Monday, March 19, 2018

The car, a hybrid Ford sedan, is rented, the bags are packed, a week off of work, good weather to drive North.  A safe trip, and celebrate Mom's birthday well.  Kindness of neighbors priceless, and pre-road jitters break with the sun shining through.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

It must be that I do not travel well.  I find it hard to write then.  The suitcase lies open, anticipating the trip to the North Country...

So you go out, have a few Guinness with the crowd at James Hoban, having a bite to eat, fish n chips and a mini shepherds pie, and then on the way home stopping by the Subway for a footlong roast beef, stopping to eat the whole thing on a chair in front of the Starbucks.  Cute young lady.  Her friend, gay, joins us toward the end of the night, gets us shots of Jameson.  The crowd had thinned by then.  Earlier I'd helped a girl who'd lost her ID outside of The Front Page...

Going out seems to match one's inner turmoil.  It helps you pass the time, when you are in awkward state.  It will be hard to write while visiting up with old mom.  And it helps your mind breath a bit.  The unnatural quiet of staying in for two days, granted, necessary for reasons of organization, doesn't seem to help one stay in a mood to write long enough to find the 'hook,' the musical phrase, the 'one true sentence.'  Going out engages your energies in a beneficial way.

But traveling.  The essence of not knowing what you will find.  One more shift to apply my anxious nerves to.

It was not an easy town to write in, fearful of one's own candor.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

But then you lose the connection.  You don't feel it.  It's just another day.  Some form of plans to make.  You don't know what.  Do you have enough green tea...  You want to protect your time, use it wisely, not give it away.  You don''t know what to do, really.

Let's see.  Needs:  green tea.  Soda water.  meat.  vegetable.  car reservations.  v8.  Take care of the body.  Do the laundry.

And nothing comes, and this is scary.  You seem to have lost an energy.  A train of thought.

You can only gather that you have said your piece, your peace, that that's it, and you now have to move on to another thing.  Look for a job, a real job.

Ah, but it's a dreary day out anyway... St. Patrick's Day, should I be out and about in all that?  Nah.  Got the trip to go see mom to get ready for.  And too many loose ends here anyway.  At my age, I don't travel well until I am actually traveling.

But you have to wonder, where does the writer's block come from...  It's as if there's something you wish to address, but something, as if a devil, Satan, is stopping you from uttering.  It's like the experience of an intrusion, like an unwanted advance, the experience of being pushed into something you didn't want to do is hanging over you.  Peer pressure.  Nerves.

And really the only treatment, some form of kindness, some form of spiritual advice...  Forgiveness.

One writes to express the good things, holy things, spiritual things...  things which often do not receive the translation they deserve in this world.  The writer owes it to himself to protect the writing space.

It's hard to write, it is.  And somedays, you're just taking blind stabs at it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

In dreams you are fighting the current.  Or, at least, you are in the current.  The current is pulling at you, and you have to go along with it, perhaps without judging whether this situation of being in such a current is a good thing or a bad thing.  The current is vague in the dreams, but ever present.  The situation of being in the current prompts dreams to appear.  The dreams are the best we have as a means of understanding the current that pulls on us.  Strange.  Thoughts we hold to us are stripped off in the circumstances of the river.  We had them, and then they are floating away.

Later we pull ourselves up on the bank, still wet with sleep.  Thinking awhile we remember little bits of those thoughts, of how the mind within the brain within the skull became like an atomic structure, with the electrons swirling around, sometimes lazily in rings as in the classic diagram of the atom, sometimes firing about unpredictably as in the model of the uncertain principle, sometimes outlining cat-scan type slice-throughs.  In building our little models of understanding reality we only have ourselves as a mirror, as a frame of reference, and each scientific theory holds within a poem about our own nature.  As we fell toward sleep, warmth, relaxation, the self-observations that allow the distance that then allows sleep to happen as it wells up from the warm body.

Kundera writes of his father dying.  (The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, is it?)  His old man, who speaks no more, who was a musical conductor, is sweating every night, under an effort, the effort of riding on horseback, having to go far far away.  Every night he will make this journey, in his sleep, on his way toward dying.

Who knows where writing comes from.

Then the business became serious and far-reaching.  It became interesting.  It began to, sort of, hold together, to connect all things.

When you are young you feel you have time, and so you write things which aren't so serious, with only flashes of seriousness here and there.  But then, slowly, surely, you get older, and then more and more you reach the point of understanding of having less time, less time to work with, to play with.  And then you start becoming more serious.  You could turn down then the other uses of time...  You have to remain focussed and vigilant at all necessary times, and for this purpose you can seek entertainment on your own, as it comes to you in your atelier, your laboratory, your study, your conservatory, your recording studio, your news room.  Rich is life around you, a garden for thought.

Even in the most serious, there is humor, room for fun.  For sorts of things like song and dance.  Because you are at work, and the things of work consist of getting the job done, from start to finish.  Later, at night, toward the end, you bring out your own guitar, and the musician picks it up and marvels at it for being a good guitar.  He plays it some, a Buck Owens song, A 11, and then you get to play it a bit, and he likes your ringing style.  Cool.  Sacred.  Fun.  And you earned it, too.

To become a writer is to enter into one's own self-appointed monastery.  There is always work to do, always cause for silence and reflection, for music, prayer.  Even wine, and the daily bread, is work too, for the soul, to understand.  Joy is work, as well, as much as the hardness of confused toil of limited fruitfulness.

It is one's own choice, how productive he shall be, a matter of realizing the power of devotion.

By the time you get it, you're almost an old man.  Your father has passed away.  Your mum is old.  You are going through your final growth spurt, out of some dignified joke from the pineal gland.  Finally filling out.  And it was a tiring growth spurt, full of sleep, and hormones, profound hunger, and life always leaving you a bit short, such that it was hard to feel you were on your feet.

And why did you not take up a career in music, so long ago, when you were fresh and young, and able to play with jazz men and rock and all kinds of music...  What got you down?  Who told you you shouldn't put that music first...  that way you expressed yourself...  And why now, should a man middle aged look back so...

The day off comes, the physical hurdles cleared.

I'd been reading the Gospels for a while now, years, and the line about hiding the light under the bushel stuck with me.  Without knowing it, the attempt to write in this venue with its accessibility via smartphone and web, I don't know, I guess it came out of that.  Or was supported, fostered...

The question was posed, theoretically, why not then just take to writing "live."  Why be scared of the thoughts that come, the muscular efforts to wriggle within the old skin, to break free of the old shells of limitation.  Cracking free and out of the old leaves creatures vulnerable.  Their new hides are vulnerable, sort, before they harden.  Birds must come out of shells, just with the strength to match their obstacle; and then, even more vulnerable, they will face the next stage of the nest, parental warmth, feeding...

And so each thought was delicate, new-skinned, soft, embarrassing almost.  This is nature, what can you do, but live with it, perfect in its imperfections..

We had come upon an age, you know...  when even holy people would not be able to recognize themselves.  A Mary would not know she was Mary, almost.  Or, rather, she would be discouraged from the self-knowledge, so revolutionary, so radical, so out of this world and unexpected and miraculous...  As if her very DNA would be discouraged from the power of its own inner transformations of self-realization.

And the same with humble Joseph, the old husband "carpenter."  Same with everyone.

Not exactly that they'd be watching the news but just the sediment of two thousand years of skepticism would float down upon the species and its collective mind.  The Christian advancement of the Old would be met with a backlash, so that all miracles, all words and commands from God through angels and Himself would be nullified by the rational.  And the entire DNA of the species would reflect his reptilian retreat from the light, as if not wanting to be out in the light, feeling too vulnerable and with every assumption known by daily survival would be shaken.

I had started, without really knowing it, my little project of reading the Gospels fully and more carefully, in the spirit of giving something a chance.  I began it in moments of leisure, following my truer interests on the gut level, that I feared I would have to seriously pay for down the road.  I dabbled, but I kept it up.  I did not know what, if anything, would come of it.  There was an established pattern in it, the obvious literary quality, the obvious nature of the Gospels being something we all should be familiar with, and also the tradition you could sense in any good writer, in any good person good at public statement.  The old records of Lincoln laid out on the couch reading from the Book of Job...  Obviously, as good as anything to read, and, well, maybe even better, who knows.

And I had sort of begun to outgrow all the things you should read, if you had the time, to have a rough muster of literary history, parts of it, like say, the history of the novel, or any particular stylistic approach or advancement of prose, say, Joyce, or Flaubert, or of the subtle changes in material, aimed more to include the peasant, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, or the angle of perspective on the human condition in Chekhov's great heart.  Things like that.  Kerouac...   Twain.  Bookshelves... piles... Kundera's essays...  Shelves full of Hemingway.

You sort of reach the stage, of "well, now what...  Is that all there is..."

Then I suppose there is the next stage, the philosophical discussion of mind from the old doctors of such things, the Eastern mind...  What do the mental habits of the Buddha, let's say, have to add to all this bulk and body of reading from Shakespeare down unto Yeats, then Larkin...  Ted Hughes...

And then you wear that out too.

And but for a few things, a few tiny kernels, you've worn out even the things you wrote or would write.  No, you're not even going to write about the job you have, the work you do, the things you know.

As if you knew, as in all along, there were bigger fish to fry, bigger fish to catch...

And all this, of course, you only had the roughest of inklings, and would, as is the modern style, dismiss the best of the good as childish, prattle, baby talk almost.  Like talking of Bigfoot, or UFOs, would be the closest comparable thing...

Except for something growing within you.  A strange thing.  Kind of like a plant, a small tree within, a Caduceus of some sort, strengthening within, and strengthening you along with it.

O, but who am I, who am I, but a sinful man.  A man with few chances left, a man of certain age, whose attentions must turn, yes... but with no clue, as it were.  As if living in something like a lack of hope for anything but simply trudging on...  Not quite, no, just that that could be the mood sometimes, something you'd never really accept, because as a human being you would not accept such a death sentence of hopelessness, a thing quite against our very nature.

I guess I'd been trained through a long pattern of scruffy encounters.  Encounters haphazard, not ever fully realized, always somehow rushed, or clipped short, edited, censored by the great illnesses of the soul known to the modern, the Totalitarian, the selling of our own time, the rise of the great master of advertisement, marketing and distraction, the legion of serpents sent by a certain one, "eat from this tree of knowledge, and it will give you powers..."

Who would ever know the truth of these scruffy rough encounters, whose scruffiness was quite well-mirrored by my own appearances through the age of my years, my comings and goings, shirt becoming untucked, collar, life, organizations askew, but for running the barroom as tightly as my strengths and endurance humanly allowed...

But Lord, what blasphemy, the whole of the Old Testament and the New contains, so it would seem... Oh... Yes, but this is the best we know, can now, as of yet.  And its words have garnered the attention and full respect of many a very strong and independent mind of great intelligence...  This craziness of finding the Word of God.  "What is it anyway, a myth like those of the colorful minded Greeks..."

And how could I know, anyway, God...  What can I do but take the leap.

What is His Covenant with us, His low beings down here?  What if we do, indeed, do, or attempt, humbly, to do His work?  What is His work?  How would we know it...

Do not hide your light under the bushel basket, He tells us.

How can you not feel strange.  Still, we are in that mode of hiding ourselves from the Lord, as in the Garden, having messed it all up.  How could you not feel like here you are and you've worked hard, but you've messed up and your boss somehow knows this.  Even our own family, even the holy one, wished to restrain His Son...  "Quiet him down.  Tell him to tell his friends to go home.  Tell him to stop, and resume, after a time of restraint, to apologize and start back living a normal life..."  Yes, we understand he was bored with his previous career choices...  We hope that, with time, he will turn to familiar normalcy.  Maybe try to get him the hope of a book contract, keep him happy in the meanwhile, working on a fictional piece, "my time as a savior."  Stories with a touch of his old good humor, clever boy, kind of like old poor Yorick, to put the table a' laughing...

"It's a big world without."

"Yes, but it is a big world within, as well."

Following the old pattern, the Old Testament, the Prophets, the Gospels, was the best way around the interference pattern.  I could not condition nor control as well as I wanted to the mind's processes in a more effective way.  Even yoga, even meditation, mindfulness, even emotional outburst, nothing stood a candle to the great opening up.  Nothing opened the potential like the old stuff.

For a writer it was indeed like getting rid of the many unclean spirits, the ones that did you no good when you had that time and were brave enough against all one's other condition to write.

Looking for the word, the logos of God, shining in the sky just on a normal day, like those of barren afternoon in Lenten March, even in the most mundane things, opened up matching potential.  If you looked so, and granted this to your DNA, that you could grow and change, even at a late age, even at the age when maturity has arrived and beginning to over-ripen, as it were, then you were open to a new growth.  Well, it's true that old vines make the best wine, sure...  But...

It helped you get over that sense that there was something else you should be doing, a better way to conduct and protect yourself.

I saw myself less and less as a writer.   The writing was only a form to communicate.  One form.  It balanced others.  There was a satisfaction to it, and, just like talking to someone, it was tiring, and you knew your limits.  It let you keep a record.  Who knows the purpose of that, but... keeping a record.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

But following the old pattern, that of the Old Testament, the Prophets, the Gospels, for a writer was the best way around the interference pattern of those parts of the mind I could not condition nor control as well as I wanted to.  For a writer it was indeed like getting rid of the many unclean spirits that did you no good when you had that time to write.  It helped you get over that sense that there was something else you should be doing, a better way to conduct and protect yourself.

You wake with the familiar sadness.  That's about all you can call it.  You cannot know if anyone else experiences the same thing, but by a general sense, a way of reading the people you encounter.

Where does it come from?  Why are you its custodian, its flag bearer...

But He would have been of the sadness too.  For knowing everything.  The virgin birth, the whole story of His parents...  The way things would unfold for Him, because of His knowledge, His complete understanding..

How can you and I even face up to that?  What an admission it would seem to be.

Yes, you could go to a doctor with your health insurance your employment allows you, "Doctor. what can you do for this?"  And you could take some form of treatment.

But ask yourself, would that really be helping me?  Would that really be helping other people?

And the answer is, no.  Because there is the pain of living, the fact of suffering.  Like any marriage is supposed to be, the acceptance of the bad with the good, in sickness as well as health.  And any partnership, any work you must undertake, it will be steeped in the same, the suffering, the misery, the pain, the condition of being left alone and to suffer in the garden with sorrow.  There will be the effect of those people around you who, believing it should all be about happiness and forward progress and activities that are culturally or professionally enriching, will go about business with a much lower body of knowledge and understanding.  They come, they go, they come, punch in, do what they feel is their job, allowing themselves the things of happiness, and then they get tired and leave the master to close the shop down, all on his lonesome.  They have an economic understanding, of what to give, shy of all, in order to receive the sustaining compensation, and it is no deeper than that.

But the wise cannot escape from the deep mysteries, the body of pain and unhappiness and great uncertainty.  What balm, what anointing oil, is there for that, and such things?  That is the burden of knowledge, if one would truly be a teacher, a good shepherd for the Lord's sheep.

The relationships that are real are acknowledgments, in their acts, of that pain, in each act.   As if sorrow itself were the truer form of happiness, contentment, pleasure, whatever a culture might put up as a term for that which is comfort for the tested mind.

Sin is a word, as sorrow is.  Waking up, yes, there are your sins right there.

Mother Angelica intones the Holy Rosary in the background as you have your tea.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Glory be to the father, and to the son, and to the holy spirit.   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

O, my Jesus, forgive us our sins.  Save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope, to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;  to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears;  turn, then most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus.  O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!  Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.  Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered unto Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;  He descended into hell;  on the third day He rose again from the dead;  He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.  Amen.

And then, to relief, the Mass comes on the television, as I write, sitting over on my father's old brown chair, next to the chair of Madam Korbonski's home next door.

There was a wedding I went to, that of my brother's.  The ceremony was beautiful, and fun, of Jewish custom.  Then the wedding party departed to the memorial to Thomas Jefferson, where the sun came out and pictures were taken on the steps.  And then we went back to the Mellon Auditorium, and it had been transformed into the place of the wedding feast.  I was dreading my toast, as I had no clear idea of how to say what I felt.  The night before my toast at the Rehearsal dinner had gone decently well, reconstructing how Jack and Bobby might have talked, grunting to each other in perfect understanding and love.

But this night, the other part of life in Washington, the figure of Lincoln, alone, on a horse, in the rain, as we all come upon our reality here alone and without cause for great direct happiness, and this I mixed in the scene from The Brothers Karamazov, The Wedding at Cana, Dostoevsky's recreation of the first miracle of the wine, for human joy...  I was almost cut off, and the wedding director woman seemed to find my effort laughable, though my girlfriend, Sasha, hugged me, proud and pleased.

Later I would find that the Catholic spirit would approve, of my attempt to interject the spiritual into the fine celebrations...

Monday, March 12, 2018

I myself would have wondered why.

It just seemed to help.  Getting through the usual roadblocks when you awake, awkwardly, not knowing at all what you are doing, why you are doing, and think what you need to say on paper.

The visions of the minds of the Old Testament, why not sit in on their jam session, observe how they do it, see how they saw the major issues of the day.  What did they think of?  How?  Why were they obsessed, if you will, with equipping the understanding of, with, the One God.

Why, and how, would it help the modern writer to sit in with the ways of Jesus Christ, the way he thought, put depths into words...

Is this something we resort to when things aren't going very well, seemingly, when the path you've been on seems to have not revealed its true self, its purpose, its satisfactory meeting of life's great problems...

What should I do for a career, how do I pay the rent in this town, how do I save for the future, how do I take care of mom, how do I save myself...

Waking up, you clutch the iPhone, looking for something within it.  Some kind of information.  You're not sure what.  Is there anything you need to get back to in the triage of the day?

Easy to turn the television on, with the same excuses.  What do I need to know, The Weather Channel, weather, yes, that is important.  And yet it's already bombarding you with cultural messages, brain-washing you, lulling you, overwhelming you, so that any idea you might have on your own seems rather dumb now.

On EWTN it's coming out too slow.  You're hungry, thirsty, in need of breakfast.  Dirty dishes in the sink.  Green tea, bone stock warmed up in the toaster over.

If you're a writer, well, this is it.  This is the stuff you really have.  You don't need to go off looking for fancier more interesting things.   The mind is cubism.  Capturing one thought would be enough to be art, a worthy study.

But what right would I have to think myself a connoisseur of Old Testament prophets, of the Parables...

And why does writing feel like you're sort of sneaking around.  Hiding out.  From the bedroom to the kitchen, retrieving the glass of water by the night table, a pint glass, along with retrieving your eyeglasses;  multi-tasking, things in piles first, to then be sorted or made use of or taken care of to be more properly put away later;  sometimes the objects make it first half the way, as if that too were part of a process, something the mind saw the overall purpose of, the entire process in its grasp, even as you do not consciously think of it.    Is this the way some minds work?  Is this the way my mind works...

But if if finally came down to it, after all the things you wrote, what you might have within you, in your wildest dreams as a writer, wise, why not shoot for the highest mark, the coolest groove...

Why not aim for the example of examples, the real true distillation of words with meaning.

(One thought comes, and others will follow.   The hard thing is to not get distracted.)

Even Jesus, as a writer, would say, in essence, it is not me, it is my Father's business, it is from the Father.

And so I turned to what I thought would be the real things to write about, the things that I would mull over if I were, finally, a great writer.  A Dostoevsky, a well-read Lincoln,.  Converted.  Of a different mindset than the one you had to at least be capable of mimicking in order to stay relevant and make sense to anyone...

The secular world is worn out for the writer.  It doesn't offer enough, it's not interesting enough, at least not without its better counterpart, the life of the Church.  You can come upon this realization, as I did, a bit late in life.  Well, you knew it was always there.  You became well-read in Eastern spirituality, the philosophy of the Buddha, did the yoga, meditated, but even that, where does it lead you?   The Christian myth can be taken apart and analyzed by the scientists of myth and ritual, things that go way back, in history, in the psyche, but just as a way of thinking, you had to find the Judeo-Christian tradition working for you.

Taking in the mysteries, and working with them, prayerfully, it turns out working for you better than modern therapy treatment...

There are other things to do than mastery of the sophistications of the modern world, with all its great culture, its technological offerings...  Those things take up your time, but for what?  A career, you think, yes...  But that might not hold out forever...

As a writer you have no choice, I think, being in my own situation.  It was the way, there was no other.

Sophistication, moving to a city, etc., you thought chicks would like you better...

You can read Hemingway two ways...  either as a model for sophistication, worldliness, or, the other way, as one of simplicity, of going back to simplicity...