Friday, October 28, 2011


"The Underground Man," by Sam Anderson, New York Times Magazine Section, October 23, 2011.

portrait of novelist Haruki Murakami

This happens upon us as one of the more heartening pieces read in recent times. My copy of his book on What We Think About When We Think About Running has been lost out on loan, but the lesson of the physicality of craft remains. "Most of what I know about writing I've learned through running," Mr. Anderson quotes, as I remember. Running gives him a main source of discipline.

There are several gems to take here. He regards himself as a fairly plain and drab vessel, just that it is his job to go and patiently delve into his deeper consciousness for six hours a day on a daily basis. Interestingly enough, this basic set-up covers that part of him which would have political thoughts, which quite largely he keeps to himself. He knows his work; he maintains himself as a novelist.

"For 30 years now, he has lived a monkishly regimented life..."

Interesting, for me personally as well, is his former work in a Tokyo jazz bar, a life amongst people, given up after an intense ten years for the writer's solitude. (It doesn't surprise me that The Brothers Karamazov is one of his favorites.) An epiphany at a baseball game, that he could write a novel, recorded in 'Running.'

This is all hopeful stuff. It's about organic creative processes, and about someone daring to follow them. This is not about the comfortable discomfort we have arguing hopelessly and often tiresomely about politics, the rehash, the necessity of reestablishing the grounds of what constitutes an intelligent discussion freed from polite abeyance to the nut-jobs. This is beyond that, and one must say, it is refreshing.

So, how do you yourself, I posit to you, carry out your own little but significant shot at creativity?

I've fallen so far as to write at night, after I get through four long intense nights at work. My body finds it easier, after all that, to be awake at night, though I am not proud at all of that. It is the source of some misery, after all. Out of synch, but writing must be done. Even if it is accompanied by a lost monasterial bit of dinner and wine to go with it.

Murakami finds his confinement, "voluntary, happy confinement." Blessings to this long-distance runner and writer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Cosmic dust contains organic matter from stars, study finds
Such chemical complexity was thought to arise only from living organisms"
by Denise Chow (staff writer for headline in October 27 Google News, reporting on a scientific studies at the University of Hong Kong.

Another Keats moment about learning as realizing something we already somehow knew, given our recent discussion about how the heavier elements, those beyond oxygen and carbon and hydrogen, originated far from Earth in the fires of supernova explosions, travel here through space to become the building blocks of everything including us. It makes perfect sense that larger carbon molecules, similar to the ones we later find in the form of plant decay, were out there, floating around as building blocks to be appropriated by the processes of life and living beings.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In dreams one's teeth fall out.
You find them crumbling, you reach and pull them out,
embarrassed, tuck them in a napkin away into a pocket.
Soaked in the brine of disappointment,
disillusions long held in the mouth, a clenched jaw,
as if looking in--or up--on gentle consciousness
was like standing on the moon
and looking back at the sweet round blue world
glowing in godly darkness,
full of sweet possibility.

You dream you were permitted to hang around,
quiet and innocuous enough of a ghost--
a pacifist, really, too much so for life's dealings--
while something private between her and her father
you didn't understand was going on,
as if she needed perfect peace and quiet,
while your teeth, the back ones crumbling, fall out,
leaving stubs,
so that quietly, you leave.
Back to your own place,
as another tooth, this time a front one
loose already at the base,
starts to crumble.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The thing I don't do, so much, is write anymore.
I don't know why I can't tell you,
or don't bother,
about all the wine knowledge come my way.
It just is. There are funny restaurant stories,
but I don't write them.
Rather, I think of Jack
and Bobby,
of how Irishmen are related,
in their basic character.
They don't have a lot to say,
just the right thing.
Lincoln, obviously, he too
was Irish, and cared
just what to say, exactly,
though it takes creative poetic effort.
He, Lincoln, just was saying,
I'm not going to hang anyone.
And put it in a decent way, one which gave the whole matter
To bind up the nations wounds, malice toward none,
charity for all.

Shane MacGowan on Keats

"Music is just music, really.
People just fucking put it in boxes,
you know?

Like, music,
you can hear it anywhere,
you know,
even if you haven't got an instrument,
you can hear it,
you know.

It's in the wind,
it's in the fucking rain,
it's in the fucking water,
it's in the fucking ground.

Don't know what it's about,
but, I mean,
who cares?
you know.

It's brilliant, you know.
So, that's the way I think about it."

See YouTube
Completely Pogued 3/6
around 1 minute 18.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A writer is, or should be, allowed to reference his own work, to critique it, to attempt to understand it. That is a vital part of taking the next creative step, to reference the earlier.

So... Sometimes I wonder, what else to write, or, why write, or, why is it taking so long to find something to else to say...

And then it occurs to you. Basically, you work on something for so long, and then finish it, and then comes a time when you realize (as you have before in small segmented moments) the completeness of the vision. You realize your own work is a great tale of the innate creativity of the human spirit, a great Quixotic vision set in the perfect place for it.

All these outside tendencies to think of some outside way to market... bah.
Keats' notion, mentioned below, sheds an encompassing light on human and professional behavior. In the poet's view, arrived at through careful study and reflection, everyone is intelligent, smart, capable. Everybody knows what's going on. Each and everyone is a useful human being, with a potential for vast revolutionary wisdom, great ideas in their heads. Neither Shakespeare, nor the mighty constructions and engineering marvels of the ancients would have surprised him. Just as nature has cures for our ills and hungers, all the weeds of humanity potentially possess great talents. So, is a college campus a beautiful thing.

If left in relative peace, you'll come up with something, Keats would have held. This is why people write, or draw, or play music, because they have, they know they have, an innate civilizing knowledge within them. So do we have the great expanses of art, from Blake, de Sade, de Maupassant, Caravaggio, Gogol, Chekhov, Freud, Dali, Locke, Hume, Jefferson, Phillip Roth, enchanted and engaged, engrossed by art, creativity, and eureka moments, creativity, drifted down upon us like the heavier elements from deep space and stars.

Buddha, of course, a regular person like or I, understood all moral teachings, like cooking an egg, as Goethe understood the primacy of the leaf in all botanical processes, sharing the same foundation that Keats speaks of, that learning is awakening to what one already knows within.

Then, there are the greedy. Creativity, it seems to them, is done in the form of capital profit at the expense of others, at the expense of another's capacity, time and security for creative modes. They amass fortunes without regard for things like putting people out of work, without regard for people's pensions and dreams of home ownership. They seek fortunes in order to establish the right to dominate other people. Is it a coincidence that the highest creative types, while certainly fans of the security allowing for them to be creative, aren't immediately concerned with getting rich in flashy ways. As Wordsworth says, 'getting and spending we lay waste our powers.' It seems hard to be greedy being focussed on the well, on the great messages within, of light-filled learning and wisdom.

People are right to be protesting these days.

Creativity, perhaps, can be a hard garment to wear. A society can chose to look upon those perfectly normal human beings who are simply following that inner knowledge in judgmental ways. Perhaps it's the sensuality involved in creative processes, as if we were instructed to be guilty about our primal sources. Puritanical, we are quick to point out some behavior as, simply, silly. As if only a special class, powerful, could speak for us.

Let us never lose the moral courage to be creative, to go through the process of uncovering what we already, deep in our hearts, know.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Somewhere in my lifetime, I began to get the impression, dark energy, the stuff that pushes the universe apart, began to take hold. I began to look for things, like writing, like restaurants, that helped keep things together, or at least make observations of why and how things held together. Maybe dark energy is creative energy, if you think of it positively, the continuation of the Big Bang. It would be nice to think so.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Keats: Imagining what we already know

It might have been such a day as this was, clear blue, sunny, a hint of color in the leaves, warm with Autumnal promises, that Dad reminded me of, as he referred to it, a line in Keats, "... that learning, awakening to the truth, is a matter of imagining what we already know." I was walking in my neighborhood, at a leisurely pace, up from Sheridan Circle, up to the Spanish Steps, and back along the quiet street here.

He amplified his point. Keats' point was that there already is an understanding in the reader, something much like knowledge. The educating voice just has to bring something out of obscurity, out of where things are not so clearly thought of, bring it to life so that we can see it all well enough to understand it, if I may roughly paraphrase him. He continued. Someone like the Buddha is more or less born, or reborn, with an understanding, a conception of everything there is in the world, everything from the Big Bang, chemistry, mathematics, how to build an atom bomb (Dad may have thrown that out there for hyperbole), everything, in short, that there is to be known about the world and even beyond it out to dimensions beyond what we all see. Buddha seemed to know, he suggested in some way, knew it all like a dream, or to, in fact, be just a great dream, the great dream that it all is.

So, there are, amongst many ramifications of such a philosophy, if you will, a certain logic applicable to the basics of education and the way we go about practicing it. Maybe the student is, at least in some ways, smarter, worth more credit, than we might initially think. Sure, some are perhaps more given to understand some things better than others. Hey, I know my own limitations when it comes to calculus and those logic games found on LSAT exams, for instance.

But I'm sure all of us can remember a story of learning, one in which lines of traditional hierarchy are blurred. I remember high school chemistry class. Mrs. V. asked us to come up with a project where we take it upon ourselves to teach the class about a certain matter not yet touched upon so far in class. I sat down and pondered in the college library, and felt that we were missing something: where do the higher elements come from; how do they get to earth? So, I looked it up, and found out about 'nuclear astrophysics,' that it takes stars and great explosions called super novas to create higher elements out of lower elements. (It hadn't been explained to us how all this had come about, just been presented to us as a given, vague about the creation of all but the basic hydrogen and helium. History Channel's History of the Entire World in Two Hours reminded me of all the import of remarkable elemental processes.)

So me and my buddy, Mark F., we reviewed all we could find in the best library available to us, and we made our presentation. Maybe it was the simplicity of it, that there wasn't all that much to teach or show, just that all this making of metal and stuff had happened very far away, in places very hard to imagine, but that stuff like the iron in our blood came not from the Earth itself, but from cosmic places, think of it. The teacher, she heard us out, but it ended up our buddies who had simply read a chapter from the textbook we had used, got a better grade.

The same thing happens again, and again. A student is asked to read Paradise Lost, that part where we are kicked out of the garden... 'What is happening here?' is the question. Well, you have to stare at it a while to get what's happening... People are turning to words, just as Adam must as he takes his first steps out of the Garden. But you get your paper in too late, and get a D, and life proceeds accordingly. C'est la vie.

Ultimately, there is a point to be made. It could be a revolutionary one. It could be behind the reasons the passing of Mr. Jobs is so important to us, a celebrating of the equality of the learner, of the accessibility of information and, by deduction, the skill we all have for dealing with information.

I am reminded of the basic message of Robert F. Kennedy in his visit to South Africa, in 1966, that the blacks of South Africa were worthy of being educated and having equal rights. It goes without, or with less, saying, but it speaks of an educational attitude, one America stands for, as RFK mentions that America doesn't just stand for what it's against, not just the negative, not just 'we oppose Communism,' and that's all, but that America stands for that positive marvel of equal educations, the power we all have latent within us to be smart, wise, cultured, decent, and even like the Buddha ultimately, understanding everything, with great peace.

Perhaps that is the point of educating and encouraging someone so well as Jack and Bobby were, that the subject begins to understand all the power they have within at the level of personal taste and curiosity and capability. Confidence. As confidence must revolve and center in on the thing one has to be confident about, namely, the power of learning.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Teshuvah. Of the day of atonement that is the celebration Yom Kippur. When the faithful seek out those they have offended and ask for forgiveness, distinct from sins they themselves have made against God.

One asks for forgiveness for sins that have not caused irreparable damage.