Recursive Child

The mother of my pre-born son (pictured above) is making me watch Back to the Future Part III, which I vaguely recall seeing in its theatrical release in the ancient year of 1990. It isn’t any better in this Covid era. Oh, and yes, voy a ser padre en Octubre. I’m trying to remember what 1990s me would’ve imagined about current me imagining 1990s me because that’s my eternal return. An early memory:

I’m 5. I’m in our first home in Jersey City after emigrating from South Korea. I’m reaching for something on top of the fridge. I become keenly aware of my physical growth. I project that growth to the future and try to imagine what it will be like to look back from that future self. It’s my first clear memory of experiencing recursion.

Another early memory:

I’m on the plane. It’s my first flight. We’ve just arrived from Korea. I’ve never heard a word of English in my entire life, and suddenly it’s everywhere. It’s my first experience of the oddness of a new language—the sound of language without sense.

Philosophy, language, and music—these are my archetypes. Where do I go now?

body in soul

I learned recently to identify squirrel alarm calls:

So today walking after dinner I knew right at that sound that the park’s current resident hawk must be near. Every time we see the hawk I’m reminded of Bruce Wilshire, and the words I read in his book and the phrases he used to use in class come back to me. Tonight I read some passages where he talks of fugues appropriately (recursively? fractally?). This wildness is necessary to live. No soul without body.


The days are the days turned in for our lost nights' warmth, dreamless heat roiling in the mouth of no time to pass. An egret climbs north to circle south around the meer circling calls of redwing blackbirds. The evening gathers around us, 6 foot+ delimiters between self and other self. The physical inventory of meditation only reveals further recursive mysteries. Even from a distance your sounds become mine.

without music

For whatever reason I haven’t picked up my guitar in maybe a year or more. For some years I’d played for hours a day, but these last few… I’m not sure where that inertia has gone. What was driving it? Is it that these years of marriage have eased the loneliness that drove me to that musical impulse? Lately I’ve wanted to pick up things I’d put aside for some time.

Something about that red-bellied woodpecker’s call had stopped me during our walk. Reading Bruce Wilshire’s book has me attuned to new frequencies I guess.

it was some kind of me

Year in East Harlem, lease in its rustling bag knotted to the window grate, where’s the thread of some kind of me? Pink moon fills behind a Tuesday cloud of its light. What else are we waiting for in the staggered line, shifting in the rinds of ourselves, coming loose in grey folds?

in thru the out dream

We’ve been watching The Staircase on Netflix.

Spoiler Warning

What happens to one’s bodily minding to spend 8 years in such a small, hard space? I’ve always imagined myself meditating the whole time in such a situation, but even the Vipassana 10-day retreats I attended were in peaceful surroundings, even as we kept voluntarily silent and remained within the limited confines of the center’s grounds. And though we didn’t communicate with each other, we were amongst like-minded practitioners meditating and taking meals and walking. What’s it like to be so involuntarily isolated?

A colleague broke down in tears while talking during a video call and continued to talk, wiping away tears. The strain of the enormity of what’s happening against the maintaining of some vague semblance of routine and the pretense that there will be a return to normalcy is an impossible one to hold to, but I guess the fear of not knowing what this post-pandemic future will look like is even more unbearable.


In this post a week and a half ago I conjectured that the bottleneck of my music streaming service on my Android app was the NAS, but after finally digging through the logs, I discovered this wee bit:

2020-04-04 14:09:56 [admin] (play/index) -> Playing file (/media/music/Faith No More/Sol Invictus/08 Motherfucker.m4a}... 
2020-04-04 14:09:56 [admin] (play/index) -> Media type {m4a} 
2020-04-04 14:09:56 [admin] (play/index) -> Transcoding is not enabled for this media type. Valid types: {["native"]}

Turns out the problem was the transcoding of m4a files. All I had to do was add this line to the config:

transcode_m4a = required

And voila—no more hiccups. Like scratching a months-old itch at last.

As you can see above, I tried roasting my own coffee beans for the first time. I bought that Air Crazy popcorn popper years ago based on some things I read on the interwebs about being an adequate device for the purpose, but then I discovered that the only real way to get green beans at the time was to by in enormous bulk quantities or sign up for some inscrutable membership club and follow all kinds of arcane rules so I just gave up.

Meanwhile, the box traveled from apartment to apartment unopened. While checking in on a friend, I was made aware of this site that sells small quantities of the unroasted stuff. Amazeballs! The coffee world had transformed before my very eyes. Anyway, the first roast wasn’t so bad (though I’m probably not getting the best of it with my French Press, which is why I’ve ordered some new brewing supplies—more on that in a later post). Not having done sufficient research I learned that you should have a proper cooling system for the beans so for the next batch I’ve hacked together something (more on that in a later post as well).

The coffee, incidentally, is from my late abuelita-in-law’s home region. I haven’t had a chance to visit that area, but I was lucky enough to have met her and had the chance to make tamales under her guidance. I’ll have to post a drawing I made of her one of these days.

the much-at-once remover of obstacles

I was working on a draft of this book in the upstairs of our home in Plainfield, New Jersey. The town lies within the urban complex surrounding New York City, about twenty-five miles from Manhattan. Happening to glance down into the backyard, I saw something odd. I put on glasses.

A hawk or large falcon—mottled brown and white, standing erect and alert—an inert pigeon lying, purple breast up, between its great clawed feet! The raptor scanned the scene with its golden eyes, then with rapid movements of beak plucked feathers from the pigeon’s breast. Its watching ceased momentarily. A patch of skin exposed, it tore off small strips of flesh. Instantly the scanning resumed as the bird swallowed the meat.

I grabbed binoculars and spotted it, but it was too close to be focused. Backing up, flattening against the wall, adjusting the binoculars to their near-range limit, I got one clear image shrouded by fainter ones. Glued to the bird’s beak was a small bloody feather. Its eye—a great reticulated yellowish orb—shone like living glass.

Then Then the visual field exploded. I lowered binoculars to glimpse the bird flying up through the trees to the left. Near the fence to the right was the neighbor’s cat approaching the pigeon.

—from Wild Hunger: The Primal Roots of Modern Addiction by Bruce Wilshire

I didn’t know about his theater background, but now it’s clear to me that his actor’s bearing and vocal projection were what made his reading this passage in class so effective. I’ve been seeing hawks (possibly the same one) on our daily walks. Just 5 days ago we watched the same scene of a hawk picking apart a pigeon (after the video of the squirrel warning its brethren).

It’s hard for me not to attribute some significance to this. Whether coincidence or not, the signifiers say to me that there’s something important in this, that I should pay attention. I can hear his voice, his intonation and inflection, the deep emphatic in-breaths, his ecstatic presence in the room.

The Ganesha we saw tonight stood out to me. It fits somewhere in my iconography. Whether all of this bodes well or ill, they give my mind something to hook onto. Something about that wildness that Bruce valued so much needs to be kept vital and in view.

postcovidian dreams

  • What does a postcovidian world look like? I’m terrible at future projections so I won’t even try, but let’s hope it’s full of bidets.

  • The contrast of beautiful spring days and post-apocalyptic-ish tension/anxiety still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

  • I had other things to write, but they’ve gone awry.

Notes from the Groundless

  • Today was workout (100 x 4 sets of pushups and 100 x 3 sets of crunches every other day) and meditation (1 hour daily) day which is really supposed to be baseline to build on with other activities, but I’m so meh soooo meh.

  • “In the long run…humans cannot tolerate ecstasy deprivation”—Felicitas Goodman (From Bruce Wilshire’s Wild Hunger: The Primal Roots of Modern Addiction). Ecstasy deprivation = inertia of meh.

  • I just learned how to make em dashes in vim (insert mode, i.e. i Ctrl-k - M).

  • Sometimes you accidentally discover and tug on the thread that pulls things together, and suddenly you’re weaving the strands that seemed to be fraying you apart. Sometimes you just sit in the sun and come undone. Warp and weft… Should that be my band name?

corporeal epistemology

  • Currently I’m listening to Haunted Heart by the Bill Evans Trio.

  • I think we often take it for granted that what we haven’t learned consciously is lost—that if a bit of gnosis can’t be recalled by memory, we’re no longer informed by it—but our bodies retain the traces, sense the liminal world/other—worldly.

  • Now I’m listening to Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt.

  • I looked up corporeal epistemology because it sounded like what I was thinking about, and there’s some bit in a journal out of Johns Hopkins University about Edmund Burke “positioning the source of a person’s knowledge of beauty and sublimity in the body either primarily or at minimum as a phenomenological colleague of the intellect,” which sounds like something my old American Philosophy prof. Bruce Wilshire would emphatically endorse.

  • which reminds me that I recorded what I now realize was an awful and embarrassing song (on cassette no less)—with guitar and harmonica and everything—as part of our final project and that is possibly now part of the professor’s archives. ugh.

  • Now that I’m reading up on him, I hadn’t realized he’d passed away in 2013 on New Year’s Day after the death of his wife. His teaching at the time had really struck a nerve because that was just-post-cigarette-addiction/post-mindfucked-from-too-many-substances-because-I-thought-they-would-make-me-creative and his work touched a good deal on addiction and the body and phenomenology with a heavy suspicion of the analytic strain that was in vogue and the meat of most of his colleagues.

  • I’m freakin stoked as hell that he left behind a posthumous book called The Much-at-Once: Music, Science, Ecstasy, the Body which I will need to acquire forthwith.

The New Abnormal

If youth up through my college years felt lonely and empty, and thereafter through the thirties (mostly in NYC) felt a little less lonely and empty, then these days my psychic space feels cramped and short on time. It’s strange that so many posting online mention boredom or having extra time. I feel oddly suffocated by the outside world, even as we’re all set apart from it at the moment. Everywhere we’re inundated with “content” but (to my mind) less meaning. Maybe because so much of it has been abstracted away from the body. Something about the visceral is missing.

Pandemic Spring

Are we really ever unemcumbered though? The psychic bubbling from endless bad news and nonstop content is the undercurrent to the spring day’s ending over Harlem Meer. In meditation we train the mind to sit with these currents above, below, and engulfing us, but the endless nameless leaves us murky adrift after the occasional brief clarity. Is that the joy in contrast to mere happiness?

All Teh Taaaaaaaags