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Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Podcast by John Harris

Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Podcast

by John Harris

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This is a book of books. In portions of the lives told are portions of other people’s lives retold. In portions of my text are portions of other people’s text to be found. I have deliberately taken what others have written, emulated them, sometimes copied exactly what they have written, and in all other ways expressed my admiration and interest in them by allusion, irony, and adaptation. This book has even taken its title from another book, that famously by Diogenes Laërtius, to whose philosophers my philosophers may be referred. However, do not suppose that these persons are necessarily identical.

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Antisthenes 5 - The Director

Author: John Harris
Wed, Sep 12, 2012

At the center of that wide white space was a man in an arm chair. His arms were strapped to the arms of the chair. His legs were strapped to the legs of the chair. The man seemed to be unconscious. The man looked like them but diseased.
Standing apart the Director looked nauseated. His friend understood his disgust. The two put gauze masks upon their faces, and drew latex gloves upon their hands. Looking up at the florescent ceiling the ceiling sensed him and a fine mist hissed from pores of it, making a fog in the room. They approached the seated man by two sides.
The head of the seated man had been shaved at the crown. In the scalp of where it was shaved four cobalt lines, the ink of blueprint, described a perfect square, scribed with intersecting arcs as from a compass, so as to exactly identify the center of this square. At the point of that intersection an incision had begun to be made upon the scalp in the shape of an X, but was not finished. The wound has been surgically sutured.
The Director grimaced at this. The other explained: “We have identified his signature but as you can see he does not have a velleitas. He never did. This should not have been possible. Unless he was a bastard. Hidden from us. But his father is a worthy perfect while his mother, we know that his mother was criminally insane, but his father, his father reported her, that is when he disappeared and it was he himself that reported his son deleted. We had no reason not to suppose it so. But it appears that he had known. He must have known.”

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Antisthenes 4 - The Village

Author: John Harris
Mon, Sep 10, 2012

Grandfather once texted this about life in the Village:
This is the human scale: what should be good for you lies no further from you than the length of your arm: what you need is at your grasp: what you hold in your hand is the fruit of life. The act of kindness or the act of murder falls from your fingers. You know what you are is important. You know what you do affects others and you care how it affects them. This is the human scale.
In the Perfect Society who we are does not matter. We are repetitions to one another, identical in appearance and redundant in purpose. What we do amasses like indistinguishable atoms. It is an accumulated sameness, compiled to sustain the Perfect. The atom mixes imperceptibly in the common compound.
But in the human scale difference makes texture of what is true, detail that is necessary, superfluous being essential. Who sees what others do not see, sees what others cannot. Who does what others do not do, does what others cannot. The one who cannot work sings. The one who cannot sing works. The one who cannot work or sing will help those who cannot help. This is the human scale.

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Antisthenes 3 - The Map

Author: John Harris
Mon, Sep 10, 2012

Nothing I had ever known was like this. Grandfather wrote:
Here air is fragrant. Do not be afraid of it. This is not the poisoned perfumed conditioning which the Perfects have used on you; the music is natural; the sizzling sound is wind, not mechanicals, the notes of song are living birds, not messages of machines.
I was frightened but it did not hurt me. I wept but not because it hurt. I did not know why I wept. It was the calling of emotions I did not know, I think.
I spent most of my first days near and around the portal to the exhaust vent. It was, as I gradually learned to discern, against a ridge, the ridge made up of the risen Transit itself, all overgrown and weedy, a thorny bramble over all of it, and before me something of a sloping meadow, flocked with golden rod; so sharply colored were those sprays, I thought they must be flames or lights when I first saw them, but of course they were extinguished with coming of the night. I saw little creatures move the grasses. I saw real birds in air. The presence of stars in the night was unexpected, as was the change in temperature. The impression of the Map was immediately one of perilous inconstancy, uncertainty and unknown. But I did not want to go back. I could not go back.
I consulted Grandfather’s Writings. He had described the place. Or some place like this. It comforted me to know this is what he saw also:
What has survived: the world is wild as it is wide; they misled us; exploiting fear, upwelling unknowing to surround us with the wall of their deception. Here the fluid creation cannot be concealed; it flows out of hard rock, it carries freely along the steaming air. Everything living is renewed, refreshed. We cannot destroy it. It is far greater than we are.
I felt I had found him in this way.

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Antisthenes 2 - The Perfect

Author: John Harris
Sat, Sep 8, 2012

In the days before the Deluge, the singular fortune of Perfects was to own and rule, not unlike today, except that now the privileges of Genomes are disguised; after the Deluge, during the People Wars, ordinary people attacked the Perfect and murdered them for the advantages they had, and just to take from them their possessions, or from outrage, for the injustice of their pleasure, their survival at the expense of the ordinary. The superiority of the Genomes, if not naturally, then militarily, made the war one-sided. The ordinary were annihilated. A few may have escaped to the Map. But masses were drowned, starved, destroyed by nucleonic weapons; the city-states alone were safe from the effects of these disasters, isolated in their impenetrable Involutions and the web of interstitial Transits deeply and safely submerged. The ordinary who remained in the city-states were sterilized, if not assassinated. Genomic perfection was strictly enforced; society divided between the perfect and the imperfect; but all of us are of one and only one kind.
Today the Genome is disguised in likeness from the imperfect Image. All of us look alike. All of us essentially are treated alike, or so we suppose. The difference is invisible and unacknowledged. The difference is behind doors. Those on the other side know the difference. Those of us outside never will know how much difference there is: we are told we are treated the same. Except that your mother told me, I should not have known. You should ask her to tell you while you can, when I am gone….

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Antisthenes 1

Author: John Harris
Fri, Sep 7, 2012

Whether anyone other than you will ever read this I cannot say but if only you read it and keep it and give it faithfully to your children and other children that come, I think that we can continue to be free and alive. As long as we can read and write we can be free and alive. So remember to teach. Always teach.
Now I want to give to you the Writings of Grandfather, as my mother gave them to me, and as now I must leave, I want to tell you how you came to be—how I came to wander and what I found, and how I came to the Village, how I met your mother and all the rest.
You know about the Flooding and you know about the Corporations and how the Map came to be. So I will not go into that much, except to say by way of summing it up: it was our own fault. We had known it was to be. We had quarreled but even those of us who complained that it was not so, especially those of us who complained, we knew it was so, but we did not want to change. This is another way that things do not change. People do not like to change. We will sit with water rising to our necks and say it isn’t so. So we did.

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Aristotle 2

Author: John Harris
Tue, Sep 4, 2012

“We don’t need to see this....”

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Aristotle 1

Author: John Harris
Sun, Sep 2, 2012

I apologize for explaining my own stories, as I am about to do. Generally, I hate it when authors tell you what you as a reader should experience for yourself. For example, explaining what a character feels when it has been (or ought to be) invoked by the development. The distinct pleasure of reading is ones own imagination and the author should do no more than excite it and vivify it, but not so well define it that the reader has no share in the world that emerges. I cannot tell you what oranges taste like anyway.

However, this story is difficult—when as read might become clear to the reader by the visual clues of formatting I made to delineate its narrative structure—and it might seem almost incomprehensible when heard aloud (as in this podcast) without some explanation of that structure. The story is told in convention of first-person streams of consciousness—not unusual in itself. But the persons change. Like a point-of-view camera that jumps from body to body and mind to mind, the narrative shifts from one voice to another, as the scene moves down the hall of a certain place. I will not here tell you what sort of place that is. I think it will be easily and quickly understood. It is suggested in the physical description of the place anyway.

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Author: John Harris
Fri, Aug 24, 2012

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita?mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,?ch? la diritta via era smarrita.

The first tercet of Dante’s Divine Comedy: in translation by John Ciardi, it reads: “Midway in our life's journey, I went astray / from the straight road and woke to find myself / alone in a dark wood.”

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Plato 3 (End)

Author: John Harris
Sun, Aug 19, 2012

“No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn,” said the glassblower.
Everything was explained to him. They sat dangling their legs out of the barn to watch the balloons drift, fly up and away and blend into infinite light. Suzanne told him the Guide had taken him to the underworld. Taken them both. They had gone naked below, into the darkness, following the Guide who had lit a paraffin lantern, holding it up ahead of them. They went down and down, into the liquid sounds below the world, into the cold depths. He had fallen, slipping on the wetness of the rocks. She had heard him gasp. He had—they both had—seen things. She asked him: “Do you remember?”
He said, remembering: “I think I will always be afraid to die….”
The glassblower looked at him with a kind of leer, his face lit lurid with the dawn, and said savagely: “Bite it.”
The Seeker laughed.

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Plato 2

Author: John Harris
Mon, Aug 13, 2012

The evening meal was served on low tables after a meditation session, where the visitors and the residents sat upon the same zafus on which they had been meditating. It was customary for this meal to be very light, always vegetarian of course, but tonight the meal had several courses, beginning with a course of fresh fruit, and there was a guest—a distinguished Japanese Zen master—who read haiku and koans. In his honor, they served a fish course with the rice and vegetables, and served sake, both before and after dinner, warmed in small ceramic carafes in the traditional manner. The Guide gave another address, saying that while his subject was not Buddhist essentially, the ideas were certainly Oriental, that Pythagoras had learned the secrets of tribes beyond the edge of the world, who must have been the Brahmin: “Consciousness does not know, but that it recalls. Thus first-born consciousness must recall things of previous existence. Now, most lose the memory of these things that once they knew. Very few retain adequate remembrance of them; and when they behold here any image of it, they are rapt in amazement; but they are ignorant of what this rapture means, because they do not clearly perceive. They see through a glass darkly....”
The peroration ended, all politely awaited the guest’s sagacious comment.
To which, at last, the Zen master replied, after a long poignant silence: “Fish in water.” And pausing for effect, he added: “How does the fish think what it does not drink?”
Everyone laughed. The Seeker, laughing with them, leaned over to whisper to his Companion: “What the fuck does that mean?”
She patted his leg. “Poor boy…” she commiserated with him, “Drink more sake.”

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Plato 1

Author: John Harris
Sat, Aug 11, 2012

No, this was not the perfect panorama which Petrarch beheld, where “…men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars.…” A radio played breaking the intervals of wind song, coming out of somewhere among houses on the very next hills, ramblers and mansions on horse pastures, all completely cleared of virgin growth two-hundred and thirty-two years ago, but which second growth had partially restored, as here; it’s noise annoyed like a mosquito you cannot see to kill. Then coming again, they discerned it immediately across the valley from them, where now came the teeth-aching buzz of planks and studs sliced savagely to their precise measure under an electric power-saw, from where a discouraging clear-cut of this pathetic suffering second-growth, cut to the ground, was being changed over by developers into more new houses going up. Beyond that in the distant haze, on a blue ridge, once removed, the mountain showed fresh raw scars of strip-mining for coal. Like a ziggurat, like the terraces of an ancient earth-mound pyramid. But this is no pyramid of sacred purpose.
The Guide pointed out these things in his strangely urgent manner, through his lipless mouth, and paraphrased Petrarch: “There men go abroad …yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”

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Aristippus 7 (The End)

Author: John Harris
Thu, Aug 9, 2012

It had rained while Mr. Hammett and I had been talking in the bedroom. The individual round rain drops on the glass, each luminous, each illuminated within themselves, made individual round images of the street and the lights, each a capsule of what is around them all, the round world within, as the round world without. Just as each of us are alone and the same, I thought. Each drop holding in its’ own self the image of the world around it, as large or as small as it is, the same in each, large or small, unique as its’ self, just as we are each of us the same and unique; and even as they get smaller and smaller and smaller and are taken up into the air, just pin-points of mist, are still perfect and round, pin-points and still a capsule containing all that is; and even if taken up completely into the sky and carried away and absorbed, each remains, the tiniest speck of existence, still holding within its’ self an image of everything around it; so nothing is lost, nothing, nothing is lost in the round sky that holds us all, though everything rises and goes away.…

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Aristippus 6

Author: John Harris
Wed, Aug 8, 2012

“In his last will and testament Joe left his body and possessions—his guitar was all he really owned in the world—left it all to Jonathan. Acting on his instructions, Joe’s body was cremated and his ashes were boxed up and shipped off to the I.W.W. headquarters in Chicago to be distributed to all the lodges across the U.S. for a ceremony. But the I.W.W. never got the box because it was intercepted by the U.S. Postal Service and quarantined as containing ‘subversive material.’ As far as I know they still have his ashes in some warehouse somewhere.”
Mr. Hammett put out his cigarette and raising his bottle of scotch, perceived with a shake, that only a little less than a glassful rustled inside of it; he shared it with me. We drank it neat in a last toast. He lit a cigarette, and making to get up, said to sum up: “Jonathan and I both quit our jobs then. Sent fuck-you telegrams to our employers from Salt Lake. We went on the bum for a time. Later on we joined the army together. I got sick. He went over. There is more. There is always more. But that is the story of how we met.”
He stood up and lit another cigarette, blew out the first deep breath of it, and said to me: “You can’t get to where you’re going unless you’ve come the way you’ve gone.”
I had no idea what he meant.

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Aristippus 5

Author: John Harris
Wed, Aug 8, 2012

“Starving in the winter? Go look for witches in the woods. Unemployment, dead son in the Pacific, husband come home without legs, afraid of the A Bomb. Look for communists under your bed. The cure to your troubles. Distract and blame. Fear and finger-pointing. The rich man who owns and controls everything works it every time he thinks you might be watching what he is doing behind the curtain.
“The story of the hero is always the same too. It is always Jesus Christ, and there is always Judas, Tom and Peter, and Mary Magdalene. Always the same passion is told. Always the crucifixion. Always leaving us at last to roll away the rock and find ourselves face to face with the question of survival….

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Aristippus 4

Author: John Harris
Sat, Aug 4, 2012

The US Capitol dome was in sight, on its hill, alone, and magnificent, and we wheeled past the front of it and headed down Pennsylvania Avenue and came on the White House and it was a strange feeling, seeing all these things you’ve seen in photos all your life and seen talked about in newspapers and in books and I could almost see real scenes of history around them as we passed. They were much more handsome than I had expected somehow and it gave me an elevated feeling and a feeling of my own importance seeing them; and being in that new suit, I felt like I belonged to how great they was somehow. I guess I felt proud to be an American. I guess that is what it was.
Turning in front of the White House, the cab took a boulevard to the Mayflower Hotel. When I got out, the first thought I had: this city smells like money. And here just like at the Palmer House, everyone knew Haywire and again everything was arranged, he was expected and he swept through the lobby like it was his own house, but I gotta tell you, May Belle, you ain’t never seen nothing like it.

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Aristippus 3

Author: John Harris
Fri, Aug 3, 2012

The club car lights was dim. Like a candlelight. Beyond the windows of the car the wide deep night above and the wide flat farm fields below was black and boundless, just like we was just a boat in the middle of one huge empty lake, and the little lights of the little homes on the isolated farms, afloat the emptiness, and twinkling, and drifting like fireflies on a far shore, as we flew down track in a whoosh. The parallel railroad tracks lit like polished metal in the gleam of our tail, converged like an arrow, and shot away from us to the horizon where a city, north and behind us, made a gas glow low in the sky, fading away. At the back of the car which was boat-tailed, where the windows come together in a bow of glass, there was a pair of posh arm chairs face to face and a couple classy ashtray stands beside them and Haywire and I sat ourselves there with a bottle of five-star cognac and a set of crystal highball glasses and a tub of ice cubes and a seltzer bottle, and we drank and watched the fireflies of other people’s lives spark, flit and fling off in the wash of darkness in the soar of our passing away. The car rocked on the tracks, so in our posh chairs, half-drunk, we bobbed, like in a boat in that huge empty dark lake, and the rhythm of the road knocking like the water slapping against our boat-sides; and that restless rocking and that cognac was all so pleasant, I finally got the guts to ask him the question straight out.
“Who are you?”

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Aristippus 2

Author: John Harris
Fri, Aug 3, 2012

?Life is lonely again,
And only last year everything seemed so sure.?Now life is awful again,?A troughful of hearts could only be a bore.?A week in Paris will ease the bite of it,?All I care is to smile in spite of it.?I’ll forget you, I will?While yet you are still burning inside my brain.?Romance is mush,?Stifling those who strive.?I’ll live a lush life in some small dive...?And there I’ll be, while I rot?With the rest of those whose lives are lonely, too....

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Aristippus 1

Author: John Harris
Sat, Jul 28, 2012

“It is a happy and a cruel world, brother,” he said, “A place to eat and a place to die. And if I’d rather, I’d rather eat. Let’s make some roast beef, what you say?” And we did.

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Socrates 4

Author: John Harris
Mon, Jul 23, 2012

A Prayer of King Henry VI

Domine, Jesu Christe, qui me creasti,
redemisti, et preordinasti ad hoc quod sum,
tu scis quid de me facere vis; fac de me secundum voluntatem tuam cum misericordia.

Lord Jesus Christ, who created, redeemed, and preordained me to be this that I am, you know what you wish to do with me; do with me in accordance with your will, with mercy.
Translation by Paul Pascal, Professor Emeritus of Classics, University of Washington

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Socrates 3 -- the Trial of Faith

Author: John Harris
Sun, Jul 22, 2012

Sir John Davies

I know my soul hath power to know all things,
Yet she is blind and ignorant in all;
I know I’m one of Nature’s little kings,
Yet to the least and vilest things am thrall.

I know my life’s a pain and but a span;
I know my sense is mock’d in everything;
And to conclude, I know myself a Man----
Which is a proud and yet a wretched thing.

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Socrates 2

Author: John Harris
Fri, Jul 20, 2012

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties,” she had said to him, quoting another. Words also uttered unfortunately by the heretic Williams who had heard those words uttered first hand by their great author—a martyr to the Lost Cause, one to whom God had given divine insight to compensate his blindness, one to whom Cotton as all Puritans held considerable intellectual and moral indebtedness. Cotton wholly agreed in his heart with him, but he could not agree in practice. Not as a civil authority. Not as minister of the Truth. The virtue of Truth shall not be tested. When tested, it shall necessarily compromise; it must; it must be lived with. Now he must contend with her. She shall certainly use his own words against him. She shall certainly cite his own sermons, ones she herself had written for him, but which he had authorized and which he had uttered as his own.
“Now I must contend with myself. How shall I?”
He is aware that he is speaking out loud to himself and that his horse, if it understood him, had nothing to say to him. He considers the horse the wiser of the two of them on the road that night.

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Socrates 1 (Beginning)

Author: John Harris
Thu, Jul 19, 2012

Like the Buddha, Lao Tzu and Jesus, none of what Socrates may have said was written in his own hand. We know what we know of him by what others have told us about him. But unlike these other holy men, his life was recorded by those who knew him personally while he was yet alive. What is told about him is corroborated even by his enemies.

His life is not factitious legend, as so much and so often our other holy men shall prove to be the stock of fabulous tales. We know for fact that he lived and died as it was reported. He lived and died poor. He lived and died by choice. He lived and died for philosophy.

We are told that, once a student of Anaxagoras, he became a philosopher in his own right in his middle age. But Diogenes La?rtius, by his own misanthropic predilection perhaps, preferably exalted the particular influence of his cankerous wife Xantippe, whom it seems was ashamed of their common poverty because of his idleness and would not permit entertainment of his philosophical band in their humble home, and who so continuously chastised her husband that he therefore took to walking the streets and there requited himself upon neighbors and strangers in overwrought colloquy; well-practiced perhaps by the carping of his wife, he became so skilled in argument that he was infamous for it. His wife conditioned him, he said, as her name implied by etymology, that she was a horse that is not easily ridden. She chased him herself even to the streets, where once she tore the clothes off his back. And in another instance, Diogenes La?rtius reports, she doused him with their chamber pot.

Our Socrates resembles nothing in all of this except in fate; some should find her more like she who was his inspiration than he who was inspired.

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Anaxagoras 15 (The Last)

Author: John Harris
Mon, Jul 16, 2012

As the space craft emerged from the dark side of moon just at that moment, we on the planet Earth saw ourselves in the immense void of space for the first time in history. Looking across magnificent desolation, we saw ourselves. All of us on this lovely lonely planet. Alone together in the vast night of the Universe.

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Anaxagoras 14

Author: John Harris
Sun, Jul 15, 2012

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?

--Opening lines of “America” by Alan Ginzberg

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Anaxagoras 13

Author: John Harris
Wed, Jul 11, 2012

Edith stood after an interval when the doors were shut behind them. She stood beside her chair. She looked at Rand: “Andrew, I have known you for seventeen years. Nothing, not even the human vivisections that you call surgeries, disgust me more than the use you have taken of this poor sick child.”
Rand began a bluster: “It is you who has misused this child….”
Edith stopped him with her hand raised: “Andrew, you know she does not speak the truth, except as her poor sick mind perceives it. I do regret engaging her in my experiments. For that error and the harm thereby to her, I am culpable. As soon as I realized the pathology of her mind, I dismissed her, but she has resisted my efforts to deliver her to therapy. I hope you shall see that she receives treatment, Madam Chair, whatever the outcome here.”
Edith took a breath. She looked very sad. No one said anything until Edith said: “I think we are done for the day,” and turned and walked out the doors.
No one spoke. Winslow’s cheerful invitation for drinks at her house was met with dismayed silence. Rand and his bevy worked to collect their papers and he gave them detailed instructions for the morrow. I held back as the other Finders of Fact left the hall and caught the Chair as she was leaving the room. Touching her arm to gain her attention, I told her: “I think that last testimony was unfair to Edith. I know this young woman. She is not well. The things she said are not true.”
The Chair said: “Yes, I know. I am sure that the others understand this, but you must forgive me, I cannot discuss the matter with you. You must discuss it with them when you have the opportunity.”
She was not wrong. But I asked her how should Edith defend herself against it. She shook her head, looking back at me as I held the door for her, seeing Rand over her shoulder coming towards us, and said again, “I am sorry. I must go.”
Rand went by me, looking at me suspiciously, as I was left holding the door for him and his burdened minions to pass through. Looking back in the room I imagined that a Tyrannosaurus should be a festive visitor to the Hall, compared to what I had just witnessed.

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Anaxagoras 12

Author: John Harris
Sun, Jul 8, 2012

This is the last of Edith’s diaries that I shall quote, which are germane to her trial. I shall explain the matter in my own words, as I witnessed it.
She herself did not report the matter in her diary in any event. In fact she would give up the diaries entirely after the New Year....
On November 28 as I sat on her sofa thumbing Time magazine, oblivious to my future, I was apprehensive for Edith’s who was happily basting her turkey with buttery gravy while Gryphon fussed with the autumnal table centerpiece. Neither felt the apprehensions I had, but were quietly and serenely resigned and resolved.
The day before, summoned to the Chair’s office, she had been informed that the investigations had concluded and charges had been preferred against her, proposing the termination of her tenure and her removal from the University. The official stationary lay on the coffee table before me. I had set it down after Edith had shown it to me. I should become very familiar with its allegations:
The record shall show complaints concerning Dr. Casey’s professional conduct since as early as 1965 and continuing and increasing thence. There are complaints about Dr. Casey’s performance by her students, her colleagues, and others. The complaints concern poor teaching, absences from class, absences from faculty meetings, low enrollment in her classes, facilitating unbecoming conduct of students, harboring criminal conspirators, sedition, obscenity, indecency, promoting promiscuity and sexual perversion, undocumented research, improper methodology, unscientific inquiry, and other matters.
She was suspended from her duties and given an indefinite administrative leave of absence. Her lab and her office were sealed and the locks were changed. There would be an official trial of the Faculty Senate in January.

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Anaxagoras 11

Author: John Harris
Mon, Jul 2, 2012

“So much violence was going on at the same time everywhere around me,” she finished her cocktail, “To my right, four policemen were beating a young man as he lay on the ground. Unconscious. They beat him, and beat him, and at the same time kept telling him to ‘Get up. Get the hell out of here.’
“I stepped in to stop them. I argued with them, presenting myself to be beaten. It surprised them, I think. I said: ‘Don’t hurt him. Hit me.’ They stood with their batons in hand, looking uncertainly at me. One said something to another and two left, pursuing others. The two remaining took me by my arms, to lead me to the paddy wagon. I asked them: “Why are you doing this? What have I done?” They did not reply. They said: ‘Come on, lady, it’s our job….’
She put down her glass and said: “You know? I read that that is the same thing the Soviet soldiers said to the Czech students when they entered Prague.”
I told her that I had seen students in Chicago carrying signs, saying “Welcome to Prague.”
“Yes,” she said. “I saw that too.”
“So you were arrested?”

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Anaxagoras 10

Author: John Harris
Fri, Jun 29, 2012

Again, Edith is cryptically brief. Again, when so much may be said, she says so little. The irony of the personal genius, the paradox of her special wisdom, inarticulate when much may be expressible, articulate about matters which others find inexpressible. Again, because I was present, either with her or with Zoe or was watching it from television, as the whole world was watching, I saw and shall report.
Edith is fond of peeling the layer of surfaces off of appearances, to show the hidden interconnectedness, contingency and coincidence; to reveal how events, persons, and substance are colluded by events, persons and substance, how by chance and choice a confluence of opposite forces conjoin in conflicted harmony, like Yin and Yang, to manifest what is.
Thus this day, thus the culminating event of August 28, began in past events, persons, and substances, by chance, by choice.

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Anaxagoras 9

Author: John Harris
Wed, Jun 27, 2012

“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose garden....

Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present....”

-- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton”


In his own voice the poem is read.

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Anaxagoras 8

Author: John Harris
Tue, Jun 26, 2012

4 July 1968

Rachel left.

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Anaxagoras 7

Author: John Harris
Sat, Jun 23, 2012

I said: “I do not know what time is unless it is this moment from that moment. But if you can be in two places at once, then perhaps time is conjoined. In the way that one electron is in two places at once. If space is indeterminate, is time indeterminate? Is there such a thing as a single event in time occupying two moments? One now, one before. One before, one future. One for this person, and the other for that. But the same event? Does time have the same spread of probability that a quanta of energy has, as we have discovered it has? I think it must be so, for space and time are inextricably bound in this material reality, and that material reality possesses this indeterminacy, this spread of potentiality, this softly blurred being of possibility, then so must space and time. So, yes, my darling one, I do believe you feel time standing still. Yes, you are holding your breath, and when your breath is held time is held… breathlessly.”

Our nudity somehow made confession natural.

She said she found this still frightening. I touched her shoulder. I said to her: “Nothing in this should frighten you. Look at the world. Here.”

She looked where the girls were giggling together and the roses flush with color, with aroma. A sky, a gorgeous glassy porcelain. My Basswood tree like a very old loving woman, listening. I said: “You see it is as it is. What you feel is what it is.”

She nodded. She seemed like she might cry. I said: “Eat a cookie. They are delicious.” And something about my eating one, seeing me, plump pixie that I am, middle-aged as I am, in the nude, seemed suddenly very comic to her and she laughed, and what tears she then shed were tears of an emotional happiness....

Time did not stand still, nor was its passing regretted, but each moment of that charming day was cherished for its own. The dusk was like a dust of suspended particles of light, and once I lit the tiki torches with all us naked in the faded creamy dreamy dim, cicadas began to keenly buzz among my fragrant Basswood with their soul-mate buzzing bees in this, my mighty bee-tree; we all looked alike the lovely virgin sprite, whom any man would be enthralled to see, but our finding shall be forbidden him—O, in the loss of such a vivid dream to see, he should feel forever empty. All the birds and bugs made music of the twilight that left us wondering in delight, all us naked girls in this midsummer’s night:

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:? In a cowslip's bell I lie; ? There I couch when owls do cry. ? On the bat's back I do fly ? After summer merrily. ? Merrily, merrily shall I live now ? Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

Over hill, over dale, ? Thorough bush, thorough brier,? Over park, over pale, ? Thorough flood, thorough fire, ? I do wander everywhere, ? Swifter than the moon's sphere; ? And I serve the fairy queen,? To dew her orbs upon the green.

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Anaxagoras 6

Author: John Harris
Thu, Jun 14, 2012

Chains of tyrants, chains of society, and chains of self: all must be broken and cast off!
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.
Zoe celebrates her life with the joyous enthusiasm of a child, as she truly is, and as she says she always wants to be. She has come out bare-breasted in her underpants into my garden, sipping her tea cup held prayerfully in her two hands, barefoot, stepping gingerly about my flower beds, leaning to gaze on my flowers. She is as pretty as they. Howard shall be here shortly, shall let himself in, and shall find her here half-dressed. How sweet!
Sois jeune et tais toi!

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Anaxagoras 5

Author: John Harris
Sun, Aug 14, 2011

In some instances—a fairly large number of instances—the respondent reported that they broke out of their body, while their “other self” was fully conscious, alert, and active doing ordinary tasks—walking along a sidewalk, driving a car, riding in a bus, typing at work. Like Dr. Rand’s discoveries (and I might not have believed it without this contribution, but I must take this as confirmation for what I see reported), we witness parallel consciousness as he reported in his preliminary findings concerning bifurcated brain activities he surgically caused: in this case, however, one functioning in a person inside his body and the second in the same person outside his body, but each “half” is (if I may dare to quote him) “…indeed a conscious system in its own right, perceiving, thinking, remembering, reasoning, willing, and emoting, all at a characteristically human level…. conscious simultaneously in different, even in mutually conflicting, mental experiences that run along in parallel.” I think the report of the young lady who worked at her typewriter, transcribing reports, while taking a respite and walking about in her ecsomatic self, to be the most amusing of all of these reports. I should very much like to be able to do the same thing at most of the faculty meetings I have to attend.
The other remarkable tale concerned a girl floating above and following herself walking home from work after putting in some very long hours as a waitress at one of our local pubs. She watched herself from overhead and behind at good height, following and listening to her high heels clicking on the pavement. Her walking self navigated perfectly efficiently, went up the stairs into her apartment building, rounded corners and passageways, unlocked her door, turned on the lights, shut the curtains, and began undressing for bed before her other self slipped back into herself with little lapse of her awareness, and found herself finishing the task. This report comes from one of the multiples that I hope we may engage for further study.

Image is from Kubrick’s ?2001: A Space Odyssey.
Music excerpt also from that film.

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Anaxagoras 4

Author: John Harris
Sat, Aug 13, 2011

We all – but they especially – na?ve and wide-eyed – my sweet gullibles - are terribly awakened to the evil which our society tolerates, which we deny, we condone, and in which we ourselves participate to perpetuate by benumbed indifference to its existence. Of course they are in a state of radical alienation to their own parents, their own society. Of course they want change desperately. But how? They feel powerless.
Many of the fine young men I know who may be drafted are openly discussing defiance of induction, even though it may result in their arrest or exile. My young apprentice—I should say graduate assistant—has lost his deferment and fears he will be inducted soon. Howard says he will resist but this will ruin him, his brilliant hopeful future. Of course I sympathize; he does not want to kill; he does not want to be killed. If it occurs, I promised him that I have friends in Canada; he can obtain citizenship there and start a new life. Poor boy is not content with this. He wants the war to be ended.
Howard had been a freedom rider in South Carolina last summer, so I should expect this political passion, and he is Jewish, his grandmother is a holocaust survivor. He believes in a destiny of unjust tragedy. How do we find ourselves the actors of dramas written by history, by social forces larger than ourselves? What covenant of God is this?


Music excerpt is
Country Joe and the Fish,
“Don’t Give a Damn,”
sung at Woodstock.

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Anaxagoras 3

Author: John Harris
Sat, Aug 13, 2011

Next then she encountered anecdotes reported to her by physicians of our own hospitals, accounts of patients who claimed to have died and to have come back from death. And it was true that in every instance the person had some one or more mortal failure: they were not breathing; their hearts had stopped beating; electrical brain activity had ceased. This much could be confirmed by empirical data as well as corroborated testimony. To this, when the patient recovered, although not in all cases was it told, an experience was recalled. A more or less consistently reported experience which usually entailed these common elements: a very unpleasant sound or noise; awareness of being dead; sense of peace, well-being and painlessness; a feeling of being removed from the world; a traveling feeling, a feeling of tunneling through palpable darkness, moving up, or through a passageway; a rapid movement toward or a sudden emergence into a powerful light; communication with the light; an intense feeling of unconditional love; encountering “beings” of light or persons dressed in white, sometimes identified as deceased loved ones; being given review of ones life, a summing up; being presented precious knowledge about life and the universe; the choice or the determination that the dying person return to the body, often a reluctant return; approaching a border; reawaking to the body.

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Anaxagoras 2

Author: John Harris
Tue, Aug 9, 2011

Her especial interest was the problem of perception, that the hallucination seemed real and material: did the subject in fact experience the vivid hallucination as a real event might be experienced? Was there ultimately within the sense organs, within the brain the “artifacts” of that experience, as it were, the photons upon the retina for the image seen, the ions for the aroma, the palpability of the touch? How far in its affect did the illusion of reality fulfill itself, in so far as the percipient was concerned? For certainly we did not see, smell, feel what he did. There was nothing there. Was the hallucination contained within the brains or was it by some sympathy reproduced, enacted upon the senses which should have received them? It was for this reason that she looked to the instrument of GSR such as Watson used, to that of the EEG, and to other physiological indicia, by which to elicit objective data to affirm the elusive presence of that tenuous “mind” of man. But these always and circularly reinforced the uncertainty. Mind and body must interoperate, but in these hallucinations mind was feeling a phantom body and if the body felt, it was what the mind thought it felt and so it felt it. Was there a distinction to be made?

“Not ontologically, No,” she had said, “even if empirically, Yes.”
A person who thinks she will die may die in fact—and Dr. Casey actually witnessed this—a perfectly healthy young psychotic woman with whom she was walking in the hospital declared that she felt terribly afraid that she was dying and instantly died on the spot, collapsing to the hospital floor, although her autopsy found no disease, no substantial etiology to explain her sudden death. She felt she died. And she died.

Music excerpt is “Where is my mind?” by the Pixies.

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Anaxagoras 1

Author: John Harris
Tue, Aug 9, 2011

Chicago • 1968

She had indeed not even told me her name and I had neglected to ask it. I discovered her name, in the manner of the fabled TV Western as it ends when the masked man disappears in the repeated rite of its oft rote plot: “Who was that woman?” I asked a frowzy student in beads, tie-die and afro-shrubbery cleaning tables. “Oh,” she replied, “That is Dr. Casey….” Would I be her Kemo Sabe?

Music excerpt is “Where is my mind?” by the Pixies.

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Author: John Harris
Sat, Jul 30, 2011

Los Angeles • 1982

In 1902 he was born. From birth he and his twin were inseparable. Forever together. They always played together. They always slept together. They always ate together....

In 1912 when he was ten years of age an unsinkable ocean liner sank among ice floes in the north Atlantic and most of its passengers drowned, and although inseparable he and his twin ceased to speak to one another. While he heard what his twin said, he began his life-long habit of ignoring him, or rather, more correctly to put it so, he began his habit of quietly observing him. His twin did not cease to talk to him, however, and began habitually to criticize him. They played separately though they were always together. At this age he began to think silently what he wished to say and he began to find that people knew what he thought without having to speak what he thought and so he began his life-long habit of speaking very little.

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Anaximander 3 (end)

Author: John Harris
Sat, Jul 23, 2011

People take such secrets when they die. Not only private experiences, but knowledge that cannot be retrieved, remembrances of things that explain or signify so much of life, so much that those of us who are left here cannot understand without them.
I wish there was a place somewhere, a storehouse—it would have to be an enormous building, something like the British Museum—where you could go and find all the valuable memories of the dead, housed in many rooms, and kept in many cabinets with many drawers labeled for all the dead, and in those drawers there would be collected and inventoried the precious artifacts of these memories. And I wish I could go there and find my dad’s drawer. I would look for the box labeled “Mom’s Sorrow” and I would open it. I would look for the object labeled “Pockets’ Real Name” and I would pick it up and hold it and examine it lovingly and long.

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Anaximander 2

Author: John Harris
Sat, Jul 23, 2011

I asked him: “Do you believe in God, Pockets?”
He said: “Everything comes from everything. And nothing comes from nothing.”
And I said: “Ok.” I tossed some stones in the water.
And then I asked: “But do you think that people are going to live after they die?”
And he stopped for a minute, thinking while he looked at me carefully, like he was trying to figure out what it was that was bothering me and why I would ask him such a question and then he said: “If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen.” He nodded his head slowly then, looking me in the eye, like a fish does, and I wanted to agree. How could it be disputed, put that way? I had no idea what he meant but I have never forgotten it and it is still some comfort to me for some reason.

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Anaximander 1

Author: John Harris
Thu, Jul 21, 2011

Under the Bridge • 1957

The man who lived under the bridge looked like the troll my mother had told me about in the fairy tale. His hair was long, unkempt, and stuck out all around, like a shrub, and usually had dirt and leaf bits and twigs in it; his beard framed his sun-burnt face like a bush of hair, also grown out very long, was also unkempt, uncut, and contained portions of meals he had eaten. His face, surrounded by this density, this aura of excited chaos, looked like that of a Green Man. I thought this only later of course, much later when I was middle-aged and saw such a face on the carved door of a 12th century abbey in England, and in fact I immediately thought it was his face. So much like his face, it was, I had to wonder what I had seen when I was ten years old, who that man was, why he was there....

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Epimenides 5 (end)

Author: John Harris
Sat, Jul 16, 2011

Some things to be known must be found alone.


Music excerpt: Cat Steven’s “Moon Shadow” and “The Wind.”

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Epimenides 4 - The Pacific

Author: John Harris
Sat, Jul 16, 2011

Thus, playing, half-seriously seeking, I discovered in a roiling tub of sea waves, couched in the rock wall, a wavering little plant with sunlit open flower. Alone. Submerged. Cringing. Clinging to a ragged cusp at the bottom where nothing else could hold itself in the wave-washed pool, swaying in the chanting, dying waves roiling over and around it. The flower was a white star within which a smaller yellow star was centered, and these clasped by a green calyx, and this all evidently fixed by invisible element to the rock.
I stooped over it for a moment, before the oncoming of another wave, and asked it: “Why are you here?”
And I looked up to see whether on the rock isle there was the natal home for it. But the rock isle was desolate and bare.
I looked back at it again and declared: “You can’t be living there!” But, stepping down into the pool, though it rose with each wave to my chest, as it receded to my knees, I saw the little flower was after all truly and heartily rooted and alive.
“How is this possible?” I asked.


Music excerpt: Cat Steven’s “Moon Shadow.”

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Epimenides 3

Author: John Harris
Sat, Jul 16, 2011

Gradually in this surfeit of the extraordinary and diverse, the wilderness became alien. The animals that were known to them receded as they climbed in elevation and more deeply penetrated the unknown landscape; animals—all living things—became more and more scarce and remote to see. Where there had been a plenty of bison and endless grassy plains, there was only empty space, arid and sparse and empty of life of any kind. Hunting became difficult and fruitless. Stark mountains stood around them on all sides. The passages through them were arduous, tortuous and dangerous. Water was alkaline, often undrinkable. The nights were frigid and resisted the dawn; strange as the night calls were, stranger still was the uncanny silence when wind died in the darkness. In the hunter's mind, the sylph of sleep spoke. He feared. He saw the world had abandoned them. In a raving he thought and wondered—did he speak this thought out loud?
The world is made for insects that do not thirst, because we who thirst must die; unblinking death behind us, steps in the gravel.
The fiddler died. He was dead one night without a word. He was buried without a word. They put his fiddle in his grave. They all knew what this meant.


Music excerpt: Cat Steven’s “Moon Shadow.”

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Epimenides 2

Author: John Harris
Thu, Jul 14, 2011

Mountains rose as he approached, seeming more forbidden, barren, steep, higher, and rocky, even as he encountered dense and fragrant pine woods skirting them.
While I stood in Kansas prairie and was alone, and looked out upon its empty vastness there, I felt my self to be an insignificant speck, the smallest thing in all I viewed. Yet here I stand before a majesty so huge and so magnificent I cannot describe it and I feel my self exalted and enlarged by it. How much the world affects me! How much I am what it reveals to me! God, I want to stay here and never leave.
The Captain, receiving his report, made muttering reflections in the firelight on the difficulties that this snowy barrier would most probably throw in his way to the Pacific, and the sufferings and hardships of himself and his party. It was a just counterbalance to the joy of beauty. He anticipated the worst. He complained obsessively and assumed a sullen melancholy.
The hunter, for his part, turned away with this unspoken response:
What is the profit of counting a loss before the money is spent? If fish might swim in air, I would wan to live to be a hundred. But I do not want to live again. Live once well and die once well, I say.

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Epimenides 1

Author: John Harris
Sat, Jul 2, 2011

Yellowstone • 1806

“I don’t think I will want to live among men again. Not white men. Not Indians. They have their qualities for good or bad. They each have the aspect of God in their eye but they are more generally perverse and petty. I find the natural world more simply understandable. I guess in my long absence I acquired a taste for silence. Such talk as I hear in their company, such exchange of personal gripes or appetites, I find useless, or worse than useless. The woods makes no such noises and the animals do not complain...”

Image is “Scene on the Hudson (Rip Van Winkle)” by James Hamilton, 1845.

Music excerpt is Cat Steven’s “The Wind.”

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Periander 4 (end)

Author: John Harris
Fri, Jul 1, 2011

"Choosing your death is a bravery I cannot do, I think. So I got to say he is a better man than me.”

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Periander 3 - The Capital

Author: John Harris
Fri, Jul 1, 2011

“The talisman tells me: all things are nothing to me. Neither God nor any human being concern themselves with anything but themselves. Likewise I concern myself neither with God nor with any human being, nor any living creature for that matter, and what are the dead to me? I am not more to God than any other creature, dead or alive, is to me. Therefore, they are nothing to me. So far as that goes, I am no more than a stone in the universe and so everything in the universe is just stone to me....”

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Periander 2 - The King

Author: John Harris
Tue, Jun 14, 2011

“Books is worthless as money. Both of them no more than paper and print and opinion.... Land is real. Land and what he can kill on it and grow on it and no more than that is real. Paper, books, and banks is the same villainy, and the General is here to rid it.”

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Periander 1

Author: John Harris
Tue, Jun 14, 2011

Minneapolis • 2000

Just know you’re right, and go ahead, the Talisman says.


Image is a postcard of the Minnesota Soldiers Home on the edge of the Minnehaha Park in the metropolis of Minneapolis. The domicile of the subject of this life.

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