Friday, October 30, 2015

"What an interesting job you have," people would tell me, "lots to write about."  And yet I never really had much the impulse.  It wouldn't have been appropriate anyway, and when I realized that, I felt better about my boredom and what I'd perceived as my own laziness.   It was a great flaw to find within, though, if you thought of yourself as a novelist.

What I suppose interested me and caught my eye was the human condition, that sway between the egos and the knowledge of illusion.  It was more interesting to me that when it came down to it, maybe there wasn't so much 'self' as one might have imagined.  This was heavy news to take, but the valuable upswing was that it made the myth come alive, seeing, for example, the presence of a Jesus of Nazareth caught not in ancient history but alive and present in the reality of the world.

I didn't mind the night shift, that place and time where people unburdened themselves a bit, relaxed, took a breath, admitted their concerns.  That was the stuff that brought out the importance of my own perceived deeper task, the truth of my own 'work.'

That was the book I wanted to write, a book about healing the hurt that comes with having to subscribe to the world of an important ego, an overrated self-importance, knowing that first hand.  When I clung to the earlier mode of writing, of believing I would increase my workman writer skills describing the people I saw, it never went anywhere.  Or, rather, if a nugget might emerge from out of it, that was directly related to the spiritual questions, to the presence of something beyond the normal, moving to embrace the mythic.

Myths might be for children and crazy people, unrealistic people, it might seem in the common cultural belief.  But I would politely disagree, holding them as necessary medicine to guide us through our days, giving us that rare sense of purpose.

It takes sometimes a good fairy tale, like that of the Beatitudes, to let one realize life.  It takes that transformation of seeing through the things of the solid fixed self that turns out to be less important than one might have thought.

What do you do, then, with that knowledge?  Well, I suppose you transform yourself.  You transform yourself as a writer, and that perhaps is the kind of writer you always wanted to be, a wise one, if nothing else.  A wise writer wouldn't pick on people's faults and sins, because he must sigh and realize that they are his own and that he is responsible for such and must only mirror the divine love for a flawed 'sinful' being.   Dostoevsky for all his brilliant powers at sketching people, this was for him what it all came down to, a small chapter in a long book, about a monk, echoing an older wisdom  about the nature of the human being in the world.

So it is that the earlier writings are almost a cause of embarrassment, childish, foolish ramblings, another outburst of the illusory self-important self.  The soul is tamer and more enduring than that, above such complaints.  It would value 'a putting away of childish things.'

Some of us go to monasteries and divinity schools, and some of us, as Dostoevsky put it, after a life of it, 'sojourn in the world.'  Is the artist in a similar pursuit, through art realizing the same transformative and seemingly radical viewpoint?  But then what is there to make art about?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

When things are clear as mud and the future uncertain, I find a book off my father's shelf.  Alan Watts' appropriately illustrated  "Myth and Ritual in Christianity", with its beautiful green cloth cover, fits the bill as the earth turns toward bare-treed November and the time to 'hold fast to the center.'  This is a book which emphasizes the Christian mythos in keeping with a Perennial Philosophy that people all around the world and in all time come up with in the forms of myth.  There is an emphasis not on the Greek, Roman, Western system of thought, of history and theological classifications and metaphysics that aren't all that metaphysical.  Our methods bring the problems of God and mystery down to our own egotistical frame of mind.   But here, the emphasis, for Watts, is on poetry and myth, on understandings that live a lively life in the present moment without being weighted down with all that terminology of the modern professional life.  Let the poetry and myth of a good story stand as it is, without having to drag it into history and the dry thought of the news and the reaction to it.

If Ishmael, of Moby Dick, is feeling that cold grey November of the soul, he's probably not the only one.  And to the remedy, a good myth.  Melville took to the sea for a creative backdrop.  He let the sea and the people who made it their profession serve as an open meditation of many voices.  There's Ahab, trying to make sense of it all, not unlike the way we do living as adult professionals.  There is Queequeg, who is happy with his own little idols and myths.

Myths, they don't make it on to the daily news.  But there is one that's stuck with me since childhood.

The basics of it are this:  Dionysos is hanging out on some cliffs above the sea, and a ship of pirates goes by;  'he must be some rich prince, so let's take him hostage,' they say, which they do;  they bind their young prince to the mast, and he doesn't seem particularly bothered;  in fact, not long afterward strange things begin to happen on the ship;  grape vines grow, up the mast, and all throughout the rigging;  the young man is now unfettered, relaxed, his bindings evaporated;  and then it gets scary for the pirates;  water vessels turn to overflowing wine, and a lion appears on the ship;  all the while the old helmsman has been in disagreement with the pirates;  the pirates, terrified, jump into the ocean;  in a good treatment of their hardness and extremism, they are turned into porpoises, flesh once again turned to good purpose;  and just before the old helmsman is about to bow out, apologetically, the god Dionysos, having understood the old man's heart, commands him to hang out and stay awhile.  And I imagine that as the sailing day reached the dusk, they had some wine together.  They were content within their own transforming mythical poetic story, in time but out of time as we experience it through our senses and the historical account of the ego.

Wine was had, that day on the ship with the divine God and the reasonably humble helmsman, who, after all, was the helmsman, even if people are pirates sometimes, and worse.

I wonder if there's a better myth suited to the world right now and all its news stories.

Eric Asimov, of the New York Times  has been brilliant as always with what he does  His wine school is now tasting the wines of Gigondas, a favorite alternative to the old Pope's favorite.  He's reminded me, in his twelve essential wines piece, of the value of a Chianti in one's quiver.  (We agree on the Beaujolais and the Macon white Burgandy chardonnays.)  And they are true middle of the road, middle of the palate reds to which no terms need be put upon.  They are light and dancing;  the fruit is balanced with the tactile experience, with that nascent source of all things grow, as if one could taste the acorn, the pine cone, the rocks and sediment where a small creature might be happy along the edge of a stream or down under the roots of a great tree, or where earth has been turned over to plant something anew and good, or, where the earth has received some form of its own history.

In what terms can we express the reality of life?  Sometimes, like wine, we need the leap of faith that is the truth wrapped in myth, perceived and understood at deeper levels of consciousness.

Oddly, exposure to myth allows us to comprehend the truth of another person.  With a head full of Cuchulains and Quixotes, gods who mingle intimately with shepherds and shepherdesses, we get the human psyche.  From our visions emerge the clean person standing there before you, unbound, unpacked from that which is imposed.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Let's see... busy night.  3 top, 2 top, 2 top, followed by 3 top on 60 in the wine room, then a 4 out front on 54, a three on 52, bar,      Then a 6 top, and then a 9 top back in the room, 2 2 tops at the bar, a gal from Australia.

I hit the Safeway after work.  Sliced turkey breast, pre-made grass-fed beef burger patties, ezekial english muffins, biotene toothpaste.  My back is feeling better now that I'm up and at my shift, and now it's after my shift.  They're washing floors, the aisles are jammed with restocking carts and plastic crates, plastic wrapped items in their boxes.  I'm on my way home after a busy Saturday night.

Bread Soda, I drop in, have one glass of wine, sit outside on a high stool, call it a night, Zee Burger, cab, talk with a best college bud when I get in.

In such a job you fall into a rhythm.  And it's not bad, because it can fit in with what Alan Watts puts into terms in Myth and Ritual in Christianity, with, say a modest reading of the sermons of Jesus brought down to earth.  Thus did I set out to be a kind of spiritual counselor, if I were to follow through with my deeper values.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

It's clear in Dostoevsky.  The writer's task to inhabit that mysterious blank space of the collective subconscious.  To inhabit, and through that, find the dreams and myths that occur spontaneously, the collective of good mental health.  One has to go through that territory, of the common experiences, the dreamer's dreams, the not-wanting-to-get-up-out-of-bed, the Monday morning, of the common things of heartbreak, to find the right perspective to find the myths of good health, of finding the true person within to base a life upon.  The territory, the tale, it has its ultimate purpose, its way of sorting things out.

Perhaps it is not the point, as much, the events of the laboratory, but the myths themselves.  The laboratory must be shown, dramatized, to show the fullness of the myth, its iceberg depths, but it's the result that are important.  The Christian myth has that succinctness.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Well, of course, take Dostoevsky...  Of course a writer is going to appear as a bit of an odd bird.  Of course the expansions and contractions of life's seasons will lead him to a particular set of material, a seriousness.  He'll come upon the things that need, or that already have their own form, at least when the statement has the pithiness it calls for.  Dostoevsky slips it into the middle of the Karamazov murder tale, lessons of the Elder Father Zosima, the life of the Russian monk.  Such a clean pure statement it overwhelms us with its simplicity and its power.  Where did he dream up the potential of the story, the elements balanced...  It had to come from his heart, on top of visiting the monastery, etc.

When you're doing that work it makes sense from psychological readings that the demons come out, when you're putting an end to a status quo of rehashing the same material and moving on to the deeper meaning, the deeper value.

My tale of a young writer, it could be squeezed in to fit within the grander more mature design of a consideration of God's love for the sinful, and this is the story he has to tell, even if he wishes it had all gone smoother the first time around and that he hadn't been so self-defeating, so shy, such a fool before one incarnation of that love for him.  This speaks of the sin of life, of turning away, or missing, or misinterpreting, or not having the faith and the belief to keep one calm even though one walks through the shadow of the valley of death.  He was able to carry that love for another being in his own flawed way, and his flaws, of course, make him real to the reader.  There's room for lots of different interpretations, nuances, instances, examples, but under them all a steady flow.

The love only gets there, only reaches its destination, I have to wonder, when it matures or rather transforms into something greater and deeper, more a thing worthy of the words of Paul.   There's reason to be happy about that, to find joy in that, vulnerable thing though it may be, to the extent that a human being can handle or carry such or maintain a daily working understanding of it.   Mature love does not want for anything, does not ask for anything, and in an odd way it has its roots all the way back during the period of a young man's errors, the misinterpreted unselfishness, the passivity, the lack of aggressive action.  The point is, one should always be a peacemaker.  And peacemaking can only come through the deeper understanding, the forgiveness, if you will.

But yes, what does redemption look like?  What does it come as?  Does it feel like the joyful relief of sex or a good bowel movement?  Does it come in the form of a new job, or new recognition, some Job-like return to the original bountiful order of things?  Does it come in monetary form, a new paycheck from a new benefactor?  Does the Princess come back into your life, thinking out loud.  Or does it not just finally come as a form of inner peace and satisfaction, that life really is more beautiful, that the human soul itself is really far more beautiful than you might have thought, that it could endure things you wouldn't want to befall you.

Writers are still drawing lessons and interpreting from the Bible and the Gospels and all that.  They come upon the things that dumbfound them, that take a lot of rest and quiet and meditation to see, the salt of life experience on top of that.  Things that might make you shudder or tremble, or say, 'no, no, who am I, a sinful man, I am not worthy to carry the light and the way, leave me be,' but still called upon by this man The Son, Jesus, his lesson.  What can you say to people?  What can you tell them?  How do you attempt to hold on to such things throughout the day?   A meaningful poetic fiction of the highest order, and yet, true because of its beauty and its beauty as a theory.

That's the credential, I suppose, you finally earn.   Some poor human interpretation here on earth.  Maybe overstepping itself.  But truly one's own being, the honest thing within.

Yeah, I was a weird bird, I picked out this house to live on a hill when it would have been much more convenient and happier and funner and friendlier down in the dorms on campus.  Some romantic notion, I suppose, that I had no idea how it would turn out.  I started on a path.  I might not have even needed to take it, just done it all right and happily and socially, normally, the first time around.  But, alas, perhaps self-defeating, perhaps prone to some negativity, I didn't.   And I am repenting now, in my own quiet way.  At least to myself and the powers that be above us.  A sinful man, called upon to tell the truth.

I suppose there's that element in Karamazov, something to the effect that one carries on, like Alyosha, that there will be sorrow suffering, but that you'll make the world a better place, as the old saying goes.  The odd bird who doesn't quite know what to do with himself, who's option is to maintain a kind of quiet monkish habit after trying to engage with the world on its own terms.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sketch, from The Dying Gaul, a Sunday night in mid-October:

It's a nice modest little seat to watch history from, the little bar.  The end of the night the Norman man of the Breton woman who works with us now comes to pick her up, and Jean Mark shares with us tales of DC restaurants going back to the early '70s back when you were a tux and made good money.  The legendary Cantina D'Italia, down by M and 20th, run by a crazy old little Italian guy who liked his pleasures, closed on weekends, paid vacation, closed for Christmas, the good old days.  Stories of Kissinger, accompanied by 'the giraffe,' in need of being educated on tipping, Sinatra, snapping his fingers, but at the end of the night a good pal offering the key to his New York penthouse, after $4000 of caviar at Chez Jacqueline.   He has long gray hair, pulled back, a white blue striped pullover, an ancient's good taste in bracelet, a wooden beaded necklace revealing an understanding of old healing magic.  His photographs hung framed on the walls of the old Au Pied Du Cochon.   He is a strong man, with a strong skull and shoulders, whom one could imagine ancestral work by the sea.  American white wines are full of sulfites, and every bar has a pinot grigio, and because he does not eat meat, only fish, cheese too, he does not often drink reds, though he appreciates a good American red like a Montellana.  (sp?)   He too has the look of the Gaul from the statue, with a hint of olive in his healthy skin.

It's a busy night for a cold weather sunday when seasons change abruptly.  A Russian couple with a boy and a girl, seen previously, make their way into the back room at the first table, turning the lights on as they sit down, very pleasant people.  Snails, rosé, foie gras, then veal cheeks and the seafood special, monkfish medallion with mussel and lobster with a saffron mussel sauce and forbidden rice, green beans.  Two men sit for a glass of wine, just as the door has opened, having gone shoe shopping at Aldo.  They think their reservation is for downstairs.   Let them come, let them sit, it's good to be busy, even if the guy the night before did a lousy job of stocking up, leaving the old man (me) to lug up a case and a half of assorted soda, six packs of beer, on top of the usual dearth of back up wine to fix.

I remain feeling realigned.  I have the moral strength to get up to face the tedium of going down into the office building part of the city for a tedious therapy session, because I have found that which sustains, a sensibility that fits in with what the old monk in Karamazov is talking about, do not be afraid of  men's sin, because this is the highest form of God's love, as it is attuned to that of the Son.   Furthermore, take up the sins of men as being your own sins, and indeed they are.

Monday is a strange day.  The 11AM session, then back to work when the gears will be revved a good eight hours later, a sustained run of it for four more after it gets busy.   There needs to be a lull in there somewhere, the body tells you.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday afternoon.  I do not want to go back to work.

But once you are aligned, things line up.  Strange.  You read the chapters about the Russian monk in Karamazov, on the nature of humanity and sin and how that relates to creatures and children, happy, pure of heart, not to be disturbed.  Do not be afraid of the sinful, but take it upon yourself as a sinner that their faults are your own, and once you see that, that changes everything.

The world of people struggles with itself for a way to treat the environment.  Respect the world of nature as another living being, as it is comprised itself of creatures and animate objects with soul, or some form of soul, and the world of nature is well.  How do we live upon the earth?  Is that situation to a spiritual condition, one we are clearly nudged to see, except we like to blind to that and consume and consume, pave it, drive over it all, not walk through.  At least there could be a more respectful way, don't you think.  A way to scale back, to live as a human might if he too were some form of animal in nature.  Clear drinking water, creatures and crops to tend to for sustenance and satisfaction, villages with school houses...  It seems I didn't grow up in a town too far away from that, somehow, in another era.

But instead, the corporate model, short term profit, political power, money to move agendas seeking more profit.   Too obvious to state, too childish, too far too impractical, too ridiculous to be heard, and yet it speaks to the nature of the human spirit, speaks of the necessity of recognizing his status as the lone sinner in the world, in need of making amends and shuddering at himself and the shadow he casts.   His arrogance only grows, unfortunately.  If it's not this great thing he builds to solve a problem he, not recognizing his sin, he builds another.  On and on.

Oh, believe me, I too have lived as a selfish consumer, arrogant, pleasure-seeking, uncertain of my self.  It's hard not to, finding the pressure to succeed, but not always given the deeper picture of what that might be.  Mainstream benchmarks.  And it all makes one subtly depressed, always fighting...

You're supposed to be a man, right, and control things, make things happen, dominate, do battle.  You're a madman if you don't, lazy, a foolish idiot, a disappointment.  Got time on your hands?  Go do something big, go earn, spend.   Use pleasure as a guideline.  

But did we choose how we came into the world, to which parents in what situation, of what kind of temperament.

...  Ah, sins are almost laughable.  Mine are, were.  I had fine comedic talent for them.  I almost outdid myself, kind of like Dostoevsky gambling.  Brilliant timing.

And feeling shame, I did not want to admit.  Like Job, why did all this misery unending fall upon me? Here, Job presages the way of Jesus Christ, at least that's the hint I get.  Man, not being there when the foundations of the world were lain and set, does not realize--what an archaic statement it sounds like upon our modern ears--the nature of his sin.   God's restoration of Job resonates with what will come later...

I wrote it all out, as best I could, sort of like Job.  But failed to see the crucial bit of information.  When I got depressed, that was not seeing a way out of it.

And then, my frame of reference seemed to change.  I got aligned with that person I'd always been, sweet, gentle, peaceful, a friend of animals and nature, that kid who grew up in the country with woods around him, a healthy swamp with cattails, a brook running behind the house, four great seasons doing their thing, cows out in the fields, corn, pasture, places to cross country ski and pick berries.

Is that all a writer is, a country boy reminiscing...

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Any book that reaches people is a kind of children's book.  It has its appeal to the imagination.  It has to speak to the child within the adult.

For his own part, the writer must allow the same, have the child mindset enough to see the world not as an inanimate object, but a total living being inclusive of our own, therefore worthy of our highest respect, by which we see selfish behavior as a sin against the world.

This begins to account for Dostoevsky and his crowning accomplishments.  He understood children, he took notes from their conversations.  He presents everything clearly, as a child would, no bias.

A serious writer.
There was a strange sense of relief and accomplishment sending off the latest wine piece to the good local newspaper magazine.  The piece was my most 'blasphemous' yet, it almost seemed, and yet too, it was a fair piece, and one, I thought, with truth.  The piece had come together through whatever mysterious means there are for such things, and in a period of recuperation I didn't have much energy to raise questions or redo.  I had said what I wanted to say, given the moment, given the time, given the mood.  I felt liberated, and that is empowering.

I feel strange when I wake up the day of submission.  "This piece, I don't know..." I think.  "How can I get it done today?"  And I look at it, acknowledge that it's as done as it's going to be, tweak a few things, check the word count again, and again, make a proof-read run-through, always missing a thing or two, and knowing basically that the piece is whole.  Whether or not they will use it, one piece has led to the next and that has led to the most recent, leaving me again to see that I am stating what I want to say.

A piece about wine touches on my politics, my sense of the earth as a living thing to be treated with our personal individual respect, something corporations these days seem to have a hard time doing, being monsters of profit spending money to rig the system in their favor.  The night of sending the latest off I eat a rotisserie chicken and watch Thom Hartman's TV show The Big Picture, a segment on Reagan destroying the Middle Class, the fruition of all that.  I am a wage earner.  I've not seen an increase in wages since I started out here in Washington, D.C. back in 1988.  I didn't have money to go out to dinner then, and I do not now.

But I had to appreciate my own effort to develop as a person, to protect myself, to care for myself, to do what is right for me.  And so had I found a sort of small tail-wind reading the Gospels, Alan Watts, pondering Dostoevsky.  Buddhism was fine, but as a wise friend put it, kind of like trying to build a bridge piling on bottomless sand, no bedrock, nothing concrete, as good as it was for the mind.

What had I needed for the small turn-around that allowed me to reimagine my work, my self?   Could it have been the surgery, even though they dragged me back in three days afterward, surgery on a Wednesday, me pulling a busy Saturday night behind the bar, closing the place.  I was allowed a break, a new frame of reference that the current routine never seemed to allow, defining me as it did, imposing an iron rule on my life, as I suppose jobs tend to do.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

To read him is like encountering the wild elephant.  He was a nervous person.  Fits of epilepsy would not have helped.   He'd tend to rise at one in the afternoon, engage with his family and business, and then, at night, he would sit at his writing desk, the house and the city and the world quiet, asleep, and he would write.  He was capable of long paragraphs, of an oral history that still lived and could be transcribed, as if he'd listened to a world of story tellers and let himself remember each note.  The Karamazov chapters on the life of the Elder Zosima reveal the oral history, the sometimes dream-like fable, necessary to tell in explaining our human existence here on two feet with heads on our shoulders.

Take Alyosha leaving the monastery, after his dream.  Slow simple language, speaking of his touching the earth to rise and follow the terms of his elder, to go 'sojourn in the world.'

Where did he come up with it all?  How could one of us approach his achievement?
notes from a writer's sketchpad

It was as if therapy had gone its limit, and all it could do as far as spiritual help for me was offer yoga and meditation, ways to heighten consciousness, ways to control the 'monkey mind' and all its thoughts which are often largely negative and tiresome.

I needed more than that.  I needed a diagnosis of my spiritual condition.  The professionally certified practitioner seemed to be unable to go there, as much as her efforts were helpful.

I began to wonder, had I somehow rejected God's love, in its many forms, for whatever reason, prideful selfish arrogance, the sense of ego and being hurt, simple foolishness?  I sought out that love in the wrong places, or rather substitutes for it, not willingly, not by design, but by fault.  Did my own situation speak of the fault, the sin, within all humanity.

I wasn't performing more of an action than a reaction when I went out into the world on my own, a reaction to a particular failure of mine.

And yet, still, even for the sinful, who turn their backs on God's love incarnate, there is the redemption of his continuing love for us, still saving us, still healing us, despite our prodigal habits, our lostness in the seas, our Jonah-like guilt.  Maybe it's all to prove a point.

Dostoevsky, as Shakespeare before him, and Cervantes, was never afraid of handling subject that could easily be maudlin cliché, designs clearly set-up in order to have a self-serving excuse to write something.  But it becomes like the scientist running an experiment.  Maybe we all assumed the basics.  But we still need to investigate them.

But it's like, could you pick out any topic more obvious, more a pretentious claim to being great literature in a wanna-be kind of a way.  Examples, the preamble of Notes From the House of The Dead about a strange solitary writer figure that sets up the story, or even the basic premise of Karamazov, three brothers, a mad sensuous father who is murdered...

"Tale of Two Cities, yeah, come on, no more than potential for a sit-com..."

We look at all things with skepticism now.  Poets, saints, musical maestro genius, novelists...  What can you contribute to the new economy...

Dostoevsky foresees the horrors and evils of Communism, saw it all coming .

We can all seem to fail at relationships.   We get tripped up, reacting to a superficial dismissal where one has been accepted, the female part of the equation just waiting secretively.  Foolish things can happen, and yet even when all has gone wrong, when she goes off and marries the doctor and you're struggling and fallen low because of the stress and throw away so much of the opportunities that once stood before you, still, there is the charitable love as spoken of in Corinthians, remaining, enduring, even when it becomes superfluous, seemingly wasted, gone to naught.  It remains, because it is a love itself, because it is what it is, long-suffering, not vaunting itself up, a thing quite different from the banal.  A strange thing that one still has to make sense of in this world as far as its purpose.  Crucified and still, the love for us endures, even as we reject it, or take offense on our own for what we perceive and react to as rejection.

We are all early Christians caught in the current incarnation of empire.  Jesus did not fit in well, he was a 'screw-up' as far as the politics and the empire and the religious authorities of the day.  He could have shut up, but he didn't.  He could have blended in more, but he wouldn't.  It doesn't seem he was intentionally provocative, but yet he had his run-ins.

There has to be some physical law of human consciousness.  See and expect evil of the world and your fellow human and that is what you will get.  Seek profit, selfishly, and treat other peoples as enemy to your interest and you will perpetuate the opposite of peace.  But if one sees peace and good as a basic thing in your fellow human, your consciousness allows a cooperative environment to come forth.  The Cheney level of consciousness has its fruits in the world, but so does that of seemingly rank and file people who create peace around them.

Jesus did not judge.  He did not take the sinners as his enemies, nor attempt rule over them nor exploitation.  He accepted those people in to his company, forgiving of sins and faults and the bad decisions people make.  He saw the disappointment people can be, and to them still he offered peace and good will.  If they initially might have made a person nervous, he knew how to handle them, in almost default ways, if we were to attempt to relate.

What if he were to unleash his own real politics?  What if he came on the scene as a political thinker?   What would he reveal as public and foreign policy?  What would that true human being of peace and truth bring to the current table?  What would his psychology be for all those of us who mourn in our own ways?

It's there in the Gospels, to tease out.  It's there in the influence of the message going out into the world.

The world is full of well-meaning experts, with secular tactics for a world viewed secularly.  The world has conflicts arisen through secular behavior, through practical attempts to dominate a neighbor.

The universe is alive, responsive to our consciousness, our frames of mind, our mental attitudes.  The answers to its problems are not secular ones.  Secular efforts fall within the possibility of competition with those of others.

I didn't have much choice but to do what I have done, to be a local barman, a neighborhood place of peace and good will, hospitality, charitable attitude.  The work seemed to assuage certain sorenesses, and I when I looked up at a happy bar I saw the deeper level of my subconscious manifested outwardly.  And then, at the end of the night, I'd go home, tired, the duties of another day satisfied.

But still, at least you have to wonder, by more or less logic, that the Christian model is embedded within us.  If God is projected as Christ, and if Christ is substantiate in bread and wine, then there is something there to take in and to follow, to be, in some way, because this is who we are, that which is, and we a part of that which is in the final analysis.

How do we go about that?  How do we accept that, gracefully wear it?  It is an intellectual problem, a problem of action, a problem of morality.   And there is a great and impossible distance between what we would be able to do, even in our wild imaginations, and the things the master can do.  So great that it's almost silly to try, and really, where could you begin to look, but to just get on with your life and try not to be any odder than you already are.

Greatly nervous I wake up, on a day off, 'what to do,' I ask myself.  How to fit the post office errand, the Rite Aid, the whatever groceries you missed and back-up wine, and then the healthy things, and then, yes, how to keep the mind engaged with those things you had a chance to study in college, the poems of Yeats and Larkin, and then all the politic world to catch up with to formulate a better more informed than gut opinion...  It all seems impossible getting up, particularly the writing, because what point does writing have?  Better keep it simple, a walk in the woods, since you missed going to Mass, not that, not that you're any zealot, and why do people get offended so easily when you have a figure like Jesus to appreciate, not like you're trying to piss on anyone else's beliefs...

But still, you are the idiot when you wake up, and you have to shake that off and start doing things, whatever they are, running your fingers over a keyboard, the sun out, calling you, promising to help your abused body clock, and then, there might be others of your own species out there to see, that would help too, even as you're doing, or pretending to do, some work.

The pain medication for the scrotul surgery was helpful to calmly see the beauty of being alive, on top of surviving the operating table, being put out by anesthesia, for the removal of an epididymal mass, one that turned out to be almost a bit too close to the testicle for comfort, the surgeon's good judgment call, that put me in a Elder Zossima from Karamazov kind of a mood, and I'll stick with that until that too becomes just another phase in my own dirt that's not deep enough except through prayer.

I was on a roll a long time ago, tying prayer to literature.  Hemingway and his late works, all of them really, prayer, and does not he become the old man facing the sea and the big fish, the last bullfighting story...  Some kind of word made flesh, in the human animal way, not quite as high as one could strive, but an important explorative test of the physics, if you will, of it all.  He'd been through the wars, in synch with his time, of the clerics' treason, and maybe he couldn't help but be part of that technological battle for supremacy against the technology of other writers, like his imaginary boxing ring.  A better way to make plastics makes a better windshield, the economic dance.  Maybe he'd had too much existentialism seep into his ex-pat post Great War life, and you couldn't blame him for it, if he'd sort of wanted to do his work and then have his earthly pleasures.

Writing is a technology, to get to other thoughts than those that pop up in the news of the world.  It is the work of monkish people, some perhaps a tiny bit high on green tea.  And it's only appropriate that after writing the monk does not forget who he is, while still living.  A serious business, confusing sometimes, at times quite thoroughly distracted by things outer and inner, fits of nerves, tasks of the practical life.

The scary thing is the reliance on, the belief in, a process coming from a vaguely understood part of one's own consciousness, that reveals itself, often without the slightest clue beforehand, only by sitting down and engaging in that process which itself is strange and vague of specific purpose, the blank page to fill.  And each of us is left to do it in our own way, a way to control, as it were, a rebel mind full of ideas and memories, each asking for treatment.  A mystery in a logic-driven world, a mystical process, what can you do?

You'd almost want to jump up and run away from it, a fear of being singled out.  But you get strange blips of things that look like knowledge on the radar screen, and one of those blips is that Christ is useful for showing that which will play out in our own lives.  Fear not, though, no harm comes, just calm wisdom.  Yes, you'll learn a bit about being forsaken, or about being the odd bird, or about 'being poor,' but be reassured, as Christ is reassuring and of the highest form of intelligence we can know, that the path works.  You just need not be ashamed of it.  And perhaps you have to remind those who you share with that you aren't out to offend anyone or change another belief in the slightest way, because knowledge brings you a confidence in the direction the wind is blowing in, in the path we're on.  Things which prompt even Christ to say that the only one good, truly good, is He that sent The Son into the world.

It does make sense, though, that you'd end up bearing some difficulties, because of this stance, as a creative type, as a seeker, as a person attempting to find his own soul and the meaning of souls.  And if one takes up such practical tools tested over time, such as the Lord's Prayer, Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name, and if that seems to help, it's a matter of expedition, of getting something done, of 'being the ball' in life, as a waiter has to be the ball to get through a night expeditiously.

I wrote of sorrowful things once, as if looking for somewhere to place puzzlement or blame, but fortunately, I'd like to think, the good path of a seeker shines out even through the lumps of a college kid's life, showing that he is attuned to something, even if he's only allowed it in brief moments of private revery.  He does, after all, discover the power of prayer, not that he uses it perfectly, as if it were an infallible genie you could ask three wishes of.

Indeed, what does he use it for, what's his next chapter?  Where does he take it, this knowledge, this tool in life he thinks might be useful somehow?   The left hand does not know what the right is doing, this is very true.  But where does he take this sort of nuclear energy of being?  What should he do with it, where put it to the best use?  And who would have authority to give some sort of final answer to such questions?  How to interpret?  Does it leave you in need of entering the monastery, so as to find a place in the world;  but one is already in the world just as he is.

What else makes you calmer, than such explorations.

So where did my own writing prayers lead to, after I submitted myself to all the humble bar servitude I went and sought out?  Where did the quiet nascent sort of holy person who likes peace and nature and birds and trees and all creatures end up?   What outlets had he, and what support?

Too many times I succumbed to glossing over the awkwardness of standing before people and trying to figure out what to make of such a life taken as a whole by taking a drink, as if I had been implicated in the indulgence, responsible for it, the cause of it, to which I may have responded with being the drum major of the supposed benefits of wine.  I hope that was never the core of the activity, which I'd prefer to boil down into that basic spiritual encomium that it is better to serve than be served, who am I to demand the labor of another?

It was not easy to formulate such questionings out of the blue of American popular culture.  I fell to dullard tendencies I suppose, even if I tried not to.  Into blank spaces did I seem to fall, and no boss, no system of employment seemed to care very much beyond seeing that I attended to my duties, which I did well, well as I could, not sparing of energy, having a body that needs to move around at a good pace.  The system did not seem to care enough for such a unit of labor, but let him keep working until he drops such as he is and then take his Social Security benefit, "thank you for your years of service;  you had good rapport and retained many a customer."

"Brothers, do not be afraid of men's sin, for this likeness of God's love is the height of love on earth," I read in the notes about the Elder Zosima--drawn from the homilies of 7th century monk St. Isaac the Syrian, which the author had a copy of, according to the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation's notes --in Book VI of The Brothers Karamazov.  Is that what I've been up to these lost years?

And not only that, "take yourself up and make yourself responsible for man's sins," realize that you yourself are just as sinful.   You hadn't thought of that, had you.  What's a barman to do with that one?  That's the shocker, when you realize that you are as sinful as any, the only excuse being that this same burden falls upon everyone.  The best you can do is wake up to it.

Would that be a kind of late hour conversion, to the extent that such a thing would even be possible?  How else to manifest that, but by writing, but by attempting to be a shade righteous and good, by dusting off who you were as a child...

It all seems to start from the self-realization of my own faults, my own travesties, my own great mistakes, some of which seem barely forgivable, attributed only to someone in sinful lostness.  Never my intention, but these things happen, even trying to be on good behavior, the ego slipping in, clouding us over.

And if that's where the prayers of writing left me, and brought to me some seriousness, as Lady Korbonska recommended, than I can only begin now and try anew, and in that way uncover parts of the self one was too shy to admit to.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Days off.  It's as if I intend to put as much daylight as I can between time for my own work as I saw it and the bar.  I needed time, guarding it, not allowing myself time away from the creative task, almost an anti-social urge, balance after the intensity of work, space.

I needed the time to see, to interpret, to cleanse, to find my own thoughts again, free from having to please people and go along with the party.  It felt right to have quiet, to be awake while everyone else slept.

There are things to realize about ourselves, and this is why it's good to write, to leave a record, an account, a personal history of action, so that later, when wisdom has grown over.  Retrospection is then a good thing.  Then we are allowed to see a kind of unconscious saintliness about us, a spiritually informed kind of being, even if unaware of such qualities, except through the actions we take.

We connect these versions of ourselves with the things we learn, and if we take the Christian story fully we our own acts as how they might align.  And the main thing, given who we are and how we operate, is a sense of personality.  What do our own personalities, our own habits, our own quirks, our own passivity, show?  To what or whom do our actions and our style relate to?  How do we inhabit the Christian habit, how does it inhabit us?

This, being self-directed, self-reflexive, takes time and personal reflection, quiet, a break away from habits of popular time consumption and entertainment.

There comes then the ability to transform one's self, through observing the qualities observed within. A subtle power is released, a kind of splitting of the atom.  Transformation begins in the imagination, and this is why there is something sacred about writing and art done for the right reasons.

And this helps, over any daily choice between on the one side vanity and amusement and on the other  things that bring us a satisfaction commensurate with our spirit and a sense of seriousness.

That's why I kept at the creative endeavor so many years, even if it defied logic and practicality, for the discoveries and inspirations one receives in their own private chapel attuned to others as it must be.

The modern fear of Christianity...

Friday, October 9, 2015

The alignment is necessary.  It allows the senses to be honed, and that is the goal of any artist, any mind really, too see things fully, to see the reality before us.  Here are bees in number touching upon the yellow center of stands of purple flowers, equal clusters.    Notice each tree, the clouds in the sky, the green of early October in the mid-Atlantic.  The cathedral rises like a tiny model of itself complete in the distance.   This is a good place for me, not at all bad for a country boy who went through Amherst streets.

In retrospect I don't mind that I found within that artist willing to be as gentle as I was.  I was too sensitive, but it worked out in the sense that I'd found a professional calling that suited me.  I disguised the fact of being so, such a seemingly passive observer of life, but to be passive is to truly see and by seeing then understand some shape of why things are so in our reality here on earth.

The saint understands the visible, sees beauty, sees the appropriate perfection of the way things are just as they are.

I took a walk,  and drank in the life around me.  "My balls are in a sling, but all I want to do, is sing."

Thursday, October 8, 2015

It began to be strange how it all lined up.  It was never a conscious choice, to end up behind a bar as a bartender.  I got rid of a miserable job as a clerk so I could write in the day before I had to go bus tables at night.  And they called me up one day, hey, why don't you.  I was generally fairly sad back about a few things back then, so I said, sure, why not.  Better money than bussing.

It seems like blasphemy to talk about it, but that's what they accused him of, questioning him, isn't it.   'Who are you?  Behold a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber, who associates with publicans and sinners... " To which he has a response, central to his whole message, that he has come not for the healthy, but for the sick, for  those in need of a cure.

That gives me a little bit of perspective when I look up from the bar over my duties, shuffling plates and glasses around, pouring glasses of wine, my little notepad in my breast pocket with a pen for dinner orders, and watch people and see what they are up to...

You go along with it, the party atmosphere.  It's your job.  "Sure, let's have a bloody good time, while we're at it." There are pleasures of the flesh and we are made of flesh.  You can't divorce that from who we are, as social beings.

But when does it become excessive?  I'd wind up seeing it often enough, waiting on the loud guy who's almost drunk, talking his politics.  They spend money, buy another bottle of expensive wine to share with their friends, sure, it's within their rights.

But you sort of know that this wasn't really the point, the meaning of the job.  I'd go home and try to calm the nerves the way I saw everyone else doing it, not really ever getting to the root of the issue, the basic meaning of work, the meaning of life.  It's always a matter of interpreting the choices you've made.  If you're just going along with at all at face value, yes, you get home and drink several glasses of wine.  "You've earned it.  It helps you calm down.  It's good for your blood."

(The boss makes us work not just on Christmas Eve, as we've always done, but Christmas too.  For money, not for family, otherwise I whose talents come from family and sit-down dinners of long ago could sit down at eat at my brother's table with my old man and my niece and nephew.)

I adjusted myself in the chair, leaning back some, and looked at her.  I began a new angle.

If you're skeptical toward  your own faith, then I suppose others will mirror that.  No longer are we praying for each other, attempting to help each other.  "Fine, if you're going to be dismissive about it and Jesus rising in the garden on Easter morn, than I will be so as well."  I was the one who failed her, really, though it was never my intention.   I was the big let-down as far as the faith I'd want to have, falling in with bad companions, getting distracted or drunk, and then I'd be ashamed of myself. And thus it was that we never got to talk in the end, to have some closure, some satisfaction that I"d at least presented myself as for who I truly was and the things in my heart and all that.

I suffered from a lack of confidence, yes, confidence in my deep beliefs.  Because I was young, and unsure of myself, and those beliefs are a lot to take on, you know, when you've got a career to figure out on your plate...

Yes, in a rational age, who is going to believe that he has taken in the form of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all its truth?  Me?  Who am I?  I can't perform any miracles, I can't cure the sick, I don't spend time helping the poor.  Aren't I just a regular human stuck being human in a particular time and place so why not just get along, keep up, stay with the basic fashions and issues of the day, don't stand out of line being weird.

But there is that part of you, the reader who reads.  That's the significant part.  The part that understands everything.  A very sensitive part of a being, something you cannot lie to, that detects deeper things, that knows really how to wisely judge, even if that might not be all perfectly carried out, the observations, the making sense of them, 'til they beg for action.  Or a stand of some sort.

That's the weird thing, that you really do find yourself in the very same circumstances as the people of the Gospels.  At least imaginatively.  How about that?   Who wants to see that today?  It would be totally off-issue, incomprehensible almost, seemingly barely worth mention.

But there you are with this growing intuition.  For instance, being amongst the equivalent of publicans and sinners, clearly sometimes...

There is the subliminal worry, 'what if I carried through with it?'  Where would it take me?  To what craziness or idiocy or unemployable habits, and what would the reaction to it be on the part of authority and empire, your job, your health insurance.  On up the line.  Are you going to knock over of the money changer's tables in the temple one day, "my father's house you have made a den of thieves and wickedness..."  Will you be betrayed in the garden one night and meet the same end as before...  looking upon it all as a dream, not for the specifics, but to ponder the meaning of things.

And maybe, yes, therapy, a person to hear you out, that's all great.  You remind me to not let negative thoughts have their reign.  But might not psychology be as much a part of empire and that rational skeptical judgment, rather than the effort of find a sustaining truth in this world?  Or rather, one has to find his truth and then abide by it, the values-based action we've been discussing here.

I let down my values once upon a time.  I was a stupid kid.  I let myself get isolated, like, senior year or so, not living with my good buddies down in the dorms, but up on the hill.   But that was the past, and as you tell me, you know, no one's perfect, we all go through periods of whatever, wandering, experimentation, trying things out, or just bobbing along in the sea...  The thing is it's a process and "through the awful grace of God" you find wisdom, and with wisdom some direction.

I stomach them, the mighty drinking faces, all the talk and excitement...  And maybe I see in them the falseness, the pain caused by a secular society...  Have I've groveled before them too much already?

And yet, there is his example, associating with publicans and sinners.  He keeps company with them.  And not only that;  he calls them forth to join him, changing them, transforming them.

Well, I think most people I wait on would prefer their current occupation and their big paycheck, and I wouldn't have much in the way of guidance for them anyway.  Money money money.

I rubbed my eyes.

First, I must take care of my own faith, my own atonement, my at-one-ment, with God, as a childlike mystical Christian, as I was born to be such, whatever happens.  Maybe not much will happen.  I'll continue to pretend I am a Dostoevsky.

But to be yourself, who you really are, not distracted, not compelled to do things against the will, that will only be good for my blood pressure, and my general health and sanity.

The day of my procedure had finally come, and afterward in my recover I sat out on the back deck in the sun.  Warm out, the trees still green, some humidity in the air.  I took off my tee shirt, perspiring gently.  I imagined St. Francis, sick, recovering from an illness early in his career, a condition that helps him see things all that much clearer, if I'm reading the fresco in the little chapel of St. Anthony at St. Matthew's correctly.  It takes illness, a break from the usual, to gain the perspective we are not, having fallen into the grind, able to see amidst all the assumptions and actions of normal survival.  The knock is heaven-sent, a chance to read your father's old books, get some peace and quiet, meditate over things...

That was little brother's legacy, to be like that, not of the skeptical habit of my older brother who's an optimist in the world.  I was always a bit childlike in comparison, more able to carry the flame of abstract faith.  ("Did you see the pope," I asked as I laid back in hospital gown breathing deeply to calm my blood pressure.   "On TV," he responded.  "I went and played golf.   A snow day without the snow.")  He carries me through, though, the practicalities of this world, like when Dad passed away.  And I feel as if I've grown so awkward, so much a William Blake type, that I seem to barely function at adult level here in this great town.

Am I too mournful and meek?  I do have some kind of happiness to proclaim, that of finding my faith, of seeing through the darkness at last, light at the edge of a deep forest one was been wandering through without much compass or meaning, having too much wine and camaraderie instead of carrying the beautiful humble Christian faith....

It's said that the Church goes through the same things, the losses, the sufferings, the disbelief that Christ went through.   Maybe that's it, that we come to find some meaning in the personal losses and sadnesses we endure through being made flesh, sinful, fallible such as we are, imperfect, in need of cure.  If we had that perfect life as we might have imagined or projected, maybe we would have never come to that final very honest point in the present time of now.  Shaken up, sick like St. Francis, then we reach out, tame the wolf, restore the church with a humble little stone chapel of our own.

Our vanity diminishes, along with all those vain little projects to entertain ourselves.  It's a cleansing process.

Is that fiction?  Is that worth writing or reading about?  Who's to know, but that it's human.

A thing too private to say very much about, but that's you, still you, the original you as was made to be, as you walk around.  Other people make fun of it, well, no big deal, some affection to that anyway.

But do we not all have a vision of him, the real person who was, is, the savior.  The artistic eye is drawn to him, over and over again.  Giotto.  And he is sly, in a gentle way, and yields to our view when we look at him straightforward from our hearts.   It's finally not about anything, any other person, but seeing him, seeing him in ourselves, seeing the possibilities of all he did.  That's who we are, even as that identity or persona or whatever you'd want to call it might not seem to fit in so well.

When I saw what truly mattered, yes, a lot of things that had bothered me became details.  Details of a story that was finally recognizable to me as far as its shape.  And no longer myself to blame.  Because by a certain scale, hey, we're all sinners, fallen Adams, people trying to get rid of all the pride.  It can still hurt a lot, from time to time, but that's just part of the whole thing.

Did I ever think I could have such values?  They are those of a dreamer, a child's, an idiot's...  Where would I come up with audacity to claim a Christian life lived out in a mortal way...

And then I just wanted to get on with my work and stop all the tomfoolery.  Put the drink aside, make it again a simple staple of life, not to be made any fancier than it is.  Put the drinkers in perspective, who are merely drinking a purified form of water, sanitary in the Middle Ages.

I have come to the sinful, to those in need of a physician.  Wist ye not...

"Tadzio, Tadzio," Madam Korbonski would often say to me as we sat at her little card table in her front room of books and papers and clutter of important stuff, pictures on the wall, "be serious, you must be serious."  And then, inevitably, she'd laugh, as if she couldn't hold back from it, no longer able to put her serious point across without a little humor, or maybe a little joy.  There was the calendar of John Paul II over by the hallway, not the only reference to him, and her tales of Lech Walesa, and of the little parish church up in Silver Spring.  As much as I wanted to be a good Catholic, and went to Good Friday Mass with her, and drank a shot of vodka along with pickled herring on Christmas Eve with her, I don't know, it wasn't happening immediately or speedily, even if I might have wanted it to.

Be serious.  How do you do that?  Evidently she saw in me at least a glimmer of capability toward being serious, though she never seemed engaged when I brought up Dostoevsky, perhaps having prejudiced suspicion about anything Russian, though he was basically Lithuanian.  And she did not want me to become a priest.  "What a waste that would be," she told me, quite honestly.  Her form of Christian mysticism included pleasures of the flesh and an honest life as far as basic urges and drives.

Boredom.  That is the problem of modern life and all its choices.  We think we are bored when we aren't really, when things really are pretty simple.  We act like we're bored, do things, and all the while we're missing the quiet deep simple values that are always growing, always alive, simple Christian values, the golden rule, the need, the real need for a true spiritual life that of course is an evolution away from daily life and trying to pay the bills...

That's why there are The Gospels.  Good news.  A great relief from a selfish creature sitting around in the garden bored with himself, looking to do something bold and entertaining.  The Gospels, to save us, to save us from ourselves, to keep a neat house and simple things of refinement.

She saw something in me, something serious, a potential, maybe to be amongst the most serious of all, not just the frivolous.  I thought about her and a smile of hers, in agreement, seemed to come from somewhere beyond down on local airs.

Of course, of course one wants to be serious.  Who, ultimately, shows us how to do that?  What figure, what role model do we have?  But that person who understands everything.

Twenty five years behind a bar...  That wasn't a bad set-up, a bad foundation, actually.  There were parts of it to overcome, certain kinds of bad habits, but those bad habits were the result of being misaligned, not fully aware.   Those years happened because of the same overall intuition, inexplicable, but having something to do with something, some wish to eavesdrop, as it were, on the early acts of Christ, in which men found themselves together, women too, awaiting a higher calling.  I knew of no way to get closer than that, than what I did.  And it was all quite real, even if not all of it, of course, could be remembered in detail.

It was actually all quite perfect, now that I had a chance to think about it with a clear mind with some distance from it.

Could it stand up to outside logic and cold analysis?  Nothing can, though, really.

Sometimes we fake people by trying to be more than we are, which comes out of a wish to belong.  We put on a show of being better off than we are.  By doing so, in many ways, we put on an act different than who we really are, as if through a desire to mitigate our individuality, our difference, our eccentricity from the pack of successful people out engaged with the world where we sit home and quietly write.  But this can really make us less than we are, can take our better identities away from us and hide our gifts as if there were no place for them in the real world.

(Gandhi and Dorothy Day, I just read in a book about Teresa of Avila, wrote by fits and starts, hodgepodge, in a way of responding to whatever the issue was that was in from of them, not some carefully planned premeditated tract...  Good to know.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I do much of my creative work in an almost nap-like state, meditating.  Then later on comes the earthly work of transcribing the thoughts, trusting them, not being too embarrassed by them and the sense they might make.  Most things you'd share are, in this secular day and age, of the embarrassing kind.  But, there they are.  The process is important.  And you have to let loose a bit and trust the sitting down part later on to write as well.

"Why have I acted like such a peasant, too shy to take advantage of good things and opportunities...  What strange tick in my values led me toward a humble life that would be, I don't know... poor, I guess.  You could view it from the outside as a lack of self-confidence, sure...  And maybe it is that. But, values are funny things.  They get planted in you.  You can't easily rid yourself of them for an expedited life.  They are already manifest in your sensibilities, so what can you do..."

Callings are ever-present, but it takes a long time...  It takes an honest realization of the idiot within, which is also grace, talent, manners...

Monday, October 5, 2015

If we realize what wine is, where it comes from, one of life's staples, coming from the sun and the earth, closely linked with the Eucharistic sacrament as a healing power of God's love even for the sinful, the mortal, then we are properly aligned with it and finally know its place.  This is important to one who'd serve it as a professional, responsible for the reality of its deep hospitality.   That is why I always found it easy to show that hospitality even if I might have otherwise not felt up for that.  A barman doesn't have the option of dialing it in too often, suspended or washed over by the tide of the night.

I found that my hospitality increased as I suffered, speaking of the sweetness that older people have toward the young.

The next session I wondered aloud to my therapist about my shyness, my social anxieties, if fear of failure and nervousness results in the failure of having not tried things.  "You don't seem like someone who is socially awkward, or asocial..."  Well, there's a lot that goes in people's heads.  I guess that's why I give them space.

Friday, October 2, 2015

refining process sketch for wine column

There's a sly self-reflexive tone to it, The Grand Inquisitor scene of The Brothers Karamazov.  Here's Dostoevsky at the culminating work of his career.   The rational mind, played by the Inquisitor, is interrogating that part of a mind that would trouble itself with literary effort and spiritual questioning, played here by a hypothetical Christ.  The Inquisitor is the only one speaking, and Christ is mute, not a single word in self-defense.

Here he is at the top of his game, Dostoevsky.  He is writing The Brothers Karamazov, in installment form, the finest synthesis of his work and all his juggled themes, bringing home the proof of the nobility of his long strange idiosyncratic individual endeavor here (in uncertain health.)  And at the core, the inner struggle, the self-questioning, the rational observing mind asking of that habit of a deeper subconscious and all its own processes that only reveal themselves through the doing, why.  Why?  What are you doing?  What's your point?  Why did you have to come along and ruin anything?  We'd be just fine without you.  You are the bad habit just as we are trying to get our thinking right and practical.  Leave us alone, writing mind.

It is a well-observed scene.  One might suspect it had been one he'd studied many times in his musings and in his notebooks.  He too had a self-questioning mind, his own frustrations, fears, gambling addictions, anxieties.  Somehow it seems to have helped him here in his later life to visit the monastery and meet the original real life model of Father Zossima, letting real life events gel in a creative mind.

Writing is the only way some of us to figure things out, to lend some shape to chaos.  The rational mind asks why, what's the point, but the writing part of the mind seems to know what it's doing as it finds its own voice.

Nothing lastingly good is written without that self-reflection inherent in writing, as writing must be done by the amateur long before he would ever be considered a pro.  A pain one has to go through.

There is the other great scene in Karamazov, Alyosha's dream at the passing of his mentor of the Wedding at Cana, of the first miracle itself, vivid, of water made into wine for the sake of human joy which God loves and wants for people.   I suppose it depends upon what mood your in, which one to listen to.  There's always the scene about the stray dog that comes back to the sick child, or the schoolboy's gentle hurrah toward their peacemaker, but for the most part in DC, The Grand Inquisitor is the one driving around, about to stop in with all his logical minions.  "We'd be better off..."

Then Pope Francis came to town and touched upon all our lives.

The light of his humility, reflecting upon a greater source, shown upon us and the truer nature of our work.  Confidence replaced my sense of the company in which I shared beer and wine was unfocussed, unaware of their true task of serving the gospel to the real poor and to the confused.

There is faith in wine, and wine indeed can give us the courage to lead the brave life of the spiritual, as there is an obvious link between spiritual communities and vineyard.  Wine calls us to the life of Christ, as much as bread does.  Wine carries the reassurance of Christ.  Wine carries the Christian community, and this is often misinterpreted by society for its color and colorfulness.

If wine is understood for its spirituality it is enjoyed in the right way.

Hands serve, opening countless bottles, a musician has played his instrument.  And there has been warm talk to accompany, not some fake pointed over-talking of the merits of a material thing, but a sharing of the struggle of work and sweat of earning the daily bread...   Let the wine speak for itself.

And there is great woe in the world, and great questions, and not much reassurance that any of it has any meaning beyond achieving economic security and the power to express an opinion.

Woe unto the world.  Giveth wine unto the poor and let them come too to the feast.  Dostoyevksy had that right.  "Come, my shy one... " (the voice of the old monk Zossima)  He had it right.  Come, Alyosha, to the feast, be not afraid.

And wine gives us to say the right thing, to appreciate what we all go through.

But who of the high and mighty would want to admit that, the basic truth of God's love that civilizes humanity through a support of human joy that exists in wine?  "We're doing fine on our own, and in fact I've got a big Cab here.. to go with my scallops."  The town seemed to revert back upon itself after the Holy Father, representative of Christ and Peter, went back to Rome.  The frequency changed back.  Or, maybe, it didn't, having been informed.

There still is Dostoevsky, and there is still the First Miracle of The Wedding at Cana, and wine is wine, and wine is good, soothing, and even better at weddings, as if to remind us, it's not about the Inquisitor, but about the practitioners of joy and the love of the divine for us here.

And somewhere, here, to put in this lesson, is the fact, or rather, the truth, that when we reject people, at least in a certain way, that only means that we like them, or even love them, as much as ourselves, for what that represents, a part of 'we,' a part of 'me,' that other thing sometimes.  That intolerable writer part in ourselves, always following us around, like an idiot uncle of boisterous happy modes of self-clarity limping along someway, perhaps not un-wine-related, or, rather, not unrelated to poetic realms of the mind, as much as we'd be wanting to run on forward, slip into a hiding place of trees, we'd ultimately feel guilty, no, that's not it, we'd really be nowhere without such people as those idiots we have, here, there, in you and me.