Digitism Part 4 (Awareness: Contingent and Ideal)

The next dimension of my map of Digitism I want to consider is Awareness.

When I was in college I went  with my roommate to his home in Queens, NYC.  Growing up in the wilds of Upstate NY, I had not knowingly known any Jewish people.  I had never eaten a bagel.  Certainly I knew Jews existed, and their history of diaspora and persecution.

My roommate was Jewish, as were several of my college friends.  I was puzzled at first that foods they considered Jewish, I considered Polish.

My roommate’s parents were survivors of Auschwitz.  Upon release from there, my roommate’s father vowed to enjoy the rest of his life as much as he could.  Part of this was that he ate steak either with or for dinner every day.

So when I sat down with them for dinner, we might have gwumpki with various side dishes.  My roommate’s father ate stuffed cabbage, but had his steak as well.

One afternoon my roommate and I were in the living room listening to The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour.  After a minute or so of Strawberry Fields, my roommate’s mother burst into the living room from the kitchen.

Let me take you down, cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

“What are they saying about Israel?!” She asked, clearly upset.

“No no no” my roommate said, “They’re not saying anything about Israel.  They’re saying “Nothing is real.”

“Well OK then – that’s fine.”

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About Mushrooms

In a previous post,  I described the events leading up to my grandfather telling me, “You have to understand about mushrooms.”  Learning recently about Charles McIlvaine, I recognized something of my grandfather in him.  Both, I think, trusted his own experience to a degree that would ordinarily seem to result in an early death, only to have it validated.

He served in the Union Army for two years, rising to become a Captain. (Here is a point of difference between the two.  My grandfather came to America in part to avoid service in the Polish army.)

I found no account of his next 17 years.  Another similarity to my grandfather perhaps – a certain mystery about where he was and what he was doing.  At that point McIlvaine moved to West Virginia.  This is his account of what happened.

A score of years ago (1880-1885) I was living in the mountains of West Virginia. While riding on horseback through the dense forests of that great unfenced state, I saw on every side luxuriant growths of fungi, so inviting in color, cleanliness and flesh that it occurred to me they ought to be eaten. I remembered having read a short time before this inspiration seized me, a very interesting article in the Popular Science Monthly for May, 1877, written by Mr. Julius A. Palmer, Jr., entitled “ Toadstool eating.” Hunting it up I studied it carefully, and soon found myself interested in a delightful study, which was not without immediate reward. Up to this time I had been living, literally, on the fat of the land – bacon; but my studies enabled me to supplement this, the staple dish of the state, with a vegetable luxury that centuries ago graced the dinners of the Caesars. So absorbing did the study become from gastronomic, culinary, and scientific points of view, that I have continued it ever since, with thorough intellectual enjoyment and much gratification of appetite as my reward. I hope to interest students in the study as I am myself interested.

For twenty years my little friends – the toadstools – have been my constant companions. They have interested me, delighted me, feed me, and I have found much pleasure in making the public acquainted with their habits, structure, lusciousness and food value.

Charles McIlvaine “ OneThousand American Fungi”

McIlvaine’s method for leaning about mushrooms included eating hundreds of species of them.  The ediblity and poisoness of many of these were not known at the time.  His nickname came to be “Ole Ironguts”.

My grandfather came to America when he was 16.  I don’t know what education he had there.  His family was well off, so I’m sure whe went to school.  But from the rough jobs he had in this country, I’m fairly sure his formal education stopped in Poland.  Maybe he began to learn the ways of the forest there.  Because of the way he talked about “the woods” I’m sure though, that his knowledge came from extensive personal obsevation and experimentaton.

If you ever drank his coffee you would know he deserved the name “Ole Ironguts” as well.

Winter Solstice

Last night , Karen, Emma and I drummed for the return of the sun.  It’s our Winter Solstice custom, a Shamanic ritual of remembrance and looking to the future.

Well, almost.  Last year, through inertia perhaps we didn’t do it.  And sure the hours of daylight got longer anyway, but it was a rough year, there was much darkness in our minds.

I think we have to have a more elastic sense of causality in these kind of things.  A sense of karma across a continuum of awareness expressed maybe in units of lifetimes, extended in the rebirth of an unaware non-self.

So last night we drummed, around a single candle, instead of our usual fireplace fire, welcoming the four guests, the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the Spirits of the Place, and the Beings each of us have a special karmic connection to, each of us expressing in rhythm, frequency and volume something as ephemeral as a lifetime, as solid as daylight.

It will be a good year.