||||About|||||Poetry|||||Short Stories|||||Serializations|||||Prose Poetry||||||||Essays/Opinions|||||Reviews|
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:
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 resided 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."
Go to the Writing Life Archive.