Sunday, August 31, 2014

The animal found itself awake.  Sunday, eve of Labor Day, and in some hours of time back to work, back to the job kept for food and health insurance, the usual bills.  More often than not he spared himself the embarrassment of being awake too early, to avoid the thought constantly in the background, "what's the point of all this anyway."

The day before, with a throbbing headache he had managed to get to the park late afternoon after calling his mother, for a bike ride of medium length, Labor Day picnickers with their parties set up in the wooded pastures where the road diverged from the stream bed and the flats were wide.  The night before, his best friend's 50th, to which he brought four bottles of decent wine.  At some point he had some of the cheap stuff;  was that the source of headache?  Parked cars along the road, but still he was out in nature, inherently therapeutic on all levels.

It was humid, and his phone allowed him directions to approach a friend's party in Silver Spring, and he almost turned back when he got to 16th Street, but he made his way along a sidewalk, even as they seemed to lead to major roads, but the way proved passable, and he pressed his way along, pedaling up side streets into residential neighborhoods, after the modest shabby brick apartment buildings that seemed to hold recent immigrants, but for which he could probably not be able to afford himself, this animal who wrote and got by with a job of a certain sort.  Past bungalows, and larger Victorian style houses and houses in between and modern square Levittown brick cubes with roofs of white trim, a mix, and then better neighborhoods and then pulling up to a ranch, the right address.  He had a Sprite, smiled awkwardly in his cycling clothes, knowing all the while that he needed to leave soon, before it got dark, sunset at 7:40, less than an hour away.  An adventure, crossing the big roads, finding himself above the high rises of downtown where the metro station sits.  Keyed up, he slipped out and soon enough back in Rock Creek Park in the forest, the stream to his left as he headed home, then crossing over a bridge, where it would come back around and be a long series of falls.

Dusk settled.  Up the long hill and crossing Connecticut, to climb up a little more, to come pass the Cathedral, then back down homeward, coming up his street in darkness.  Bats had buzzed the light of his helmet headlamp a week before, none now that he saw.  He got home, did a few stretches, fell into a worn-out kind of a nap on the couch still sticky, twinges in his head still.  Saturday night, what to do, take a nap, rise up at about 11, get in the shower, eat modestly, pick up a book, My Struggle, Book One, curiously led along by it, finding it familiar, speaking to his own writing, the admissions of one's own embarrassments and imperfections and yet also one's deeper unknown style.  And he imagined that he too had something, or still had something, profound, which involved a kind of strange peace the writer had to find with his own personality, the eccentrics that Knausgaard himself made reference to, like the need for the alone-time of night.  If one were to write a book it would have to be, honestly and admittedly, like drilling down into one's own strange center, to capture the outer movements that come, actions not exactly controlled.

Yes, there was something good and decent, heroic about the writing Knausgaard had come up with, plain, nothing earthshaking happening, thus real, evocative of the animal's own remembered landscapes and experiences, the sensual side of memories that now had long ago vanished leaving him uncomfortable, unprotected, unsettled, undecided, but for the strange fact that now it only seemed possible to continue climbing the strange mountain of writerdom, having once been fool enough to start out and the main mistake being the fact of allowing so many years to pass by in pursuit of it, neither successfully nor unsuccessfully, shit.

The animal's own attempt at a reflective memoir fiction--fiction, as any attempt to find form out of the raw material of life, events, people's thoughts, words, must be a construct--had disappeared nicely without a splash, a book anomaly, "the novel in which nothing happens."  Which is actually real because of that 'nothing happening.'  But it had now, it seemed to the animal, a kindred spirit, if not with the self-confidence of the Norwegian, perhaps more spun to the softer younger more kid-like reflections, of a more Irish spirit, that remain even as you have to face some maturity and some decisions and even the consequences of them.  Reflecting now, over his own book, the thought came to him, was it that he had tried to hide, to prolong that time of adolescence, when there was still lots of room, potential, lots of options?   Was writing an extension of that, a further refusal to gel over any thing solid, a career, house, that sort of thing.  Commitments, they are called, by responsible people.  To what could you commit to?  Where could you jump into the stream and feel comfortable or at least deal with it?

To record conscious thoughts and reaction to external and internal stimuli, there is something of Buddhist wisdom to that, finding that experience itself is the foundation, coming before the illusion of a solid fixed separate self.  So that's real, and that's why people respond to a real book, yes, because it goes deep, through recording achieving the duty of getting beyond the isolated life, the box of being a particular person with particular duties, but still perhaps from being a Buddhist in the modern world having that deeply unsettling uncomfortable sense of the lacking of one's career record and security.   Yes, thinking about his thought, the animal, "things were never meant with bad intention, as the old saying goes about roads paved, but one can seem to go agreeably or perhaps just out of laziness and indirection to lost places."

But a good book, a good piece of meditation, a good piece of writing, that will always jump out at you, rise of the surface illusions, a thing, rising real, as having come upon a small reflection piece by the guy, on Northern Lights, and a Norway fishing village, and saying to oneself, hmm, that's good.  That's what you're after, the honest shit, that being something to share, that goes beyond the illusion of being just another lone person stuck somewhere in their own private fluctuations.  Maybe the better at it must lived life a bit lost personally in order to be remembering things, to be detached enough to find a form out of some deeper eye so as to put a particular event back in some peaceful context from out of which it sprung.

That something might rise from the background and catch the eye implies a surface, which implies a spherical object.  Perhaps one might conjecture that there is the outer skin, say of an orange, which tells us useful things, the skin of the peel telling us ripeness, but the essence of the orange, the sweetness of its fruit comes from within, not that this is a perfect metaphor, but perhaps there is the showy selfish part of a surface, obscuring that within, and then within is the selfless part, the quality of all oranges...

Ah, what's this sorry mood the animal is facing in the unenergetic questioning hour before blindly going to work.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The last shift of a five shift week, five nights closing, ends with a hot nap on the couch with the television on, shark safety, and an hour later I rise and take my shoes off, socks, put on cycling shorts and take a roll with a glass of chilled Beaujolais.  Tomato and mozzarella, finally eating another hamburger patty with mushroom and onion, a shower, then off to bed around seven AM and with a few interruptions basically sleeping all day, in late summer waking at dusk, the cicadas humming, passing their grassy message along through the vines.  There are dishes in the sink, piles of laundry in the bedroom.

Ach, what a life, he says to himself, imagining people getting ready to go out and be a little bit social on a Thursday evening, the studen's back, classes beginning.  Parents switching gear.  The animal sees himself as a writer returning to his work, free form, but what to write.  The muscles are stiff.  Green tea tastes good.  Heat some chicken stock in the microwave, mix in flax seed.   Take an allergy tablet, ragweed season, high pollen counts.  Astragalus.  That's how it is, so you meditate, as that has something to do with the pure reasons why one writes, writing an embarrassing activity the animal would wish kept hidden.

The week started on a Saturday, ending with a late couple who just wanted a drink, him a Paloma, tequila, mint, grapefruit juice, simple syrup, her a sparkling wine, I let her taste both and let her pick, coming from a catered Georgetown dinner party given by a customer of ours, who has a beautiful kitchen, a beautiful stove but who never cooks, least of all for a party.  Getting ready to leave, I pour him a shot of tequila at his request, and I break down and have a glass of wine with them, talk of restaurants old and new.  Forty five minutes ago leaving would have been a lot neater, but hey, there's always stuff to do for a bartender.  On my bike, out the door, alarm set, I roll away and down, figure I'll take a swing through Dupont, exiting my isolation, checking out what the town is up to.  I pull up on a sidewalk near the North Metro station, bars with young people drawing their night to a close, reach for my iPhone out of my courier bag.  I am wearing cut-off shorts made from light cargo pants and a white tee shirt.  And every young woman I see is wearing the same high heel sandal type shoe, the corkwood rising steeply, a significant percentage of total height and leg length, platforms, I mean, not that there's anything wrong with that.  Several are obviously drunk now, as you might expect at closing time, and teeter as they wait disconnectedly for their Ubers and talk into their own phones or run after their friends.  Did the larger computerized brain made of ones and zeros all think for them on this Saturday night in late August, coming as it does out of so many outlets, as if to surround them?  But you'd be a crank to say that.  What kind of work do they do?  Sales?  Like me.  What are they like?  Would I hire them?  They seem arrogant, solipsistic in their little crowds, putting on a show.   Or is it that they fit in, implying that I, just getting out of work, do not.  It's now past two, too late to bug another friendly barman like the hard-working guy getting life together over at Duke's Grocery, but I roll down there anyway, and on the way back see more young ladies walking along with the same shoes, the same little trips over sidewalk segments.  I go home, pour a glass of wine, put some cycling shorts on, turn on PBS and get a low key roll in, feeling the bands of muscles work with my fingers, somehow entertaining.

Having not questioned sleep and entering dreaming, the animal's week at the office now passes through the mind, the nice crowd that took up all the stools early on Sunday, the return of a great singer Monday, a very busy night along with a late appearance from Mr. T who had two sidecars to start, a white Clos Vougeot, three courses, then dessert, Tuesday wine tasting uneventful, then a slow Wednesday jazz night too fresh to digest as of yet, the visit of a real professional top tank executive chef originally from the Southwest of France, which may have meant the Bearn region I visited once, though I babble about the usual tourist route along the Mediterranean that now seems like an incomplete dream anyway.  But that is where the great chefs come from, close enough to farming.

"Sounds complicated," my therapist says as I review a few relationships over the past ten years, raising the thought of how to "build something."  Do I consider myself a success as a writer?  I don't know.  Maybe.  I suppose it takes time to find your voice.  Now at this stage I might prefer simply to meditate, to record conscious thoughts to the extent they are worth recording, but as a way to clear the air, to put them out on a shelf, like some household task, like things with like things, then finding the calm that is the answer.

But how, how could you be in the restaurant business, not being a chef, a manager or an owner, and think you had the answer to anything, or consider yourself serious about anything?  That could only be a kind of a lie or a half-hearted answer, meaning you hadn't made up your mind, remained uncommitted, drifting, at odds, unsettled, lost, that sort of thing, like finding yourself awake early in the morning and not knowing what to do with yourself.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, I would only say that I can also          {  pause }       feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed,    and he was killed by a white man."  The pause, real, coming from the guy's heart, and the crowd in Indianapolis, which did not riot as other cities did, was quiet after learning the news of Dr. King's death.  Some skinny little white guy going into the ghetto, the cops telling him no you can't go there, and him telling them back, I'm perfectly fine going down there, it's your problem that you view it so darkly.  And think of how hard that must have been for him to talk about his brother's assassination; that goes without saying.  And here was the way for him to finally talk about it, not to an individual, not to the press on Sunday morning, nor to a therapist or a biographer, perhaps to Jackie, but no real confidant, except Teddy, who knows, but to a crowd, a crowd of people who one might indeed grasp through a Catholic understanding;  that is to say, the poor, the suffering, the mourning.   Here is the guy finally able to talk clear and cleanly about the most horrible thing one could imagine, and after the right amount of time to absorb, one might say, from the blank grief, swollen, numb, un-reactive, unable to, think about it, do anything but stare off, barely able to fix his collar.   Well, the crowd was open to it, seeing it as it was, a real moment, not some fake Nixon Agnew slogans, the pat line about the country not being able to "afford another four more years of so n so."   And they listened when he slipped in a lesson from the Greek poet Aeschylus who knew that when pain fell drop by drop upon the soul there was the deeper truth, through the awful grace of God, wisdom.

Family legend is that we had moved from Amherst, and now in another college town that same year 1968, in an old house that was open to be rented, perhaps due to a strange story that locals had a dark sense, of involving something creepy that might have happened in front of the fireplace in the front room, and when the awful news that Robert F. Kennedy was dying we rented a television.  And it happened that an old family friend from Amherst was visiting, another professor type, a fellow mom had been deeply disappointed by when she found out he was engaged to a Sanskrit scholar years before, in her not too distant undergraduate days.  When the last brother Ted spoke on TV from the New York Cathedral, the 'my brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw war and tried to stop it, saw suffering and tried to heal it'' eulogy, my mother had to tell this clever guy, a Beowulf scholar, to be quiet, to shut up.  She had to speak up and say, as women have the best sense of morality, "(shut up), he's giving his brother's eulogy.  He's giving his brother's eulogy."  What the brother had said about him was, simply, basically, true.  The man being a gift to America, if you think about it, if you think of all our stories about how we got here, how we all need a little bit of support and encouragement that drier minds don't always provide, smart as they think they might be.  Well, people responded to him.  He might even have had enough delegates.  Maybe he could have ironed out Chicago, the meeting of juvenile selfishness of blind protest that only antagonizes the need for Police order, the self feeding nightmare (that ultimately achieved little but fostering the likes of Reagan, destroyer of cooperation and beneficial partnership programs, those random things of good hearts and good luck.)   Yes, Bobby could have calmed all that down, told them to be peaceful, having the credential for it.  (Instead some hothead uneducated idiot from yet another part of the world where that happens, found in hotel pantry hallway, with a pistol, as if to express some difference of opinion.... some weird little guy like a Booth caught in his own theater drama, who knows, even drugged in some way.)

I wondered if I heard that somehow, at age three, who knows.  'Til this day, it always gets me, the Kennedy stuff.  As it should.  Nixon won that year.  George Wallace fucked the whole thing up, one might argue, an early tea party from the old South that still stood in resistance to the Union, bitter, now wanting any thing but libertarian  right of way to impose its own order.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

There is a long history of us, type O.   Suffering from an excess of words.  Carnivores with lots of adrenaline, in need of the tyrosine found in red meats to keep the brain cool, in need of aerobic exercise, lest they fall into manic behavior.

Emily Dickinson was lady-like, quiet about it, kept up her scribbles on backs of envelopes, and invented her own way of keeping the poems that were her way of working things out to satisfaction.  She belongs in the owner's instruction manual.

Dick Nixon, we know was a type O, as was JFK.  Nixon fell into a particular excess of a particular thought, a track of how to "screw" people, Dick Cavett, Teddy Kennedy, McGovern...  He liked the idea of taping the office, to record every word.  JFK branched out, and read a lot, and could talk a mile a minute intelligently.  The agile format of the press conference served him well.  Perhaps an excess of bravery running in his line.

It is said that Lincoln had type A blood, fond of cheese, without weight gain, though he had a lot of words in his head too, interestingly enough, thus maybe shooting my theory down in some way.

James Joyce, quite probably.  Healthier than Hemingway, arguably.  The children of both inheriting, dopamine off kilter, as in schizophrenia.

Robin Williams, classic exhibitor, poor devil, Hamlet's "words, words, words."  He liked his bicycle rides.
The best way to treat the horse after the long shift is to get home and get on the bike.  A slow rolling, a practiced evenness of pressure from both legs, left and right, clipped in to Look pedals, Shimano cycling shoes.  The horse needs to run after the complications, needs to run free, at a pace it feels necessary, fast, slow, full.  The legs swell again, doing what they're meant to do.

Kundera on his father, the composer, musician, professor from Brno:  visiting a man who is dying, riding a horse toward his death, the long unconscious breathing process.  His old man, Kundera's, losing that ability to talk, but pointing to the Beethoven piano sonatas, the very late full ones, close to the variations on the theme Von Beethoven did.  The old man putting his finger on 121, mutely, but expressing, here is the music that will last, that says it all.  Kundera in fiction writes it, turns to the necessary criticism we all must eventually apply to everyone, describing Beethoven's deaf journey touchingly into the very center of music, and the theme of these sonatas, the old man pointing to them no longer able to speak, even as tanks roll in in '68, as people are hung, 'drilling toward the very center of the earth," where in which the writer becomes, properly, the physicist poet philosopher drunk friend politician safe person intellectual teacher Central European tribesman healthy and full of strength.

Drilling into, toward,  the very center of the reality of Earth.  Beethoven.

I remember my brother messing with me on 12b, prompting me to do a thing against my own interest, bite into the bottom of the sugar cone, and the ice cream started to run from the bottom of it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I took an immediate liking to Knausgaard, My Struggle.   There is a requirement encoded within that bids us to explore our own vulnerability, our own imperfections, our own failings.  The failures of a person, the vices, the relationship realities, need not be tied to a plot line of a story, thus to provide tension and conflict, but rather are best liberated from such a context, set free where such things are free standing, kind of 'just there.'  For the worst disservice you can perform upon humanity is to portray the creature perfect and invulnerable, whereas in fact the creature, as we all really know, at least once we grow up, is not invulnerable, that is an amalgam which is capable of dissolving in a moment on many different levels.  Yes, the creature is brave, brave to be alive, but to be braver still must face the fact of being mortal.   So the reader finds the reality of the male spirit in My Struggle, set in an appropriate form, needing no plot, just providing honest humanity.

For similar reasons are remembered those who do explore and make note of human frailty, vulnerability, imperfection, 'craziness.'  That might explain some of our fondness for a Lincoln or a retrospective look at JFK, no, not perfection, and even early death of a vulnerable kind, as if we are left to perpetually ask, 'but how, how could you die, at this time, just when we were getting going...'  We are drawn closer to the world Kundera leads us to, that of the look at failure that literature provides us, in the way he explicates Madam Bovary's moment of tossing the coin to a beggar when she herself is destitute or the element of mismatch in a sexual encounter.

It's probably for such reasons that I myself, in writing, avoid the heaviness of fitting things into a conscious plot, for the principal reality of shine through.  And this is why heroes go off into the wilderness, not to perfect themselves but to find the real human story.  Which is something not for profit so much, but to learn something that keeps one sane as one must go on failing in life until time runs out on us.

The sensitive ones of us are simply drawn to the lessons of the beautiful flawed vulnerable creature, to learn better the things that one needs to learn.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Again, quite simple:  American  workers would go to work, work their shifts, eight hours, steadily, have a nice system for it, play softball, drink a beer, have a family life and a modest vacation that was sweet, fun and memorable.  And they knew that they would be working for years and years, just like the mortgages on their reasonable humble homes, just like the reasonable humble restaurants in places like Utica, New York, so they worked on, because there was a job and steadiness.

"But then, things changed.  And the height, the crowning flower and fruition of the changes was the the bankers who took the steady nuts the workers had squirreled away, and the bankers took all this solid fruit, that of honest labor and an honest society, with hospitals, schools and playgrounds and parks, such as any decent even minor city must be about, and guess what... they gambled all that, well, not really gambled, but figured out a way to get their hands into that solid steady created value and figured out a way to disperse all that, to break it into many pieces, each of such ambiguous value that they themselves now would be the arbiter, through their clever world wide trades, trades that seemed to make sense by the old model, the model of decent investments, but that now were substantially shifted to serving the profit-minded speculators, who now would take the invested money, go to small towns around the world, each where people worked decently and hard and with a good morale, and sell some kind of ambiguous system of infallible profit, growth itself, even inventing the word, growth, twisting the word to suit their needs.

"Yes, the bankers were very clever, and even protected, as if they were the saviors!  The saviors of everything, the people to be trusted.  And so did they shove in the face, through all the mortgage derivative what ever they could get their greedy hands on so that they could have beach houses, all the hard work that people had, out of basic human cooperation, done, year in, year out.  And because of the bankers greed, because of their indecency, now everyone looked like an asshole, everything, every job meaningless now, devalued, like currency.  So now, yes, now that the Wall Street guys have gotten their million dollar bonuses, so many of them, paid out for slitting the throat of American labor business potential factory industry optimism whatever you want to call it, yes, guess what, they don't want to live here anymore, and if they do, only by twisting the once free and reasonably beautiful American legislative process to their own greedy slander of it."

"For their stock market, taking the honest savings of the workers who put in their lives, their talents, their GI era parental baby boom industry, a generation suddenly appeared, quite willing to take away into their own personal speculative slush fund all that decent workers had made, to suddenly lose all morality...  Why, because suddenly, under the Reagan era, making the maximum profit had become the moral thing to do, sanctified in church.

"And even my own father's retirement income, the GI Bill professor, who had done so much for society, who had worked away like a monk and been given a reasonable salary, enough, despite a lot, Bank of America gutted quite significantly, and even when he died, they had the temerity to ask if I would like to help pay off the supposed $9000 and change of debt he left behind.  'No, I don't think so,' I said to them in that time of grief, and they kept calling for a while.

"Maybe it wasn't so much out of a greedy intention, although that would be hard to really believe, but that they all became enchanted, through their own perceived cleverness, with the god of ones and zeros, the new machine that could make anything happen, make all investments, even--think of this--promise profit, infallibly, risk free, believing in this.  Spreading risk, making everything connected, thereby implanting a mortal cancer into their whole system.  And then their greed did take over, finding gullible pensioners, small towns in Italy, whomever they could get their hands on physically...

"And what do we have to confront them by, when they could hide in the language of an incomprehensible system that they had created?  What else had we but the human soul, our own gut instincts, our own basic sense of appropriateness?  Even the legal system failed, trying to understand the created beast on its own terms...  Almost like Nazi Germany, no one able to really question the basic logic of building tanks, planes and warships, taking over land, liquidating all the undesirables of society, reinforcing the breeding of the Aryan Race, as the latter steps somehow made the logic air tight...  And who to fight it all but the novelist, the poet, voices from the clerics and studious people like Bonnhoeffer... the few people left with a moral center, a ground underneath them.  The professional politicians, the system set up by its own logic, the great need of money to run campaigns, guess what, Wall Street had and continues to have them all by the testicles, indeed they have everyone so, if you want to make money, so that you can buy real estate, etc., etc.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

This format is a strange one.  It's best for literary critique, for capturing some of the thoughts one, like Shakespeare, has, the weedy fruits of the bitching and moaning that come from tilling the earth.

Doing yoga one comes to the idea that within us, up centered in our heads around the third eye chakra, there is a version of the Planet Earth, much like the photo the astronauts took looking back through a little cabin window.  There may even be two poles on it, these being cold regions.  A thought, like us, inhabits a tiny dot on its surface, a particular place.  And yet, consciousness is everywhere at once.  The creative mode offers a way of being kind to the thing, a way of letting nature have its balance, for good things to come along.  Neither give, or put, violence into it, and neither accept violence from it.  That would be to misunderstand it, this small magic version of the Planet Earth, complete with oceans, sea shores, mountains and trees, within.  (Wine is permitted, as basically, it's natural, a thing of a growing season.  Like any fruit, it represents the planet.)

To allow violence into the system, we've heard this many times, perpetuates it;  to release it, which is a hard process, let's it go.  That's a hard lesson to learn, one that takes the heights of human wisdom, but it makes sense.

Fame, never seek it.  Be a simple teacher, without violence or excessive popularity.  Be the Earth within.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The animal felt he was more tired than he should have been, and after waking before 10AM, having a cup of chilled tea, eating a hamburg patty, he went back to bed and slept 'til 4:30, waking feeling drained and barely capable of doing laundry or a single yoga pose.  Through the workweek, the first day off, and it had been busy the night before and all of the other nights.

"I said I was tired, Harv.  You think a lot of things when you're tired," Gary Cooper's character says to Lloyd Bridges character in High Noon, a well-written scene, one the animal thought of from time to time.  "What's it to you, Harv?  Seems like everyone and his brother wants me to leave town.  I can't do it."  Interesting.  That's a real man, disappointing his new wife Grace Kelly even, and in anguish, Gary Cooper says, slowly, clearly, with a pause, "I can't do it."

Then the animal was awake.  At dawn after yoga he took a walk in the woods, by the weedy path from which you could not see the stream through the growth, the kudzu vine taking over the wooded slopes from the muddy dirt path up.  He walked past a long stretch of chest high ragweed.  There were early joggers out in the woods, a waking world he was unfamiliar with.  He felt more like running, surprising himself with his pace up the hill along the smaller stream that fell evenly through piles of rocks.

The pendulum's sway, from the busy nights full of engaging people and conversation, the simple pleasure of being around food and wine and the relaxing conversations, then the other side of unstructured spaces of time spent with a little of this, a little of that, a little Buddhist meditation, but nothing all that convincing, looking for purpose, companionship, a place to fit in, but in need of work and reading.  Have I gone too far out for too long to ever find a job that suits me, he'd wonder, obviously good at the tending bar part, which was a simple task.  You'd almost feel guilty, as if you were just taking up space.

Humid like a steam bath after a nap.  Groceries at the Garden Market, the bounty of summer, lug that back along with white vinegar to clean the yoga mat, and shaving cream.  Then another trip down to the wine shop for a good value Pinot Noir, a Beaujolais imported by Kermit Lynch.  Stop to look in the storefront window of the bookshop, in to buy the first of Knausgaard celebrated new work My Struggle, part one.  Threat of thunder storms.  A day off and you have nothing but shit to write.  Buddha was smart just saying, well, that's all I have to say, then the noble silence.  Feeling weak like a kitten, bogged down in details, ragweed making the edge of the brain fuzzy and dull.  Lay back on the yoga mat, eyes rolling back in the head.

And then a bike ride.  Using yoga to climb a hill,  doing reps on its grade, not out of the saddle, patiently, the back governing the pedals, home, cool off, eat another burger, drink some Pinot Noir, and cracking open Knausgaard, My Struggle, Book 1, finding something worth reading finally.
The evidence had been presented against me, and then finally, the Judge asked me to approach the bench.   "And how do you respond to these charges levels against you, that you are lazy, the charge of poverty, the charge of professional negligence, which we understand to be the negligence you are responsible for in not securing a normal career for yourself, a crime in our society these days, which you bear the sole responsibility for... for your lack of fitting in to the Futurist Agenda and the Ten Beneficent Major Corporations that are its sponsors and which unselfishly guide the public citizenry through the wisdom of Their Needs."

"That's just it it, Sir.  The problem is the stress that comes from being poor and uncertain about the future...  That stress just knocks your immune system, then you have an allergic reaction.  So even as you've worked as hard as you can, the day off, when you know you want to be searching for more, for a better way to serve society, you're so tired and unhappy, yes, you're so tired that even though you do your laundry and cook as frugally as you can, you order Chinese delivery, eat it, and end up not accomplishing anything.  Barely able to get up off the couch.  You retreat to bed and breathe through your stomach best as you can, as if you were meditating, and even fall fast asleep.  It's the stress, Sir.  It catches up with you.  And I'm not young anymore, which is why I've never fit in so well with the Futurist Agenda  I remember growing up on a road out in the country back when the dairy cows used to be out in the green hilly fields..."

"Objection, Objection," the main Prosecutor shouted.  "Immaterial statement, no bearing on the fact of crime committed.  Completely irrelevant to the charges against him."  He glowered against the desk of the judge, adjusting his broad shoulders with a twitch of his thick neck, then reaching his arm out straight, punching the air in my direction with a pointed finger which he held there.  It was clear he had a deep personal hatred toward me, as I represented everything wrong with the world. "In fact the defendant is highlighting just the kind of fanciful poetic dithering, of 'being out in the fields,' that he stands guilty as charged over, where it is in fact a known fact in our Tea Party Understanding upon which the Futurist Agenda thanks to our Corporate Sponsors is officially one hundred precent based on that the cows of the factory farms that stay indoors all year round produce as much milk, if not more, thanks to our science and modern injections.  And where has the defendant been, but out writing poetry, a completely useless individual as far as our society must be concerned and policed.  The defendant has made his choices as to where he wants to belong."

The Judge looked down on me.  He seemed to think for a moment, to gain a broader view.  The pause indicated I might speak once more.  "It's the stress, Sir, the stress that comes from having no certain future.  I think I try my best sometimes.  I try to take care of the body, with exercise and fresh air."  I did not have a lot of optimism, and I made one last attempt to reiterate that I did have a record of honest work, at least as how I saw it, honest hard work, though perhaps it had fallen through the cracks, I suppose.  The thought crossed my mind, maybe it is true that the individual mind is 'a terrible thing.'  Maybe I could teach the others the benefit of yoga and meditation when I got to the Prison of the Failures.   "But it's true, that I don't always know what to do with myself, where to jump into the stream, how to help out and serve society...  I thought my work as a bartender did some of that, but it has left me not knowing sometimes whether I am coming or going."

The public apologizer rose one more time in my defense, before the jury provided by the Corporate Sponsors.  "Well, look at this man.  Look at the prominent veins on his hands.  Look at the lines of concern etched on his face.  Look at the sad look in his eyes.  Look at his frame, how he has endeavored to stay in some form of shape, despite absent record of expenditures with the Corporation of Pharmacological Beneficence and slim record of abiding to the dietary standards and suggestions presented and allowed by the Corporation of Big Agriculture...  He has not worked with the Corporation of Wisest Public Education, nor with the Corporation of Right Media Information, nor with the Corporation of Natural Forestry and Gainful Water Usage, the Corporation of Fossil Fuels and Carbon Freedom,  with the Corporation of Protective Firearms and Brotherly Surveillance, the Corporation of Successful Environmental Balances, the Corporation of Benevolent Communication, Appropriate Behavior and Information Gathering..."  He gestured with his hand, expressing some sort of confused frustration sympathetic to the jury, toward the corporate logos lining the foot of the jury stand.  "No, this is true, but..."  And I wondered if he had lost his train of thought, and I myself sort of wished to disappear, I mean, not in handcuffs.  A part of my mind recalled something about "behold the man," but I did not wish to think about that, as it was not a slope I wanted to go down, wishing to stay positive and all.

How does one explain to a jury of his rather more corporately engaged and successful peers the thought expressed on the old dollar bill, the pyramid with the eye looking out from the tiptop in all directions, engaged in a mystical democracy that sought no interference with anyone else, not the affairs of other peoples, but rather, seeking to harbor a guiding light in the primitive world, letting nature stand as it is, humble and basic and friendly, impossible as all that seems.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

... and that's the thing you constantly run into, that you have to really admit to yourself, that life is unsatisfactory.   You can try to master it, but that's never going to work.  You have to shift your paradigm.  Accept.  Renounce the vanities.  Realize, in a way, that you are a loser, need not expect anything great out of life.  And then it dawns on you that everyone else is in the same boat, just, as children, not aware of it.  Then, in a sort of sadness, you can become a human being, naked, vulnerable, aware of the world around you.   Is there a problem then?  As if you must ask yourself, 'well, now what?'?  I'm not sure I know.   Go and rest in nature, when your labors are done for a week?  Do laundry?  What else is there but maintenance...  It would all seem to be rather sad, a world of lonesome people who have a need to express their own frailty, a bit of how they personally might cope, like doing yoga to prevent some of the decaying that comes with time.

We never mean to hurt other people, but hurt them we do, whenever we enter into a relationship, because most often a relationship, popularly conceived, is built on the concept of happiness.  Which is ultimately a strain, something unnatural, unsustainable.

I suppose we're better off just having a relationship with nature, to go for walks and hikes and bike rides, to do yoga outdoors, to meditate by a  stream or under a tree or on a rock.  To free our minds of thoughts, to become the light of consciousness, clear, blending with the light around us, porous, letting being simply happen, not trying to impose any will or taste but for that which we find natural, simple, sustaining, comfortable.

Then it occurs to us that there's really nothing we should really be doing, no job that really needs doing all that much, even as others might protest too loudly the need.

It might all seem to suck, doesn't it sometimes?  What job should we be doing?  What should we do to earn our keep?  Why do we all lie to each other?  Go read a good book;  try and learn something.  That's how you learn, after all, by taking the time to read something.   Fancy education specialists make it complicated, but it's all quite simple.  Read.  Watch an educational film.  Explore some old topic that seems in your world to have stood the test of time.  You're never going to be able to convince other people against their will.   The Buddha knew this, and so he preached calm.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

At the end of his shift, of course, the animal went home, on his bicycle, past the great library and gardens, past the open space of fields that was a rare open park next to woods, past the gated iron fenced cemetery, past the World War II brick apartment buildings, home to the little street, home to his thoughts.  Very nice people had come, and there had even been talk, at the end of the night of true liberal politics, the real thing.  It was night and darkness, and after a good night, he could relax and think of countryside.

"Someone invented how to be a pain in the ass," the animal's thoughts ran.  "Whatever that person encountered, they would say that it was not satisfactory.  That person wished to subjugate, to express their own supreme importance, to say that their own judgment was better.  Their judgment was not better, but through the possibility of manipulation, they saw a way to hegemony, to power, to self protection and self advancement.  That person sought to create a pattern of confusion, to constantly disrupt normal doings, normal godly work, a normal person's basic life.  Such people invented corporations, by finding other people who liked to manipulate for gain.  They got together and had a grand self-satisfying time, realizing the happy possibilities.  To their credit, they create a product that seems useful, something that speaks of some perfection and skill, such that people are captivated by the Model T and its beauty and functionality.  Why not?; it gets you places, no horse involved."

The animal woke and washed some dishes.  Cooking meat, the Lodge iron pan got a bit greasy, with a pleasant residue of onion that made him feel hungry as he scrubbed.

"The selfish and the normal, who are not destined to be selfish, will never easily mix."

After the necessary nap the animal watched television, a Frontline piece about the profiteering of the financial industry of 401K plans as they are protected by legislators fed by Wall Street lobbying, as if one needed proof of deep corporate personal self-interest, then a piece about the archaeology related to the original slave behind Uncle Tom's Cabin with the usual dangle, and then, something in that horrible Pixar computer animation, a well-intentioned show, the animal thought, "Sid the Science Kid," but which left him with little wonder as to far as young children have such things as Attention Deficit Disorder and likened behavioral problems.  The animal could simply see it, plain as day.  There is simply too much information, all of it conflicting, in this 'ingenious' way of animation.  It is animation of a trillion billion ones and zeros, offering no single perspective, no single sense of being anchored in the way that the old way of camera-eyed depiction of reality offers.  Give me the simplicity of animation of the old way of cartoons;  that at least would be honest.  Instead this absolutely creepy sickening figuring of three dimensional real people real faces insidious substitution that is supposed to be better than the old paper figures of Mickey Mouse and Goofy and the Pink Panther and Wiley E. Coyote moving about in two dimension, easy for the brain to digest.  Some creep invested in this stuff deep enough ago in time with big money, and now kids stare intently at TVs as their poor little forming minds go through this gross and unnecessary roller coaster of trying to figure out just what the heck I am watching, the sickening magic trick of pixels.  Give me the Muppets, not these monstrosities.  At the end of the show, the credits:  Jim Henson Productions.  Jim Henson is dead, and maybe trying to keep up with such things, after the blast of his wonderful humor and creativity was twisted into a need to keep with the selfish, killed the animal that he was, and clearly he was one of those sensitive animals who knew where the physical tongue sat, how eyes moved, and the divine spirit running through all things letting him create a personified frog out of fabric and foam rubber that really did the trick, Kermit being a funny guy, a sensitive feeling person subject to all the stuff that 'flesh is heir to.'

Note that the cultural critique of The Simpsons was done in good old animation.  And there, with animation, the mind had a chance to work, to incorporate that healthy organ of the imagination.  Imagination can not come about staring at this weird 3D figures coming from the old flat screen.

We watch the era of Walter Cronkite and the Kennedy assassination and the old Johnny Carson because then cameras were real, not lying, not victims of the high technology of the computer brain that we allow to think for us, as when we got rid of the records and the record player and the needle that dropped down and the first hiss as we waited for the first riff in favor of the digital bit entrancing us with its artifice.

The ones and zeros take us out of real rooms where people interact into the misreadings of Facebook and the social life of the oxygen-less air of social media and too much information, training us to leap through hoops of conformity.

Vonnegut died in time, before seeing the worst of it really get going, after coming up with the immortal lines describing the identities we would fall into, as if losing our very faces, the meaning of our faces, even as we buy into it all,  "My name is Jan Jansen, I live in Wisconsin, I work in a lumber mill there."  All that he saw was the fire-bombing of Dresden, the human figure reduced to ash, a by-product of selfish national striving for economic reality.  It would have been fine if everyone had just kept on unselfishly working, drinking beer after a shift, not whipped up into an out-of-body false rage of metal and all the things the human being can engineer into being, planes, tanks...

Technology, technology, technology...  just another marketing tool, a new Olympic stadium to announce another nation's national interest...

The impression: people no longer go out, not for the primal experience of rubbing elbows and tacitly sharing tastes of food and wine, but for where the subtly leading ones and zeros tell them where to go, how to belong, how to Tweet their own belonging to the source of the new belonging, the source of the screen of a laptop or phone where we find everything and everyone from education, money, mating, a strange new family life that keeps the national interest high, our nation versus yours for all our own adeptness, for handing to our kids the same so that they will be savvy in it all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The self-medicating animal, remembering the kind faces at the bar of the night before, and somewhat mindful of the litter of plastic, paper, glass around him here and there in his apartment space to be sorted for recycling and glassware and dishes to clean, put himself into the shower.  The warm water with all its little atomic genies worked its way through his scalp and skull and the thick skin of his face, down through the shoulders and into the vertebrae, the hips, the tight muscles that come from lifting and carrying.  He addressed the water to the body to loosen it, to prepare it for a yoga session before work.

The animal's friend, who had type A blood, had once suggested to him that, after he packed up his own bar, that he find one that stayed open later, just to have that one drink, to be waited on, to sort of let the weight of his problems down on the bar of another amidst a field of human company.  But the animal himself, though he liked to do that very much, sometimes found it better just to get home on his bicycle, and ride indoors, his other road bike on a certain kind of stand with the back tire against a rolling bar, supported by a clamp on its back axle.  He would ride slowly, watch some television, drink some wine and some water, and feeling from time to time how the bands of muscle fibers in his legs and thighs pushed and pulled in a way that satisfied him, occasionally patting his belly wishing a layer to vanish, and the chemistry that had allowed him to charge directly into the night and respond to everything would slowly blow away or go up in some form of invisible smoke, which was calming, even if he acknowledge his state of being alone in the night, crickets chirping outside.  This seemed to please the type O blood he was built of.

In the shower, as he soaped himself with an olive oil soap, he allowed a thought to coalesce, about how it made sense that the figure of a virgin woman would have its appeal, to the male soul, to men in trouble like sailors lost at sea, to men who in life's competition had made certain appalling mistakes of an everyday garden tomato variety, mistakes that were simply there, not so much offending, but just the stupid mistakes that male creatures make, headstrong, sometimes drunk, sometimes blinded in one way or another, sometimes as if they craved ignorance or freedom or who knows what, or for good reasons based on philosophies deep and in need of utterance.  The virgin woman indeed would be a religious ikon, indeed properly paired with a sad suffering gentle Christ stuck at odds with the society he found himself in.  The virgin woman, of course, would be forgiving.  There was not the threat of having to bear the very real consequences of reproduction in a world where one may have done too much following and not enough leading, carried out through the role of being a strong protective supportive male human being.  It would make sense that she would basically offer forgiveness, particularly if you prayed to her image.

Drying himself off, he took a good sip of green tea, and it too did its job of washing things out, as if cleaning a vessel with a garden house, particularly the filtery parts down deeper inside it.  He poured himself a glass of filtered water and dropped a few ice cubes into it, and this too tasted good, sweet in a subtle way.  Cleaning the counter top next to the sink from various cooking residues, dried grains of cooked brown rice, the ring left by the gluten free soy sauce bottle, refilling the Britta pitcher with tap water, he remembered the talk the night before of the musicians, talk of Miles Davis one liners, usually critical, a terse "rhythm and harmony," talk of seeing Mick Jagger lead a group of blues legends in the basement of the W Hotel, calling for a different arrangement of an old standard, a different triad, as Jeff Beck riffed away, Buddy Guy, Spencer Davis.  He liked with the musicians sat down and talked quietly over the dinners before they packed up their equipment and drove away in their humble weather-beaten cars.

The dumb animal had written something once, about walking on a quiet road underneath the stars, a road nestled in the Berkshires, and the night being Easter night, and how the animal had thought of girl he'd kissed wonderfully the night before.  He had written it finally, years later, in terms of how he saw it then, seeing somewhere far off the maturing of a growing season, of how ripeness would come, the self-protecting tannins would rise, and the male creature would be coming to a spiritual maturity.  Self-consciously, as he hydrated, after his shower thoughts of saving virgins, he hoped that did not come off as a bad Hemingway imitation, that it made some kind of hick sense.

"Ach," the creature said to himself somewhere in the mind or the forepart of the brain, "ones and zeros, ones and zeros... The news is created out of ones and zeros, popularity defined by popularity."  He knew his own cravings, for information, for words, and it had surprised him to find out that his iPhone knew the particular New York Times articles, one on wrestlers finding health and redemption in yoga, the other an opinion peace about how, yes, education is not ultimately a business, that he had left open on his laptop.  Thinking perhaps of his own great insignificance in the human sea, he acknowledged that there was little wonder why one clung to hokey religious thoughts, images, Irish crosses, rustic Polish hand carved wooden Jesus with head resting on a fist as if to say "oye yoe yoye," statues of Buddha calm in lotus position with a hand reaching down to touch the ground.

Then turning on the television, to be better able to discuss the news should any customer want to, feeling ill informed, the sense of one thing begetting another.  "Violence begets violence, wealth begets poverty..."

How kind, the animal thought, as, out of some necessity, he returned himself to the poses of yoga and meditation, "how thoughtful of the yogis to figure out the poses in terms of animals;  for animals are in full possession of their own strength;  the snake must meditate just like we do;  the cat uses all its brain power:  whereas we are almost over-wired, is that it?, too much equipment?, or maybe we've forgotten to to be the creatures we are, listening to the powers within..."

Friday, August 15, 2014

As I grounded myself with regular meditation, I found that if I looked within the self I did better than if I went out looking for happiness in things outside the self.  If, as is natural in culture of consumer economy, I went looking for experiences in terms of an object looking for enjoyable subjects of experience, I'd be led further away from the self, and so that when I returned to my own little life, got some rest, the next day I would be confused and depressed.  I would take to looking back at a much younger self and think on things that I had done wrong that got me to the state where I am now.  I would be manipulated that much easier by the distractions and events outside my own innate peaceful state, because of the previous day's mistake of looking for satisfaction elsewhere.  Subtle things, no big deal, no great sensuous night at the casinos and the pleasure palaces, but talked into trying to fit in with the main stream, going out for a quiet glass of wine somewhere believing I'd meet kind like-minded people.  (The only place I managed to do that was at my own place of work.)

Conversely, when I stayed in and did yoga and meditated, I became more grounded, less inclined to see the point of the things outside of the self.  And this was most in evidence in the mood the next day, as if this was the natural indicator of how well did I do being in accordance with self.  If I did well just being calm and finding the deep reality of the Universe by looking calmly within and letting outside thoughts and desires fly away, then rather than waking in a fog, I could make out someone on a path, a self-affirming one, one not seeking knowledge without but within.  Those were my own natural tastes, my own sensitivities, much as they might seem somewhat pained.

How not to subscribe to a popular view, take yourself as "a freak," a non-belonging type, the bartender who stays in on a Friday night, anti-social?  Really, you're just trying to take better care of yourself and find, as we all would want, a peace within, even alone and out of synch, or maybe particularly so.

That's, I suppose, where writing came in, as if it served a biological function, to allow that extra layer of self protection, time spent more or less usefully at least by some stretch of the imagination.  Because it's hard enough, a confusing world, and you have to give yourself whatever safeguards you can.
I don't want to, but a reflection on Robin Williams seems in order.  Several video clips, on Velonews as the cycling community mourns one of its own, leave me with the sense of an excess of voices, too many words, a manic skipping about.  Yes, a comic ability, a gift of improv.  The audio interview with him and the actor guy who records the conversation in a garage replayed on MSNBC Lawrence O'Donnell catches Williams talking about all the thoughts that go through the mind, and the dark one that comes up, 'put that over there in the WTF category,' talk a very rapid and shifting pace seemed to near the ballpark of schizophrenic behavior, behavior found often enough in the brain chemistry of Type O blood, an excess of dopamine, part of a manic cycle swinging between adrenaline production and dopamine, perhaps in some way the legacy of being up for hunting game to survive.  Williams hairy enough.

And what does this say about the rest of us who seem to like words?  What are our excesses about?  Talent, or malady?  An attempt to calmly ride the chemical swings of the brain?  Type O people have a harder time getting the adrenaline and nor-adrenaline cleaned out of the system.  Maybe that's what journals are about, taking events bit by bit, getting them down in some way as if to deal with them in a satisfying way, as if to be able to file them away.  Naturally, we're drawn in these efforts to the things that confuse us, and in a way we're wired to go over them and go over them, even ad nauseam.

A good friend suggests to the writer a valuable piece of advice, worth quoting.

But I was thinking if you could let some of your younger self be ... just be. Let it be just as it is. Ask yourself ... "do I really have to figure it out"?

Then allow your present self to forgive your younger self ... and/or the other way around.

" I forgive myself for the hurt I caused you. May you forgive me too. May the sun shine for you, may you be surrounded by love, may your inner light guide your path."

This took me a little while to ponder, and the first literal attempts at it met with refusal, the subject still feeling the hassle of Restaurant Week, professional confusion, tired, the usual litany along with ragweed pollen.  A long nap, a walk around the block, and a more meditative mode has arisen.  And reinforcement arrives from the Buddhist thought that it is ultimately necessary to focus not on existence but on the experience of impersonal experience.  (Again, I find the meditation explanations  at helpful in this regard, as I work toward a better understanding.)

And so the goal becomes not to record the event through endless takes, reruns, different voices, remembering an experience, relating it, getting caught up in the exercise of wording it all out, but in the calm of realizing that one is experiencing experience itself through the clear light of the impersonal conscious mind, which means shifting away from that sense of life as existence of everything as subject and object, seen in terms of a solid fixed self.

That one would go through a whole account of an earlier life then seems maybe like a bit of the verbally exhibiting illness of the mind, not the proper perspective from a final point of view.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

But what would I know?  I've come late to the psychological understandings of life.

Forty or so years ago, when I was eight or nine, one of those summers after the horror at the Olympic Games in Munich, Jim McKay telling us, "they're all gone," perhaps that summer it became increasingly evident through hearings on afternoon television that the President of the United States of America was up to some truly dirty political machinations, or the summer in which he, Nixon, that August resigned, mom went to the hospital, suffering from a minor nervous breakdown exhibiting as anxiety.  A family friend had recently died.  Lithium may have worked for Robert Lowell, but it did not do well by my mom.

Forty years or so later, I've finally worked up the courage to go see a therapist.  And strangely, suddenly appearing, out of the blue, there was the psychological dimension, the question, "how did you feel..."  Which is of course followed by the commensurate awakening to the thought that my own motivations for all I'd done with my life were from an unseen source, which of course, is quite a thought, an inkling aware of toiling under a weight.

It is not strange to tie a nervous event in with the idea of finding meaning in life.  That, for my mother, was basically the precipitative question from her own analyst, "what is the meaning of your life," and she went on from there to find indeed an excellent answer to that question.

So, I begin to poke around.  What to make of my life as a bartender?  What would be my own guide to sanity, prompted by my friend Jake, an excellent customer, to write such a thing.  After all Abraham Lincoln had been a bartender, and if you look at it, that's what he became, Bartender in Chief.  As he found out, it is not easy to legislate morality in the great barroom of America, to cut off the South of a bad habit.  But he was called upon, and he did a fine job, and of course one crazy customer ended his life just when he had some of his greatest work left to do.  Once a barman, always a barman, and in a way it's one of those root jobs of all jobs.

And what do we know about Lincoln?  Well, we can gather that he had suffered from a kind of low level pervasive somewhat benign, but not always benign, form of depression.  Of the kind that made him sensitive,  concerned over pigs stuck in mud and grieving over fallen birds.  Of the kind that made, that prompted him to, in his own mid-life crisis, seek greater meaning in life, a purpose to wrap his talents around.

Yes, the television commercials, and the popular way of life, preach pill taking and warn heavily against falling into depression.  Keep positive, positive, positive.  And yet a lot of us cannot help it to be somewhat contrary to that.  Those of us who seek meaning, concerned about the fate of the planet given the spread of the human creature over the earthly habitat, yes, might well be a bit inclined to be depressed.  It would not be healthy to not be concerned and burdened.

I've always found it natural and perhaps even healthy to keep that mode of the benign meaning-seeking depression about.  I like my slow walks in the woods, the down time.  I find them honest.  They help me think out what I need to think about, and as I say, those times help me extract meaning out of being alive in this here world.

But seeing a therapist can be a little unnerving.  "How crazy am I," you may wonder.  I had a lot to think on.  It wasn't a person I was obsessed with, it was a firm sense of all the mistakes I'd made, those with her in particular, symbolic.   I had made all those mistakes because of my psychological build-up, reacting in ways I couldn't help, as if I had trust issues, as if I had a default people-pleasing mode.

I had somewhere within a switch that had gotten stuck, and I had acted in ways I could not fully control, as if I'd been thrown out into the open, without direction, and so I could not carry through with any choices of my own, just leaving things to fate.  And so no wonder I wanted to hide from that which I could not hide from.  No wonder I wanted to retreat away, as if to protect an open and frayed self too vulnerable, unable to make much of a decision about anything and feeling lost.  Because I had no direction.

Suddenly I understood the psychological dimension of Moby Dick, the obscured psychological forces driving like Ahab, the sense of being left on a ship amidst the waters amongst a bunch of strangers to make the best of things, to get along, morphed into shape by experience, no driving force within the mute self, a strange sense of having been kidnapped, going along with it all.  How is a poor near-sighted intellectual who does not take easy to the current academia going to protect himself anyway? Through agility, speed, quick-witted good humor?  Melville wrote long books full of poetry based on personal experience to keep a roof over his head.

Everyone seemed to want to drink at the end of their day, wouldn't that be a perfect way to fit in, to be everyone's buddy?

I began to wonder if Buddhism didn't have its draw for me because of my particular psychological blind spots, my own inability to establish the necessary importance of self?  It seemed to fit with the natural world order.  I did not see the self-protection my family's hard work and talents had given me in the form of opportunity, a good school, a great head-start in life, which I then tossed aside in some nobility of the working class fantasy.  Such opportunity does not return so easily.  This was the difference between myself and the people of normal ambitiousness, my strange habit of detachment sprinkled with self-destructive behavior.  And then add on top of that being a naturally nice guy, a kind and caring person concerned about strangers, who got plenty of unconditional love as a child.

So there began my effort to understand what was wrong with this guy I knew intimately enough, this poor guy who feels unprotected in the field of intimacy, though an easy friend, who fears the challenges that would let him grow, inhabiting the rut of the status quo, suddenly growing aware of his own deafness, dutifully marching to some imagined orders.

But all that said, I am in many ways proud to be a bartender, one looking for sanity, accepting of the self.  I had to take meaning where I found it, and if there is any lotus that blooms out of a swamp, that swamp could indeed be a barroom.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

There were reports of Shane MacGowan having a health scare, to read the headlines, talk about exhaustion, not making a benefit for a band mate.  Some reports suggested the Hyde Park performance, part of The Pogues long good bye, MacGowan as if he was beginning to fall apart.  Not believing that, I went to YouTube to see what I could find.  Seems just as vigorous as ever, the conclusion.  On this day that Robin Williams the actor comedian thinker is no longer with us.

The news story lead to Japan, to see how Shane is doing.

Mr. MacGowan is of course extruded by his culture, which is Irish.  He was drinking, gambling, smoking, and betting on horses, before, during and after he learned how to speak.  His aunt was very holy, and encouraged him in these habits.  He learned to sing at an early age.  The old farm house was an old IRA safe house back in the Black and Tan days, going back to Yeats' time.

An American journalist would not easily fit Mr. MacGowan into an interview on any major network to take his commentary.  Though, one must add, his commentary is in the background, one of many voices that needs to be heard, so that we don't be herded, an intelligent voice from a non-lawyer, non industry source.  (By the way, not everyone thinks Bill Gates is so great, just that he had good opportunity, grabbed, selfishly, smilingly, what he could, what big old dinosaur companies were too stupid to protect, as if they had their bride.)

MacGowan, honest, is what he is, self-understanding, will live to a ripe old age.  He's allowed to be honest, to take a drink, to sing, as there is no point in singing, to live after the disastrous years of his heroin times, the times of what band mates describe as him being a total asshole, a complete jerk, as James Fearnley's portrait in Here Comes Everybody, one side of the story.

MacGowan factored in being real, being himself, and it had costs, but it was always part of being who he was, is.

And that is an honesty that Americans, being comedians, knowing life broad and large, need to learn.  There is the larger comedy, that of the honest failure, of the honest bad habit.  And those are failures, failings according-to-the-culture-at-large, to the corporate culture, of the culture subtly reinforced in many ways, economically, by the suggestion of homeland security surveillance.  Standing is the judgement of  the old culture of the local Irish musician,  being quite natural, a major attribute of real local human relationships and the most important relationship with the psyche, with the self, with all the educative powers within and without.  Real songs, real music, real people, real human habits of real human interest, and we will tend to live, not be embalmed in fakeness, not to be caught in the amber of staid corporate culture's inhibitions intellectual and otherwise, but be original again, real against the Nazisms of our days.

Shane MacGowan, unneatly, lives on, singing freshly A Rainy Night in Soho somewhere in Japan.

Mr. Williams' characters, like he did himself on occasion, longed to sing, and did sing.

But then, I don't know, MacGowan looks like he's using something in Hyde Park, not good...

Monday, August 11, 2014

I guess I had some vague sense of what I wanted, having gathered it up on that fine old New England college campus, a sense that America, the democratic beast needed fine literature.  I suppose I made some connection, while listening to a double album of JFK speeches in the music library through headphones looking out the window at night.  I connected that with that feeling I got in Benjamin DeMott's English 11 classroom the first semester of my freshman year, reinforced by a talk he gave, remarks at a dinner.

There is the moment of redemption in Karamazov, the youngest brother Alyosha bringing a kind of redemption to the smart school kid.  His little group has had a little difference with a particular kid, a sickly towhead who has a great love for his father, such that when they taunt him over his dad, rocks are thrown, etc.  The redemption comes at the sickly kid's deathbed, over the finding of a stray dog that brings peace.  And Kolya, who's been a part of the juvenile taunts, can be freed, himself again, good feelings all around.

"I look forward to an America..." his speech at Amherst went.  Where fine old New England towns are preserved, where poetry is respected...

And so, with some vague idea, I went out into life.  I thought there should be some WPA-like service, a clearing house of ideas, a place where writers could write, paid for their work fairly by a system of government that found forms of creative writing just as important to an informed public as the news, keeping Americans thinking, keeping them open and alive to possibilities such as those written about by Dostoevsky.

FMD may well himself have sensed, knowing from within, that schoolboy's need for redemption.  A nervous man who'd seen a lot, been sent up to Siberia, may well have felt like he'd made a great mess out of life, having to resign himself to the strange work of writing, perhaps he imagined what his own redemption might look like, mirrored somehow in the quiet schoolboy "Hurrah for Karamazov," coming from his little chickens, as Alyosha is set with taking care of his older brother unjustly sent off to prison.  There is in it a glimpse, the vision of the writer as a teacher.  (And thus was the tradition of what is great literature, as if by happenstance and dumb luck, fluke really, reinforced.)

And there is, of course, a need for literature, not just deep in the personal souls of soulful Russian folk, but in America too, gleaming, new, but in some danger of the dark ignorance that rises into political forum.  Everyone is redeemable, everyone is fragile.   Larger questions need to be raised.  Earlier, thinking people were well-read, creatures of the Enlightenment, curious, building a nation.  They read.  And literature needs to be a backdrop of dialog, not just the economy and the bottom line, but what kind of graceful country we are attempting to create and let live in each of our small daily acts.

(Hitler, or course, did the opposite, making art into degeneracy, banishing thoughtful books like All Quiet on the Western Front from the propagandized public mind.  No place would he have had for Winesburg, Ohio or anything by Philip Roth, or Ernest Hemingway, or Fitzgerald, forget Twain, even anything Lincoln spoke.  FDR meanwhile, employed artists, largely to record, to create as they saw fit rather than subject them to a charge to make propaganda like the Nazi ideal.  Indeed, it took a great fellow, who knew that there is nothing to fear but fear itself, to get such a thing up and running, to not let the WPA artist effort get cooped by a faction...)

I can see the need for a writer to want redemption, to feel like there's a Civil War aftermath he wishes to clean up, yes, without malice and with charity.  They don't always do that in other places in the world.

The long weekend before the first therapy session:  what am I going to say, how crazy am I, just where do I stand, where do I begin.  Terrifying, really.  As if an original primal fear, necessary to the encounter in a fight for survival, the sighting of the wild beast in its place.  An agony of ticking clock and slow passing days, the wish to lay in bed, not wanting to face the process, whatever the process is.  It does not always pay to have an imaginative mind, the anxious over-sensitivity.  How not to lie, but speak the truth?  But at least recognizing, as all along in the psyche, a need for redemption.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The early stories of EH depict it, setting up camp, preparing food and coffee, the overall techniques of fishing.  Through them shows the issues of self-trust, the showing of knowing how to do something properly.  For an artist, an important issue.  "Can I leave the important tasks of basic feeding and caring for the creature to myself?  Can I trust my own senses, instincts, practicality, common sense, to live in good health?"

Okay.  Might not seem a big issue for you.  But for an artist, fine-tuning and even the basic choices are important, the trust of knowing what to go on, shepherding, following a process understood at a far more intuitive level than is put in common words.  There is self-trust, enjoyed in the mode.  But there are other voices, like a stern practical older sibling, always asking, "do you know what you are doing?' or "what are you doing?"  There are even parts of the artist's own brain and mind:  "Well, you messed X up, and Y up, and Agnes Von Kurowsky, and Z, so how can you trust yourself over this?"

The simple tasks are reassuring, grounding, a return to home where things are basic and taken care of.  And so Nick Adams opens a can of beans, makes pancakes, to enjoy a moment of satisfaction an artist might otherwise not be so certain of.

A Ken Burns documentary reveals how agonized Samuel Clemens would be over his choices, taking what were decisions of self-trust and making them the cosmic responsibility over life's tragedies, the death of a daughter to meningitis.  Revealed, how me might have thought about his work.  Arthur Miller comments on how Twain wrote as a depressive would write.  There is also the frequent self-questioning at the writer's core, the child questioning, making note of how his father dries his hair off vigorously with a towel after a bath.  That perhaps childish activity perhaps does not fit so well into the adult world, make a choice based on what you want, stand by it, stand up for it.  (There is the exquisite noticing of James Agee, in A Death in the Family, the father's shaving;  same in his share-cropper life piece.)  In self-conflicted moments, in a kind of bind, it's easy to freeze, sadly enough.  And this is why the relief a writer's friends bring him is a gift.

It's not by coincidence that Hamlet is an excessive noticing observer, a constant troubled self-questioner, either going through reality or imagining it all, never able to ground himself self-confidently until the final scene, which is one of action.  The other figure who stands out, Hamlet's father the king, in ghostly form, has been consigned to a place where he must redeem himself, "fasting in fires" 'til his horrible deeds and sins are purged away.  The meeting, the combining of the two is central to the play.  It's no coincidence that the dramatist writer spokesman is a nascent statesman, who will one day potentially bear the horrible decisions one has to make in such a role of power.  But that will be only when the young prince outgrows the diversions of Falstaffs, for then he will boldly fight and be willing to spill blood for common cause.  I can see how a room of instant friends of the bar might be a diversion, to take one's mind off of things, but of course it's better to be doing something healthy, along the lines of yoga and exercise, to find the strength within.

Driving back with my mother, a nervous passenger, herself a very good writer, down Route 81, through the truckers in the mountains, through the long gauntlet of Scranton Wilkes-Barre, approaching Harrisburg I found myself commenting on choices the writer's I knew had made.  (The road offers a glimpse into the psyche.)  They might well have been odd ones, inexplicable ones, seemingly immoral ones, Kerouac allowing his mother to work in a shoe factory while he, not working a job, wrote, or maybe the list of odd jobs he had kept in the years as a writer matured within him, (the final product being an attempt to show that through the work one wasn't such an idiot after all, despite all the risks.)  As anything that comes through the mind, the specifics I've forgotten.  My mother said to me, as we merged from one highway onto another, something like, "write that down;  write that down and that will make a book."

The Buddha held that knowledge, whatever we learn, is a process of remembering, of discovering what we already know within.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Writing is something that brings me pleasure, something that brings me relief.  In a way it might have appeared that part of my psyche had, if you will, gone underground  to express itself.  Was this the sense of having lost some sense of the dominant male side of the persona, that prompting a depressive reaction, a withdrawal, a retreat within, as if to work things out.  But it was part of my nature, I guess, my brain chemistry, to find the need for the subtlety of the mind that writing allows, the going into grey areas, the embrace of both sides of a thing.  It seemed to me that my own version of the human creature had a long underwater life, strange to the rest, communicating somehow through the silence of inner thought to no one in particular, a search for the lasting peace within which one must find.

Was it precipitated by not fighting one of those young Republican fools over a foolish matter, or wasn't it rather generated by discovering an even deeper love and respect for the written word in a classroom freshman year that set the wheels in motion.

I'm glad the Buddhist talks about the subtle mind, the one each of us possesses, found in the quiet of meditation.  By the light cast by the subtle mind I could see optimistically the benefit of Buddhist thought, and it pleased me.  If you're a writer maybe you're always looking for meaning, always searching, and to such ends that kind of thinking is satisfying, in the way the figure of Jesus is, understandably, to other people, the passive suffering that contains within it the great wisdom and the certain knowledge that the poor and the meek and the suffering and the mourning are happy salt of the earth.

And so the sort of beaten-down no longer dominant male swam on, writing, keeping his place clean as best he could, never amassing the funds necessary for dominance, almost someone on the dole, but for the work that kept him safe for the time being by showing up, a job that had its own underwater aspect to it.

Life I could not explain, beyond noting that it sometimes hurt, and that one was vaguely trying to develop into something through a daily struggle to get through either work or the lonesome quality of rest and the necessary day off.  I could honestly make no pretense that I was much beyond a person trying to be kind in a world in which that is not enough.  It's not enough to be kind if you can't pay the rent, and that would sap anybody's nerves.

But there was my journey, my innate navigating system subtly at work, and it was as if the world kept telling me it was okay, a good thing, to keep writing.  It was as if I were working on a basic human problem, only dimly aware of its nature, facing it with personal experience, in pursuit of some kind of science or poetry pertaining to it.

In writing, you find you almost have to leave conscious thoughts aside, being that they are necessarily too much of the dualistic way of looking at things.  Writing must be like the shoot that grows up from the bottom, through the water, to become in the air the blossom.  Thus are the conscious thoughts from a realm of pressure and weight, a need for air and light.  The thoughts above, now that they are written down, will be tossed away, a necessary friction against the  deeper peace of calm and meditation.
If you're feeling out of sort, go for a walk.

He walked slowly up Massachusetts Avenue, feeling vague desires and appetites, stopping to watch a female cockroach rise up like a hovercraft and run, and then sink down and rest for a moment, til finding shelter between an edge of pavement and the curb.  The night was alive.  Past the mosque, along the first railings of the bridge the weeds and ivy seemed to spill out of the park's forest with the road and the stream below.  He listened to the sounds of night, the cicadas chatter and the cricket's bowing their strings in one long note, the sleepy birds.  One growing over the sidewalk over the treated wood guardrail looked like a form of something rosemary-like, but upright, and with only a hint of fragrance when he rubbed his hand up its stalk.  The traffic slipped by here and there, a cop car with a black lady cop in front of the mosque.  Past St. Jerome he had walked, just to move his muscles, having absorbed as much of a Buñuel film with Jeanne Moreau as he could without it pressing deeper into his psyche about who and what he was.  He would walk up past the Nelson Mandela statue, up to the Khalil Gibran little park with its fountain and the mosque-like star aligned to the east across from the British Embassy, up above the cantilevered cube of the Brazilian Embassy.

It was nicer when it was still dark out, he thought, as it grew light out.  Back across the bridge suspended over the forest with the ivy and kudzu weed spilling out of it, he felt like he could have been in India for all he knew for its foreign wild weedy jungle.  But the sky reminded him that he was in the Mid-Atlantic, walking along Embassy Row.  In the daylight, though the birds had come out further, one with a plaintive cry he called back to in a holly tree, again a peep of the plaintive cry in a  single note, it grew quieter, and the sound of dump trucks thumping across the hollows of the wide street wasn't as pretty as the distant call of the train whistle huff he'd heard earlier back when it was dark out.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Now how am I going to explain this to people," the Buddha said to himself, after Enlightenment, after achieving an understanding of everything through long pursuit of self-evident formulation.  "Should I bother;  is it possible?"  But Vishnu came to him and told him that he must teach his wisdom to humanity.  And so he began, though he failed with his very first subject.  He persisted, with stunning results.  But no wonder the years after the Buddha were open to other teachers, like the Jesus who taught the same wisdom in a way more accessible to other peoples.

How am I going to explain... the nature of love, of being, of why we are who we are, all the big questions, of what to do, generally answered, but in an entirely unconventional way.  Important work, so that the sick and the deluded don't take the helm and lead everyone else, like the herd of pigs led by demons.  How to clean the tarnished human psyche bright again so that individual people have something clear to relate to?  What is our inheritance in this human form that gives us our work to do in the world?  How to get around that nagging question, 'what gives you the right to think you know all these things, what credential do you have to present what you call truth,' that age-old question Dostoevsky snuck into The Brothers Karamazov with The Grand Inquisitor scene, the same question posed by Mara and his devils to the calm Buddha sitting under the fig tree, to which Buddha responds by touching the ground with his right hand, thereby to say, I have a right to this spot of Earth, as the Earth is with me.

How do you take the totality of experienced experience and all the things you feel in your own heart, how do you make sense of them, to make each parcel fit into a larger picture?  What do you have to go on?  How do you make yourself feel better about how you've engaged in the world, or are all such thoughts just an attempt to rationalize all the personal mistakes you have made?

'But what is a writer, or a thinker, or a Buddha anyway,' a bullying voice asks?  'Shouldn't you see it all as a matter of simply getting on with your life, growing up, making choices and then abiding by them, as we all must?   No more of this "I don't feel like it," because that is not an option, isn't it.'

To which the Buddha may have responded, by saying but there is for us a full life to lead as Buddhas, as people of a Sangha community, lay and cleric.   There simply are Buddhist facts of life, and people are different parts, different extents, differently capable of them.   And to line yourself up with them, in your own way, is to not buy into some illusion, not to throw yourself at something that looks attractive to the part of the mind that blows things up out of proportion.  Align yourself with the understanding of suffering and aging and dying that we all must go through.  As if we were born dead already, strange as that might seem.

"My particular thoughts are meant to serve as a raft, to cross the river and get to the other side, whatever that itself means, merely a metaphor."   Thus the development, appropriately, of the Zen style Buddhist thought.

My neighbor Madam Korbonski approved of my writing efforts, I don't know why exactly.  But she proclaimed, from reading my book, that I was, as if with certainty, a writer.  She told me she was reminded of the times when her husband engaged in writing down the histories of the Warsaw Underground with her help.  "Tadzio," she told me, more than once, "never go see a shrink.  Never."

Steadily doing yoga and meditating, yes, you improve your life, bit by bit.

Example:  The Buddhist receives quantum theory with a previous understanding of the atomic model as the very picture of the mind, the jumping proton energy of conscious thoughts zipping, as if to flee sometimes, from the quiet neutral center.  Atomic energy is the energy of thought, of thinking itself, of consciousness.  The Buddhist takes the science accomplished and uses it as a way to teach people how to engage in an intelligent life, rather than taking that science and exploiting it for practical uses and the bomb, as that would not be an appropriate way to use that energy.  To the Buddhist it would be wrong to take the energy of consciousness to craft out of it a kind of 'dumb beast' that has no mind.  Thus are nuclear bombs and power plants things we cannot always control, with very powerful consequences.  We are haunted now by what could happen, having created a force that cannot think, that has no conscious, no self-control, no self-question.

The same might be said of creating machines that are a model of the brain with all its circuitry, synapsis, cells.  The machine will think for us, but in a dumb unconscious way and we will take it as our equal for its powerful computations.  A brain with no guidance, no soul, no morality, no fine humanity to it, a brain that just talks a lot at us, ultimately disturbing us with its nonsense if we allow it to.  And look now at how susceptible to being disturbed we are because of some statistical calculation of a numerical interest in a "Britney Spears" statistically created persona (I mean, give her some credit for being a person, which is not easy.)  Our own minds we greatly abuse trying to keep up with the genie of the computer's ones and zeroes.  And if we were to say anything differing from the style of message that the computer imposes upon people by constantly asking us yes or no, salesman-like, we might run the risk of being perceived as weird;  who is the individual to differ with the great brain that has sorted everything out (fed by strictly economic thinking and the ends of business profit, and advertising in general.)  The brain machine itself will determine who is insignificant through its own logic.  Likes, dislikes.  The machine can not make the simplest of decisions, as a human being must, but it can express disembodied wills, desires and tastes and impose them through its majorities.

Wars are fought now over energy.  Hitler wanted oil to keep going, and so the advance that became the Battle of the Bulge.  Religious factions kill each other for it.  Nations go to military action over it, point fingers at each other, making up reasons.   And all the while there is the natural source of sunlight, measured out in the hours, staring us in the face.  But instead, we think we've mastered everything, though we did not create the world, but simply live in it, yes, live in it.  Take sweet sunlight, live naturally, the Buddhist would say.

And now are we seeing the beginning of wars over the computer brains we have created and trust with everything?

Yes, 'do something, do something.'  Most times it is simply better not to do anything, as then you are not reacting to something cooked up in your own mind, a perception not necessarily in keeping with reality.  Isn't enough to have human form and to have a beautiful mind?

"Does it seem that you are caught in a perpetual double bind, like, everywhere you go?  Yo do 'this' to please and satisfy one set of faction and need, but it leaves you agonized?  Is this familiar?  Or is it not the human condition in most areas?

"You take up a job to support your personal expression and the job turns out to be one of both good and evil.  You take up study of a substance that sustains a social life, but that substance also is one of both good and evil, good health and bad health.  And you found out that even the writing you took to be your work was also work of both good and evil, in many ways.

"So where do you put everything?  Where are the slots, the definable neat places for such things, 'that's over here, this goes over there?'  How do you escape the jumble of the mind to see clearly, to have an overview of where everyone is standing?  How to feel not the combination of good and bad in everything, but to find a good pure healthy thing that suits you?"

Duality, duality, duality.  Dualistic thinking.  Clear the mind.  Meditate.  Be thou a part of that which is.  Stop bleeding inside.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Along the same lines of yoga to protect the selfless self I created a refuge for the selfless idiot in the modern city, who are you, what do you do, who do you know, Washington, DC.   Sometimes that's the best the race can do, create a refuge for something, to at least preserve it, in some corner of reality while we wait for things to happen, hoping that nature will be saved in a healthy way.

The job of tending a bar had a lot of side costs to it.  A lifestyle with its share of dark thoughts.  The sense of having nothing to look forward to, earned by slacking off and taking the easy way out for so long...  The psyche took a constant knock: 'this is all you can do?'  There was a lot of alone time involved, unhealthy lonesome hours afterward.  The fear of letting one thing go slack, the bike ride, the yoga, or covering shifts for another, and everything falling apart.  It was hard, nearly impossible to avoid the wine after making it heartily look good for everyone.  The first glass led to a bottle.  Even over time, a good few hours, it would ease the pain, but all the while not making you feel very good.  There was something to the job quite opposite to the kind of Buddhist yoga thing I wanted to further explore as a means of salvation.   Yes, the food had real nutritional value, the wine medicinal, but this wasn't exercise we were selling.  Social exercise, yes, the necessary meeting place, the spar of wits, the exchange of information, all important in a society, but I was left out of that.  And when I wasn't working, I had things and myself to take care of.  Rare was the social event for me, for a person, good at such a job, who obviously appreciates social things.

It was as if I constructed a great illusion, and then everyone, one by one, got up and left and my legs were very tired.  It was also jarring work sometimes, the constant unpredictability of it.  And partly to get rid of people would I say, yeah, yeah, sure, we'll meet out sometime and have a drink.

My own thirsts, this was a cause of self-disappointment too.  I participated in that all too easily.  And it wasn't the real me, more the me just trying to get by.  Trying to get by, though, while necessary, is not the way to live a real life.  And even as I write, at this late hour of three AM, on a night we were called off because of a power transformer blowing across the street from "The Dying Gaul,"I am getting a little thirsty.  One shift back, the night before, and already I'm thrown off.  Reacting, rather than acting.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I found that yoga helped me respect and care for the energies within.  Yoga is a necessary counterpart to the Buddhist reality of selflessness.  Yoga provides a way to protect the self which is selfless, through the observation of the body's deeper realities.  For as we all know, if you do not protect the self in some way, you'll fall into other people's agendas and supposedly good times.  The nice person might put himself last, and there are problems with that set-up, because not everyone is as selfless.  If you do yoga, you know the energy within, something to care for, nurture, treat well.  The energies are mental, creative, athletic, sexual, graceful, full of insight, found while meditating with a clear mind, necessary to living life in the world.

Without that protective centeredness, I know, amazingly stupid things can happen.  Years can be wasted.  Relationships missed.  Growth stunted.  Things that happen when your own inner energies are scattered, distracted, occupied, co-opted.

The writer works from a kind of selflessness.  There is no competition in writing, no me, no "I did this!"  Hemingway's comparing of it to a prize fight, going round for round with the greats, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, etc., has the bluster of a ludicrous joke.  A writer must read, as anyone must have a mind composed most largely of other people's thoughts, the traditions of wisdom.  A writer has no real sense of ownership, but of a lucky simple flow, a comfort with the simplicity of writing, a kind of courage to just do it, rather than hiding from the thoughts that must pass through the mind, taking them on, the process, comparable to digestion, natural, necessary, self-defense, nourishing, somehow profoundly satisfying.  You must take time to do it, which entails finding the present moment, taking a chunk of time out of the structure of a day, fitting it in along with exercise, yoga, housekeeping, work.  It may well be the social life that takes a hit.  But when you do it, you are participating in something, and that something is ultimately social.  There is the great democracy of reader and writer, writer and reader, interchanging, equal, somewhat different, a cooperation, a hope for simple useful truths, good in the everyday world.  Emily Dickinson was such an achiever.  Lincoln too, as he was called upon.

I find a form of refuge out on the bike in the park, the roads through the trees, the light, the rolling landscape.  The long miles bring a kind of anonymity, a relief from the heaviness of a self to protect.  I was never good at self-protection anyway, not a desirable quality in a mate, it would seem.  I wanted the worldly world to be kinder than it was, and so I needed my rides.  I put in my efforts and they make me feel good, and then I would take that home and meditate upon the benefits and the nature I'd experienced along the way.  It was never about competition, but about learning what the body could do.  One pass down Beech Drive, followed by another, experiments with gear and cadence, reading how fast I was going on the little cycling computer on the handlebars, different positioning, breathing, it is all good exercise.  And maybe, yes, you have to make a choice, sacrifice catching up with your good old friends.  Maybe you're chewing on something anyway, a work problem, a transition, a need to stand up for the inner energies of your selfless self.  The fresh air does you good.

The bike rides give me ballast to take care of the writer, to put aside all the other voices, particularly the go out and have a drink and be social stuff, I'm afraid.  The worst thing for a writer is to not be making any headway.

The things you write, from the deeper inspirations, may look awkward to you, or look like maybe you were reaching for too much.  But often times, they turn about to be correct and true, an interesting insight, something that needed to be said, synthesized out of all the other wisdom you may run across.