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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:
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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