Friday, January 30, 2015

The first book you write is about certain things.  Leaving home, first love, school... the interplay.  The disaster, how for no reason the work you do is not rewarded, and then she flies away where you'll never see her ever again.

Then you're left to write about faith.  You're left to write about the real you.  The kind of person you'd want to be.  Equal parts tragic and triumphant, or at least, a survivor, for the time being.

Jesus himself must rely on someone.  He knows those in need of a physic.  He is one himself.  And so he goes to see a shrink, a nice lady like you.  In order to be more, better with his values, stronger, less confused.

I had a dream of having to sleep under a lion, and the only thing you could do besides not being arbitrarily eaten was to relax, like just to totally limp rather than fight the teeth and claws right above your head.  Finally the lion gets up and that's when you make an exit.

I wrote the first book because I felt cheated.  It didn't help things to smoothly that I was a bit depressed, my parents splitting up, the end of the house...  I felt like absolute hell by the time the whole thing had come to its end, college, the unsuccessful reunion weekends I wanted to see her...  I went out on my own, down to DC, fell into the restaurant business.  That gave me a tribe to run with, and maybe that's how people of my blood type, O, view relationships, as communal sorts of things.  I guess I knew, like, when my suspicions arose, that I wasn't cut out for modern academia, a sense of its corruption, I don't know...  It was like I was this hunter, a warrior, good to my people, and here were these selfish farmers cutting out lots out of nature, declaring it their property...  Where am I going to go?  I've got nowhere left.  Bartending.  The restaurant business, which in some ways is the perpetrator, the perpetuator of all my faults, my love of crowds, wine, the adrenaline, the noise, the avoidance of facing responsible action....

But along the way, somewhere, it's like I've gotten to know Jesus's life, the things he was talking about.  I mean the creative aspect of him, his way of looking at things, the self-confidence, the clarity...  the depth.

And with you, in your professional presence, Doctor, I'm almost being respectable again, responsible, talking about things in an honest way, the way I actually see them.  Which could potentially be tainted by an outside view of me, the old charge, he has a Christ complex or he's crazy or a drunk or party animal or whatever.  A person outside of society, with no possessions, no home, no nothing, as if he were way ahead of himself for realizing the final human condition.

And meanwhile the world keeps speeding up, speeding up.  Drones flying.  Every personal little click you make on the internet being recorded to feed back particular marketing to you, for being 'the kind of person you are.'

So what if I take some form of comfort in thinking about Jesus in this modern world of hollow selves, all show, all marketing, and here I am a renter at fifty.  "I have that within which passeth show," Hamlet says.

I did get a little wine article published in the local newspaper.  But, I mean, to Jesus, how much of an accomplishment would that be against his psychological lessons for all the world?  And I'm still grappling with faith, with the fact that I am of little, and would want more, but how to go about that?

Maybe faith is just relaxing, being vulnerable...  But I wish the original girl I'd met had been a kinder psychologist, talked me through some stuff, because we all need a physician from time to time.  God, I know I could be a total idiot sometimes and really, yeah, disappoint her, but the lack of support, the lack of reaching out, the lack of kindness...  If you were Jesus you would have been offended by it.  Not that I am.

I know that if I were to be like Jesus than all the things that have bothered me would become a lot smaller.  I'd have faith.  I'd move on.  I'd see things correctly.

But I wouldn't be the Jesus paraded around simplistically, pro-marriage, pro-family, in a way that puts down the poor hurting people like me who haven't get their shit together....  who are struggling to get by in some ways, no retirement plan to reassure themselves with that all will be as okay as it can be okay...  Not all your stuff out in the street one day.

I guess after you've been out in the desert and sort of faced all that, all the insecurities, you become impersonal, in the way Jesus was.  People come to you, and by and large the have the same problem, the very same one of not having faith, being possessed, not being good ground for the seed of understanding....

I just don't see Jesus as being this big proud family guy.  He can't really fit into any of that, the life of a profession, a specialization, the wary shrewdness.  "Come on, little lady, let me take you for a ride in my new Camaro, because I know how to take care of things."  No, I just don't see him that way.  Yes, of course, obviously he takes care of some stuff, but it's all Jesus stuff, and goddamn he does it well and clairvoyantly.    Totally nonchalant about it, the greatest hitter in baseball.  He reads minds, he reads people, he sees their faults, their little sins, the things that they keep with contradict the good intentions of the deeper soul, the ticks of hypocrisy within.

David Foster Wallace, he was looking for something like Jesus.  Stuck in that battle to be modern and clever, specialized, talented.   The things he had to say were Christian, and in the rooted way, roots in Buddhism's noble truths, Christian wisdom is.  Very sensitive to that.  He wrote about boredom and spiritual boredom and un-belief.  He could have used a little more Jesus to hold it all together, like all of us.  Ye of little faith.  Walk on water, I command you, I give you permission, now that I've cleaned your head out of all the crap they've fed you, the Romans, the Pharisees, the marketers marketing in the temple, marketing marketing.

But it's all so sad, all the things we're supposed to believe in for our own economic well-being and self-protection...

Maybe that's why I had to go through my struggles, for having to face losing the things I cared about, even self-respect almost, but somehow enduring, a slowly built understanding of things rising up out of the deeper consciousness, as I've always trusted it, whatever you'd want to call it.  And now I can say, well, I wasn't right for her, she wasn't right for me, except in a perfect world, maybe.

Yes, after double restaurant week, rookies, nights without a busboy, a string of large parties to contend with, after a birthday party to go to, I was tired and I slept.  And I thought of Jesus, who, I think, is able to maintain his creativity and his energy by taking those naps, naps the faithful must take to clear out the worldly objects and all the marketing that makes its way in your door.

I had trouble writing because I didn't know what I was writing about.  But you've helped me figure that out, Doctor.

For some people, you know, finding Jesus is sort of clich├ęd thing, the alcoholic waiter finding strength through almost blind instinctive belief, becoming like the stereotypical  born-again...  And for others of us it's more complicated, individually found and conceived.  I drink too much sometimes, being under a fair amount of stress, so be it.  But perhaps that's just as much because we have no real way to be like Jesus the way the world is now, absolutely no way, no door left open, the consequences too great, the demands too great.  It would upset too many people, those people having too many claims, their minds already made up.

You have to find your own way, and indeed, keep it more or less private.  Go and tell no one.

The alchie coke head real estate guy I saw at the party standing around, I say hi to him and he says happy groundhog day, and I say I've got a joke about three japanese guys who get hit by lightning playing golf, up at St. Peter's gates, asked the meaning of Easter, and he's quick to cut me off, he's not a believer in any fairy tales.  Okay, my friend.  Sad person.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Another confused night with a rookie busboy ends on a continuous note, a Brazilian political philosopher offering up the thought that it is the bartender who is the true psychologist.  He relates a tale of the barman of the pub in the airport in Chicago, how many people fly in, how many people fly out, how many tell their stories, and how a word, one word, offered up over a bar in sympathy, can save a life.  The man expands, as he sips a Languedoc wine I helped him pick out, a Syrah blend from Paul Mas, decanted, enjoyed with his two female friends as they converse in the floral entwined musically vowelled language of Brazil and Portugal.  I spoke of the Cathars as I opened the wine, finally enjoying myself after the huge push and pull, tugged in all directions of a gloriously busy night that did not start out so gloriously, being overrun by a birthday party celebration that immediately took up the whole room, then getting the reserved parties and the interlopers sat for Jazz Night, and it turns out he has ancestors from the region, who were quite probably Cathars themselves.   Yes, they'd sneak out of their hideaways to get good wine.  "Good men."  The busboy disappeared after it all, without really saying good-bye, leaving a full recycling trash can bin of empty bottles.  I did what I could to get the plates and silverware down to the kitchen.  My own plate, an appetizer of sweetbread and mushroom in a vol au vent puff pastry, the pastry part I tried unsuccessfully to avoid, on top of the last cheese plate slate and few odds and ends, I carry down after all have left, scarfing it down over in the bar's corner over by the cutting board on top of the stove as the Brazil contingent relaxed into their seats with big wine glasses to raise facilititavely.

In the man's estimation, and I agree, it is the artists and the poets who are the real philosophers, the people of influence, along with the people who, like me, create a setting where people can gather, relax, talk, listen to music and maybe above all, enjoy wine.  King Sunny Ade's Pandora station is playing in the background after the jazz, Gypsy Swing, provided by The Bitter Dose Combo, has eaten dinner and departed into the night.  A nice woman appreciates my efforts of hospitality and gives me a golden tie clasp of her old school Oklahoma family doctor  GI Bill father's, heroic deliverer of babies and setter of broken bones, paid sometimes in watermelons.

Yes, the people with humility who do their jobs naturally, administering general medicine, hearing people talk things through, keeping long office hours, allowing the town to meet and put wisdom up to the community to water itself back to good green health....

The lotus bloom rises its way out of the mud as the evening settles down.

At the end of it, everyone gone, a venture made to restock, I sit down on the sort of front stoop of the wine room to change out of work slacks into flannel lined Dickies for the bike ride home.  I take out the orthotic innersoles from black Chuck Taylors and put them into my Keen klutzy hiking shoes.  The Pogues are playing, and there's a heating duct right below me, and I lean back and lay on the floor on my back after having achieved the changes, and my arm rises in a vulnerable way, inner wrist and hand facing upward, hand open not touching the floor, and here I rest for a moment and the moment turns into an hour and when I wake the lights are still on and I need to get home.   I feel a bit guilty, but then I've already done the checkout and clocked out and it's my own life I'm messing up along with a bit of the restaurant's electricity bill which I regret.

But people come in needing to share, needing to express a sense of their own worth and value, they need to be involved in some kind of functioning that goes beyond the normal functions of workaday life.  The boss and his wife sit for dinner as the evening winds down, the subject of a recent big birthday (mine) comes up, and I offer how one is addicted to the adrenaline, and the boss, French, and wise, observes that the very thing keeps you young.  "I've been doing this twenty five years," as I explain a birthday is really no big deal, though they add up.

The woman who gives me the gift of her father's tie clasp makes an observation how the long low table on which glass wine decanters sit along with an arrangement of fake flowers and an oversized dummy bottle of Deutz champagne in its little pine coffin standing next to a  few books and the local social shopping magazines with pictures of galas and benefit gatherings, big smiles, white teeth, the good-looking people of Washington, D.C., how all of that could be taken out and replaced by a bench or a shallow bar where people could sit.  And this makes sense.  The four Japanese men in suits finish their round of drinks, the Brazilians appear out of nowhere for the final chapter of the evening just as I come back from taking a quick break to urinate, and she heads off, as she'll be traveling this Super Bowl weekend.

The barman's guide to psychological awareness moves, forward growing slowly like something like moss or lichen on the base of a tree, developing its quiet naturally neutral values.

As any restaurant worker, yes, we keep the places where we work open by being busy.  The times you  just run, that you don't know exactly what to do but that you are doing something, keeping the flow going, doing the best you can in the triaged chaos of bar and table service.  But I've made a living staying where I've felt I am psychologically needed.  And I've done brief stints at places it was pretty clear that I wasn't so necessary to the psychological well-being of its community.  They might have been better career moves or better financially, but to those ends I felt less motivations.  There are the times you can talk to people.

Most diseases these days, at least compared to the time when Jesus walked the earth, are relatively curable in thanks to modern medicine.  But there remains underneath such physical good health, I know full well myself, the strange ups and downs of the psyche and the mind.  This is natural, this is part of the every day, garden variety, simply a part of life.  Everyone harbors in their own time within the things that may well bloom into a real need for professional help, but the daily engagement does help, and one would help to personally facilitate whatever expression helps such a basic fundamental need.

People have need to go out and find a watering hole, a place to talk, much like the way some of us also need to write, to control the flows of the adrenaline that makes us realize we are alive and healthy and responsive.  And so it is just more honest, more natural that one comes to the publicans and the sinners, the glutinous wine-bibbers, to cure not those who are well (who are probably being very dishonest with themselves for thinking so) but those in need of a physician.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Then came the night.  Busboy calls in sick.  A fourteen top of book club ladies back in the wine room.  I get them started by pouring a taste of Luberon white wine, and quickly realize the futility.  Can we pull the table away here to make an aisle so we can all talk (not about books.)  Then they, or one of them, comes out and tells us that they would prefer moving out into the main wine bar room, so they can mingle better.  Yeah, try to keep that straight.  But you'd be taking up the whole restaurant then, I say.  She keeps at it.  Fine, take up the whole restaurant.    They decide to stay, as a group, back in the room.  The young guy, a rookie, pours a round of red tastes, as if they were paying any attention.  Some of them order food.  One bottle of Vouvray, a few glasses here and there.  Appetizers.  They all want separate checks.

Somewhere in the night, at home, restless, unable to sleep before 7 AM it occurs to me my mistake was in ever attempting in the beginning a long time ago to be humble, attempted in the way that humble is righteous without being self-righteous, perhaps as a strategy counter to my brother.  But I was also young and stupid/foolish, cut some corners, like using the house telephone, not having my own line one year in college...  Better to be demanding, and deserving of spending money on self....

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When you write something down it's different than simple thinking, the thoughts that run through the wakened mind.   It's as if something is allowed to happen in the blood brain barrier, the light of a wand opening an electrical current.  To write out a thought makes a thing tangible.

Jesus returns to his inner thoughts after the work of the loaves and the fishes, the work of managing his disciples to do an actual thing, which is not always easy, asking the busboy if he remembered, as he folds napkins, if he brought up hot water in the pitcher because someone needs tea on a cold day.  There's maybe even the element of marketing, which some people also find tedious.  "We're from Bergerac, and our wines are just as good as those of Bordeaux."

I attempt to write a small piece, a proposed wine column for a local paper, but in the morning the heart is not in the effort and would rather hide, to first write out what needs to be written, before looking at such a piece which could always use a little more work, a little extra cute-sifying.  Embarrassing to look at idiot sentences you wrote poking around, trying to locate something somewhere when really the whole of life is confusing and there's only, in the end, yin and yang.   Dostoevsky's wine column, sure.

What is going on in the mind of Jesus after the loaves and the fishes, after the masses can go on home.  Surprising how many sick people there are, the prevalence of epilepsy, paralysis, palsy, devil possession.   Apparently no effective single payer system, back then, and that's life, I guess.  The poor and sick came to make immediate demands, and then they stayed for the lecture, intrigued by the generosity of the healer, this man who wanted nothing in return, didn't need to build a pipeline for tracking oil first in order to "help" them out, gloriously enriching himself than allowing his beneficence to trickle down, after he'd made some offshore investments, after he and his buddies got rich while sinking the nation into foreign debt, so as ultimately make impossible any sort of, as they called it, welfare state, by which one means simple social security.  What was Jesus thinking as he went off to a desert place or a high place away from the crowds that had lined up for him which he dealt with one on one.  Sometimes he napped, on a cushion in the prow of the boat, just so his mind could do what he needed to do, which was, basically, writing, putting down some statements in a form by which others could repeat them, solidly remember them.

What do I have to do with any sort of wine column, Jesus would ask.  My thing is to write, to discover the essence of writing, that faith in it can cure all ills.  Preach the gospel, which is writing, which is writing itself, indicative of the very process, the greatest mirror held up toward writing there was at the time.  A monument to writing.  Faith.  Faith to sit down and scribble, to write in the dust on a daily basis.   Turn the other cheek, give away your robe, not a problem, not as long as you write, as long as you get back to your father in heaven, to your mountainside prophets, to your own Son of Man.

And maybe it is people like Dickens or Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway or Kurt Vonnegut or Philip  Roth who despite their faults understand the man the most, the catching of gospel light by the very act of writing...  Thus you can't really trust the hucksters, the televised mega church guys, because they are less involved with an actual daily creative self examining writing experiment.  They don't get up on the stage and say, "hey, how about that Hemingway guy writing that story 'Big Two-Hearted River' in which he hikes a long way, sets up camp, makes himself dinner under the stars, sleeps, cooks breakfast, goes fishing all day, and note how it's the concluding story of the whole cycle..."

A man findeth inspiration in honest work, inspiration not to quote but to write, not to prudishly interpret, self-importantly, but as discovery, as an increase of breadth and width of radiant energy, absorbed from the sun.

Simple low cost working man's healthcare:  write.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Restaurant Week.  Finally comes to a close, nerves shot.  Would you like to look at our special Wheel of Suffering fixed price menu?  If you want to go a la carte here at the Dying Gaul, you can order a veal tongue salad or the sweetbreads appetizer, and for an entree there's a Swiss-style choucroute.  Here's a wine menu?  Your reservation?  I think that's for downstairs in the main dining room.  Do I have space for you up here, let me see...  And I didn't even have to work the most brutal nights of it....  The young guy who filled in and tended bar for Friday and Saturday comes with his friends, taking up four bar stools, insulating me, telling me the tales of running out of everything.  Even the boss grabbed a beer at ten Saturday night, tucking it away and slurping it down in the office...

Loaves and the fishes.  It sounds like it was a stressful day, but they managed.  They sat people in groups of fifty and one hundred down on the grass, feeding them out of baskets after breaking up the loaves.  They were pretty much out of stuff after getting them all fed.  Jesus went off on his own afterward, and the Disciples he sent out on the ship to unwind, and then it's later on when the wind picks up, the boat can't get back so he walks over the water to them...  The stress of running a church, a church supper, pancake breakfast, fill the coffers, serve coffee.  Free here at least, without the money changers and the doves and the animals ready for sacrifice.  But still it was work.  Getting them all fed.   One hopes they had some wine afterward.  Jesus Christ.

But every time you eat, it's a miracle, when you think about it.  Taking sustenance...

Hemingway's subtle joke from Big Two Hearted River, eating hot beans after fishing in the stream.  A hot mouth trying to say Christ, Jesus Christ.  You know, when your tongue gets hot.  That could easily happen over a campfire.  And how since he lugged the cans in he had a right to eat the beans.  Loaves and the fishes.  Hotcakes and coffee in the morning, portrayed with the clarity of morning light.  Gathering grasshoppers from under the log, putting them in a jar.  Here is the man feeling comfortable with himself, no societal standards to try to run and catch.  No sirree, out here a man is free.

But the thing about that 'Writing Your Way To Happiness' piece in the Times, you get the sense that writers need to change their narratives.  They're the very people who most need to change their own stories, or need to get down to a deeper level to work through some stuff.  Seamus Heaney wrote that piece about his father digging potatoes, honest work, and how he's beginning to justify the legitimacy of digging for the roots with his pen...   Maybe that's why they work at it.  You can't change the facts but you can change the mythology.  Is there something in Ted Hughes early life that prompted him to tell not the story everyone else might have seen, but a liberation from that, the influences of his sister's occult knowledge or the nature of Yorkshire itself.  Change the narrative about your father's memories of being the only survivor of a World War One company...

Change the things that depress you.  Change for Shakespeare the facts of his family, wife, kids, back in the countryside.  Change the story that you've fucked everything up...  Cope by involving the crazy parts of family into some kind of noble or normal, simply more honest, more real, or just true, at least....  Create a self independent of all family type things, as if creating your own family, your own fresh reality free of the past.

Is that why the story of Jesus has its appeal to us, that instead of being the faulty people we are we see ourselves as, one hates to say, Christ-like?  That we could rise above our depressions and our inabilities to cope in the adult world as normal family-type people, that we wouldn't see ourselves as people stuck in jobs well below our talents, that instead of being the failures we are we would be that incredibly wise person with his disciples healing people of what really ails them...  Change the facts.  Change all of that into Christian values...

I dunno, Doctor...  appeals to the imagination anyway.  And maybe it does indeed represent some attempt to sort of figure out how your own mind works, given the evidence that you have...

I got watching the Catholic TV channel, EWTN, last night, about family values, anti-baby killing, anti contraception, and I was reading the Gospels with this in the background trying to figure out something literary or whatever or trying to find serenity, and all the Catholic Church stuff is on in the background...  And I had to think, I've done so little, I've not done a right thing by family, I've not stood up for family and children and health and love, living in my own creepy little world, not fighting to get out of it...  Horrifying when you think of it...  And now at fifty I'm too old for any of that, and I don't even have a job I can rely on...  Man, what's happened to me?  I had every advantage in life, except my own craziness.  Self-indulgence... pure selfishness.

Reasons enough why I'd want to change my own narrative...

But then again, where did they get all that out of what Jesus actually said?  Did he stand up like a politician and say "I have family values..."  No, not quite...

But the Christian message, you know, it's one of faith and redemption and good things, positive things you can do for your fellow man...  And maybe you can do good things through literature, seeing as people almost have to view faith as a bad thing these days, I mean, they are highly skeptical and practically minded...

And perhaps the message of The proverbial Church is a bit heavy handed, narrow, judgmental...  So that I might not have to think for the rest of my life that I have spat in the eye of family and all things good being who I am.  Or that because I masturbated once I am anti-family anti-woman anti-you name it.

Who knows, maybe Jesus himself was into Tantric sex from his time in the East studying under the Buddhists...  He's not the biggest family man Super Bowl watcher, wife, four kids, two car garage and suburban house...  He questions authority...

He's a thoughtful guy...  And maybe that's why I find myself in the situation I find myself in now...  Too thoughtful.  Too Christian, if you will...  I dislike snobbishness, the ways people cut down other people to put themselves as better, more capable, more adult, less illusioned, whatever...  that hypocritical side of people, the elevation, claiming the first pew, praying loudly and conspicuously and so righteous sounding.  (What sins are they hiding, putting other people down?)

I've gone and waited on people hand and foot for longer than I care to admit.  Yeah, 'where has it gotten me,' lay down with dogs you get fleas...  I have a soft spot for just about everyone...  And like Jesus I have to follow my own way, which has something to do with creativity or writing or something... as if, like Jesus, bent on something, knowing instinctively some great truth about everything...

I don't know, I don't think I'm here because I'm a bad person.  Just don't know what to do with myself.

A sense of Christ's inner realities... like, you know, the patterns, that we get abandoned...  that we have wise things to say but some people, entrenched, feel a need to actively dislike you.  No one is a prophet in his own hometown.  People are bound to misinterpret his intentions...  And yet the masses come, knowing a good thing....

A writer is always working.  He always is who he is, in the way that Jesus was always doing Jesus stuff.

Where, how, why did the church make stuff up?  Why did it take what old Jesus said and run off with it they way they do?

I feel odd when I don't write.  That's all I know.

Friday, January 23, 2015

But yes, what if you could just be calm?  You run, you run, you run, all night you run, and after that, yes, I could see why the animal would want a glass of wine, an attempt to flood away the adrenalines.  While the beast was caught, prepared to be cooked, then eaten.   Calm, the rarest thing in the world, but what if you took it upon yourself to be calm.

My old classmate is talking about his boys, freshmen in college.  "It was infatuation.  I read your book.  It was all about her.  She did you a favor, telling you to move on.  She was your Vietnam," an old classmate, a lawyer, tells me as the subject I brought up drifts from the tendency to medicate boys for ADHD and the bind young males are in, trying to compete on the one hand, trying to fit in on the other.  "That pretty girl from Smith, who wore too much makeup, you should have stuck with her."  Yes, I suppose.  Okay.  Of course.  Sure, I can see that.  I can see how a person practicing the law for twenty five years would see things that way, the creative parts of the brain constrained by the focus on the actualities.

But that wasn't all the book was about.  I don't think.  There is some honest grasping for values in it here and there, I should think.  "Well, therapy is good...  You go talk to someone who's seen a million people with the same problems you have..." my friend says, referring to his divorce.  Then we go do dinner at the good Greek place across the street.  The server, a friendly young lady from Russia, helps me figure out the wine, a red of an intriguing varietal.   When the check comes, my friend the lawyer pays.

But yes, calm.  I actually wrote yesterday.  I even wrote about Jesus, and personal values.  I topped writing off with reading a few good pieces about David Foster Wallace before calling to check in with mom.  I didn't really feel up for meeting old college buddies after my part of Restaurant Week and getting up at 2:30 after the difficult shifts of Jazz nights and wine tasting.  But not meeting up with them I would regret, so I got in the shower, dressed, wrote out the strange dream I had, topping it off, then on with a coat and boots and down to the avenue.

But if you avoided the stress, and kept calm, and kept writing, what then would happen?  You would be real again.  You wouldn't get into fake situations.  You wouldn't assume the fake persona.  You wouldn't need to hide your discomfort by getting into the wine.  You wouldn't have to pretend you're a bartender, making a few bucks as your earning potential drains away steadily.

Writing is about values.  Of course it is.   Your own personal catalog, or attempt to catalog human values, the mini-clashes that arise in the self, that come about through others.  One would like to be Jesus, calm....

I could sense that I'd given in to work, the wine after work, and that I wasn't writing.  I wasn't writing enough, I wasn't writing forward into explorations of the material I sensed.  I'd grown cowardly, I'd grown worried, and the restaurant had become just a story, an excuse not to be moving forward.  I wasn't doing the writing that is simply for one's own good.

Time spent the wrong way.  Reaching for artificial ways to calm the nerves.  Sensuality.  Guilty of every sin.  I needed to get out of the great lies the bartender can fall into.

The lonesome feeling hits you after a while.  You just have to stay calm, knowing that you are doing, as far as your values, the right thing.

And you always have to face truth head on to be writing, to be working, to be making sense of anything.  You can't let that rest, and so, you're always writing.  You're always at work.  And even if you have a glass of wine, well, don't keep writing far from you, because you're an adult now and you have to be working at things.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

You don't so much choose what you're going to write about.  The choice is already made internally, and you're stuck with it, with whatever you have for a moral guide.

Birthdays celebrations are, from a certain point of view, egotistical.  This is the part of them that does not work, the focus on the conception of a solid fixed self imposed upon an ever-changing individual.  Grasping at a narrative, presented on the positive side of dualistic concepts, illusions are celebrated.  And then, for honesty's sake, as if to compensate, they must be let go, swept away.  Obligingly, you go through it.

You try to be a decent person, a nice guy, but that doesn't readily translate into the world's business.  The core of a person is as much an unemployable loser as anything else, not about the gains out there to be had in city life, in my experience.  The core survives.  You have your friends.

And after the intensity of being focused on, after all the commensurate reflections, after birthdays I have a hunger to read the Gospels.  Its pages offer a vision of an ultimate arbiter of whether or not you've strived to be good and true.

An article in The New York Times presents the conclusions of recent studies related to personal writing, reaching toward the essence of the mental act toward an understanding narrative.

Writing Your Way to Happiness

Writing Your Way to Happiness

People write out their narratives.  By reaching deeper the narratives expand and change.  A fresh story emerges, and so by consequence do situations change.  Struggling students get better at it.  People get healthier.  People process and move onward.  They begin to understand their underlying values in a better way.

A person finds they might enjoy exercise in a different way than earlier conceptions.  They might find the simple act of walking out in nature and letting the mind free to wander (away from technology and urban noise) more what they were after than the strenuous run in the gym.

This may be the very thing that makes writing interesting enough to engage in on up to the highest literary practitioner, a Hemingway, always adjusting his stories, writing, but also processing what he goes through in life.  Shakespeare's personal favorite, Hamlet, by a process very similar to writing, prepares to "take arms against a sea of troubles," easing his way toward the moral judgments he has to make, given what he senses.  Twain is all about working his way toward moral conceptualizations of the kind his times were not so aware of.

Something has to make writing organically interesting enough a thing to do on a daily basis.   Something tangible has to occur, some fruit of progress or grain of harvest, some chemical easing of the mind and body.  Or else people wouldn't do it.  That's close to the essence of it.

Is such a process cleverly hidden down in the foundation depths of The Gospel's stories themselves?  Do they reveal a place, a center where decisions are themselves made, that particular place where we turn the other cheek and render unto Caesar and catch bigger fish and identify with the meek and the mournful, which then shapes outer actions seen on the surface events of life, mysteriously rooted as such actions are, often quite obscure?  Did Gospel stories somehow activate themselves and drill down into our psyches and our value systems, as if on their own?

Why do we have emotional lives, take sorrow over events long past, as in blank attempt to find the obscure roots of values, to find in the same place the cause of our mistakes and also the forgiveness of them?  Why is writing a lot to go through on a given day?  Why do some people turn into J.D. Salinger, or embrace, like Peter Matthiessen the practice of Zen Buddhism?  Why do we act at times against our own self-interest, to make at cost a kind of moral point obscure to even ourselves, such that we are compelled to ruminate and write about such things?

And yet, as the article and its underlying research studies point out, clearly writing works.  Reading the Gospels, reading Shakespeare, reading a poem, clearly works, even when it's not our own writing.

Then oddly, or not, does a person become, more fully, the writer of the words, as if it were the primary place, the most important way to be truthful, to interact, with and upon that surface or watery depth that is somehow apart of the things we do which are construed as daily action, the so-called "choices we make," thus calling for a reassessment, for a better understanding.

And so you write your daily piece, allowing it to mean whatever it might mean.  Then you go for a walk, do some laundry, hopeful of something, remaining positive about the experiment of life.  Is it a good day, or a bad day, when you write?  Does writing change anything?  Does it help you understand the things you truly value, the things you're doing wrong?  Does the writing come out, as it so often seems to, initially as crap, stuff your nervous about, and yet when you read it later there's a mind at work, and it's okay to say what you believe in, or say what's troubling you, or what the issue might be.

Still feeling tired from the week, I step out on the back porch as the light fades west and up into the clouds.  To feel less overwhelmed by the vastness of things of the world I see a distant airplane with its vapor trail looking as it moves easterly forward like a waterskier.  There are crows high in the elm trees' crowns, adjusting themselves, one moving, then another, as if like checkers or chess.  It is from the deeper obscure mind, the subtle mind, where the initially off-hand but then meaningful utterances of Jesus come from.  The sparrows.  In some versions, the ravens.  Neither do they reap, nor do they sow.  The saying seems to me to speak of some calmness, some peace of mind, a creative artistic statement in its own right, as if to make the completion of arriving at that point of deeper mind where our values truly lie.  Yes, I am in touch with my values, the crows seem to be saying in unison in the golden tree tops.

Does the great calm of Jesus of the Gospels reflect an act of reaching through a troubled outer surface to find, after grappling, the center at peace?  Is he suggesting that there is necessarily the troubling outer surface that is the plain we live out life, that what you have to deal and cope with is within?

It is no joy to write, anymore than it was for Hamlet to soliloquize. But the benefits are reaped, after the work is done.

A dream:  my therapist's office has relocated into a downtown office building.  photo id required.  a government agency, like homeland security.  I walk past an urban scene more urban than DC actually is.  I pass a garage, part of a movie studio, where period motorcars idle, waiting for their scenes, Cadillacs from the early '70s, staff cars.  one has to behave in the building where her new office is.  everything gets reported.  she is still unpacking, setting up her office.  i go to the cafeteria food court area to wait.  someone else gets me into trouble.  I am detained.  they know who I am.  a different type, individual.  they know I sing Pogues songs late at night out in the street.  They want to train me as a killer.  But I am in therapy, I say.  We are too, the guy smiles.