; that is a wrong conception really:
the term projection is wrong.
a psychological content always has
been outside, it never was inside. A so-called
projection is simply
a thing which
to be outside and then integrated by the discoverer with himself.
Our psychology was
all found outside,
it never was
in our pockets to
mind stops where imagination
falters. However, Jung goes on to say that the psychology
people "is identical with things and the things are his mind..." Referring
to contemporary primal tribes, this is one of Jung's colonialist
slips. But it
still may give us insight into the Homo
sapiens mind when it began to emerge in Africa, perhaps cultures
grow, expand, and conquer, based on the need to fill up
these white spaces. As we succeed, the tangibility of the
It is farther and farther away. East and West, unexpected
oceans, unprecedented continents. Magellan’s ship
made it around the world; suddenly there was less mystery 200,000
years ago. The question becomes not "Where does
but "Where did it begin?"
we don't see in the space of an old house is the archetypal
structure that supports it. We may sense its revenants, but not
new house, we can already smell the future. But how can
future without a past? So its walls are braced by the
ribs of gnarled trees. Its
is a canopy of sticky sap. Its foundation is poured into
an ancient creek bed. Born
from a universe driven through rings by magnets, its aura "by
contrast, involves a permanent presence which ironically
rests on invisibility, inscrutability and illegibility."(7) By
default, a building stands where a moment ago was an
We are the desert
His left hand plucks from the burning
what his right hand burns. (8)
summer I lived here, my door opened onto a forest. Ten
years later, I live on the top
floor of a twelve-story building. Not like
my childhood home that had two sides cleaved
by a lobby and united by a basement and roof. Two elevators
from the dark basement to
a roof with gray shingles, wavy
lines of tar, and clothes drying taut ropes.
could enter the cellar, a uroboros with storage
rooms, with steep hills of coal, discarded baby carriages,
banks of electricity meters and fuse boxes, and an enormous
room with three boilers blasting heat upwards to
radiators howling with steam. I still have
in which the elevator doesn't stop at the
a train speeding through tunnels of infinite
"an elevator system
linking earth to space. In a sense it is
a tower, rising clear through the atmosphere, and far,
of it as a four-track vertical subway or
railroad, from earth to synchronous orbit. An engineering
doubt, but a psychological nightmare. I
suggest that some people will go mad at its mere contemplation."(9)
There were six floors,
twelve flights of stairs "the breath-bearing / Dioscuri
climb up and down / Inaccessible stairs as the
mountains / Retreat from
heavenly fortress / At night, and gone / The
times / Of Pythagoras."(10)
are two elevators, side-by-side, no basement,
and they don't reach to the roof. Without a
basement to rise
from or roof
to rise above, my severed memories are cached
in a neural net physically inscribed with myths of my own
home has come to mean entering the precincts of
Some left early,
while others waited for the mutations
that made them fully human beings. It
was the Homo sapiens mind's need to see what's
the next horizon,
test survival skills,
and make culture of it all, that drove small
groups north, then fan out east
and west, refining tools and weapons along the way. In this way
predictors more dangerous than their size suggested.
We do not know much about how early
migrating peoples sheltered themselves before they lived under the
overhangs of caves. Of course it would have varied with
terrain, weather, and available materials as, unlike
their conservative Neanderthal cousins, who stuck with what worked
over millions of years, they became expert at adapting to changing
"Among the earliest huts
to be discovered are those at sites in the
central Russian Plain (today's
dated to about 14,000 B.C.E.
Constructed of mammoth bones
poles, with a lining of animal
skins and the central hearth,
the largest dome- shaped hut
parts from nearly a hundred
mammoths in its framework."(11)
is proposed that before this they "crouched
behind windbreaks, branches or twigs clumsily heaped
plaited together or large
and sleeping between the thick fur of animal skins.
I am sitting on a bench
thinking that I'd like to leave the city and
have dinner with the sun setting behind
my tent, waking
before dawn to backpack up an unfamiliar trail.
morphological and functional evolution of appendages
has played a crucial role in the adaptive radiation
of tetrapods, arthropods
and winged insects. The origin and diversification
of fins, wings and other structures, long a focus
of paleontology, can now be
approached through two
pigeons walking up to me suddenly turn in another
If there must
be a god in the house, let him be one
That will not hear us when we speak...(13)
Years before I climbed up to my
hermitage cabin, nestled "between
the north and east slopes of Boggs Mountain,"(14) I
rented a spacious apartment in San Francisco's
Fillmore District, working the night shift
at the post office.
One afternoon, while packing for a trip to
Japan, I heard on the radio–
night on asphalt campus
road by the German Instructor with
W.C. Williams is dead he said in accent
under the trees in Banares...(15)
Silently bowing to
mountain temple buddhas, more than forty years later I can
still see those cavernous rooms, and hear the poet's sonorous
voice echoing through them. Where did I imagine I was going?
is no single antecedent to our species.
more bones dusted off, the more lines of descent anthropologists
cannot restore the body that shaped his mind."(16)
late style would reflect a life of learning, the wisdom that comes from experience,
the sadness that comes from wisdom and a mastery of craft that
has nothing left to prove. It might recapitulate a life's themes, reflect
on questions answered, and allude to where
we began is a matter of which attribute is chosen to rent us from our animal
past. There was no natal moment.
On clear days,
from several points in this neighborhood three mountains appear.
It is Mt. St. Helens who is best known, because of her eruption decades
forests, spewing gray
ash even over these streets.
Many days, like a god she disappears. Then
she returns mantled in snow; or naked like Danaë: dark rock
festooned with ice-glittering stones. Majestically distant, even
her crown, this made me consider human Paleolithic social space.
I imagine a family
circled around a fire during long nights of freezing winds
howling from glaciers crawling
not far away. Predators
were also felt
circling just beyond the sacred protective flame.
There was also an outer circle of urine, with
ancestors marked their place. Crossing
the threshold from darkness into light, there
is no bright line that untangles who we are from who we were.
i'm back on the streets
of Brooklyn, looking for my first universe again. But
the address numbers skip. Realizing i am on the side-street,
i walk to the building's entrance. Inside, a door that
leads to a staircase is guarded by two young men, one arrogant,
the other morose. Not wanting to fight for entry, i walk
around a corner. Two women are there. One shows me the
elevator, whose door is a solid sheet of metal that doesn't
open. So she slides out a draw full of its machinery, and
begins to work on it. An older man appears,
also looking for the elevator. Seeing what's happening,
he says, "Let's take the stairs." We walk back
to the staircase door. The Niō are gone. i follow him
up a few flights of steps, then down others, when it occurs
isn't my childhood home.
is subversive not when it frightens, repels, or even stigmatizes...but
when it is pensive, when it thinks."
suggest that photography is subversive
when it imagines what the viewer can't. Connah continues: "Photography
is probably subversive the closer
to meaningless it takes us."(17)
is meaningless until we think we “got the picture.” Lack
of meaning is not subversive, only provisional, delaying
the inevitability of description.
A subversive art would be one whose meaning is inherently
transitional, intrinsically provoking metamorphosis.
The foyer has a
closet, a small kitchen to the left. Ahead is
a living room with two bookcases, a couch, an
tiltable table, a computer, Japanese
blinds. In the bedroom, a desk
piled with books, and two computers. There's a night table, at
the place of descent from one world to another.This descent involves
a progression through a sequence of the four doorways, of black,
blue, yellow and and white
mountain, each doorway guarded by a different animal: Red Bear,
Red Snake, Red Coyote
and Red Hawk. This sequence leads at last to a bed.
Mirror of the bathroom's medicine cabinet is a portal
in which we may see ourselves, as if we are ourselves dreaming
of being at home.
"We are what
we are today because our primordial
ancestors followed paths and riverbanks
over the horizon."(18) Now
we are primarily urban dwellers drawn
together by work and culture, perhaps
for some of the same reasons our ancestors
frightened, if not embarrassed, by
species from which they
had mutated, like
the nouveau rich buying into gated
communities. Or was it, in their hubrus,
the old gods they feared?
I too am drawn more to
the next corner than
over the next hill, intrigued
by architecture's medley of facades, and that “our traditional
forms of ornament, such as the egg-and-dart patterns and serpentine
store forgotten magical ideas."(19) Although
a wisp of air from the forest,
or a hint
of brine from the sea, still
sets my lungs bellowing as if stoking up the blacksmith's forge.
the smittys of
our century, "architects and artisans
of the Gods," human
commonly accepted myth is that the
Hadzabe spend their evenings telling stories of recent hunts and
ancient legends while sitting
a small fire, story lines punctuated with careful intonations, sound
effects, and jokes. It is a rich and varied existence, and after
several days of living with them I started to feel a distinct calmness,
as the worries and clutter of modern life melted away. In an odd
way, it felt like our technologies will always save
us, as they have for thousands of years. But now the earth
is posting conditions in which progress is measured in humans requiring
less, while we stubbornly continue to value familiarity over
reality. At ground level—
striking example of such disorientation occurred in 1973 when we
a range of rocky hills at the western edge of the Simpson Desert
that Wintinna Mick had last visited many years before. When we
escarpment and found, instead of the crest Wintinna had anticipated,
a 20 kilometer-wide plateau that he had forgotten, he became
completely disoriented. His unwonted memory lapse had so disrupted
mental image (mental map) that he was unable to reassemble it
that day. (21)
Finally, our relentless
journeying leads us back to the memory of when we knew we were
cast from the same alloys as
the whole of creation.
not a matter
of shamanic metamorphosis,
of shifting shape: we are already in "deep
the genes of other species
is our unexpressed relationship
of ourselves. Given enough
breadth, home vents into
you are: some evening take a step
out of your house, which you know so well.
Enormous space is near, your house lies where it begins,
whoever you are. (22)
Davenport, G. (1981) "The
Geography of the Imagination." The Geography of the Imagination.
San Francisco: North Point Press.
2- Sardello, R. (1982) “City
as Metaphor.” Spring Journal.
to the dismay of some archaeologists: D.
Lewis-Williams and D. Pierce, Inside
the Neolithic Mind.
London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.
3- Heisenberg, W. (1972) Physics and Beyond.
New York: Harper & Row.
4- Lewis-Williams, D. and Pearce,
D. (2005) Ibid.
Hillman, J (2005) "Beauty
Without Nature." (MP3) Oregon
Friends of C.G. Jung Library,
6- Jung, C.G. (1964) "The
Interpretation of Visions:
V. Excerpts From the Notes of Mary Foote." Spring
cultures grow: D.
Rothenberg, “The Idea
of North.” In,
D. Rothenberg, Editor, Wild
Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1995.
7- Graeme, G. (2002) Walter Benjamin: Critical Constellations.
Cambridge: Polity Press.
8- LeGuin, U.K. From, "Field Burning Debated” “Salmon
9- Clarke, A.C. (2001) The Fountains of Paradise. New York:
10- Hölderlin, F. From, "But
when the Gods..."
11- Moffett, M. & Fazio, M.W. (2003) A World History of Architecture.
London: Laurence King Publishing.
12- Camesasca, E. (1971) "A Roof Over Man's Head." In,
E. Camesasca, Editor, History
of the House. New York:
G.P. Putnam's Sons.
morphological: N. Shubin,
C. Tabin & S. Carroll, "Fossils, Genes and
the Evolution of Animal Limbs." Nature.
14 August 1997.
13- Stevens, W. From, "Less
and Less Human, O Savage Spirit."
14- Weishaus, J. (1973-74) Introduction
to "Hermitage" http://www.cddc.vt.edu/host/weishaus/Poetry/intro-p.htm
Ginsberg, A. From, "Death
16- Eiseley, L. (1998) "The
Star Dragon." In, The
Invisible Pyramid. Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press.
a late style would reflect: E.
Rothstein, “Twilight of
his Idols.” Review of E.W.
Said, On Late Style: Music
Against the Grain. The
New York Times, 16 July 2006.
17- Connah, R.(2001) “How
Architecture Got its Hump.” Cambridge:
at the place of descent: E.
L. Smith, “Doorways,
Divestiture, and the Eye of
18- Dutton, D. (2009) The
Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure,
Evolution. New York: Bloomsbury
Walter, E.V.(1988) ) Placeways.
Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press.
20- Eliade, M. (1971) The
Forge and the Crucible.
New York: Harper & Row.
Hadzabe spend: S. Wells, Pandora’s
Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization. New York: Random
21- Lewis, D. (1976) "Observation on Route Finding and Spatial
Orientation Among the Aboriginal Peoples of the Western Desert
Region of Central Australia." Oceania (June)
Rilke, R.M. From, "The
Way In." R. Bly, Translator.