Posted by: standing_baba | January 5, 2010

Book: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

FOREWORD: I could die an accomplished man if the below wisdom were my own, but it is not. This mutt list of raw prose, random facts, and topics ranging from religion to government to radioactive rocks was collected from Tom Robbin’s “Even Cow Girls Get the Blues,” a novel I recently finished while on vacation with my parents in Chile. I decided to post these excerpts on my blog not just for their entertainment and weirdness value (which is infinitely more than the five dollars I paid for the book) but for the subtle way they make you examine commonly accepted beliefs and values.

Reading Robbins at mountain get-away outside Talca, Chile

Mr. Robbins’ writes from a place where its normal to consider the ridiculous. His short sentences jab at your conscience and call you a ninny if you back down. The longer, winding paragraphs arrive to a deep, mysterious reservoir that is the flavor of the life you seek, pulling you from the familiar, making you want to break down walls not stack them higher, to push electric currents through the brain’s untraveled back alleys, to build inwards instead of out and upwards, all in the name of truth, self-improvement, and a more humanist (though sarcastic) world view. Also, there is a whole stockpile of interesting material for dinner parties and debates with bullhorn evangelists at public universities.

If all this sounds too much like a cheesy New York Times book review written minutes before deadline, then just remember this: you will want to share each metaphor, each random fact, with the nearest literate person, annoying them to no end. Every page contains a secret that cannot be kept to oneself. Of course, these excerpts are just blurred passing cars on the Tom Robbins highway. I recommend you read the book to piece together these trivia tidbits, to see life—perhaps for the first time—in all its brilliant, irreverent wholeness. This was my first Tom Robbins book. You could say I’m now a fan.

The normal rectal temperature of a hummingbird is 104.6.”

Because of thumbs, man can use tools; because he can use tools he can extend his senses, control his environment and increase in sophistication and power. The thumb is the cornerstone of civilization! You are an ignorant schoolgirl. You think civilization is a good thing.”

“On Venus, the atmosphere is so thick that light rays bend as if made of foam rubber. The bending of light is so extraordinary that it causes the horizon to tilt upward. Thus, if one were standing on Venus one could see the opposite side of the planet by looking directly overhead.”

Middays, the city felt like the inside of a napalmed watermelon.”

“The author isn’t altogether certain that there is any such thing as exaggeration. Our brains permit us to utilize such a wee fraction of their resources that, in a sense, everything we experience is a reduction. We employ drugs, yogic techniques and poetics—and a thousand more clumsy methods—in an effort just to bring things back up to normal.”

A sneeze travels at a peak velocity of two hundred miles per hour.”

Poetry is nothing more than an intensification or illumination of common objects and everyday events until they shine with their singular nature, until we can experience their power, until we can follow their steps in the dance, until we can discern what parts they play in the Great Order of Love. How is this done? By fucking around with syntax.”

Some of the rocks on the moon transmit waves of energy. At first it was feared that they might be radioactive. Instruments quickly proved that the emissions were clean, but NASA was still puzzled about the source and character of the vibrations…one scientist decided just for drill to convert the waves into sound…When the moon vibrations were channeled into an amplifier, the noises that pulsed out of the speaker sounded exactly like “cheese, cheese, cheese.”

“In ancient India the care of the cattle was always left up to young women…called gopis.”

Just as a piece of shell can take all the fun out of an egg salad sandwich, just as the advent of an Ice Age can poop a million garden parties, just as a disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business….”

A book no more contains reality than a clock contains time. A book may measure so-called reality as a clock measures so-called time; a book may create an illusion of reality as a clock creates an illusion of time; a book may be real, just as a clock is real (both more real, perhaps, than those ideas to which they allude); but let’s not kid ourselves—all a clock contains is wheels and springs and all a book contains is sentences.”

“If little else, the brain is an educational toy…it comes already assembled; you don’t have to put it together on Christmas morning. The problem with possessing such an engaging toy is that other people want to play with it, too. Sometimes they’d rather play with yours than theirs. Or they object if you play with yours in a different manner from the way they play with theirs. The result is, a few games out of the toy department of possibilities are universally and endlessly repeated. If you don’t play some people’s game, they say that you have “lost your marbles,” not recognizing that, while Chinese checkers is indeed a fine pastime, a person may also play dominoes, strip poker, tiddlywinks, drop-the-soap or Russian roulette with his brain.”

“The cow milk molecule is one hundred times larger than the molecule of mother’s milk. But the goat milk molecule and human milk molecule are practically the same size. That’s why goat milk is easy for us to digest and cow milk is like sand in the gas tank of the gut.”

“Men—in general—are turned on by women who are attached. It’s an ego challenge to break that attachment and transfer it to themselves. Women—in general—are turned on by men who are unattached. Freedom excites ’em. Unconsciously, they’re aching to end it.”

“Way back before Judaism and Christianity, women were in charge of everything, government, economics, family, agriculture and especially religion…”

Tradition informs us that kissing, as we know it, was invented by medieval knights for the utilitarian purpose of determining whether their wives had been in the mead barrel while the knights were away on duty. If history is correct, for once, then the kiss began as an osculatory wiretap, an oral snoop, a kind of alcoholic chastity belt…”

“In the flippers of dolphins there are five skeletal fingers. Once upon a time, dolphins had hands. Observing residual fingers that remain in their flippers, it is possible to conclude that dolphins had opposable thumbs. Imagine the dolphin, a land animal then….”

“In times of widespread chaos and confusion, it has been the duty of more advanced human beings—artists, scientists, clowns, and philosophers—to create order. In times such as ours, however, when there is too much order, too much management, too much programming and control, it becomes the duty of superior men and women to fling their monkey wrenches into the machinery.”

No matter how much people long to be free—even to the point of valuing freedom over happiness—an aversion to liberty is right there in DNA. For eons of evolutionary time, our DNA has been whispering in the ears of our cells that we are, each one of us, the most precious things in the universe and that any action that entails the slightest risk to us may have consequences of universal importance. ‘Be careful, get comfortable, don’t make any waves,’ whispers the DNA.”

“Primitive man took from the land only what he needed, thus avoiding the hassles that result in modern economics from imbalances of scarcity and surplus. Hunting and gathering tribes worked only a few hours a week. To work more than that would have put a strain on the environment, with which they related symbiotically. It was only among mobile cultures—after the unfortunate domestication of animals—that surplus, a result of overachievement, led to polatches and competitive feasts—orgies of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste—which attached to simply, healthy, effective economies the destructive elements of power and prestige. When that happened, stability was shattered.”

It was the sixth day, the day upon which, in the Judaeo-Christian version of Creation, God said, “Let there be strict potty training and free enterprise.”

…to worship the natural at the exclusion of the unnatural is to practice Organic Fascism…And in the best traditions of fascism, they are totally intolerant of those who don’t share their beliefs; thus, they foster the very kinds of antagonism and tension that leads to strife, which they, pacifists one and all, claim to abhor…Lipstick is a chemical composition, so is berry juice, and they are both effective for decorating the face. If lipstick has advantages over berry juice then let us praise that part technology that produced lipstick. The organic world is wonderful, but the inorganic isn’t bad either. The world of plastic and artifice offers its share of magical surprises.”

“Wild animals don’t snore.”

Life isn’t simple; it’s overwhelmingly complex. The love of simplicity is an escapist drug, like alcohol. It’s an anti-life attitude. These ‘simple’ people who sit around in drab clothes in bleak rooms sipping peppermint tea by candlelight are mocking life. They are unwittingly on the side of death. Death is simple but life is rich.”

“Spiritual devotion to a popular teacher with an ambiguous dogma is merely a method of making experience more tolerable, not a method of understanding experience or even accurately describing it. In order to tolerate experience, a disciple embraces a master. This sort of reaction is understandable, but it’s neither very courageous nor very liberating. The brave and liberating thing to do is embrace experience and tolerate the master.”

Christianity, you ninny, is an Eastern religion. There are some wonderful truths in its teachings, as there are in Buddism and Hinduism, truths that are universal, that is, truths that can speak to the hearts and spirits of all peoples everywhere. But Christianity came out of the East, its origins highly suspect, its dogma already grossly perverted by the time it set foot in the West. Do you think there was no supreme deity in the West prior to that Eastern alien Jehovah? There was. From Neolithic days, the peoples of Britain and Europe—the Anglos and Saxons and Latins—had venerated a deity. The Horned One. The Old God…a god much loved because he loved, because he put pleasure ahead of asceticism, because jealousy and vengeance were not in his character. But the Christian powers were nothing if not sly. The Church set about to willfully transform the image of Lucifer, whom the Old Testament informs us was a shining angel, one of God’s chief lieutenants. The Church began to teach that Lucifer had horns, that he wore the cloven hooves of the lecherous goat. In other words, the leaders of the Christian conquest gave to Lucifer the physical traits—and some of the personality—of the Old God. They cunningly turned your Old God into the Devil.

“There are no squares in nature, not in macrocosm nor microcosm. Nature creates in circles and moves in circles. Atoms and galaxies are circular, most organic things in between. The Earth is round…The womb is no shoebox. Where are the corners of the egg and the sky?…The square is the product of logic and rationality. It was invented by civilized man…The whole object of logic is to square the circle. Civilization is a circle squared.”

New York City keeps its allotment of sunshine in a Swiss bank account and tries to get by on the interest, which is compounded quarterly.”

All the great agrarian cultures of Old Europe were matriarchal; then along came the nomadic herdsman from Central Asia with their love of the bull and their concomitant belief in penis power. The herding tribes gradually overran the feminist states, replacing the Great Mother with God the Father, substituting the Christian death trip for the pagan glorification of life, venerating beasts ahead of vegetation….”

I believe in political solutions to political problems. But man’s primary problems aren’t political; they’re philosophical. Until humans can solve their philosophical problems, they’re condemned to solve their political problems over and over and over again. It’s a cruel, repetitious bore.”



  1. I read this while living in Ecuador and believe it is one of the best books to have in your back pocket while on the open road. :) Glad to see you are still doing well and love keeping up with your flax-golden tales!

  2. YES.

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