Thursday, October 12, 2000


"When you use the Way to conquer the world,
Your demons will lose their power to harm.
It is not that they lose their power as such,
But that they will not harm others;
Because they will not harm others,
You will not harm others:
When neither you nor your demons can do harm,
You will be at peace with them."
-Hexgram No. 60, TaoDeChing, Lao Tze

Wednesday, October 11, 2000

William Blake In Cyberspace

Lo, a shadow of horror is risen
In Eternity! Unknown, unprolific,
Self-clos'd, all-repelling: what demon
Hath form'd this abominable void,
This soul-shudd'ring vacuum? Some said
"It is Urizen." But unknown, abstracted,
Brooding, secret, the dark power hid.

----William Blake

Summoning the Muse

By Douglas McDaniel

It’s 3:20 a.m. in America and the juices are flowing. John Milton used wake up in the morning, full of such juice, claiming the muse had come to visit. Then he wrote Paradise Lost. One would presume the underworld spoke to him in his sleep, in some transcendental R.E.M.-state, when the subconscious was most open to the alien. But what archangels are there when you cannot sleep? It's 3:25 a.m. in America and the juices are flowing.
The world is somewhat limited in its possibilities. It's 3:36 a.m. in America, but you're not in New York City. You are in the suburbs. You can choose a night book like say, Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, or, you can scan the desperate airwaves of television and, after getting sucked all the way through 3:38 a.m. in America, you find MTV. The visions are weird and wild and phantasmagorical. Milton should have had such an easy access to Hades, such an easy substitute for dreaming.
Maybe there's a baby in your arms. A new one that you keep up, an excuse for this zero-hour mania. Before you got up to greet the demons, you analyzed--processing, processing, processing--like a 486 computer with too many programs. There you are, your leg bouncing the baby on a frenetic automatic pilot. The baby has fallen asleep, but you have not, the leg running in a quick and nervous tap.
Funny how there seems to be time for everything when you don't sleep. There's books and CD-Rom and poetry to write and read. The 21st century beckons and your countrymen are mired in counterproductive slumber.
What's going on? It's not the deep doubt of back-taxes keeping you up, nor is it the novel you've written in your head in a guilty display of personal possibilities and desperate failure. What's going on is this: Caffeine. A lot of it.
It's 3:41 a.m. in America and this vibe is running through you fully sanctioned by the United States government. Two things split the yearning mind of the '90s. One of them is recovery, the other is full-scale, foot-to-the-floor self-abuse. In the late part of this century and into the next, everybody is recovering from something. If not, well, get a life! But if you quit crack or cocaine or nicotine or the home shopping network, you need to fill the anxious void.
There are few sanctioned methods of abuse in our society. We've declared war on the druggies, smokers are being run out of town and soon they'll be walking the plank. But caffeine, well, we provide more rooms for that now in the form of coffee houses than all of the opium dens of 17th-century China.
Caffeine is an alkaloid that acts as a mild stimulant. In mild doses, that is. What if you get up in the morning--presuming you have slept at least once in the last 30 days--and order a triple espresso in a dirty paper cup? It's certainly raw enough to seem dangerous. It's black pit stuff, like tobacco spit or industrial waste, a noxious brew so thick and powerful it makes you sweat at the first sip. Unlike your standard-brand, construction worker's coffee blend. With that big flask, once the thermos is finished, you spend the rest of the morning making trips to the latrine. Espresso has very little liquid to dispose of. There is compression. With very little energy wasted on processing. You get more bang for the buck.
In recent years we've tried, but failed, to find a good reason to squelch caffeine fiends. The drug increases blood pressure, stimulates the central nervous system, ignites a spark plug in the heart and lungs. But the Victorian elements in our society have found no way to suppress the stimulated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration keeps caffeine off its "generally recognized as safe" list, but acknowledges no clear evidence of hazard at normal levels or use.
But it's 3:46 a.m. in America and the fiend in you is wondering if you are normal and, perhaps, a victim of a conspiracy.This is the way we are to become more productive. If we can focus, without sleeping, then maybe we can compete with the whole emerging, coffee-producing Third World.
It's 3:47 a.m. in America. Do you know where your muses are?