|People viewing an eclipse, Balboa Park, October 14
All across the surface of the globe, a weary, exhausted humanity, filled with self-doubt and uncertain of its history, prepared itself as best it could to enter a new millennium.
— Michel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles
2023 was not the best year for humanity. We could call it a "mixed bag," at the risk of breaking that word. Many of us hoped for more peace and harmony in the world, but in several places, the world wasn't listening. There may be only so much peace and harmony that humans are capable of, like it or not. Bearing this in mind, I won't put off reporting on our little lives, waiting for global conditions to improve.
Big rains visited Southern California this year, stirring up the ocean and throwing tons of rock past our favorite beach, burying the walkway.
Our hills blushed a delightful green glow, relieving their usual yellow and gray.
Max continued his studies in Arizona. He discovered a pilot career wasn't suited to him, and changed majors to Aviation Business. The curriculum is challenging, but he's doing well with it.
Misa and I remained in-country, keeping the bills paid.
We drove north and visited the San Francisco Bay Area while Max was in Europe.
|Mount Tamalpais still rules over the fog
|Two old guys visit Da Bridge
We also visited my family in Dallas in December. The autumn leaves were in full color. I didn't remember seeing them before, even though I lived twenty years in Texas. It made me wonder if I don't pay attention to the right things.
The rest was just getting through the week. I found a bench in a secret place near my house. I go there on Fridays with a book and a can of strong beer. The thought of Friday Bench Time pulls me along, week to week.
After completing a book, I often compare notes with my friend on GoodReads, Edmund Roughpuppy.
On some Fridays I copied pieces of writing, with pen and paper. One of these is the Heart Sutra, also called "The Sutra of the Heart of Transcendent Knowledge." Like many other religious texts, the sutra is purposely opaque, but I clean off the opacity with Windex. It contains the famous lines:
Form is emptiness: emptiness itself is form.
Emptiness is no other than form: form is no other than emptiness.
In the same way, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness are emptiness. Thus . . . all [of our teachings] are emptiness.
There are no characteristics.
There is no birth and no cessation.
There is no impurity and no purity.
There is no decrease and no increase.
Um, what is this emptiness? Empty of what?
Empty of our ideas, desires, expectations. We have thoughts about how the world is and how it should be, but the world itself will never know about them. The universe neither conforms to our ideas nor contradicts them; it simply continues being, the only way it can be.
I thought about his while walking around the shoreline in La Jolla with Max, two days ago. Seals and dolphins played in the waves. I captured a short video; their short flights out of the water were impossible to keep up with.
The big wave hammered me toward the beach. Bodysurfing was the best way to forget yourself. The power of the ocean made you understand your place in the natural scheme of things: You didn’t have one. The wave rose up and pounded the beach, with you or without you. This was a favorite notion of mine. It freed you from the disasters—past and present—of your life.
—Rick DeMarinis, The Morticians Apprentice, GQ, June 1992
|Max on the Coaster Train, 2009
|Misa and Max on the Coaster Train, 2023
|San Diego Model Train Museum, 2009
All the best to you in 2024.
|The road behind
|The road ahead