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Podcast 2019
Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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Entries in metaphor (5)


Walnut Meditation

A Zen monk related a story.

“Before becoming a monk I was an English teacher in 8th grade at an Experimental School south of Chengdu in Sichuan, China. One day I held up a walnut. What is this?”

They answered in Chinese.

I wrote “walnut” and “metaphor” on the board. “This walnut is like a person I know, very hard on the outside. They are very safe and secure inside their shell. Nothing can happen to them. What is inside this shell?”

“Some food,” said a boy.

“How do you know?”

“My mother told me.”

“Do you believe everything your mother tells you?”

“Yes, my mother always tells the truth.”



“Well, that’s good, but I wonder if mothers always tell their children the truth. Why? Mothers and fathers protect their children and keep them safe. Now you are developing as a more complete and mature human being. It’s good to question things and find out the truth for yourself. Do you understand?”

Some said “yes,” others nodded passively.

“This walnut is a metaphor for the self. A symbol. The self that is afraid to take risks because they are “protected” by their shell. Maybe the reality is that the shell is empty. How do we really know what is inside.”

“It’s a mystery,” said a boy.

“That’s right, life is a mystery. How will we find out what’s inside?”

“You have to break it open,” said a boy with poetic aspirations.

“Yes, you or I will have to break open the shell, our shell, break free from the shell to know what is inside. That can be a little scary when we are conditioned and comfortable carrying around the shell every day isn’t it?”

“It’s our self,” whispered a girl in the front row.

“Very good. It’s our self, this shell and the mystery. We have to take risks and know nothing terrible is going to happen, like trying to speak English in class.”

“If we don’t break the shell we’ll never feel anything,” said another boy.

A girl in the back of the room said, “it means it’s hard to open our heart. It’s hard to know another person and what they are thinking, how they are feeling.”

“You got it,” I said. “We’ll never experience all the feelings of joy, love, pain, sorrow, or friendship and miss out on life.”

This idea floated around the room as I juggled the shell in my hand.

“I know people who grow very tired every day from putting on their shell before they leave home. It gets heavier and heavier, day-by-day. Many carry their shell into adulthood. It’s like wearing a mask. They look alive but inside they are dead. But eventually, maybe, something important happens to them at the heart-mind level and they decide to break free from their shell and see what’s inside. They say to themselves, ‘This shell is getting really heavy and I’m so tired of putting it on and carrying it around. I’m going to risk it.’”

I smashed the shell on the table. It splintered into pieces. Students jumped with shock.

“There, I’ve done it! I smashed my shell. Can it be put back together?”


“Right, it’s changed forever. The shell is gone.”

I fingered small pieces of shell, removing them from the nut.

“See, it’s ok. Wow. Now it’s just an old useless shell. It doesn’t exist anymore. It’s history. It will take time to remove pieces of my old shell. Maybe it’s fair and accurate to say the old parts represent my old habits, behaviors, and attitudes. It happened. From now on I will make choices using my free will accepting responsibility for my behavior. And, I know nothing terrible will happen to me. I feel lighter. Now I can be real. That’s the walnut story.”

“Well,” mused a sad serious poetic girl named Plath, “I believe every living object; seed, flower, tree, and animal has an anxious soul, a voice, sexual desires, a need for survival, and feels the terror at the prospect of annihilation.”

Language dreams.

Weaving A Life (V4) - paperback and/or Kindle


Street talk - TLC 52

Captain Tremendous Tremor here again with an update from the dead zone of grieving Chinese parents and crushed kiddies. One reality shows to go ya where Big Brother wraps barbwire around collapsed schools preventing parents from rescuing 10,000 kids. Educational corruption and fear thrives in a Brave New World.

If you want to play you must pay. We know so much and understand so little.

“I don’t understand a thing. Let’s take the day off and be creative,” sang Zeynep, “grab our cameras and tale a walk.”

Lucky and Zeynep passed through ephemeral effervescent worlds healing strangers. Free non-transferable luck was distributed to the needy.

Air simmered grilled meat aromas in a tomato culture as swirling silver musical spoons tickled tea glasses. Seven tonal notes create cosmic spectrums.

Inside Ulus alleys laughing blacksmiths with calloused hands burnished musical metallic containers. Friends forged balconies, grates, bars and enclosures on anvils with Thor’s hammer. Gateless gates.

A coal man loaded bags of black on his back. A cornered Russian mistress wearing diamonds on the sole of her shoes waited for rich monkeys. A weaver loomed geometric silk ikat threads. A father taught his son the art of carpet repair. Needle led thread. Dusty stories coagulated and copulated on teakettles rusting atop Roman burial slabs covered in binary codes.

Expanding universal maps and NSA spy satellites collected data.

Total information awareness. TIA.

A peasant woman rolled dough to make ravioli-like manta pasta. A brown snail carrying its spiral galaxy home scaled green and white stones as waving antenna received signals from orbiting space-time Dream Sweepers.

Head scarfed women inside stone path shadows near crumbling straw packed homes with broken wooden slat shutters sat in a sacred circle talking and rolling spicy grated seeds into grape leaves. Thick meaty fingers toiled. Heavy 24-caret golden bracelets reflecting scattered light led to undiscovered archaeological sites for sore eyes and a doctoral thesis on amalgamated dust.

“It’s true to report that everyone in Turkey is psychologically well adjusted, employed and content with their free life,” said Zeynep.

“You’re dreaming, delusional or telling real lies,” said Curious.

“Made in the shade, cool baby,” Lucky said. “This is to say with precise specific clarity they have the courage to speak, are never tired or afraid of falling in love and marrying someone outside their rigid social and/or economic class. They take amazing risks and suffer greatly with gratitude. Photographing the universe they rent time-share apartments in black holes sucking matter into a void. Some scribble or doodle unintelligible non-linear calligraphic ideograms. The majority disappears into phosphorescent television monitors where they absorb political blather and fake reality shows. Media buys them. They give up their consciousness and miss the show.”

In Bursa a father + two son trash collection team pushed a rolling cart loaded with discarded plastic computers past crumbling Ottoman buildings secured behind barbwire and rusty locks. Faded orange and blue pigments peeled a long lost hollow bell.

One freezing morning a grandmother staring at Ottoman history lifted her child’s child to an iron-grated window. Zeynep, an invisible street photographer present with empathy squeezed a soft shutter release. A whirling dervish painting with light in continuous mode murdered time.

“Freedom is essential in my life. I control the result with spontaneity. I develop real relationships and embrace extreme situations. I’m a photographer who needs to travel. If I stay in one place I go blind.”

“Our images communicate light, story, form, emotion, information and raw aesthetics,” said L.

“Emotional impact. Photography is more art and intuition than process and procedure,” said Z.

In a warm art studio overlooking a fast icy river flowing from Uludag a female flute player fingering emptiness explained melancholic notes. Her chattering laughing friend created marbled flower art using pinpoint dabs of color in a tray filled with hot wax.

A white seagull’s calibrated internal navigation system negotiated air currents with Winter Hawk, Lone Wolf, 101 Screaming Eagles and Labrys of raging violin string theories. Piano melodies and hard bop jazz improvisation reinforced Bamboo resilience.

A 19% waxing crescent moon danced with clouds. Moon remembered moons in Augustine Fujian. Eat moon cakes, said Curious. Feed dead ancestors with filial duty. A cruel heartless forgotten forgiving month heard sky welcome moon. Clouds explored atmospheric conditions.

HELP screamed in a literary agent’s slush pile. Help was a bulldozer leveling forests to harvest trees outside Phonsavan, Laos. Vietnam bought them all. One tree = $10,000.

Chopsticks chairs tables toothpicks. Wood you believe it?

Lighter than Winter Hawk’s feathers, HELP made fun of people. Invisible howling soft wing energy manifested Beauty. Letters. Signs. Symbols. Metaphors. Observations. Unpleasant facts.

Help expressed brevity. How are you? I'm short, said Brevity.

Help played with variable truth-value meaning.

Help, a landmine in Cambodia below the surface of appearances in a luminous landscape reaching infinity weighted for sensation.


crossing a border

He talked to Irish women on a Donegal bus.

“My family, while emotionally cold, distant and abusive yet well intentioned, kind and loving were rather dysfunctional, trying to understand my vagabond nature. They had no choice in the matter. By now they’re used to receiving strange word-strings full of mysterious symbolic metaphorical tragic truths from twilight zones. They receive illustrations as I transmit between crystals and gringsing decorated with universal binary codes.”

“Really now?” said Mary.

“Yes, I gave my folks a world map for their anniversary. They loved it, inviting friends, neighbors and strangers over for trivia games using postmarks, stamps, decals, flotsam, thread, needles, bark, cactus fiber, beads, charts of tributaries, topographical maps, animal skins, hieroglyphics, and Tibetan prayer wheels with Sanskrit characters. They caressed burned broken shards of Turkish pottery, Chinese bamboo brushes dripping blood, torn out pages from esoteric Runes, Paleolithic fertility symbols, vitreous writing, and one of my favorites, a Quetzalcoatl image full of written narration based on the oral performances of myths in Central America.

“Fascinating,” said Deirdre.


"A Little Fable"

"Alas," said the mouse, "the world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when at last I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into."

"You only need to change your direction," said the cat, and ate it up. - Kafka





I am listening to "Eighteen Musicians" by Steve Reich.  

Outside a clear pane of glass, past  a tall green spiky cactus stretching it's arms into blue bird songs

People saunter in early light. A young Indonesian nanny carries an infant, spoon feeding the echo

of white cat paws trailing flip flops,

A young father pedals his son, Fabian, sitting in a small seat, exploring the world with new eyes,

A young bike boy negotiates boredom, an old man wearing tight laces studies the future pavement in front of his old eyes, another old man

struggles with his activated cell phone inside worn baggy green shorts, spinning inside life's little intersection, waiting for a call to save him from poverty, loneliness and abstract metaphors. Life is a metaphor.

Sitting in the sun, a woman across the street spoon feeds her wheelchair mother love. Her mother swallows and smiles, remembering clearly when she did all the feeding,

Children in pink pajamas collect brown leaves, smelling white glowing hibiscus.