Friday, October 2, 2015
Saturday, September 19, 2015
am i what i remember or what i've done? after watching a couple of german movies, i've had german words from fifty years ago popping into my mind, many of which i have no idea what they mean. i can feel the personality of the guy who lived in berlin for six months (winter, 1966). yes, speaking another language gave me a different voice, one where i played around lot, using the mistakes and fractures to create the personality of a wise-cracker.
so, somewhere stored up in my brain are elements which combined create a mystery. and i suspect other persona's lurk deep in my soul. for example, i must have been able to feel pleasure once. can i call that back? my mother always handed me over to my father to be whipped with a belt, and i must have been fractious, it happened often. my father seemed to go a little bit mad, his once chance to get out the disappointments of life.
i'm assuming i left my body as a result. i've never been able to live for the subtle thrills like eating ice-cream or putting my feet in creek water. for twenty years i pursued sex with abandon, then gave it up. this kind of electric-shock therapy never woke my body up. and i feel to live for this kind of personal thrill somehow unworthy of an intellectual, though without it i could never have written poetry. i needed to fall in love, usually deferred and never consummated.
yes, how many passionate letters did i write, more concerned about being a literary man than a physically virile one. and i'm assuming, despite aristotle's belief in contemplative thought the ultimate happiness, all this thinking and analyzing and reading made for a lengthy gloom. o yes, i really identified with raskolnikov in dostoyevsky's crime and punishment, the story of my hidden impulses.
a friend tempted me to get my first pedicure, and we visited a nail place full of young Vietnamese women, brought to the u.s. perhaps as a long-awaited absolution of guilt. good gravy, are they sweet and beautiful. after an hour of getting my toes trimmed, my feet massaged, and the nails painted, i no longer wondered why women spend so much time on their bodies.
perhaps i suffer the upbringing of most men: fights on the playground, ruler across the knuckles from the first grade teacher, and a thick plywood paddle administered to my bottom by a beefy fifth-grade principal. i grew up in a physically contentious world. i even broke my best friend's arm wresting, this in the fourth grade.
something warned me off this kind of confrontation, avoiding fights and losing a place in the world. i must say the above video about dying brought a little light into the tunnel. the young doctor with only one arm and no legs except metal substitutes. said the dying need to feel a shred of pleasure, even as they're exiting the scene. and i realized one thing i can do to the end is dip my nose in the roses, smell the coffee, have my fingernails manicured.
yes, this under my control. of course, as soon as i tried to practice it, on my own, up here in the tower, i became numb for a day, having no desire to do anything. today i cut the early morning coffee and carefully fed my curiosity. hopefully i can do the same when wrapped in a shroud. a bit of light in the tunnel, but is that a train coming!
Sunday, September 13, 2015
scared myself again, yes, i did. a couple days ago i felt the pleasure of letting myself completely go, the experience of not picking up my socks, or putting on my clothes, a feeling i'd never had before, except maybe when drunk. the moment of freedom i felt delighted me. and later, like now, scares me.
i sit in the bookstore cafe and watch parents and children. the adults move carefully, keeping their faces in the proper condition, while the little kids do somersaults, run up to me and say, 'HI'. smiling, something they would forget how to do by age nine, the age of reason. and i'd say to myself, 'if i did what that boy is doing, i'd be hauled off to the loony bin.'
yes, insane people seem to be out of control, following mysterious impulses. and the descent into madness does seem to be a kind of regression, a giving up of control of my mind and body. except for a difference, a very big one: the crazy seem to simply repeat patterns over and over again, no lively variety in their thoughts and actions.
a friend told me about picking up her wigged-out teenager at the hospital. all went well until they reached the lobby. the girl bolted out the front door and down the street, her mother dashing madly after her. luckily, it ended well as her mom caught up and stopped her. i realized what had happened. the girl overwhelmed by stimuli, her grown-up ability to limit the input to less than forty while four billion hitting her eyes and ears at every second.
artists often say, Baudelaire included, the creative impulse is childhood regained and maintained. Aristotle thought play our greatest pleasure. especially when evidenced as contemplation. playing implies always finding thoughts and perceptions new. art does not come from mindless repetition. as Tolstoy said, it's the jumps and patterns of our nervous system thrown upon the canvas.
why would i want to throw my hands up in the air and descend into a delightful trembling? as timothy leary faded away, he said, senility is underrated. a friend told me his grandmother a holy terror, until alzheimer's overcame her and she became the sweetest old lady. maybe i'd become who i really want to be, wild, outrageous, the terror on the tennis-court, the one who stands up and shouts, "the emperor has no clothes.'
come to think of it, it's the kind of stuff i'd do as a tyke sitting in the front pew, when i'd try to upstage my minister-father's sermons. alas, i want to be taken care of, therein lies the crux of the matter. as a adult, i do my best to see this happen. unfortunately, i still have to trudge to the laundromat, write out checks for rent, make sure i take my pills at the right time every day.
of course, if i were serious, all i'd have to do is stop the anti-depressants. i'd either jump off a bridge, start tumbling in a train station, running up to every other kid under six and asking, 'what's your name?' for better or worse, i don't believe in the complete benevolence of the state. a padded room doesn't seem all that comfortable. as long as i can pay my bills, i'll forego the pleasures of letting-go. not an easy choice, let me tell you. it's not always fun to wake up and put my feet on the cold tiles.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
has it really been that bad? oh, well, i thought it a witty, if stolen title, from daniel defoe, who of course wrote 'robinson crusoe', the hero stranded alone on an island. true, lots of ups, and an awful lot of low moments. getting hit by a car didn't help, though i enjoyed the contact with medical people and friends. and of course, i realized long ago withdrawal the rock-bottom component of suicide. living alone on a mountain-top doesn't always seem wise.
sunday morning i woke thinking of all the times i'd lost confidence in myself. not a good beginning for the day! i'm always asking, why? and it gets me in trouble. with these memories came the actual loss of nerve into my body. in solitude i seem able to re-create any state in myself i happen to meditate on.
once i remember feeling like a complete failure. i'd been choreographing a dance for a class concert. one girl complained to everybody about my improvisational process, dancers used to doing what their told. trouble is, most choreography done by the numbers, and i simply can't count in the dancer's way. the teacher jumped all over me about the girl's complaints, saying she couldn't have this undermining everyone.
wow, what a terrible reaction i had to the criticism. i couldn't really function in rehearsal and had to invite the teacher in to put a hold on it. ironically, she came in and said about the piece everything i'd been saying all along. i did recover, the piece appreciated by the cognoscenti, and the complaining girl radiant with success, having done something she'd never done before.
alas, in the immediate moment i tend to lose sight of the long-term goal. and mulling these things over i realized my failure to use my anger instead of bottling it up undermines many an endeavour, including walking away from promising romances. i once read in a marriage counseling book: a woman will test you, she wants a man and not a little boy. in those situations measured angry responses necessary. even my grandfather would put his foot down every once in awhile, his spouse a powerhouse.
on may 10, 2014, here at mt. hough i began making notes in a fat spiral notebook. and today, september 1, 2015, i'm on the last page. at first i thought of calling it 'little epiphanies'. too pretentious, i thought, and renamed it 'journal of a plague year'. i haven't re-read most of it. i almost never do. this time i'm tempted to see what i find.
The most important thing: having a poetic view of life.
Keep in touch with your own mythology.
The landscape is full of stories.
and so on. i'll keep looking and report back. i think it important to have some record of my own life, if only for myself.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
damn, another two-edged epiphany. this came about a few moments ago when i questioned the true nature of success. maurice sendak, the children's illustrator, didn't like discovering he was gay. would the knowledge ruin his career? tomi ungerer, another children's illustrator, lost it all when mothers discovered his pornographic work. even now, after a great life, he dreams every night of being arrested and wakes in a sweat.
the list goes on. just watched a movie on Bert Stern, an acclaimed fashion photographer. Divorce, drugs, marilyn monroe, it all haunted him. and now he has closets full of famous pictures. tons of them. and what will happen to them? alas, eighty seems the age of reckoning for all these guys. growing old seems to be the major failure. success certainly didn't prevent it.
i think of emily dickinson wrapping up those slips of paper, saying, 'who wants fame, baying in a bog like a frog all day long?' even the grandson of diana vreeland, editor of vogue magazine, couldn't escape by becoming a monk. he loved photography, yet surrounded by glamor, he had his epiphany. ah, those masks everyone wore! he ended up in tibetan monastery in india. eventually his close relation with the dali lama led to him be appointed an abbot. and now it was all about politics.
who else has there been? oh, vivian maier, the photographer discovered as she was dying and beyond knowing. all the experts ask, 'how could she take thousands of photos, hundreds of rolls not even developed, and show no one?' her discovery an amazing mistake of history. and it really is a puzzle. i guess someone can do great work simply for oneself.
and there comes my own discovery. questioning the nature of success, i contemplated the times i've been applauded in theater. and i realize i didn't care about the acclaim, only satisfied when i myself knew a piece worked, the audience feeling a sense of completion. poor al jolson, he would have died without an audience. their hand claps meant 'they love me.' and i'm sure much of striving comes from the desire for love.
suddenly, i glanced at a picture on my iphone. beautiful, i thought. and there i realized i'd spent my whole life entertaining myself by making pictures, writing poems, travel, and even, shame to be told, love-affairs. nobody delights in one of my works as i do. and all this has kept me from being bored! maybe that's been my life's goal, to escape the monster of ennui, all the while hoping i could help someone else out of the dungeon.
my first psychic told me i'd had too much responsibility in past lives. i'd helped develop the power that blew up atlantis, l'd been a black magician in druid times, and a spiritual native american trying to make up for it. "this lifetime you get to play." well, i can't say it's always felt like fun. ah, now, i see why i've been so lucky. "take care of the present," wrote henley, "and the past will take care of itself." i like that. nothing about the future. truly, i'm stuck in time.
"I began my comedy as its only actor, and I come to the end of itas its only spectator."