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BUY FOR THE KINDLE READER:
Reflections at night when the dark is good and we see further. A short meditation.
Brief Tales on a Whim.
Meditations on the 60th Anniversary of Hiroshima What would the end of the world entail? Do we boast that we can imagine such a thing?
3 short stories. $3
In the apprenticeship period hopes are high.
The manuscripts are under $8.
THE SHORT, HAPPY HISTORY OF A WRITING LIFE by David Eide:
DIALOG OF SAD MEN
"The worst thing? I was always afraid of getting thrown back on the trashheap in a manner of speaking. Didn't really want to be anyone else than myself. Didn't want to get mesmerized by my own opinions."
"The god awful thing to admit is that I have "accepted" all of those attitudes and tendencies which once revolted me. And I have not made a single dent anywhere."
"Well, I can't think of a more foolish person than myself. Sometimes I believe everything is ruined, everything has been decimated. That all of this effort has been for nothing. That it has not been worth the pain and sacrifice. All in all, it has been a thoroughly miserable existence; a thoroughly dispiriting and demoralizing affair."
"Oh I can be lifted up for a time then go crashing down again. Sometimes I think I got very bent over on the other side of things."
"Didn't want to get satiated in this tiny circle of experience. Didn't want to get bogged down in the loneliness that I saw looming ahead when I was younger. Didn't want to get bogged down in family problems. I was always afraid of getting thrown back on the trashheap in a manner of speaking. Didn't want to get mesmerized by my own opinions."
"Look at the raging storm! It has not been this way for several years. Strange to see the little creek raging muddily between the shallow banks."
"New perspectives- this is what I need. In some ways I am satisfied with what I've poured out of myself."
"Keep looking outside yourself for some 'out' of this situation"
"And you, don't give up by all means- and recognize that before all this sedateness occurred it was wild and nearly crazy- don't forget that."
"Now I remember that splendid period of time when we pushed ourselves from the center in order to learn and absorb and experience and observe as much as possible while attempting to keep ourselves sane too. I see that coming to an end. They did not understand our sincerity or our fierce devotion. And even after I returned and became successful, in the way they understand it, I have the greatest feeling for that period of time. A mythical time, belonging to me and no one else."
"Yes, let the old and the children play for a while."
"The worms eat the worms; and if you play dead or act dead they will get you as well."
"I understand the surface things; the general history, the major institutions, its regions, its major decisions and so on." The writer had been challenged by the guy who always sought out weakness and attacked it. He didn't see anything unusual about the writer. ("You say you're a writer, so what? What does he do really?")
"But, why it exists is beyond me. Well, it exists to fight Hitler's, communism, and terrorism."
"But is there anything beyond that? And what about all these other cultures? What about the writings of antiquity, the paintings of the Renaissance, the architecture of the middle-ages, the ziggurats and pyramids of the Near East and Meso-America? What about language, technology, science? What is the nature of invention? What, really, are these things?"
It was one of those days when the writer noted some difficulty. Then, a sudden awareness that he had to change some things.
At a certain moment he perceived that the outward had lost all semblance of meaning.
Yet, action dominates thought; and thought becomes bitter.
The guy who Bolar pointed out to the writer, who works in another office but who he pass each day has, Bolar explained, "a sensitive nature." "He said things, I doubt if he believed him or meant it. Everyone in the office was upset because a new computer system was being installed and no one knew how to work it."
"We are high school graduates but not idiots," the employees said. "I suppose that could mean anything. I know that he sits there and reads books at his desk when he's in a funk. No one can get him to work. No one can fire him. I would tell him to be patient and let the blows of the world subside before giving in altogether."
That "sensitive" natures can get maudlin and bogged down in their own private wound was something the writer was familiar with. A man can become obsessed by what he emerges through; gets bitter when he is able to reflect and sees the stupid influences that has danced magic around him to lure it out of his essence.
"The son comes to know himself through the father. The treasures, the boons of the father, the reality of the father is greater than imaginary things conjured at some distance and under various circumstances."
"It's television and its feminizing influence on society."
"It's all becoming feminized because the demand for physical labor is diminishing. The great physical projects of the past such as colonization, western migration, revolution, civil war, world wars, railroad building and so on are over. Machines have replaced them.So what's the next step for these obsolete fellows?"
"You need to get over the stereotypes in order not to be conditioned by them and so made serious and backward. And unable to move freely in the world as a free man or woman should."
"The older generation flits in and out like characters in a dream."
"I have had great difficulties in understanding them."
"I made more than a half-hearted attempt at it."
"I was sympathetic to their experience."
"I think I understand what they moan about the camaraderie which existed during the war."
Despite everything, his roots were in the poor. The psychology of the poor; the poor immigrant. Or the long-standing American family impoverished by the depression.
Striving upward hit barrier after barrier. "A good guy will meet a threshold he will not cross; psychological or otherwise. Well, what about the sons and daughters of this arrangement?" He asked himself.
There was no "entry" into the next class because there were no classes, only individuals caught in some personal drama.
"If America was suppose to be an experiment it was my family that was the object and the subject of that experiment," he would often say to anyone who would listen.
The writer was discovering that the intensity and the types of irrationality revealed in the society were frightening. It seemed true that an overly rationalized society finally let go of itself and submerged in this irrationality from time to time.
The terrible thing was the ease in which the rational crumbled away at the first intimation of trouble.
Of course much was blown out of proportion because of the nature of news and the nature of images.
So it was only a stupid fascination; a kind of brutal habit.
The power of the primitive mind=powerful stupidity.
But isn't this true? That the pressure of that irrationality comes out of a perceived vision of the 'whole' and so prescriptions for the 'whole?'
Decadence is, of course, a word bandied about to describe anything a person doesn't like. Isn't decadence when the "center does not hold?" When the principles are destroyed and mania takes over?
Nature runs rampage through its own ignorance destroying everything in its path.
The writer had seen these instances of decadence:
In religion: the rise of the fundamentalists asserting themselves as the center and epitome of that great and noble religion.
In politics: the assertion of the athlete, the entertainer, the criminal element to high places of influence; the absolute desire of one faction to destroy the other faction.
In society: cult's, rootlessness, scorn, disillusionment, cynicism.
In business: the cocoon of the paralytic organization. Or, when trade becomes the weapon of foreign policy rather than an exchange of skill, product, culture etc.
In law: when law become expedient, mean-spirited, partisan etal
In military: generals and admirals linking with corporate partners to steal tax money; dominance of machinery- conventional militaries with hardly anything to do
In education: Not being able to penetrate the actual society and so developing a way to initiate the student into the unprecedented nature of this society.
It would be easy to pin the blame on one or several phenomena.
"Technology has had a hand in it. The unprecedented level of noise; of crunching, growling, grinding, exploding, smelly metal objects that seem to emerge from the demonic core of Hell."
"One hope is that it is more an impression of reality than reality itself. Hope believes that reality eludes our fears of it."
"The decadence of language is the most painful one."
"When images rule, emotions rule. When emotions rule everything is reduced to manipulation, which means to kill or be killed; either body or spirit. Emotion no longer becomes an enrichment but a rampage- a revenge- a blood passion and 99.99% of the time this blood passion is absolved in hatred. And hatred seeks out the best to kill- hatred seeks to kill the best- on all levels."
"A calming comes over me. I breathe in deeply. Well, silly man, you're letting your own fears run away with you."
THE WRITER REFLECTS ON WHAT HIS CO-WORKER SAYS
Technology is a huge field of activity in which almost any thought or feeling can be projected. The mind reacts almost instinctively at first touch with that which absorbs it. (Ho)
The attitude toward technology can be divided along those lines of male and female aspects. The male is excited by technology; its power and energy. It acts in the world. It is intricate. The female is awed by it and repelled by it- it is a mystery which she can't comprehend with her imagination. That's the general attitude in the beginning. (Hum)
It has no final point of arrival but demands all the time and energy of a given period of time. Hmm. Well, a goal is impossible since we understand that the goal will change; we are at the beginning of technological society. So, at best, we formulate large categories of general goals. Improved living conditions, space exploration, cheap energy and so on. And we know that technology changes things but we don't know how or why and this demoralizes the sense of autonomy. I get up in the morning, get into a machine and drive with other machines on concrete roads that converge on the epitome of the machine;the city. In an office I process data through a computer. I go home and turn on another machine whose images appear and watch a rocket blast men and women into space. I cook my dinner in the microwave oven; digital clocks surround me. Someone calls me on another machine; I can hear his voice as if he is standing next to me. He orders me to some distant place so I go to a huge ensemble of buildings of flying machines and enter one of the flying machines and it conveys me thousands of miles to the voice that ordered me.(hmmm)
This is all a common experience. And you look, even a very short period of time ago, and try to find complements for this common, daily occurrences and none is to be found. And because it is so pervasive you eventually have to ask, "what is it all for?" and "how does it command me" and "how does it change me?"(really?)
What does it make me susceptible too? How does it change my attitude toward work, love, and death? (It doesn't imbelice)
What is the implication of having a technology that is speeding ahead at an ever accelerating rate while the human being himself is barely evolved out of his primitive past? Why, ultimately, are human beings sacrificing themselves to technology? What is the rational behind it? (why why why)
One very definite thing it has done has been to force the unconscious into the light of day. It's made life a dark carnival that prances through the neon day, glowing with power and satisfaction. It has unleashed those powers once repressed by political and religious order. (oh yes, the dark carnival)
It only appears absolute when you are struggling from its effects.(yeah it's a bitch)
Most of the attitudes towards technology are a kind of exhausted confession.(you tell 'em boy)
"You have caught me in a pensive mood," he said to the writer. A period of exhaustion had taken away his desire to impress himself on others all the time so now he let his co-worker speak his mind.
"I have what I would term a "medieval mind." I get an intuition, correlated to some actual place or person or thought who has actually existed in reality, in the middle-ages. Sally says its evidence of past lives and wanted me to go to some character who "reads" past lives. I imagine myself sleeping under the roof of a gabled church, listening to bees and the coming and going of old women."
"But listen, without something profound and true at the center of the person what can we be but bullish cannibals going straight for the intestines?"
"Lately I've had a certain distrust of progress. I hear the politician say the word and wonder if it really isn't an emotion. Emotion. I've had enough of it: primitive, cultic, theosophical, evangelical stuff; it's all emotion.
"Of course, I am not the caretaker of humanity.
"Another question: if the emotions, thoughts, fears of human beings have been consistent throughout civilized existence, then how in the world can anyone claim that the future will be somehow better?
"I rebelled at this for a long time because I did not see this particular world producing anything of value. All it could do was congratulate itself for doing what men and women have been doing unself-consciously for millennia."
"Sometimes I think I've lost thorough contact; lost the bearings, driven too far inward in an age that demands action of some kind. Sometimes I am not even sure what it is I do. The punishment for this is sometimes beyond description. Oh, I know what sort of job I do."
"At some point I rejected the dominant forms of rational thinking; of skepticism, investigation and so on. Yet I was overwhelmed by it as well. Well, those are stages.
"The intellect reaches a point where it is either absorbed in the on-going activity of the society or plunges into the abyss. And into this abyss are all the devils and temptations well chronicled in history."
"So the problem becomes one of whether the intellect looks at the self-evident activity of the world and either explains them in relation to all the other activity going on or criticizes that activity, or goes off into another directiom."
"But what is scientific thinking? And what happens when scientific thinking can not see what it has brought into being?
"And perhaps the problem is not with science and technology but with the attitudes that people bring to science and technology; the expectations and dreams of science and technology which are driven into these things; things that totally resist dreams and aspirations. Perhaps I'm not being fair. Obviously, science has allowed the mind to see incredible developments and possible developments. The health, education and well being of larger number so people for instance. Or the ability to see troublesome problems ahead and take some accounting of them. And the exploration of sea and space! That's really the crux of it, practically speaking. But then where are the human beings in all of this development? Aren't they merely demoralized sticks? Don't they serve new masters? Not that it's enough to overthrow science and technology. But it throws a curve into the whole enterprise."
"One of the more obvious results of this development is that it divides the world into those who use and have access to these things and so have the power to determine the future. And those who are used by them, are victims of it, and setting up this wave and counter-wave of political and social nonsense."
"I myself have stopped the sensual perception of the world I had as a kid. And have marveled at the mind's ability to fix the earth in an orbit, as a sphere in orbit, in relation to the universe around it.
"So what happens? All the beliefs are ludicrous and sentimenal and human beings end up on all fours again, groping toward a future that is all broken up and dissolves at every step.
"I agree that there comes a moment in life when the energies are thrown back on themselves and the fire of it can re-generate those repressed power's for good or ill. Or, even regress them."
"You ask me about religion as if I'm an expert or given it a great deal of thought." He was talking to a guy at work, Balliet. The writer let him talk and did not interpose comments or ambience as if he were shooting a video and editing out his own comments.
"Generally people I know who have lived with faith are better than the ones who live without it. People who live without faith usually live a parody of the worst of the culture and then organize like monkeys to try and stamp the desires on everyone else. Whole industries have been created that way. But I haven't investigated my own feelings about these things. Perhaps I've had great religious experiences and am still in shock that such things still exist."
"Sometimes I can see how I have attempted to escape contingency."
"I always start to ask questions. Has my family harmed me? No. Has the community I was raised in done me any harm? No. Have the religions which offer themselves from time to time done me personal harm? No. Have political parties done me any personal harm? No. Have people in the past who I did not particularly like do me harm? Not really."
"The only things which have done me personal harm are technical machines with their exhausts and poisons- food additives- my own abuses- whatever dulls the mind from thinking like propaganda or political rhetoric, emotional stress when I am less in my self because of some remark or judgement. Among others my friend."
"Now it's true that family, community, political party, religions can all dull out the desire to think and create. But, ultimately, only if I allow it."
"I work with people who have violently rejected the present at some point. Call it future shock, call it escape, call it the desire to find something new and vital in the old. Some of them project their aspirations into crowds of people and when the response falls short of their expectation they go into despair, if I can use a word like that. It's a word I read in novels while in college. While there I perceived a great threat of doom but always felt protected from it. I did play with lead soldiers from armies of antiquity and the middle-ages. Saladin. He had a red smile and a scimitar raised over his head. And I spent a year reading about the Christian martyr's in Rome, especially those poor young people who were the children of Roman officials and made to renounce their faith to their fathers or be thrown to the lions. Some of them were stoned to death. I've always been curious about why control was absolute in those fabled days. Was the world burning in chaos? Were powerful men and women in love with cruelty and manipulation? Did they believe no one would look at them a few thousand years in the future and question everything they believed? Idle thoughts. I've had many lately."
"And the future you ask? The future has an erotic pull to it without question."
"The present is not what it advertises itself to be but it is fascinating nonetheless. I know the general controversies; know the general trends. I know the various projects. I know the general political philosophy. I know a little about the stock market; the way business is conducted. I know the basic forms of how things are made. I know the general form of professions. I know a little about the life of rural, suburban and city. I know the freeways and bridges. I know the airports- the popular magazines- I know the crowds of faces. I don't know my place, though I suspect that people are attempting to tell me this all the time. I know the various forms of communication; the various forms of rationalization which take place in the society."
"I do know that there are great levels of frustration; great levels of hate and great levels of despair. I know that most people in this society are overwhelmingly normal and good. I am not sure what normal and good is anymore but nonetheless. There it is for what it's worth. I have to get back to work."
The writer had spent weeks trying to perfect a chant he used when he needed to connect with lost influences:
In the vagaries of not quite knowing; yet knowing. Of not quite hitting the mark on any specific effort, yet hitting something that resounds in the secret heart. I call on the influences, the bits and pieces of foolishness, the few gems, the joy of discovery, those rhythms proper to one's heart.
The first influences were always vain and remained so until they revealed themselves as the desire itself; the leaves, twigs, bits of clothing, bark, dead fish were markers along the path of desire. So that for a time the mind refreshed itself in impressions. It learned the various tensions abiding in the world, learned the names of things, named them and then sought to control them by connecting the names up and visualizing them on opposite poles like heads of the ambitious and criminal. The influence of mingling minds taking and giving spontaneously like some liquid gas became the first character the writer encountered.
It was down to style. Experience had taught him that style was trust. It was based on the trust that one recognized limitation. Only the brave and criminal broke the trust; the criminal as a parody of laws he understood too well and the brave as an understanding that the laws were a kind of dead skin the living had to suffer.
There was certainly fear; fear and mistrust. There was a completion so desired, so far away, so much a form of delusion, so much a seed. Whose shadow side provided the first nourishment? Whose life not lived provided the soul its first dreams? Ah, bitter fruit that permits us to pass through the ways of the world!
"Let us again see," the writer thought, "the center that will not hold. Let us see the contention of death dissipate in fine thoughts like sails of fast boats in a harbor of chains."
To lose the love of youth and find the love of wisdom. To love creation meant to fight. In a moment of pure unselfishness the writer could see his potential range far beyond anything he imagined. The horizon was filled with dead horses and madmen selling the promises of nothing.
He told people he was a writer but never said, for sure, what kind. He wanted a little more evidence to filter in. He thought the writers' life should be obscure. It is what the writer makes it to be. The rest is silence. As sport the writer observed the daily vanity, its collective vanity, with its vain personalities troupe across the stage and estimated how long it would be before they fell or got ripped apart by the resentment of the crowds.
This was difficult to maintain when women were around. He admired women for their playfulness and imaginations. He loved women for their kindness and compassion. But always, after awhile, they demanded that he enter their fears and obsessions; their natures and what was not their nature. "I only, dear woman, go toward what oppresses my work. Isn't it natural and in the spirit of the finest battle to race toward what oppresses your love?" It was never enough for the woman who wanted the writer to submerge himself into the crowd. "You're no better than those who you criticize all the time." He knew it was true. But then, the goals were different. And the goals meant everything. And the writer formulated his goals when he was in a state of utter relation to the few things that counted. And when one of the people perceived his goals they would formulate a plan of attack. The writer had taken to laughter rather than sex to please himself.
Whenever the writer felt he was a good man his cousin would show up from back east. His cousin was a doctor and had a nearly perfectly shaped brain. He knew a great deal and expressed himself without a flaw. He had had wide and rich experience throughout the world and dismissed his home town with contempt. He had become part of the eastern crowd and was fast talking, highly opinionated but, all told, as perfect a developed man as one could imagine. His cousin was the fulfillment of a type. Even after the cousin excoriated the writer for self-complacency he parted with this bit of advice: "People who go after you the most for the goals you have, have destroyed their own."
As free entertainment hit his favorite park the writer thought about the present. After all, it is here where the mind captures the forms that move with purpose around it. And these wonderful creatures, these performers, they have discovered much. Not long before they had been on the road learning the sacred dances of the Hopi, then selling booklets through the mail about it. They had been on the road but could go no further and wished, again, for the corruption of the city. They returned without a prayer. They set up tents in an industrial park, first, and tacked posters on utility poles. They put on a play about Puritan poets and their death at the hands of Indians. He watched them dress in his favorite park while dogs barked at them. They laughed. Ah performers of free entertainment in the free park, play! And soon the park was filled with people who had read the flyers on the utility poles.
The writer watched enchanted by the free play of the dedicated performers, among mid-day crowds with children running around. It put him in a reverie and he thought of a scenario that he would like to see performed.
Confusion coalesces around the most persistent order. The mind feeds for a time on what occurs when wild nature flies apart. The mass spin into the gaseous center of a former star. There is a loss of love and remembrance of how it began. The war between love and wonder; between adhesion and adventure. It is here we see the awful disorder that conditions our desire. So we saw them, away from us, and they were upon us, jabbing us near the ocean, punishing us for the indiscretion.
The performers now stood and bowed to wild and happy applause as people struggled to get up from the grass. A fresh breeze came through the park and everything felt refreshed, reborn. The writer laid patiently and watched the performers tear down the stage, change their clothes, pick up refuse from the park and then they and their magic were gone and the park was empty but for the writer and dogs.
In his idle moments the writer expressed hope to no one in particular. This usually occurred on summer days when the kites were flying high above the greensward in the Marina. Kids were out and playing. Windsurfers made wonderful poetic gestures through the wet blue afternoon. The writer always chastised himself when he saw others enjoying themselves. "They are living the way it was intended. They are doing what all people should do." During a period of self-castigation the writer would mount a rock and peer out into the Bay. Dogs would come up and sniff him. He watched the couples walk the promenade. He did not want to talk to himself. He knew, invariably, he would start muttering outloud and didn't want anyone to notice. "Well, after all, remember where you are. In this town everything is permissible! Here I might mumble outloud and be hired by a client to defend him in some lawsuit. Or a cult will try to recruit me." Convinced that nothing would happen if he let loose with his peculiar habit he relaxed and thought of the most hopeful things he could. He hoped that at the limit at which he felt and knew things he had trust. And that the trust was both personal and social. He hoped no matter how many times he'd been burned by human nature he still had a filament of trust.
He hoped that from the proliferation of works and feelings he could find significant forms.
He hoped that what he felt and experienced was sufficient good for reality.
He hoped any mediocrity he found in himself would be turned underground and used as a particular type of human fertilizer.
He hoped the world was coming to a greater understanding of itself.
He hoped the future did not belong to techniques and slavish mentalities but to the adventuresome and creative who leap as the spirit moves them.
He hoped the imagination rode along every deep probe into space.
He hoped that value was akin to a photon.
He hoped his energy would be released outward in the form of work, life, beauty, and thought.
In a moment the writer found himself standing up on the rock just as a huge sailboat floated past him with two or three old fellows enjoying themselves and hoisting glasses to the writer who stood, on the rock, facing the sun over the city and proclaimed,
"Standing under the stars to feel desire itself strain toward light of a million years." He saluted the old fellows and went his way.
Later he forced himself downtown to the movie theatre where a long crowd waited patiently to enter. It was a well-advertised fare. The critics and money-men raved about it. It was compared to every fabled piece of art in existence. More money was spent in a day of advertising than the writer would see in a lifetime. "Since it humiliates the people with preposterous amounts of money it'd better be good. It better live up to expectations" He too waited in line. There was little conversation. He felt it odd that now people wanted their conversation structured for them and projected at their heads like enemy troops in a fabled battlefield. He shuffled toward the front and bought his ticket. The line was long but the crowd was easily absorbed by the spacious theatre that had been, at one time, a burlesque theatre. Men had pulled rabbits out of hats while telling obscene jokes. He sat in his seat and imagined the life of burlesque performers and how they had to hide away in the backalley bars after performance. There was a smell to them, no doubt. There must have been large dreams among the feeling of being used and anonymous.
Soon the lights dimmed and an old dark and velvet curtain parted before the dancing bits of light. He watched in silence. There were splendid murals of nudes all along one wall with garish green light projected on them and stars where the sex organs were. He had ambiguous thoughts about what he was about to see. He didn't particularly want to see it. But as it started he was suddenly overwhelmed by a terrible feeling. It was hypnotism. It was the evil eye! It was sucking the soul from the people. Without regard to his safety the writer jumped up and ran down the aisle and onto the stage where the magicians and strippers had been. "People," he shouted. "There's an art that liberates and an art that enslaves! It's not really art at all but a posturing of surfaces and expectations. When art becomes posture and expectation all you get is a grandiose attempt to put something over on you. You are merchandised with tricks! And you expect it because that's all you get!"
He could see dim figures at the top of the theatre aisle. The projected light sliced through him like some ancient sword. "They have spent a great deal of money to prove to you that it rules you absolutely. It tries to heal old memories of the poor. When you leave the theatre all the dullness remains as before. It is a theft from your soul!"
With that the writer leapt from the stage as Wilkes Booth must have after the assasination, with his hand and arm raised high with clenched fist.
As he escaped through a side door and ran toward the street he heard the one thing he did not expect and which humiliated him. Laughter! As if he were the final vaudeville act before the closing of the live and spontaneous acts, forever, of the fabled people.
The peculiar vast sadness of the American beat through the writer. He was not sure of his voice or his desires. He was never sure of his faith, of his nature or just about anything but what impinged on his imagination from a thousand weak signals in the air. He always chalked it up to too much experience with crummy people. He wanted to be around those who believed the world was large and bountiful. Where the parenthesis of experience left space for joy and happiness. Give me friendliness and boundless energy over the neurotic pickings and foul mud smell of those with a certain mind-set. If a person was full of shit the writer had immediate disdain and a prejudice formed.
"This ugly culture is not my teacher," he said. He said it to Quincy the bum. Quincy sat on a bench in a park behind the junior high school and watched the dogs mount each other. Sometimes it was only Quincy and the writer on a blue Tuesday afternoon seamed together by silence, a dog bark, the horn of a car. "The development of other men and women are not my teachers.
My own confusions are not my teachers.
The strictness of time is not my teacher."
"Who is your teacher?" Quincy dressed in black and found dimes in telephone booths. He carried a cane to fend off other denizens and would explain to the writer the logistics of being a tramp.
"You are perfect Quincy because you have released from yourself the desire to gain power over others. You don't judge Being, only Becoming."
"Like me you hold self-pity in contempt and simply do what you must do."
"You've destroyed the anonymous biography of your self and become every state, every feeling."
"Yeah, yeah.....time is perception. It sucks up the ground floor of illusion."
"You have no fear of reprisal. No fear of ridicule. You've cut through complexity and demonstrate strength of character while tottering down the street. You've emptied yourself of the fear that what you possess is unreal and will be stripped from you."
"Oh writer, you know me better than most."
Quincy would sit on the bench, bouncing his cane against the iron work of the bench and then leap up suddenly and move, cat-like, to the street.
The writer was never filled with hope after he finished a dialog with Quincy. And invariably, as soon as Quincy left the iron bench that circled the great oak, the commuters would start to flow through the park. The writer felt shame. But, he felt giddy as well.
"In this city, with a book in hand, with a pad and pen, with time and an empty sky, with conversation between fellow dreamers I am powerful! I am unmoved by what would shame me!"
A PLEASANT SORT OF NUT
The most marvelous feeling was to feel the speed and rotation of the earth and to bring vision past the horizon as far as it could go around the physical texture of the globe.
We were still, he thought, naked and in awe. Then we would produce our beautiful limitations. There is this nakedness of a sort, a kind of awe, a recognition between beings who test each other for the reality of it. Conditions are created through acts; acts lead to discovery; discovery to assimiliation; assimilation to freedom; freedom to further acts. What can't be assimliated is projected out among things. This must have been the way it was at the beginning. All that life has to offer in pure emotion being lived; flowing through the original mind.
The writer had these thoughts the moment he felt the world a seething kind of hell where the devils had sway and where the good and beautiful is destroyed by mania. He had learned at any early age that one must have detachment and disinterest so the soul may live. It is brought to life through a love that seeks the light of day. Only the soul had the courage to dream.
He had to admit that the road one travels are diverse. They spread out further from the center. They passed through strange scenes and dangers but they did pass. Ah, the lovliness of the roads, the dangers, the sentimental and grotesque scenes!
In pure and perfect silence he convinced himself that without embracing what one passes through there was no progress. And without progress there was nothing but illusion. And with illusion there was nothing but submersion of the light into further darkness until the darkness fashioned itself a kind of light. Then the sacrifices, sacrifices made!
Ah writer, you must see the good things; how the soul is always there ready to break and develop in the right conditions.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The writer knew many people in the city. They occupied boxes and niches throughout the town. Usually they were surrounded by books and ugly pets. The writer always ignored the ugly, smelly pets and would sit on a flea market couch preparing to listen to the jabbering of one of these city creatures. They always had a great problem weighing them down and preventing them from becoming who they wanted to become. They hated science. Science was a deal made with the devil to conquer the world. The writer listened with passing interest. Science meant nothing to him one way or the other. There was nothing he could do about science. However, he could observe what science did and what the people thought about it.
The friend was in the kitchen speaking loudly as he looked for some decent wine. "They go forward so far that they return to the beginning." He poked his head around the door. "You know, a person can project their thought so far into the future they end up like a Neathderthal on a cliff, with a club, with some awful feeling of power as he counts the stars...So, there he is. He understands the earth and all physical phenomena. Now, will this creature make the same mistakes or will he discover a more fruitful avenue? You don't think these scientific idealists wouldn't transform everything and begin again? They would have all the mistakes made in history fastened into their minds. New cities, new relations, new humanity, new responsibilities, new burdens....that would be their constant chant."
The writer was standing and smiling. "Oh? Is that what we are in now?"
"Listen, you're a writer. You should know these things. They will develop a first principle. A destructive first principle since they'll have to get rid of the old traveled road. How could you have a Bible when it's led to so many mistakes? How could you have the Greeks when they had slaves and were imperialists? How could you have beliefs, faiths, passions that have led to so many mistakes? So, no more beliefs, faiths, history, passion...no more mistakes. And what do you think is on the otherside of this type of thinking? Glorification of athletes, actors, performers, machines."
The writer was about to interject his opinion but the friend became emotional.
"Listen writer, there are more Xerxes, Nebuchadezzrs, and Nimrods walking around today than there are Socrates', Christ's, Augustus', Augustines'. What does that tell you?"
"I think you are a pleasant sort of nut."
"Well, writer, I say this. It's far worse to turn fact into mystery than to look into the unnamable and imageless and break the hypnotism of fact. The more men and societies are hypnotized by fact the closer they come to mass annihilation."
"Let us now drink our hearty wine!"
The writer was never comfortable in the city. He always felt himself in a stage of learning. It humbled him. It threw him off old familiar pedestals. he had lived all his life in a graceful field with full grown trees and little monuments carved from picturesque memories. Then suddenly he was on the sunhot asphalt and there was a strange parade in front of his eyes. Always sensitive to contention, he felt the multitudinous sort of tensions so easily available in the city.
It was strange that the attitude that adhered so fastidiously in most cities was the provincial element. The writer was attracted and repelled by this element. He was attracted to the rootedness of the provincial but repelled, too, since the organic law that rose from the "natural" was out- moded, regressive and used for the wrong reasons. The element was so strong, so deep rooted that no amount of false masks could hide it. There was a kind of game played in the city. The game assumed everyone was together under the shadows of all the buildings and in front of the nonsensical traffic so the total effect was one of reducing life to a low, common denominator. And a serious game was played that any effort to rise above this lowest common denominator was discouraged, ignored, thwarted and met with anger, even.
This was always contradicted by the social pressure to "improve yourself." "Improve yourself American!" Everything yelled at the poor citizen to do so. The writer thought of his father who had come from the desolate cold wastes and ice beauties of North Dakota. His own father had been a small shopowner, in a family imbued with the Lutheranism of the Viking clan. He did magnificent things in the military and finished his college education in California. He built his own house and traveled a great deal. He was never a wealthy man but was very well-read and retained a nostalgia for the past. He was defensive of the country yet aware of its abuses and excuses.
So, the father had certainly improved himself. The father had improved the chances of the family to improve itself. The father was a true American spirit.
The writer, at some point, was not wise enough to protect this spirit.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Now he was explaining to his favorite animal, a coyote, what his goals were as a writer. "I will start with the seed of growth and end deep in the universe. Everything that comes into living contact with my brain and heart will be included. I will shame all the ideologies. I won't let the confusions of the day interfere with my intentions. I will allow myself to be drawn toward the productive courses of human nature and turn away the destructive paths. I will strive to attain singularity. All the transactions that go into that singularity will be manifest. I will not reside in the brutality of the sentimental."
The coyote was not amused and sauntered through the wood looking for cats to eat.
"Coyote! Listen! My writing suffers from the same disease that the culture does. It gets way ahead of itself. It desires redemption so becomes mad with abstraction and theory. This ruins writing as it ruins souls. Once the abstracting mind gets drunk on its power it feels a pang of remorse and goes around trying to save people. There's nothing worse than a person with confidence in a theory. What pollution it has created!"
Coyote invited me to run with him for a while. All the while he was talking to me while making a path in the milkweed. "Words," says he, "must be used precisely whatever large, profound vision lays behind them. Words are drawn from speech. Words in common use are the first speech. But words in common use are not adequate to speak all the dreams of the soul. At times it is elevated by the common emotions. It can even be primitive and barbaric as in mass entertainment. But, writer, the common language is like the common colors painters transform through their genius. It's there to be used."
The coyote had stopped at a cul de sac of suburban houses. We could see people frolicking in the pool.
"Are you telling me coyote, that the writer plays a thief in the night to the mundane?"
"The mundane world is a habit to be unlearned. It's a desert that robs dreams and replaces it with a machine. Your only attitude to that situation can be irony."
"I feel in myself, coyote, a language of the internal man that fights and adjusts to imperatives of the social language. These are distinct images, visions, dreams, as well as words. It is flowing when I enter the society. It is an eruption of all the possible desires, possible thoughts, possible directions even in the face of the stone world."
"Writer, don't make the mistake of identifying objects in your mind with objects in the world. Your spirit will be whisked away by some angry ghost. You'll end up with a fraction of what you contained; your potential."
"I am confused, coyote, whether it's my job to deny or to confirm."
"Your only role is to eat what is good for you."
It was at that moment that coyote ran off without me, headed for a row of rabbits the neighborhood kids had raised as pets.
In the late afternoon the writer decided that he had in him what the late novelists had called "the parvenu." He hated to admit something like this because he was proud of his feeling of comradeship with the people. "The fundament of story resides with the people", he used to say. Many times he felt privileged that he could see life in a kind of larval stage where life resolved itself as a series of poetic gestures. But he started to admit to himself that, of late, he needed to experience some return of energy that equaled what he gave out. He began to divide people into three basic types.
The predominant type he termed the hunter since they went out with millions of others to feed off what appeared to be an enormous, inexhaustible animal. He couldn't decide whether it was a dinosaur or whale. He couldn't see the head and tail at the same time. He knew the hunters fed for eight hours at some portion of the animal. There was restless boredom but, also, the pleasure of being full. And in the restless vortex of abandonment created by the onslaught excessive thought and emotion were created. It floated like clouds and, after awhile, took on definite shape. In fact, many believed the cloud figures spoke and shaped themselves for the hunters. It represented their truth, their culture, their existence.
The second type he termed the farmer. This type cultivated history and was determined to develop some continuity away from the carcass of the animal. They were, in fact, appalled and ashamed of the smell of the carcass and believed it had been ruined by what it had covered by its fall. The farmer gained authority by the concentration of his thought and emotion but, even here, excess was created by desperation. Magical incantations in the form of ideology came into being.
The third type came directly from the clouds and bits of desperate ideologies and fell to earth into the mud of it. They kept on going to hell to converse with those who had fallen with them. And in this hell the third type was given stark, vivid information to take with them to try and save the others. They made a mad dash to the surface to save the hunters and farmers who were ignorant of hell. They only knew the odor of the carcass and the shape of its gray, bulging surface pressed against their windows. After a while they had to return to the clouds. But now it was with the bitter knowledge of how to shape and make the clouds speak.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Well writer," he thought on a gloomy, overcast day as he wandered in the city of his dreams where books floated effortlessly from the holes dogs dug in an effort to get away from their masters. "Well writer, to gain a sense of eternity you will need to penetrate the hypnotism of things." The city of his dreams had fallen for the old political ploys that created enormous gravity around a once playful atmosphere filled with gaiety and color. It was the time when a new self was called into being. The political types reversed the image of culture and called that new. When the shadow called itself the light it was time to beware. This was one of the first lessons the writer learned. Second lesson: in any community, when people are unhappy, they will project any form of displeasure on an object of scorn. Therefore, things divide and separate and never return to the mystical unity of youth.
He lived where the trains moved eerily in the midnight silence. He would stand, often, and look at the train pass and think of all the trains he had seen in films and old photographs. He read about many trains. When a child the train was an object of power. As he became disillusioned of youth the train became an object of fear but now the train became an object of utility and absurdity. And it carried the people who lived with the writer. Are they good people? he asked as the train poured past him. Do their lives circle around a good? They drove, too, over the heavy bridges. No pennants flew from the towers of the bridges. As they moved over the bridge they moved for those who moved before them and who would move after them. The writer often stared into the precise strands of wire to catch a glimpse of a spire or fleck of water. He knew every spot from many perspectives.
The writer never took the people for granted. He never ignored them as though their presence were a nuisance. He never rose above them to offer them perspectives that would make them upset. They crowded into him from every angle until the writer ran to the empty spots he cultivated out of good knowledge. Yet, the writer had a duty to forget them and remake images for them at their leisure. He forgot them since he had so much interweaving with them. They drowned him in their insistence.
The wonderful, terrible people.
THOSE THINGS, DREAMS
Dreams, he thought. Those things. Dreams. He had seen many phony ones, usually freighted with social or political ambition. Didn't the society, itself, support some dreams and deny others?
The writer was acute in watching the mind feel the unfreedom of this and then try to pass it on. It landed onto nature or other human beings. The unfreedom collected and built up. After while it appeared obvious that nature had had it, people had had it; a revolt breaks out. Maybe in the middle of the revolt a more fructifying dream arose. Until that occurred the people were mean and disillusioned and wanted revenge on children or nature or other groups.
"Ah people surrender to reality as gracefully as possible."
Once in awhile he had the wistful belief that life was struggling from history, from a ghostly past. It was trying to meet itself in some new form.
He loved the idea that the United States was not Europe. That Europe provided valuable lessons and a few masters but that America was to produce the future masters. And it was to produce the future masters through itself after it had absorbed Europe. "Confidence is attained when going through the thing itself and not circumvent it with excuses and disguises."
Not that America was a piece of cake. There was much that was regrettable. Often it resembled a drowning man who flounders and struggles and finally strangles the one who is trying to save him.
It was not meaningless in its initial acts but, after awhile, these acts became absurd, meaningless, and oppressive.
Its forms of repulsive machines, dreary debates, trivia, cloak and dagger realities were blisters on the skin of history.
It slaked money and goods like a nymphomaniac lust.
Was there beauty in the American city?
The dominant class was depressing with its small universe of objects, watered down ideas, professional sports, and neurotic women.
It was often led by a cult of intelligence that sacrificed the sons and taxes of the general population for the eccentric phobias of the educated elite.
It was rampant with prejudice, hatred, ennui, stupidity, that threatened the structure of civil living.
It was haughty and proud of the contradictions that would destroy it in the end.
For all of that the writer embraced it. "What it is, I have been. It is my guilt rolling in the mud of itself." When he plunged deep into it he became susceptible to the hatred, evil, and cruelty of human nature. With great exertion he bracketed out various things in which he could have no concern:
He was certain there was a connection between those 12 items but passed on finding out what it was.
OUT OF ONESELF
Whenever the writer passed a television set he would stop and look at it as though it demanded something from him. "Stand and look at me," it said. "I am an old magician and have you in my sights." He believed that television was the people's invention. It's drama and comedy were kin to pre- Civil War melodrama and it's news filler items from newspapers. But it's appeal was that it was a modern invention without the burden of a past, without traditional forms to hamper its wild ambitions. The average man had two choices, the writer figured. He could listen to TV with the picture off or turn the sound off and watch the picture.
The most perplexing thing was the sense of being "out of oneself" all the time. He blamed it immediately on the crush of population, on the urbanization that had taken its course in the century he was born into. Complexity on complexity had been brought down between the ears of the normal man so, suddenly, the normal man was floating out of himself as he walked down any city mentally registering the sights, crowds, and scenes. And the normal man, as well as the writer, passed people who lived totally different lives, with different values, different experience. But even with that common insight it was impossible to know, for certain, why that person was truly different. The writer was thrown back on himself. He tried to escape the combination of things that conditioned him. And those moments where he felt himself to be "in himself" he reflected on this tension. He was fascinated by complexity. He was fascinated by the identity that emerged from the complexity. He was fascinated by the facts of the technical world; all around, all movement and sound. Every activity implicated in it. There was an organic need to discover the origin of phenomena. Sometimes it was as much as twenty-four times a day.
And when he was in a noon-day crowd in the city of light and phantasmagoric sound, in the waking hours, he felt under the spell of devices and effects. Ah, dreams, save me! He thought. And when he dreamt he was most outside himself, most inside of that which knew him best.
"Now writer," he thought to himself. "There are three aspects you need to understand. The otherness of the environment, dreams, and the person who is not yourself. You must understand these things or you'll get stripped of all value and meaning. But, more dangerous than that fate, you will lose your imagination. It must be ready to receive it's allotment of information whether it finds itself on the red plains of an ancient desert or the corner of Columbus and Bay Streets."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
So he's working late at night, mind working furiously, in a hospital. It was one of the worst jobs. He was embarrassed and amused by it at the same time. It was, he figured, the lowest job attainable in anyone's market. He was surrounded by a swarm of women who chattered aimlessly between long silences. The writer sat at someone else's desk and wondered how he'd gotten into this predicament. All the past now seemed to be squandered time. He thought there was a kind of development but if he'd done it over he would have lit himself up at any early age and burned out by thirty.
At the lowest job attainable everything seemed an illusion. But, then, the door would open at midnight and the writer would leave and when the night air fell around his face he was alone and free.
Working a job he didn't like gave him one odd perspective. He saw that intelligence had become maniacal. The fact that it was beginning to resist itself was a clue. Yes, he admitted, the intellect will torture the soul in hell but also, the soul in hell will try and grab the intellect to get it burning too. It was nearly physiological. He had met a few who described to him the physiological effects of this. Their whole feeling force leapt out ready to clobber him. The writer concluded that those in hell are destructive but they could also be generous and morally righteous.
The problem was how to live with a continual barrage of passions, one after the other. The people are meditating now, the writer noted. The emotions are detaching from the images to relieve the pressure. But the pressures were real enough. There was the continual politicization of every human being. The stripping down of any innocent faith along with a kind of moral indolence. The writer had been morally indolent. He had been stupefied before mass events that didn't have rhyme or reason to them. Break-ups of immense proportions were occurring. The threat they'd throw a nuke into one's favorite hole kept things hopping. As the writer witnessed the debacle he discovered a horrible self-image. He discovered the inscrutable fears and obstructions. He discovered the humiliations as if the demand was for a man's good, natural self to be buried. It was combined with an obedience to the mask.
There were times when his youth was not real to him. It was restless energies made into guilt and humiliation.
THE DRUG OF LIBRARIES
The quintessential drug were in libraries. He had been in many. If he felt uncomfortable in a library he would leave immediately. He had been in small, branch libraries where strange people hung out or kids talked loud. He would leave and say to himself, "the god that protects readers is in a punishing mood." It was not unusual for the writer to enter a library in mid- morning and not exit until 7 or 9pm. He would surround himself with twenty-five volumes. He felt pretentious but felt alive, too, drilling down through the volumes and linking one subject with another, one style with another. He would read a clot of books on nuclear weapons, then a collection of essays on freedom. There was always a spate of political science tomes. Following his last adventure in a library he had suffered terrible cramps. It weakened him and when he felt weak he had the habit of chastising himself for all the petty lies he'd told. The lies, as he understood them, represented a gap between personal desire and an ambiguous, tough social conscience. In the gap bad things happened. It was not a matter of confessing but a desire for a kind of purification.
He was experiencing a common split among democratic people. He connected with a common instinct that drove through all other democratic people but, then, started to search the past for some evidence that people had been better or done better things. And it never failed when he thought along these lines that he would drive past a clutch of bureaucratic buildings. "Ah, they who work there think they are democracy."
My search is justified!
In a meditative mood he would ask himself whether or not life on the planet was still in the sea. He felt like the careful deep sea diver whose imagination is rollicking through the infinite variations of the depths. And is the shark more important than the nautilus? But before he could answer a question like that new spores of variation jet before his eyes. "They are building here but destroying there," he thought. "There is a kind of desire that arches toward the stars. It's as though the heart and brain have tiny fiery lights within. And each particular becomes the sum of all particulars. No particulars are greater than the whole. Advantages gained and lost by a mere turn of the head." Even as he thought this way he felt through him a kind of waters dividing the waters.
He found himself, then, with a group of people. They laughed and talked with each other. When the group broke up and the writer was alone he pictured a warrior who goes out into the plains to fight an opponent. He is glorified through the conflict and returns to his kingdom expecting a great celebration, a great feast in his honor. But what he finds, instead, are closed shutters and his name reviled and he's spoken about in whispers. Did he fight the wrong opponent? Did the kingdom change its relation to the enemy?
"You have to remember that now you meet a lot of strangers against your will. It's unprecedented but real. And they issue from the most obscure places!" A friend told him this, he wasn't sure why. They had driven down to Monterey in a fine car and he respected the man. "Why," he whispered, "would I want to hear the vapid opinions of athletes or movie stars? Why would I want to hear the program of saving the world proposed by the ambassador of Uruguay? Why should I listen to the citizens buzzing along with whatever pops into their heads?" Laughter. He didn't say anything but felt that all this unprecedented noise did one thing. It tortured him with hate against the world in general. He got dispirited. It stripped him of all simplicity and fine feeling toward the natural world and the world of citizens. He felt separation, a break. And then he saw a litany of unspeakable things.
The battle that youth wages is a fight between the imposed and the spirit. Men against women, women against men; fight for the spirit, fight against the anonymous darkness sensed in every gesture and spoken word by those who have not passed through the initiation but who are trapped in it to the end of their days. He began to wander the parks of the city, sitting to read old novels as people played unselfconsciously under the bright skies of July. And so, he thought, the soul is made through battle. It's not constructed but made by a kind of sex between self and battle. "Hmm," he thought, "very good, that explains it." And the moment the battle is won youth is released for action. Action returned the moment he recognized that the soul is born, struggles, and dies before it has legs. What terrified him were the fetishes, obsessions, and desires in the physical world. "It's wasting its time!" he thought. "It's leaking its potential to the summer winds." Even in the summer-lit parks he felt anxious. "I am forced to deal with persons and acts that are either too complex to deal with or too simple to challenge me."
He had observed that the child, conscious that it is a child, will deride the baby. And yet they look to the teen-ager and admit that what they do and say is too complex for them to understand. They want to hurry up and get to that stage so they know what's it about. The teen-ager is in the same relation to the young adult. The young adult to the maturing person. All the way up to the elderly who see life as rather simple and yet who have the great complex mystery of death in front of them.
So he asked an unfair question, "where is the guidance, the wisdom? Doesn't society put all the burden on me? It hands me a pocketful of money, a whirligig of products, a few books and classes and says now go on with you and choose the wisdom fit for your experience and knowledge. What a free-for-all it has become! What a task," the writer mused to himself. And just when he felt his soul had won the battle he began to notice a kind of nihilistic greed in people to insure that life did not rise above a certain point. They did not want to face what they had abandoned. Here, here is what you abandoned, the writer says. And when you abandon it you are reduced to an effort to control and manipulate through unlove. The evil eye observes in the yard the coming and going of the unsuspecting.
Next to unlove is vanity in its ability to control and manipulate the observed in the yard.
With that thought the writer closed his book and laid his head against the root of a great tree and fell asleep.
"What was it I was attempting to learn in the years leading up to my first painful change?" He thought on the final day of summer. He was coming out of a period where he spent valuable time in states of ungodly intellection. Here now, were all the levels of activity that crawl toward the maw of organization. And here were the forms of intercourse between different organizations. And there was the will behind them exerting force beyond any meaning the writer could come up with.
He had learned one thing: put the specific over the general when comprehending activity. In America there was no set way. It required a high degree of rationality that he had not prepared for since the irrational was more akin to the literary imagination. To survive and make a living it was necessary to rationalize everything. He saw that this would do one of two things to the democratic people. It would either bring forth great change or it would make people afraid and, eventually, turn them into sheep. The writer could see that the age found difficulty in gaining meaning for itself since the central activity, work, came out of brand new activities in the industrial/technical area. These activities had no precedence and so the only meaning could be that of acquisition.
As soon as the writer felt good that he had come up with a key insight he noticed that great repudiation was taking place of the times he grew up in. "Ah, just as I predicted." Crazy things had taken place and had swept intellectual discipline out into the cold abyss. He had been around people who had been swept up. And they always wanted the writer to get swept up. And now they wanted him to wear their own repudiation. As if he did something wrong! "But," he wanted to say to them, "I saw the dynamics long ago. You were part of the predictable acts and thoughts but held on to the passionate belief that the acts and thoughts were something utterly new." They had to do two things. They had to admit that problems are not solved through ideology and that things are better than they seem. Anything less would initiate a terrible flaming from flying too close to the sun.
"You mistook the sun for the moon!"
He loved his friends but didn't love the suburbs. When he spent time with friends he always came away dissatisfied as though, even there, one must effect a mask of some kind. His friends were all going in different directions. He convinced himself that the differences were something to celebrate. Even the conflicts were merely an off-hand remark or some feeling sensed running in the underground of relations. As a writer it was impossible to take seriously the judgements. The choices, yes, but never the judgements.
He got up early during the work day and rode with the commuters into Oakland. He saw the black cloud hanging over the heads of commuters. He thought, at that moment, they were either fighting the terrible cloud or partaking of it. He noticed fat, muscular career women who possessed a kind of secret, silent arrogance. In an instant he had an insight. Jobs, money, technology, and newspapers gave people the most mediocre of illusions and fantasies. "What do they do to truly improve the lot of people?" He knew it was early in the morning and his insights tempered by it.
It was the irritation he felt at giving people support and getting nothing in return. "Here is the writer giving everyone the moral support they seek." He listens to them carefully as though what they say is tremendously important. Even the strangest city creature exploited the writer and nearly demanded an accounting for his unhappiness.
And when he saw all the women in the train going off to their jobs, he saw the depth of the truly dissatisfied. Women often came to him with their problems. He demanded that they explain just exactly what they wanted. He saw that they wanted an ambiguous longing for freedom but would never demonstrate what this freedom was, exactly. And they lacked a certain irony that would recognize that their freedom would play right into the hands of the mentality that women wanted to change. "Women," he wanted to say to them. "Don't let other people get your own nature working against you!"
He did not really want a past. He wanted a great, grand myth. He wanted a vast and meaningful structure of which he was the chief author. He went over the tortuous ten years following his graduation. He thought about the alternating relations with his parents and family. He thought of his daughter and the places he took her to. "They were all looking at me during that time," the writer thought. It was not a kind thought. One aunt had even told him that. "Oh yeah, they're watching you closely." He had gone to Seattle and drank wine one night, with his brother. The brother scolded him. The writer was in the throes of a kind of loneliness, a kind of mad instinct that projected a great deal of emotion into the family.
But the worst thing he did was sell his books. He lamented each volume. He remembered where he bought each one, when he read it, the history of his emotion and thought as he read the book before he sold it to the bookman. In all his youth there was never a greater humiliation than selling his whole library until he was down to a few useless textbooks. "Life is stealing my spirit," he thought. "Why is it that what I most love, am most devoted to, slips unrelenting from my fingers?"
TEN YEARS YOUNGER
The writer spent two hours sorting out materials he had stashed in boxes. First, he sent poems off to a Quarterly that proposed new ideas and was written with a combination of hope and cynicism. As he slipped his poems into the manila folder he thought to himself, "An American must live as though he is ten years younger than he really is." He found it odd that at his current age of 33 he felt younger than when he felt at 23.
It is an odd place that denies intellect and imagination but justifies everything through experience. Think of two men. One of them writes the greatest story in the history of the world and the other is able to pedal his bicycle backward down the street. The latter man will win all the rewards. He will reach a vast audience. He will be viewed as real by his fellows while the novelist is hardly recognized at achieving anything. He looked over the boxes of material. He thought to himself, "I understand why Poe adhered so fastidiously to his aristocratic sensibility and why Whitman didn't develop his democratic consciousness until he was in his early 30's. Ah, America is not Europe."
The question that began to present itself to him was, "what exists between 23 and 33?" He understood it as a fine, exciting question. Perhaps it was the values he had to respect by rubbing up against something obdurate and awful in the environment.
Later he went to wait for the bus to take him to the train. He stood there for a few minutes when a huge, classic car came next to the curb. An elderly man in his mid-60's rolled the window down. "Can I give you a lift?" He got into the car. "I don't trust the bus system," the old man said. He had a poodle in his lap that he kept stroking with one hand as he kept the other on the wheel. He commented on the weather. It was a beautiful, balmy day, not a cloud. The car approached the town. The man said, "what do you think about our San Quentin half-way house?" The writer was startled a moment and then realized the man was passing judgement on a bank under construction. It was brick and mausoleum. He laughed. "Yes, I see what you mean." The old man started telling the writer that on days such as this he would rather be out on the Bay. "Did you own a boat?" "I had a cabin cruiser that I sold," he replied. "I couldn't use it."
Later on the train the writer thought about the elderly man. "He comes from old money", he thought. He reminded the writer of a roommate he had in college, Hosking. He was not rich but was going to inherit a vast fortune when his mother died. His mother used to come up and visit him in college and Hosking couldn't stand it. He never said anything but would cuss her out when she left. He could be very generous and nice but was a petty thief in ways that startled the writer. Toward the end of their association the roommate was committing felonious fraud and the writer never kept ties with him.
The wealthy had been around him like ghosts. They were always there but would vanish for long stretches of time. It wasn't as though they were pulling the strings but that they knew, even after long intervals, what the writer was up to. His own family were nose-grinders and hadn't emerged on the other side of the middle-class. He admired the nose-grinders but felt he was useless among them.
He was bothered by a sin he had noted in others. It was a minor sin but irritated him when he came across it. Whenever he wrote about the "state" or "nation-state" he wrote without a clear idea of what these words meant or referred to. An abstraction like this, he thought, is unwieldy since it refers to millions of people, millions of jobs, responsibilities, power, processes, transactions, and decisions. A state does not disguise itself. He had felt, from time to time, that there were unconscious assumptions at the bottom of any arrangement of power. But as it developed policies there was an intricate interplay between various aspects of it; as long as checks and balances were a reality there was no way to characterize the state as simply this.... simply that.
He had thought these things on the sly, on the basis of reading not simply political philosophy but commentaries that were popular. There were, for instance, a group of thinkers who had amalgamated the whole of America into a series of pejoratives. There was another group of globalist thinkers who thought nations were irrelevant. When it comes right down to it, he realized, the make-up of the person and their emotional needs determined much of this thinking.
For himself, he needed the literary imagination to be able to comprehend a world, a part of worlds and substantially understand them before he could even begin to approach the question.
He got stuck in unmitigated power in the form of weaponry systems and the dominance of technology. He thought these things on the sly since it was his experience that people got defensive whenever they saw someone truly and freely thinking. They thought the worst; that the person was planning the overthrow of everything.
He had really only discussed these matters with a handful of people. S worked high in state government and possessed a sharp and aware mind. He knew what was going on. But he also got more and more pessimistic as he aged and more defensive of the whole set-up. Then there was Ron who came from the underground. The state was always malevolent and everything was a microcosm of the malevolent state. Both emotional forms represented something to the writer but when he thought about it he had only two concerns. One was the idea of democracy and the full development of the citizen and the other was the weapons of destruction that brought measures of good and evil unheard of in history. Only in mythology and the formation of the gods could one perceive the reality of the modern world.
In his readings of history he imagined the weapons interceding in any epoch. It always resulted in a strange rearrangement of the personality of the time. It threw everything off balance. And in every epoch, bar none, he saw the use of the weapons as utterly probable.
These abstract but absurdly real concerns always made him tired so he marked it down as a productive day when he had typed a great deal. He typed and threw away his notes and would feel elated. He would take the first story he had started. It was about the creation of a new man, fresh out of nature, blinded and driven out of nature. He would take the first story and read and see what could be done about it. Could it be extended? Did he have to know what it meant? Were there any people?
THE GREAT ANTIDOTE
S came by to visit him. S was a window into another world that gave him a livelihood but ruined his imagination. S had a good, intelligent grasp of how things worked. He distrusted theory and anything not related to how things work. He accepted reality as it is, as the writer's father had. They both had a natural mind attached to a natural hierarchy that put them in the middle somewhere. So, their role was to defend those who ran the show and keep down those who struggled from below. They had no pretense about who had power or that wealth creates opportunity. Their satisfactory answer to the world's complexity was always stated as, "don't inhibit wealth- making, keep taxes at a minimum, cut welfare, and do what the middle-managers do so there is more pocket money. Because if there is no pocket money the people feel lousy and then the world steamrolls the people." S's defense of corporations was always admirable and precise. It became predictable through the years and S, himself, had fallen into a terrible state of believing in every type of conspiracy available to the common mind. Through his swaggering and loud-mouthed egotism, the writer could see a good mind under it all. The writer thought S had been wounded by the world at a time before he knew him.
The writer had traveled with S and learned valuable lessons about the enjoyment of life as an end itself. "You think too much and don't risk anything," S always told him. "You want to write but first you must live. You are afraid of your own writings. Isn't this true? Am I on target?" Paranoia was simple during these times, fueled by alcohol and the terrible feeling that maybe the lout was right. And the lout was still visiting him, still fascinated by conspiracy and at-edge characters from the rock and roll world.
S left and the writer had a long, spontaneous train of thought about the character of society: "It wants to become spirit but has no substance." A formula of this type produced the feeling of weight and oppression rather than freedom. The writer wanted to continue with the thought but felt himself pulled into ideology and history turned the television on.
The great antidote to the coerced behavior of society was to transform natural energy into active forms and live them out in the light of day. He had even entertained the idea that, perhaps, society did not exist. He knew families existed and work places existed and complex assemblies of people, things, and thoughts existed. He knew the freeway existed and the city with its looming facts. And he knew his actions were judged one way or the other. So, what was society? Perhaps it was the potential of the citizens abstracted out of them and put into the environment and given motion. And the citizen then was in a race to recover what was lost in the process. And as the citizen made a mad dash to recover it he fused with the possessor of it. "You must" he thought, "make a great list of types of alienation and their connection to the way the society regulates itself."
He finally bolted from the chair. "Now I must publish, find work, get on the active side. I don't understand everything that occurs in the world. I want to be delighted by the variety in personalities. I don't want to throw my country over in a manner of speaking. I don't want to sink down into the provincial. I want nothing that is stagnant and requires me to relinquish my imagination."
Following the visit from S and the rush of thoughts that followed the writer had a day of total dissatisfaction. He couldn't read. He lounged in front of a writers market and imagined how his own paltry work would insinuate through the maze of publications. He felt that, all in all, he was merely an entertainer competing with much more compelling types of entertainment. All that thought and feeling for nothing!
Even William Morris and Paul Goodman were no longer sufficient to keep him buoyed.
FABLED WRITERS FROM YOUTH
He was reading M now, a fabled writer from youth who had turned into a buffon. He had cultivated a false edge about the world and sold it to the eastern crowd like an old apothecary selling jars of potions to make the people ill. This novelist, this buffon, wanted to sharpen his intellect on anything available and put on a show for the people who cared about such things. He wanted to become as famous as the well-known prostitutes who had formed unions and made the talk-show circuit. If he had had breasts he would have exposed them.
He read him in an old chewed paperback that smelled of dust and the sadness of mind perishing into the thoughts of others. He closed the book. His brother had said something very disturbing to him. There was something primal and extreme, even terrifying, in what was said and it disturbed him and made him put the book down and lean back in his chair. What was disturbing was not the event, itself, but the vulnerability of the deepest mind to the monstrous parasites and predators the age had let loose.
Not too long before a famous murderer had been set free after serving only 6 years of his sentence. He had killed, merely, politicians. But in a flash, he connected the killer and the disturbing abuse occuring at the level of meaning; at the level of connection. Doesn't the assassin act out what the masses are feeling at any given time? Doesn't the murderer strike at the moment the people feel that they could, themselves, do evil?
In the case of the recently freed assassin, it was a case of a person seeing himself as moral, as upright, as an inheritor of some right way suddenly confronted by new people, new circumstances, new arrangments of power that implied a deep division where each side of the equation had vanished from each other. Certainly the powers that move a man like the assassin.
"Such dangerous territory these mere mortals tread! They are willing to risk total destruction for the lure of complete freedom," he thought.
He always made room for studying the system or, at least, knowing those who did a good job of it. He was impressed with the indelible facts of the age he lived in. For one, the oft cited "interdependence of the globe." The world as community! "World," he thought, "were you to develop forms of trust, forms of comprehending worth the pursuit!"
Hegel, Aristotle, Marx, Plato. He read them all hoping that they would describe categories that ran through his mind. "Bring the facticity into focus! Where is technology? Where is the teleology? Who is describing destiny?" He began to realize the thinkers of the present day were making a foolish mistake of directing their attention on the obvious. Contradict the obvious dear thinkers and let my spirit live! He chanted this with the Buddhist monk who pounded his tambourine down Telegraph Avenue when the sky was open and dark blue; nearly a mind with its layers of distinction.
He had been involved in a sticky private matter and wanted as little to do with it as possible. He wanted justice to win out but the idea of lawyers as weapons of justice gave him a headache. He was beginning to tire of the small-time, small-town fellow striving for success and weaving a spell around women of the provinces. What disturbed him the most was that he could not concentrate on the story with the personal situations he was involved with. He could take family, loneliness, society, past, present, future, experience and the rest as long as he had quiet and an undisturbed mind not continually brutalized by the reality of other people.
Then there were the sketched out abstract patterns playing through him as though a spy were tracking him down and he had to discover the best ways to escape detection.
Growing mind----------------facticity of world--------intellectual impotence
Impotent of intellect made into a kind of personality--------------resolved into habits and constrictions. Ah, that was it. The obligations of the world defeat the desires of the spirit everytime.
He had these thoughts just at the start of Sunday mornings where, from sheer habit, he would watch football games. There was pleasure and infantile emotions that he identified as twelve or thirteen years old. What amazed him more than anything was the amount of capital and energy strained through the emotions of the twelve and thirteen year olds. All of the anticipation for the release of the infantilism. And more than that were the memories of fabled stadiums that made up the center of the myth of sport. He had been in them and felt the thrill of crowds pouring through him like hot winds in the desert. There was undeniable power in the crowds and their releases through late autumn afternoons.
When the year 1984 rolled around he decided to take up the novel by Orwell and read it cover to cover as he had done 20 years before. He had felt the oppressive sense of silence in the soul that happens when television or modern contraptions begin to dominate consciousness.
In fact, he was beginning to make it a practice to read a special book during celebrated days. For instance, the previous Easter he had read The Murder of Christ by Reich; reading it as he stood in the center of a crowded BART train on his way to the games.
Television had swooped down quickly and taken him away from one flickering nonsense to another. He started to use it as a background against which he shuffled the poor contents of his mind. Not only did this disturb him but there had been a spate of Orwellian prediction and comments on the famed work.
In his mind Orwell described a type of atmosphere that exists regardless if the state is organized as a republic, a feudal state, or a socialist one. He was describing the ease in which people submit to the total organization of their lives and personalities. And how odd it is that people assume they are free when around them can be heard the rattling of chains; even within them. So he came to the conclusion that freedom is a kind of morality existing in a universe of choice.
He had odd experiences in America and come to the conclusion that the mechanisms for freedom are in place but that the mechanisms are not the freedom itself. And he heard people say that the mechanisms were the freedom and anything to the contra-wise was insane. "The crazy," they had said, "rule a certain kingdom in their brains and they like to destroy or undermine everything else."
He thought to himself, "It is true that if a neurotic person goes to the insane asylum and comes away breathing easier because he is not there, it is the elation that men and women have always felt next to those who have lost everything."
He then initiated a kind of game with himself when he heard the politicians talk about freedom. He discovered the root of their choice and acts to find out how free they truly were. "What have they done with their freedom? Are they conscious of the thing that organizes their sense of freedom? How does the seed of freedom prove itself? Through wealth? Conquest? Followers?"
He decided that when he finished the book, '1984' he was to begin a new, fresh study on the understanding of forms in the environment that impress themselves with awe and precision into the spirit of things. "Yes, I will see all the shadows of things fly up and around the most profound dream I am capable of."
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