Birthdays celebrations are, from a certain point of view, egotistical. This is the part of them that does not work, the focus on the conception of a solid fixed self imposed upon an ever-changing individual. Grasping at a narrative, presented on the positive side of dualistic concepts, illusions are celebrated. And then, for honesty's sake, as if to compensate, they must be let go, swept away. Obligingly, you go through it.
You try to be a decent person, a nice guy, but that doesn't readily translate into the world's business. The core of a person is as much an unemployable loser as anything else, not about the gains out there to be had in city life, in my experience. The core survives. You have your friends.
And after the intensity of being focused on, after all the commensurate reflections, after birthdays I have a hunger to read the Gospels. Its pages offer a vision of an ultimate arbiter of whether or not you've strived to be good and true.
An article in The New York Times presents the conclusions of recent studies related to personal writing, reaching toward the essence of the mental act toward an understanding narrative.
Writing Your Way to Happiness
By TARA PARKER-POPE JANUARY 19, 2015 5:30 PM
Writing Your Way to Happiness
People write out their narratives. By reaching deeper the narratives expand and change. A fresh story emerges, and so by consequence do situations change. Struggling students get better at it. People get healthier. People process and move onward. They begin to understand their underlying values in a better way.
A person finds they might enjoy exercise in a different way than earlier conceptions. They might find the simple act of walking out in nature and letting the mind free to wander (away from technology and urban noise) more what they were after than the strenuous run in the gym.
This may be the very thing that makes writing interesting enough to engage in on up to the highest literary practitioner, a Hemingway, always adjusting his stories, writing, but also processing what he goes through in life. Shakespeare's personal favorite, Hamlet, by a process very similar to writing, prepares to "take arms against a sea of troubles," easing his way toward the moral judgments he has to make, given what he senses. Twain is all about working his way toward moral conceptualizations of the kind his times were not so aware of.
Something has to make writing organically interesting enough a thing to do on a daily basis. Something tangible has to occur, some fruit of progress or grain of harvest, some chemical easing of the mind and body. Or else people wouldn't do it. That's close to the essence of it.
Is such a process cleverly hidden down in the foundation depths of The Gospel's stories themselves? Do they reveal a place, a center where decisions are themselves made, that particular place where we turn the other cheek and render unto Caesar and catch bigger fish and identify with the meek and the mournful, which then shapes outer actions seen on the surface events of life, mysteriously rooted as such actions are, often quite obscure? Did Gospel stories somehow activate themselves and drill down into our psyches and our value systems, as if on their own?
Why do we have emotional lives, take sorrow over events long past, as in blank attempt to find the obscure roots of values, to find in the same place the cause of our mistakes and also the forgiveness of them? Why is writing a lot to go through on a given day? Why do some people turn into J.D. Salinger, or embrace, like Peter Matthiessen the practice of Zen Buddhism? Why do we act at times against our own self-interest, to make at cost a kind of moral point obscure to even ourselves, such that we are compelled to ruminate and write about such things?
And yet, as the article and its underlying research studies point out, clearly writing works. Reading the Gospels, reading Shakespeare, reading a poem, clearly works, even when it's not our own writing.
Then oddly, or not, does a person become, more fully, the writer of the words, as if it were the primary place, the most important way to be truthful, to interact, with and upon that surface or watery depth that is somehow apart of the things we do which are construed as daily action, the so-called "choices we make," thus calling for a reassessment, for a better understanding.
And so you write your daily piece, allowing it to mean whatever it might mean. Then you go for a walk, do some laundry, hopeful of something, remaining positive about the experiment of life. Is it a good day, or a bad day, when you write? Does writing change anything? Does it help you understand the things you truly value, the things you're doing wrong? Does the writing come out, as it so often seems to, initially as crap, stuff your nervous about, and yet when you read it later there's a mind at work, and it's okay to say what you believe in, or say what's troubling you, or what the issue might be.
Still feeling tired from the week, I step out on the back porch as the light fades west and up into the clouds. To feel less overwhelmed by the vastness of things of the world I see a distant airplane with its vapor trail looking as it moves easterly forward like a waterskier. There are crows high in the elm trees' crowns, adjusting themselves, one moving, then another, as if like checkers or chess. It is from the deeper obscure mind, the subtle mind, where the initially off-hand but then meaningful utterances of Jesus come from. The sparrows. In some versions, the ravens. Neither do they reap, nor do they sow. The saying seems to me to speak of some calmness, some peace of mind, a creative artistic statement in its own right, as if to make the completion of arriving at that point of deeper mind where our values truly lie. Yes, I am in touch with my values, the crows seem to be saying in unison in the golden tree tops.
Does the great calm of Jesus of the Gospels reflect an act of reaching through a troubled outer surface to find, after grappling, the center at peace? Is he suggesting that there is necessarily the troubling outer surface that is the plain we live out life, that what you have to deal and cope with is within?
It is no joy to write, anymore than it was for Hamlet to soliloquize. But the benefits are reaped, after the work is done.
A dream: my therapist's office has relocated into a downtown office building. photo id required. a government agency, like homeland security. I walk past an urban scene more urban than DC actually is. I pass a garage, part of a movie studio, where period motorcars idle, waiting for their scenes, Cadillacs from the early '70s, staff cars. one has to behave in the building where her new office is. everything gets reported. she is still unpacking, setting up her office. i go to the cafeteria food court area to wait. someone else gets me into trouble. I am detained. they know who I am. a different type, individual. they know I sing Pogues songs late at night out in the street. They want to train me as a killer. But I am in therapy, I say. We are too, the guy smiles.