The problem lies in not knowing how to think. That's why you write. A way to organize.
I wake up, I get out of bed, I get to the kitchen to take care of the body. "Live in the present," I tell myself, "forget the past." I am drawn to look at the headlines of the morning paper, on the laptop of course. But this is strange. These are not my thoughts, they are distractions. The main part of me wants to address Matthiessen's writing in The Snow Leopard, about how Buddha was not interested in politics or organization, the highest duty being to awaken the consciousness of mankind. (He writes very well about such issues, with clarity and simplicity.)
But still, I think of the annual college reunion, and wonder, whether to go or not. A meeting of bright minds. Poets to meet. I would inconvenience my coworkers. How to get there? Am I entitled? Of course I'd love to go. But I don't want to bother anyone, crashing the party, so to speak. Do I have any business going there, bringing my ghostly presence to it, my original hometown…
What are my thoughts today? Do the dishes. Set the laundry up. Why write such shit… It is sunny out. And warmer. So? "Come by the Four Seasons tomorrow night," a friend's attractive voice from last night rings in my head. But what business would I have with that crowd anyway, all bent on luxuriating themselves, their illusions of self. ("She has a boyfriend anyway," my mind, not in control of itself, says to itself, trying to dispel notions and protect a peace it somehow knows and strives for.) For as much as I might like the staff, the customers set the tone, "look at me…" Still, it became a subliminal message, such that I almost became obsessed with it and its "you need to go out and meet people and you are missing out" tug.
My day off and I am writing such shit. Why? Because I am writing about nothing. Showing the misdirections of a life so led, the ringmaster of a bar and its wine supply.
And Jesus says, do not seek the high places, worldly power and riches and temptations. Live a simple life. But how to balance that with popularity, with the necessary popularity to make that message known and vitally alive, present to other beings? What did he mean by all that? Go on television, or not?
And how could I myself avoid the sometimes feeling of being, sort of, a bum? To think such a thing, exactly, what not to do. Live in the present. Embrace the now, whatever that might mean, though one can never really know what that means, except keep the apartment tidy, things like that, maybe go for a walk down by the stream. Simplify.
If we take the logic of a mystic, of Jesus or Buddha, it would seem like we need do very little as far as selfish things, but merely need just 'to be,' as far as worldly endeavors go. Pointless to go out and meet an irrepressible force with matching might, bring a mighty police force to all the thieves of the world, for what does that accomplish but cause a need for more of both? More guns equals more safety? I think not. (Look at all the strong armed Police "mistakes" of late, the kind you can't take back.) Change the way people see things, and then they'll see how to live, how to not pollute and burn fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow. There is always a root to the problem, and the root is how we see things, and we seem to have gotten a lot wrong, perhaps mainly through our ambitious efforts. But, how does that square in the real world? Can a passive person seated lotus fashion in the middle of it all change things? Have writers themselves become themselves more of the problem, muddying the waters further?
Unfinished thoughts, such as we all have.
But it is true, if we aren't Buddhist minded, we set ourselves up, through our illusions--'oh my god, going to the Four Seasons is going to be great and I'll meet fantastic people, hot chicks who turn out to be deep kind people who immediately recognize a likened soul'--for disappointment, am I wrong? The egotistical model of success…
We are asked by faith to believe that we will be provided what we need, to the extent we need. Behold the lilies of the field, neither do thy reap, nor do they sow. Time and space are an illusion anyway, so go with the flow, not against. If we stopped all the conventional thoughts and calmed ourselves, so that by doing apparently very little a natural side of ourselves would arise, beyond conventional words and conversation, beyond the usual topics, if we stopped to simply just 'be,' and listen, and see the beauty in the world and in other people and life and its textures, what appreciations might arise within, rather than the opposite of all that, which we constantly put each other through, the blindness, the judgments… But we don't even stop to understand our own species, so how could we possibly stop and understand the whale, the endangered species of big cat and elephant and bird, or the rest of the earth itself...
I am the only person who has stopped to look down into the creek from the bridge to watch the alewives run. People too are running, in packs, wearing neon tee shirts and running shoes, a group sport now.
Out of boredom, up to date on the excellent television that is Cosmos, after midnight I ride my bike down to 11th Street, hoping to check out a wine bar, turning out it is quite closed. A chance to look over 14th Street, all the new places, finally a glass of wine at Barcelona, as I looked over The New York Review of Books at a dirty table by myself by the front window, my only contact being with a kind bartender, then back on the bike, my 'uber,' back up 14th to find a market I've heard about, then back to R Street's bike lane and westward home, finding The Umbrellas of Cherbourg on the television. And the next day I get up thinking, "I'm not a writer, what the heck am I doing anyway… I can't even read my own book." The thoughts left behind after the going out, looking for life outside your own simple things. "I am no one. Who are you?" A basic conclusion. Emily Dickinson wrote it, of course, and it is one of the best, most accurate statements ever made by an honest writer. (Sorrentino's The Great Beauty seems to flirt with it, a scene at an old temple in Rome, a little girl in the basement as her mother looks for her. "Who are you," she asks the central figure, a writer, and his response is proper.)
I am no one. Not even a writer, really, just a being, caught in human form, in time, in space, attempting to keep himself fed and clothed. In light of the great cosmic event, I'm afraid, all the things we crack up, the identities we assign, the judgments, the distinctions we seem obliged to carry, it's all just marketing. Sadly enough, the world is in need of Zen.
What is it, that doesn't need marketing, nor hype, that doesn't even need words, such that we all could agree on as good things, like the night starry sky, the nature of an undeveloped beach or a path that's just enough to let us enjoy the rocks and the great trees of a mountain landscape, something basic, before all the issues that complicate our lives, as those issues, the complication-free ones, are telling us something about how to live as ecologically sound beings.
To that way of thinking, there's not much stimulating in reading the headlines, as if it were all entertainment gossip, the actions of strange people in strange corporate organizations of undue power, egotistical almost out of necessity… With the exception of the human interest story, which reminds us that we are, yes, human.
How thoroughly have we become homo incorporatus, the creature whose primary identity is taken up in the illusions of a larger, of a nationality and its 'national interests,' of life styled by the big corporation, of the need to appear normal to its constructs. The cynical Supreme Court decision affirming the corporation as an individual comes as a sign of the times, one corporation empowering another, little guy forget it. How can that possibly jive with the meaningful statement of "the proposition that all men are created equal," of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people," of the Gettysburg Address. (Apparently, having a plethora of brilliant legal minds leads more toward the greatest misreading possible of self-evident truths rather than their protection.)
It seems more likely to me that the divine is best expressed by the individual, as by a lone unprotected artist, a Da Vinci, a Cervantes, someone, like a Sherwood Anderson, who understands the frailty of a person, finding in frailty the strength of something spiritual, rather than a seating of corporate judges.
Friday night, I think I'll stay in, boring as that sounds. But it is awfully easy--I should know--to waste time, and tonight seems cut out for that most important kind of work, to reduce the size and influence of one's own ego, doing what one can to eliminate illusions, and freed, able to think clearly.
It seems a stretch at first, but reading Peter Matthiessen helps, and now, after the suffering of life, time to get closer to truth. The voice of last night, 'go out, you don't know what you are missing,' now is simply ego, an irrational need to protect the self against… what? "being alone for the rest of my life?" I roast a chicken after some good reading, and for the first time in ages I feel clean, not in any need of any wine, that ego part of my job, that I must constantly be enjoying wine and the good life of dining and cool night life, which isn't what it's about, for that too is about ego defending itself, what do I do in Washington, DC, professionally, yes of course…
Still, after a roast chicken spiced with turmeric, Maldon salt, paprika, oregano, first a squeeze of lemon and then olive oil, with a iron pan gravy with onion, carrot and bay leaf, and rice from the rice cooker, after a nap, I have a glass of wine, and one sip demands more. It isn't easy, to live in a city and keep the wish, as it is truly in all of us, and the great conclusion for a thinking person, to seek enlightenment, to understand that one's whole life has been a murmuring, the suggestion of that need to seek that enlightenment, as Sakyamuni Buddha worked very hard for, then finally, confidently, sat under a ficus religiosa, and really did it. I could wish I had not punted this night, and poured a sip from the open bottle of very decent Clos de Mont-Olivet, Font de Blanche, Cotes du Rhone in the fridge for myself and then relaxed too much, lazing in the confines of home's space on a night off.
This is Washington, DC, and one feels odd thinking suddenly that it's about enlightenment and its poetry more than it is about that culture we seemingly must adhere to, that of a McNamara or a Rumsfeld, 'we must do something.' The old illusion, the greatest waste of intellectual power, a dark ages in its brightness.