Oral tradition versus historical ‘fact’

Working on the WWII book today, making choices: the Indian National Army, as described online, is not the same as the Indian National Army in the oral history I grew up with, stories and unspoken attitudes of my elders who lived through the war. I may of course not be remembering perfectly. I can talk to people who were alive at the time, and have, but I find they don’t remember perfectly either. Some memories are crystal clear and consistent, even down to using the exact same words each time they tell the tale,, others vague and shifting. So it’s up to me. At the end of the day, it’s my book; and I’m fiction for a reason. I will do the research, but I will write from my memory of the oral tradition.

I just heard my father chuckle and say, “What to do?” about these sorts of quandaries. So I’ll stop quandary-ing now, and get to writing.

politics, rice pudding, & the ocean: also, science 101

I’m going on holiday soon and was thinking what to take to read. This morning, I decided: mathematics. A long time ago, I was a math/physics student, and then a NASA science drone. Mathematics, unfolding, is as beautiful as the ocean, alive, intricate, complete in itself. Physics unfolds mysteries, and I don’t mean the God-particle nonsense that people have been getting excited about but the even more wondrous daily mysteries: wind, weather, why there is that odd-shaped shadow on my ceiling, how to park on a hill so your car doesn’t roll away…

Physics enchanted me, as a girl, because it the fundamental rules were essential simple, and clear. Water rolls downhill, ALWAYS. Stuff like that. Studying physics was a way to allow my mind to be simple, and clear. It does not contradict itself. Subtlety exist, but there is always the real to measure against.

For some years now I’ve been a writer. Fiction, mostly cross-cultural, dealing with social, political, and emotional issues. My community is now mostly writers, artists, activists, and nothing is simple, or clear; or rather, much of it probably could be, but people cultivate complexity. To include ALL the data — by which I mean all the facts, not all the opinions — on something, or as much data as one can get, and look at it all in balance, is not a popular sport. Balance, as best I understand it, requires calm. But the troubles of our times, from tars sands to Islamophobia to economic class warfare, call for concern. And most people don’t find concern and calm coexistent within themselves, especially in American culture, which says, subliminally, that we should be able to fix anything. So there is tumult, and shouting: a noise of long-winded thoughts and exhortations that seem to be saying, ‘Care more, care more! Don’t relax, don’t spin down, not for a minute, the world will cease to be if you do, the battle will be lost…’

I’ve tried to get people to care about some of these issues, particularly the race-related ones, without stirring anxiety. I think I have failed. Caring deeply while being staying as calm as we can is an emotional reality in daily life for most people, else we’d never let our loved ones go out the door, never mind become skydivers or firefighters. I think it’s okay, even essential, to deal with political issues the same way — do what you can, everything you can, and then let go and fix dinner. I talk a lot about politics, but I’ve never said this before, and I apologize for not doing so.

I am going to read, on my vacation, not a novel, full of sculpted emotion, or a nonfiction book full of argument, however just, but mathematics: to find a state of clarity in my mind again. It will be like eating fresh fruit, or rice pudding, after too rich a diet. Cleaning, and strengthening. In-between, I will go to California farmers markets, which are a paradise of grounded goodness, and I will cook dinner. I will look at the ocean.

I will be simple.


What is an E. Paxson, you are asking. An E. Paxson is a human being and a friend, so far only on Facebook but qualifying as ‘friend’ in the best sense of the word regardless, which is, for me, someone who gives a damn, who notices, and is thoughtful. If that someone is also good with words, it’s extra. And so, here is a bit of that extra, several Paxson-isms, shared with the writer’s permission.

On Facebook:

“FB friendship: a new form of human relation. New vistas for philosophy and psychology; there’s a treasure trove of PhD theses here. Here are the people I work with every day, those I met last week and those I knew when I was a kid. Those I love, and those I’ve never met. People I knew and lost and rediscovered. People I met here and have come to meet in ‘real’ life. All of you neatly alphabetized, posting about the ridiculously sublime and the sublimely ridiculous. Here I learn, laugh and cry, and get to know you and share your life a bit. And of course out there are some of my close friends who, by their FB absence, help define FB-ness as well. FB: like.”

On the big question:

“Perhaps there is afterlife, reincarnation or nothingness. Perhaps tomorrow someone or some event will call you to account. But right this moment, you, the sum of the wiles and weaknesses that equate you, can act as you please. This then is the freedom of the human condition. You are absolutely free, even if you do not have absolute freedom.”

Finally, something simpler, but equally universal:

“Les nuits blanches, quand on rêve
On est son propre démon
Qui se tourmente sans trêve
Sans trouver satisfaction.

When one dreams, a sleepless night
His own demon he becomes
To torment without respite
Yet no problem overcomes.”

And yet is uplifting to read. Thank you, Edwin.

Tim O’Reilly on SOPA and PIPA

Remembering the stack of O’Reilly books in every bookstore, it seems reasonable to give TIm O’Reilly’s opinion on SOPA and PIPA a hearing. (This isn’t politics, it’s information):

… I found myself profoundly disturbed by something that seems to me to go to the root of the problem in Washington: the failure to correctly diagnose the problem we are trying to solve, but instead to accept, seemingly uncritically, the claims of various interest groups.

It is said (though I’ve not found the source) that Einstein once remarked that if given 60 minutes to save the world, he would spend 55 of them defining the problem. And defining the problem means collecting and studying real evidence, not the overblown claims of an industry that has fought the introduction of every new technology that has turned out, in the end, to grow their business rather than threaten it.

Narrow minds: the best people to decide what you see on the Internet

In the land of NDAA and SOPA, another day, another minority viewpoint suppressed:

Using the Netsweeper filtering program, library officials had classified information pertaining to the Wicca Church, Native American spirituality and astrology as “occult” or “criminal”. Those wishing to look at such websites were subject to being reported to local authorities.

99 vectors

I have 417 FB friends of whom 418 are on the list I use to get round the new format.

In other news, I want to be in NYC Occupying something in a few weeks, whether it’s Wall St. or cafes with friends, but have no sublet, and now there’s weather there. My car is parked outdoors in CT and I hear small animals might crawl in if it’s wintry. I am looking for jobs on several different continents.

Happy Halloween.