SHE IS RUNNING ABOUT here there everywhere at once making a noise between a growl a meow a touch of purr helterskeltering off the walls furniture things humans can’t see bounding from room to room back again between my legs Berni’s legs around our legs with no apparent goal except the run itself all the while grounding us Berni and me guarding our being and just who is she!
In 1971, I did LSD for the first time. The experience left me intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually flummoxed. No—wrong word: I’d had an epiphany, an insight into my universe.
Only what did it mean in the scheme of things?
Had I penetrated the macrocosm or the microcosm?
I sought to grok my experience, so I pursued understanding.
This started me on a course of study, mostly reading books—after all, that’s what we Westerners do to convince ourselves that we are learning, nein? I haunted Wilkes-Barre’s Osterhout Library and, when I exhausted their reserves, turned to the libraries at Wilkes and King’s Colleges, all three buildings within an easy moseying of each other.
This piece of contemporary art is titled “Party Girl” (a title I do not care for, as it seems to me to cheapen the image) and is by Evgeny Kiselev, one of my favorite contemporary artists exploring the realms of psychedelia through computer art.
What am I doing with Hindu visions?
I started with available LSD and related literature (there was little then) and meandered wherever the references and bibliographies took me. This included a remarkably vast array of subjects, notably Zen Buddhism—despite the imagery of my first trip being Hinduistic, of things—and Jungian psychology and Surrealism. 1
The latter took me to dada—and my studies led me to a lifelong need to always spell the word with a no caps as dada and to NEVER refer to it as an “ism”—it’s just dada.
While Surrealism actually was more pertinent, dada captured my imagination. Coincidentally—and, we all know there are no coincidences—shortly after my experience, Wilkes College (which I had just dropped out of after turning on and tuning in) offered an experimental course on dada and Surrealism.
As I knew the teacher responsible for the course—a woman who prided herself on her outthereness—I requested permission to “audit” (or sit in without grade or credit) the course.
When I explained why, she was very enthusiastic to have me in her class. I didn’t last more than few classes: I found her and her co-teacher very non-dada in their approach and attitude. But that’s another story.
While ultimately I came to dismiss dada as irrelevant to my needs at the time. I did come away with a lifelong enjoyment of some of the “poetry,” especially that of Kurt Schwitters and Hugo Ball. Even more important than their sound-poetry was Tristan Tzara and his extraordinary book-length L’homme approximatif (Approximate Man), of which more in a future post.
Gadji beri bimba
“I shall be reading poems that are meant to dispense with conventional language, no less, and to have done with it. I don’t want words that other people have invented. I want my own stuff, my own rhythm, and vowels and consonants too, matching the rhythm and all my own.
It will serve to show how articulated language comes into being. I let the vowels fool around. I let the vowels quite simply occur, as a cat meows. Words emerge, shoulders of words, legs, arms, hands of words.
A line of poetry is a chance to get rid of all the filth that clings to this accursed language, as if put there by stockbrokers’ hands, hands worn smooth by coins. I want the word where it ends and begins. Dada is the heart of words.
Each thing has its word, but the word has become a thing by itself. The word, the word, the word outside your domain, your stuffiness, this laughable impotence, your stupendous smugness, outside all the parrotry of your self-evident limitedness.”
Elsewhere, Ball declared that his aim was “to remind the world that there are people of independent minds—beyond war and nationalism—who live for different ideals.” He was also founder of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, the most important center for the dadas of the time.
He was working on a new poetry: “I have invented a new series of verses—verses without words, sound poems—in which the balancing of the vowels is gauged and distributed according to the value of the initial line.”
The most famous of these is Gadij Beri Bimba (and I have added the caps), the first line of which reads: “gadji beri bimba glandridi laula lonni cadori.” This bit of non-sense was meant to be read aloud, with drama and zest and humor, perhaps accompanied by costuming and even effects, which would have been crude. 2
The meowings were very close
So why am I telling you this? Because six months ago I went to the front door of our second-floor apartment at 6:00 am to get the newspaper. As I stood there, I heard a kitten meowing, the sound very near.
I looked at the steps leading up to our deck, but no cat.
I leaned over the railing and looked down and under the deck and still no cat.
But the meowings continued and they were still very close.
Then I looked down onto the deck: to my left against the railing were several planters with ferns and flowers. Looking up through the flora was a tiny ball of grey fur with HUGE eyes meowing up at me (to me?).
I reached down and scooped her up: she had medium length, light grey hair with orange tortoiseshell markings. She sat cupped in one hand and stared at me, still meowing.
There was a raspy “urr” sound in her “meow” which I can’t do justice to with spelling. (“Meowurruh”?)
I took her inside, waking the Burn from her usual deep sleep. She was instantly alert and we sat in bed with the kitten, allowing it to roam around in the sheets. Then the purring began.
The purrs did it: we were in love with our new kitten!
But was she ours?
When the complex’s office opened at 9:00 am, I alerted them that a beautiful, healthy, clean kitten had shown up at our doorstep. Surely someone would be looking for what was obviously a well-cared-for cat. The office took the information—and never called back.
I went to the neighboring units and inquired about a lost kitten. We tacked up little signs.
No one claimed her.
Now, this is NOT what we wanted: our last cat had died several years ago and we had decided NOT to have another cat or dog until we moved into our own house.
Our motto was “No Pets, Yet.”
After a few weeks, we realized that we were stuck with her.
She is affectionate, funny, talkative. Her light grey fur has gotten considerably darker: even from a short distance, she looks black. This only highlights the orange and white markings.
And she plays fetch! My cat plays FETCH! But only with a wad of rolled-up paper—she has little to do with actual cat toys. I could go on (like how the latest variation in fetch is her leaping several feet into the air in an attempt to catch the wad of paper between her forepaws), but I won’t. I have to get back to dada and Hugo Ball but first.
So what are we gonna call this kitten?
Naming her was an issue. Granted that it’s not like naming your dog: dogs do respond to their name being spoken by a human. Apparently, cats do not. (Or perhaps they do and choose not to respond so as not to look or act like a dog.)
But still, she had to have a name.
As she batted the wad of paper about, we batted names about.
I suggested Greye, which reflected her color and the added “e” made the name seem both feminine and special. This did not move the Burn, who opted for Grey Booboo—sometimes with a “the” (as “The Grey Booboo”), sometimes without. This did not move me: I have tried thinking like Pepé Le Pew and hearing it as Bubu—giving it a French touch, oui?—but to no avail.
Then, last week, something triggered the Ball non-sense verse and I simply said aloud, “O gadji beri booboo.”
Voila! I wanted to call the kitten Gadji.
Needless to say,Gadji didn’t make the Burn’s freak-flag fly. So I now call kittenGadji and she just calls herBooboo. And so we have Gadji Booboo. And that is the reason for the mini-history lesson about Hugo Ball and his dada sound-poetry! And I have to get back to dada and Ball but first.
I found this wonderful image of the upside down kitty while searching the Internet for something else utterly different. At first, I thought it was an altered image achieved through Photoshop or GIMP. But then I realized that in fact, this pussycat had found a way to stand on its head long enough to pose for the photographers. (The tail is the giveaway.) And I mean pose: look at that face! That is not a cat in distress and wanting out—that is a cat in a state of zazen.
All of them cats
The Burn and I have come to realize that someone who knows us figured we would make a good home for an otherwise unwanted kitten and placed that wee ball of grey on our porch. There is simply no way that she managed those steps by herself.
We are baffled as to how we lasted so long without a pet around the house grounding our being! Given that the little day-to-day stresses accompanied by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” tend to ground one’s being into the ground, this is a blessing indeed!
As for grounded beings: the moment I saw this image of the upsidedown kitty I thought of Eckhart Tolle’s observation, “I have lived with many Zen masters, all of them cats.”
I have since made this image a kind of totem for my blogs, where it can be found near the bottom of each sidebar. Tolle and Patrick McDonnell collaborated on a book that will put a smile on even the most curmudgeonly among us. The book is titled Guardians Of Being.
Patrick McDonnell is the author/illustrator of the long-running Mutts syndicated comic strip (and guess what it’s about). He provided the illustrations, a cross between his cartoon work and his children’s book art.
Eckhart Tolle is a best-selling author (The Power Of Now and A New Earth) and was named #1 the Watkins Review of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in 2011. He contributed the text, which consists of pithy sayings and observations which work as captions for the illustrations. Tolle’s website describes thus:
“More than a collection of witty and charming drawings, the marriage of Patrick McDonnell’s art and Eckhart Tolle’s words conveys a profound love of nature, of animals, of humans, of all life-forms [and] celebrates and reminds us of the wonder and joy to be found in the present moment, amid the beauty we sometimes forget to notice all around us.”
I would describe the book as an attempt by the creators to make the reader pay attention to how our pets—notably dogs and cats—ground our being to the reality of the world around us, both materially and spiritually.
HEADER IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is Gadji behind a rock in the grass in our yard.
1 The image I chose for the header at the top of this page is one of many images of Shiva. “Shiva is from the Sanskrit Śiva, meaning the Auspicious One. Also known as Mahadeva (Great God), Shiva is regarded limitless, transcendent, unchanging, and formless.
Shiva has many benevolent and fearsome forms and is also regarded as the patron god of yoga and arts. The main iconographical attributes of Shiva are the third eye on his forehead; he is usually worshiped in the aniconic form of Lingam.” (adapted from Wikipedia)
2 I never did say all that I wanted to say about Hugo Ball and his sound-poetry (not that I had anything new to say), so I have listed the complete poem in a separate post following this one—titled “hugo ball sound poetry o gadji beri bimba”—which means that it will appear first on the website.