We each do the best we can, whether we want to believe it or not. If we fail to amount to anything, or even if we do, but fail to live up to all our aspirations, then we never could have done any more than we actually did. It's good to have standards and goals to aspire to. If we don't aspire to higher levels, we may never get anywhere at all. But aspiration is only a tool, not a standard for measuring the value of a life. Whatever we are, whatever we have achieved, it is enough, after all, and it's the best that we could have done, given our particular psychology and circumstances.
Everything I do, actually do, as opposed to think, because I tend to think that thinking is doing, when it's not, not exactly (it can be pre-doing, but that's another thing all together)--everything I do is evidence, which, if I line it all up and display it, creates a chain that demonstrates and justifies my existence--not that it should need any justification, except that I sometimes feel that it does.
This journal is that same kind of evidence, probably the most definite chain. But it's not enough [it never has been, except that in establishing the long-developing procedure, method, and methodology, it has (pre)occupied my time for so long now], nor are all of my other writings, which are more scattered, not having the benefit of a chronological format.
But I'm thinking (but not actually doing) here of a more concrete form of evidence, specifically, of images--drawing and paintings, laid out on a large table, maybe (or at least, for sake of economy of space, tucked into a substantial portfolio case). I've had recurring dreams of this chain, where all of the (image) art I've produced is laid out in this way, as evidence, that I have been prolific.
These dreams are my motivation; I think (as opposed to work) toward this end: a body of work (rather than a body of thought, which is more like what my journals and other writings are1). I am an artist, after all, but more a thought-artist than an actual image one. But I want, once again, to make the transition, back to where I started out, when I hadn't quite yet decided to devote my life to words.
But there are other ways I go about (at least within the fantasy that I call 'planning') trying to establish evidence that I am of some worth, some merit, justified to be allowed (by virtue of my own self-evaluation) to remain living in this world:
For years now, in a piecemeal fashion, I've been trying to set up a website that sells things, a modest storefront: I buy and sell on ebay and half.com; I have a lame attempt at a storefront on my website; I have a Cafe Press webpage.
These are preliminary attempts at an effort I hope will continue to develop until the day that the fantasy escalates (as they all seem, eventually to manage to do, after I have pursued them long enough through the painstakingly slow trial and error phase) and becomes realized.
I could sell things that I make, perhaps scented candles in cheap glass jars. (That seems to be a popular item on the web these days.) Or my art. I could begin to sell my art on ebay and Amazon.com. What else could I sell?
And if I did end up making even the smallest bit of profit from online sales, well then, I would be a businessman again, this time self-employed--and so, you see, I am worth something, after all. Because unless you're selling something in this country, you're not worth much, are you?
This is a self-esteem issue. The real outcome of this scheme to want to sell stuff should be to deal with the motivations for why I want to do it. But that seems like a whole lot more hard work than just learning how to sell the damn crap. And it will make me some extra money too.
And here is yet more evidence:
The journals, blogs, pastiches, and stories that I write are true, and they're not. They're true in their essence, as content that really happened, and as interpretations of real people and myself; but specific sections may be slightly altered for the sake of convenience, or identity recognition, or the narrative.
Furthermore, my writing is such that its full implication is obvious only over time, as themes, devices, and serials are revealed and develop, month to month. It's a device I've developed to express myself, but mostly only to myself. The fact that I allow this crap to be published says more about my ego than my ability or quality as a writer. Maybe. Or else I reveal it as therapy, knowing that the revelation of personal revelations make the potential changes proceeding from such more likely to occur and become permanent. Yet, even though I publish despite my better judgment, always reticent, always hesitant, the material is written for my own edification.
It's a hard realization to come to that I really don't want to be read so much as I just want to write. I want it to be known that I have written a story or a book, the contents of which I could care less if anybody reads. I write, in the first place, instead of communicating, a replacement mechanism, a means whereby I substitute words for social interaction. Why would I then turn around attempting to be known for the words I hid away to begin with? I am filled with the usual disgust of the social as I plan to promote each new work. I don't want to be bothered. I just want to express myself. It's a kind of necessity that, once done, seems less important. I am a life of ideas, which, executed, become less significant.
The alley behind 1728: I am greedily scraping up coins laying in the cinders, while I "generously" tell Dianne and Jim about them, after having made certain that I've already gotten the bulk of the quarters lying there, leaving some of the dimes and nickels for them. After we've collected all of the coins, Dianne and I begin to find tools. Jim is no longer with us. [ = he found the money, but not the psych tools he needs to make his life work?] At first, since most of the tools are not on the ground, but on an old workbench, we think that they may not be discards, but could belong to someone. But then we rationalize that if anyone wanted them, they wouldn't have left them out in the alley in the cluttered fashion that they were. We take the tools, and a vast assortment of nuts, bolts, screws, etc. (some of which are rusted) and go into the garage where Dad has been arranging all of our existing tools and work bench paraphernalia. (He did this, obsessively. His workbench was a masterpiece of organization.) We begin to pitch in, to work on the sorting of items and the organization. Transition to:
A kind of research organization. Dad morphs into a "research scientist" (more like a senior lab technician). Outside the garage, during the transition, a woman shows up, a volunteer. She's there to help sort out all of the trash that's being collected. She meets another woman who has been doing this kind of work for a while. As the "scientist" stands by, the first woman begins to question her critically as to why she's there. In particular, she wants to know if she's being paid. But after she discovers that she's a volunteer also, they begin to get along fine. The guy walks me to the house, which is the research facility. (Our old house is a place where research is done = the research is my childhood? I'm doing the research now? Or then?) The guy leaves me to wait in a hallway (the transition from home to science labs is complete now) that labs open off of. A young guy is there (a Dermot Mulroney type) with a huge sheet of glass, about 4 x 6 feet. I talk to him as I wait for the "scientist" to return. The sheet of glass has been recycled from old sheets of glass that were "collected" and had been cleaned and evaluated (all of the scratches marked, etc.) by volunteers. And then it had been refurbished via sanding, etc. by professionals (presumably, the people doing the critical work here are not volunteers, but paid employees.) It turns out that the sheet of glass is not simply an ordinary sheet, that it has been embellished with add-ons, as if it were to be used as a vacuum table. First of all, it seems to be a double pane, perhaps with an inert gas sandwiched between the sheets. And it has a glass tube attached along the four foot side, which looks like a water jacket of the variety that is used to shield and cool UV bulbs. I talk to the guy for a while; we obviously have something in common, because the glass apparatus is a compilation of equipment that I used later in my life. [I'm still young here, although I am, in some sense, older too, in that the "scientist" is dealing with me. This guy with the glass is probably me, later in life, a young adult.] I decide, since the doors to the labs are continually being opened as people enter and exit, that I will slip into one and see what's going on. The one I go into is clean and well-organized and filled with all kinds of "scientific" apparatus. But it isn't long before I'm recognized as not belonging and am escorted out. The "scientist" returns and shows me small pieces of what look like laminated plastic board, each about three-quarters of an inch square. At first I don't understand what he's trying to explain, but then I realize that he thinks that I want to buy these things. He's been off with technicians discussing how they will "retrofit" recycled materials into the product he thinks I want to buy. I explain to him that I'm not interested in purchasing anything, that my interest is in the recycling process itself. In that case, he states, I will have to be a volunteer. Implicit in his attitude is the idea that, if I am not buying anything, then I cannot profit from the process. [I'm not buying what he's selling = I'm not accepting the business aspect of academic/artistic pursuits.] Implicit in my attitude (although I don't realize it at all until I awaken) is a resentment of the fact that I am being treated like a customer, and not like the "student scientist/researcher" that I'd previously felt I had been. This guy was not my mentor, but a technical salesman. He is that part of myself that wants to sell my art (which is assembled from recycled ideas/images and retrofit to look like new material) online, like other artists I know are doing. But I hate this pecuniary attitude, even when it is my own.
This is the same attitude that my most recent business "mentors" (as opposed to a few early on, who were more of the technician/scientist type, i.e., printing technologists who were eager to impart technical knowledge to me, independent of business/pecuniary concerns) have all had. A making-money motive was predominant in their mentoring approach. That is, production, on-time shipping, customer relations, etc. were all more important and more critical than the actual technical operations. Even quality, which should have been about the technical process, had far more to do with customer satisfaction that with the details of the process itself. This has been the difference between the early and latter parts of my "business" life: early on, it was about the "science" and technology. Later, it became about the money. The more they paid me, the more they expected me to be concerned with how much money they made. Logical, but progressively unsatisfying. I wish I had remained a technician. I was happy when I was getting paid (finding coins) for discovering the processes (finding tools and "sorting things out"). My business life began to go sour when I had to become concerned with customers.
Putting things in order: this is the motif that my current life is taking on (a longstanding motive from when I was younger, but mostly lost later on), a springtime motive, beginning the recovery from winter ennui. I'm beginning to adhere to a task-specific schedule again, to straighten up the house and put things back where they belong that have been accumulating in piles in various places. The other day I cleaned out the floor space in the small studio so that I had room to maneuver, and I began to paint again. This has been empowering. I really want to do this, reorganize, but especially to paint. And I want to do other things as well, like learn to play the piano. But I have to write first. Well, maybe I don't, actually, any more; but I don't want to find out the hard way that I still do and end up losing all of my motivation by having my system crash around me because I'm not paying attention to my thought processes.
Therefore, in order to get to the painting, I can push (I haven't been pushing at all since early last fall) through the writing procedure, step by step, according to a strict compliance with my task schedule/method, to get to a point where I am free to go and paint, like the Gloria Reuben character in Pilgrim who works at a bar so that she can afford to do the thing she loves, painting. It's such a satisfying life, applying paint to canvas. After I'm finished working at it for a few hours, I'm quite proud of what I've accomplished. I guess I'd had that same feeling with writing, early on, and I have it occasionally now, when I will finish a section of a story. But it's not quite the same because, especially now, when the product is digitally contained, there's no tangible evidence of the work just done. With painting, the evidence is right in front of you in brilliant color. (Writing is in black and white.)
And painting satisfies some other, more nebulous urges. Painting is physical exercise, an activity of precision. Writing is a precision of the mind. You feel it within. But you feel painting in a different way, that is, with the sense of touch. Painting is visual, a nexus between touch and sight. And when you build a body of work, it seems more substantial. You have a portfolio. I guess I'd feel similarly about writing if I had a lot of works published, a shelf of books all lined up chronologically by publishing date. But most of my writing is published digitally and piecemeal. My oeuvre is speeding through optic fibers and, now, space (wireless) at near light speed, which is somewhat satisfying in an intellectual way, but not like a portfolio of images would be. This is the time in my life that I've long-awaited, the advent of my days as a full-time visual artist. It's been a long time coming, but I have the feeling that it's here at last. [Musical performance is the next great step, but that will have to wait a while longer.]
Poketa and Verona Rds: an old boss (combination of r and Ron H.) walks with me up the hill as we review notes I have about a pending meeting. At the meeting (which turns out to be in Jim's bedroom), I've lost the notes, but a friend (Mark H.) who sits nearby has identical notes, which I borrow to copy. The notes are written in a large and very neat hand on small pieces of paper (3x3") and thus there are only about ten or twelve words per page (about five pages). But I can't copy them accurately (of course--lack of rational processing in the dream state). Cut to:
Rte 22 heading west, Churchill exit: I am walking down the exit, as if it were a huge walkway [¥, with the same "place" feeling as other dreams that were down in East Pgh.] heading toward a college, which is where Beulah Rd (south) should be. I go into a classroom. I don't have any books or notebooks. I turn to a friend (Mark/Martin C.) who sits beside me and ask to borrow his notes so that I can copy them. Half-jokingly, he says no (i.e., he will lend them to me, of course, but a part of him resents me asking). [Since this "notes" theme is repeated, it must be something significant, my unconscious mind trying to awaken me to something. But I can't figure out what it is. The obvious answer is something to do with writing. But what?] I say "Never mind," not angrily (although I may feel anger unconsciously) but in a matter-of-fact way, which disguises a severe disappointment [anger is hurt, repressed], as if everyone is going to let me down, I can't depend on anyone, I am on my own. I get up immediately and leave the class. I meet a girl [anima] outside the classroom who is on her way in. She sees/senses my dejection (depression) and asks me what's wrong. I shake my head (shaking her off), but she persists, gently so that I don't get angry at her; but still I stonewall her. I tell her that I lost all my books and notes. She sympathizes. We go back into class together, but the professor asks me a question that I don't have an answer to. He states that if I had read the material I would know. I say, in the same deadpan, matter-of-fact way as before, "I lost my book." Then I get up and walk out again. The girl follows. She stays with me. We go to a fast food place up along the exit. [There is, maybe, a "place" similarity (and thus a meaning similarity/identity) with the dream on which "Maturity" was based.] She's doing her best to console me/cheer me up. But it's not working. I tell her that she should forget about me, because all that will happen is that, if she becomes too involved with me, she will introject my morose state and end up not wanting to be around me. But she says she can handle it, and she stays with me. We go back to class, where we sit next to each other and she holds my hand. The girl is the ex-girlfriend of Martin. (Maybe that's why he begrudged me borrowing the notes, although that was before the girl and I got together; but maybe there's some kind of prescience here; What's this? Psychic experience in a dream character? Well, actually, if it exists at all, that would be a likely place to find it.)
I awaken to thoughts of Mark & Pat H., but I can't imagine why they would be significant--maybe because of their apparently loving relationship (which I paid no attention to at the time, and which broke up after a year or two). I am deep into a state of physical depression (i.e., too sleepy, extremely groggy, although awake enough to know that I am not going to get any more sleep). I connect the "depression" to primal rejection. How does this work? Obviously, it's a correct connection, because I realize that when I've experienced it, so many times in the past, when that state of being occurs where I stonewall women (everyone, really) [wanting attention, but definitely determined neither to ask for it, nor acknowledge it when given, although I appreciate it and hope that it will go on, yet know it won't because I hold out against it, as if I dare the attender to break it off and give up on me], it's actually provoked by depression. Therefore, expectation of rejection (proceeding from the basic primal split) leads to depression (sadness), which in turn creates the situation/state that provokes, ala a self-fulfilling prophecy, actual present-time rejection (or unwarranted feelings of it), thereby amplifying the depression? It sounds right.
1728 in the back bedroom: We're getting ready to go to some kind of a church-related function, like a wedding or a funeral or something, which we will either pick up my grandmother to take her with us or meet her there. Since I have worn nothing but jeans for many years, I can't find any appropriate dress-up clothes. [I am grown up, a younger adult, despite the fact that we're living in the old house.] I finally decide to wear my one pair of good, black pants, but I'm wearing a colored T and a flannel shirt beneath a dress trench coat. But I decide that I'm not dressed well enough and instead I put on a white T, a white short-sleeved shirt, and then I re-don the trench coat. CUT TO:
We're on a train, heading for "Cleveland." [Actually, we're going toward Cincinnati or Columbus, but in the dream it's Cleveland.] (This is where, as a logical conclusion, we were planning to go in the first part of the dream, although there's no transition to it.) Dad is not with me, only Mom, Dianne, and Jim. But after we arrive, we have some kind of a minor argument (Mom, Dianne, and I) in the city street just outside the station and I state that I'm going back home, which they feel is just fine. So I go back into the station and into its basement, looking for the ticket counter. I walk all the way to the back of the completely empty, darkened, dank place, but I can't find it, only a place where it should be. I shout out "Hey. Where's the ticket counter?" A voice comes out of nowhere, as if it is over an intercom: "It's on the fifth floor. Take the elevator at the front of the first floor." I go back upstairs to catch the elevator, but a woman, the ticket agent, the voice on the intercom, meets me on the first floor and escorts me to the ticket counter at the back of that floor. She gets me a ticket, advises me in some obscure way, and before long I'm on the train, heading back home.
Awake, now, I can't shake the idea that I was not in Cleveland, but in some kind of "heaven" (My grandmother is dead; we were going to meet her there. My mother and father are dead), and my brother and sister are visiting them there. In "Cleveland?" Cleveland is heaven? The people who live there will tell you it's true. "Cleveland Rocks.")
6023, my bedroom: Jim and I are sleeping. We're awakened by something, maybe just by the morning. I discover that Aunt Jane has changed the decor. I'm pissed. She's added permanent wall coverings and dumb furnishings to my room, all conventionally mundane. I state that I've had it, that I'm packing up and leaving. It's bad enough that she has to fill the rest of the house with this crap, but why can't she leave my bedroom alone, the way I like it. Dianne comes into the room (or appears there; or was there all along, unseen). She's upset when I say that I'm going to leave. She mopes, not saying a word, but I see that something's wrong and I ask her about it. She tells me that I'm all she's got left, now that Mom's dead, and I'm threatening to leave. In her words I read the idea that she's been wanting me to remain at home while she goes out to work and, since I don't have a job, take care of the house for her. I wouldn't mind doing this, but not while Jane is with us. [Jane is standard, conventional society's influence. I'll stay in an oppressive social situation, but not so conventional a one.] I have a new dog [= love] It's still a puppy. When it awakens, it's happy to see me, but then it leaves the room. [= D is happy that I'm here, but I'm threatening to leave, i.e., I have a tenuous attachment to the remaining family]. A little bit later, when we go out into the dining room/kitchen to get breakfast, I see that Jane has trimmed the dog's fur and dyed sections of it various colors. I'm pissed that she would turn her bourgeois attentions to a living animal--my animal [my id, my basic spontaneous, natural "love"].
The stream of time will not stop in such a way as to allow me to finish old matters, new matters always coming up. My art (verbal and visual) is my meaning; it has a practical application to my everyday life: It gets me through it. It's the vehicle I travel in. To have (recently) begun again the image art that I so long ago set aside in order to have time to write is to round out the process (music is yet to be re-integrated--and rock paintings and carvings, and woodcarving, and perhaps dozens of others attempts I've made in the past to express myself).
There is much more rounding yet to do. The sun-wheel is a basic expression of this rounding out. It's a petition to a higher source for help in the rounding process. And, sure, self-expression in images is an intellectual process, but barely. It uses the intellect to thwart its own domination, so that something more general, something transcendental may occur, and that is "art." (The same could be said of writing, but less so, since writing uses words directly and thus is more easily wrapped up in intellectual pursuits. Poetry may be more suited to a non-intellectual pursuit in words, but even so...)
Creating art, in general, tends to involve the intellect in a secondary manner, since the purpose is usually to display something beyond oneself. We don't generally think of, for example, academic discourses on...whatever as art. That activity is more "philosophical." It takes place inside one's brain and is transmitted via written words into another person's brain. But images, or words describing images, or even describing inner non-intellectual states are more easily seen as art. We create this art in order to communicate, at best; or perhaps merely to express ourselves.
But to paraphrase Balanchine (that's right, the choreographer), we don't create at all. Only God creates. We assemble. I love that idea. It's what I do. It's what all artists do, if they will admit it. This is why I love pastiches so much, because I assemble into a whole thing (sort of) all of the myriad of experiences/phenomena that assail me all day long and during the night in dreams. It's a whole lot more complicated than it seems, the simple rendering of words and images that purport to represent your life. Cave men did it so very long ago, and we still do it today. It's the essence of what we are as a species. It's our heritage. Art predominates everything we do. I wish I were a better, more consistent artist.
Yesterday evening I was sitting out back, enjoying the abnormally warm weather, looking up at the freshly-budded treetops, when all of a sudden I got this urge to fell the tree that I've been planning to cut since last fall. I love these moments of spontanaeity to work that come over me, when I don't have to plan out when I am going to get things done.
I walked around to the side of the house and got the extension ladder that my brother delivered last fall, I schlepped it up to the back and propped it between the shed and the tree in as secure a way as possible, I got out the chain saw, oiled it, and carried it carefully up the ladder. And I sawed off the one large limb that hangs out over the yard of the burned out hulk of a house next door. Then I climbed back down and began to chop that huge limb apart into burnable pieces.
A nice evening's work. I left half of the limb still to be sawed apart and of course the rest of the tree to be topped (the most precarious part of the task) and then felled. But it's a start. I'm so proud of myself for having roused myself out of my long winter stupor. (Actually, I did manage to cut the grass the other day. But my heart wasn't in it.)
I'd like to use the phrase 'h..n..' here, because that's what he really is. But it's just so un-pc and likely to be viewed as racist that I dare not. I don't know why it should be considered racist, though. There are contexts in which the n-word can be used that are not racist, but blacks are so sensitive to hearing it from whites that it's an automatic way to key an irrational thought process in them. Just say it and watch the fireworks start. It's a perfect bait-word.
I don't know why it should offend blacks when used in this present context. They themselves have got to think of Powell in that way. But I guess many blacks see him as a positive role model. And he is. But he's just too damn cozy with the administration to be a really positive force in the world of race relations. Wake up, man. It's not your heritage to...or, wait a minute. Come to think of it, yes, it is.
It's four-thirty on a sunny Saturday afternoon and I've just gotten up after six hours of sleep.
I want to go outside and sit in the sun, but I want to write out a dream I had and do a lot of other things.
Guess which one is going to win out? I could write into my paper journal. I haven't done that in so long.
I've got that summer bug again. I cut down what I thought was a weed growing in a plant container on the windowsill and when I discovered that it was lemon balm, I cut it into four sections and rooted it in an old pot in which a plant had died over the winter. Now, I want to plant some more.
While I was out on the front porch doing this, I saw locust tree flyers all over the place. So I gathered them up and plan to plant them and grow some trees that I can miniaturize and bonsai. I don't know why I do this sort of thing, because when winter comes, I lose interest in plants and let them die, most of them. But I figure if they are plants like lemon balm or spearmint or wild garlic (it grows all over the place in my yard), maybe I'll reap a continual winter harvest instead of letting ornamental plants stagnate in ignorant abandon.
While I was out on the porch, a guy and his wife drove up. They came to visit Terry, who lives across the street. The guy was one of those big, overweight but muscular and carrying it well, type of men. On their way back out to the car, the guy looked up at me on the porch as I stared down at him, so he stared back until, I nodded my head at him. He then said "Hey, guy." I responded with a word that was something between "Hey" and "Hi." Cool. They got into the truck and left.
There are only twenty-four hours in a day and, if I don't sleep eight of them, the ennui begins to build. (Sometimes it builds even when I do get eight or more hours of sleep.) Subtract about an hour for meals, another hour for miscellaneous routine tasks, and at least two hours of tv downtime, and that leaves only twelve hours to get anything substantial accomplished. Reduce the sleep hours and the amount of productive time is reduced disproportionately, in geometric decrease.
I have all of these great motivations now, and I know that, at best and despite my best intentions, this mood will last only until November or December. So choice of projects becomes a critical matter. What's most important? All of them. I want to do it all, now! You might think that this is a sad state of affairs, but it's not. I'm quite happy being manic. Duh. That's, like, saying the same thing twice. But it's true. I'm manic being manic. It feeds itself. It feels so nice getting things done again.
"I envy you," she says, "the way you can put paint exactly where you want to. You have such a steady hand."
"Actually, it's not so much putting paint where I want to as it's changing my concept of the composition to correspond to where I put the paint."
She envies me. Ha! She's a great artist. I'm not nearly so good as she is. It almost makes me want to quit. I've got to stop thinking like this. Art is personal expression. "Good" art is a social value. And she is good--highly skilled with great technique. But I am who I am. So what if I am not so social. She could never express what I want/need to express in art. Everyone is an individual. So then why am I always measuring myself against others?
Once, a long time ago, my ex had to have a dental procedure done, for which she was put under. Before he did it, the dentist explained some possible side effects of the drug, one of which was temporary, and in some rare cases permanent, blindness. During the procedure, the dentist had removed her glasses and set them on the shelf beside her. When I went in to see her afterward, she was just awakening out of the anesthesia. She opened her eyes, paused for a minute, and then yelled out "I can't see!" The dentist's preliminary warning had acted as a post-anesthesia suggestion. I calmed her down, reassured her, and handed her her glasses. I guessed I shouldn't have laughed at her, but it was both poignant and funny at the same time.
When I was a kid, I remember coming out of anesthesia after a tonsillectomy. I didn't know where I was for a while and was entertained by a phantasmagoria of images that I was sorry to see fading away as I came to an awareness of the hospital room. I can't remember now what the images were. I wish I could. They were like nothing I had ever seen before, although I suspect that they were a lot like certain drug experiences I would have much later in life.
I guess that waking up out of a dream is something like coming out of anesthesia. We go to sleep because our body drugs us into it with melatonin so that we can live out our ancient, naturally-selected reptilian-brain physiological response of remaining inert and motionless so as to better avoid nocturnal predators, and dreaming is the vestigial experience of being alert while immobilized, so that we (or rather our reptilian ancestors) may awaken if danger presents itself. So, when we dream, we're experiencing a reptilian consciousness, superimposed with our human mentality, of course. No wonder our dreams can seem so strange.
Sometimes when I awaken, I'm so groggy that I am quite aware of having been anesthetized. I don't know where I am and the dreams I leave behind are welcome places that are more like reality than reality itself, places I'd rather be, even when they're nightmares. I've never been bothered by nightmares, not even when I was a kid. Waking up scared then and sitting motionless in bed (like a reptile?), afraid to move until I was certain I was safe was a provoking experience, maybe because of the stirred-up unconscious contents. I've always pursued my unconscious contents, even when I didn't know I was doing it. Now that I've written that out, it seems kind of obvious. Isn't that what we all do, in one way or another?
I'm getting so much done each day that I can barely manage to find the time to write. I've almost finished my first painting in years. (I hope this note doesn't jinx it. I have this bad habit of almost finishing projects and letting them drop. On the other hand "Art is never finished, only abandoned.")
It's a lie perpetrated by the Fundamentalist Right that this country was founded as a Christian nation. Our constitution, written by a collection of Christian and non-Christian (agnostic and atheistic) founding fathers, specifically states that we are to maintain a secular government. They trusted neither a government to refrain from interfering with the free exercise of religion nor religions to refrain from interfering with the free exercise of government. The Bush cartel is presently violating one of the most basic tenets of our republic by intermixing the two. Furthermore, even if this were a Christian nation, the Christianity that the Fundamentalist Right is practicing [they need to practice it because they haven't yet got it right] is not that which Jesus taught. Jesus taught love and acceptance, not intolerance and bigotry.
If ever I felt it necessary to commit suicide (I doubt that I ever would; I can't imagine any fate worse than death, although perhaps having a painful terminal illness could change my mind), a good way to do it might be to challenge some intransigent authority whose human rights' abuses are well documented (the Ashcroft shadow government, for example). If its agents didn't choose to kill me outright after I developed my threat-matrix and sat poised on the verge of their national exposure and ridicule, it might take me prisoner under the quasi-legal guise of The Patriot Act and torture me, or at least hold me incommunicado. In the former case, my suffering might ameliorate the symptoms of my illness, or at least distract me from thinking so seriously about it, and my persecutors' awareness of the illness itself might belay their worst actions. In the latter case, I've always imagined that I would have no problem at all dealing with the psychological "anguish" of solitary confinement; in fact, in some ways I might welcome it. In short, what I am saying is that, ideally, I might turn my remaining short life into some kind of a political/social stand, and perhaps motivate future action toward a more advanced way of life.
The older I get, the freer I become because, frankly, more and more there is a whole lot less to lose. Strangely enough, this freedom translates itself into a kind of work ethic, whereas various types of restrictions when I was younger provoked a resistance in me that caused me to rebel and avoid work whenever I could. It's not that I was lazy (as accused; I would work for extended hours, even going days without sleep, when it suited me, when I saw a benefit from it, or when I had a genuine interest in the work), but that I needed to prove (to myself as well as others) that I was not a cog in the machine of the corporate work ethic-induced system that I protested against.
Now, freed from that system (relatively tentatively--no, it's not a redundant phrase; the apparent duplication is a subtle qualification), I establish my own rules of (semi-)engagement. I write in the "morning" (that is, from the time I get up, at whatever time of day or night), I paint (or do other visual arts) in the "afternoon" and I play (perform) music in the "evening," each of those activities modified perhaps by the necessity to do household chores that interfere with my more perfect life.
What I am saying, in short, is that I've finally hit upon a system that allows me to feel self-fulfilled. The other day, I wondered about this. I felt that I might be deceiving myself, that this way of life might be just another way to waste my time, like working for a series of thankless companies in order to make a living was, except that I needed the money then, so it was not so much a waste of time as it was a waste of talent. But then I thought, as I often do when these kinds of doubts pop up: "It's my time. I'll do what I want with it."
But now I think that it's not at all a waste. It's exactly how I am supposed to be using my time. I've gone through so many false starts throughout my life to get to where I am today. This new method is definitely not another one of them. This is the place I've gotten to by starting over, again and again, progressing through trial and error until, at last, I've arrived at where I want to be. Sure, there'll be some fine-tuning in the future. There always is. But the basic format has at last been achieved. I have wasted a lot of time in getting here, but that was inevitable. All valid methods take a while to develop as they weed out the inefficient processes.
The more I think about it, the more I come to believe that the Big Brother government that now exists, with its Patriot Act and its fascist politicians, sycophants, and bureaucrats, is no different than it was when I was growing up during a supposedly much freer time.
We just didn't expect as much from government back then, being well-indoctrinated, successfully propagandized into being good citizens--at least a lot of us were like that then. But a lot of us are like that even today, and some of us back then didn't buy into the American mythology.
I felt even more paranoid back then for (what I thought were) personal psychological reasons than I do now. But maybe it was simply a matter of prescience, that I was ahead of my time, intuitively feeling the weight of a future of negative potential pressing back on me.
The long-awaited Phantom Gaming Service -- which lets customers rent or buy PC games online -- will go on sale in November. Infinium Labs hopes to attract "lapsed" gamers who don't have time to cruise the aisles at the mall.
Minor setbacks today. First, overnight, trying to get into the studio between naps and tv programs I wanted to watch, when I finally get there at four a.m., I experience doubt as to what I am trying to do: I'm not satisfied with the last two paintings I just finished. I feel like I'm wasting my time. But I push on and add the finishing touches to yet another painting. But then again, after I set it aside, I'm not happy with it. This is all preliminary to the biggest setback yet to come.
There must be something in the "air," some god of dissatisfaction and/or perverse operating in the vicinity. The computer has been on standby all night, because I was planning on getting back to what I was doing on it. And this morning when I finally did, I try to connect to the Internet and...nothing. No dial tone. I reboot, thinking that standby has screwed up the modem settings. Still no good. I checked the connection. Good. All phones have a dial tone, even the headset that runs through the modem. I checked alternate ISP (free) connection software. Still no good.
Then I remember that there was a nearby lightning strike last night. Fried modem? Although there is nothing I would rather do less, I begin to move devices, speakers, phone, turntable, etc. around in order to maneuver my pc into a position where I can remove the cover, to check internal connections. I don't know what it is exactly that I am going to check, but maybe something will be obvious or maybe I can reseat the board and see if it makes any difference. Might as well. If I need to buy a new modem, I'm going to have to do it anyway. Nothing I do works, of course. So I guess the only alternative is to go out and buy a new modem and see what happens.
Under ordinary circumstances, I would wait. Everything comes to him (or her) who waits. I have proven this so many times in my life. When you are experiencing difficulties, especially of the psychological variety, but even physical difficulties, wait. Sit and meditate. Peace, bro. Wait it out, Things will turn around soon enough. But this is my Internet connection, man! How am I going to get my e-mail? How long can I let it pile up before I run out of online storage space? How long can I ignore my lj friends? How long can I not post to my journals and websites? How long can I go without news from the BBC? How long can I allow my website stats to accumulate? (Of course, if I'm not posting, then what difference does it make?) This is all hyperbole, of course, accentuated by the fact that I need sleep. But it feels so imperative. Any other problem, I go and sit and wait. Things will turn around soon enough. But this is my Internet connection, my lifeline to the world! I cannot be cut off from it. Loss of Internet access must be dealt with immediately. Same with the computer. If it isn't working. I'm lost. CompUSA, here I come. [Way too much attachment here.]
But these minor technical glitches awaken me to how much value I place in certain aspects of technology. As I drifted off into sleep, I thought about how much I rely on my computer and the Internet.
The Internet is my library, the most extensive one I've ever visited. I used to go to the local library all the time with a list of information I was looking for. But I haven't been there in a number of years.
I'm a bit saner now that I've gotten some sleep. All of the above is still valid, but far less pressing. I've got to start keeping more regular hours. (Who am I kidding? I love being up late and into the morning.)
Restricting yourself to expressing your ideas within a certain pre-defined line or paragraph length forces you to think differently by changing the rhythm of your thought. It enables you to break your usual pattern of expression and express yourself, and even think, in new ways.
My days are full. I can't fit anything else in without bumping something out. I write, I paint, I do token house or yard work, I practice music, I spend some time online, pursuing the news and special interests, and before I fall asleep I watch tv or tapes. It's a satisfying life. But I still can't help but feel like I'm missing something here. It's that eternal dissatisfaction I have been saddled with since I was a kid. There must always be something more.
The 'something more from yesterday's post is the missing forms of expression that I skip over to engage in different forms of expression, stuff like the esoteric blogs that are only done occasionally and that I forget about when my days are as full as they are now; that is, when I am motivated. (And when I am not motivated, well, then I'm not motivated, to do anything at all.)
It's obvious to me that racism will never end until whites stop thinking of themselves as white. What's not so obvious is that, even if this would occur, racism will still not end until blacks stop thinking of themselves as black.
This is a lesson I have to keep relearning: Especially during the summer, when I am motivated beyond my ability to produce, I keep going on and on, creating in various media until, after a week or so with too little sleep, I find that I can no longer sustain the motivation and, for a few days until I decide that I need to force myself to get a good night's sleep, I flounder, wandering around between projects, unable to work effectively. Last night, finally, I took some time-release melatonin and got almost nine hours sleep, and now I'm ready to go again. You think I'd learn.
In the street in front of 6023: the structure of the house has been drastically changed, rooms moved, etc. It becomes clear that we no longer live here and cannot gain access to the house. Paradoxically, inside, Dad (and someone else, like Jim, but not him) advises me about getting a job. [I'm vaguely aware within the dream that this refers to my real present life, but not intensely enough to make it a lucid dream.] The expectation exists among us that I am supposed to be working for a living and not vegetating and "living off "society. [Okay. I get the message. This relates to the idea I had yesterday about having to continually relearn that I need sleep in order to function. It's perhaps a bit of a rationalization that I equate my various art endeavors with being a socially functional person, but it works for me, at least during my waking hours. On the other hand, there's that old rationalization that I worked at thankless jobs for long hours six days a week, saving my money so that I could live freely as an artist the way I do now.] So, it's mutually decided that I go out to look for a job. CUT TO:
Greensburg Pike area, on a steep hill lined with low-class houses and an occasional mom-and-pop storefront above a mill town version of East Pittsburgh: I am walking down the hill toward the mill at the bottom, going there to apply for a job. As I get closer, I am accompanied (anonymously) by a lot of others guys, some of whom are also going to apply, but most of whom are employees going to work. I doubt the wisdom of needing to go to work. So I turn around and head back up the hill. I realize, then, that I am a high school student heading toward a new school. I see a lot of interesting young ladies that I'd like to get to know. One in particular is interested in me. She's more innocent than the others, but she's also more ready to approach me and declare (via her behavior--not in words) her interest in me. I befriend her and we walk off to the side of the street, into a stairwell, and down a few steps, where, because she has this voluptuous pair of lips, I kiss her. This upsets her, because she is not being intentionally seductive, I conclude, but merely playing instinctual games. We go back up to the street and start over. There are other girls around who also interest me, but if I pursue them, I will lose the attentions of this girl. CUT TO:
A school bus, on the way to school on the first day of the semester. The girl, another guy, and I are best friends, ala the three kids in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but older. We've been friends for most of our young lives. It's great that the girl is "one of the guy's," but she still has unconscious jealousy issues. I go up to the front of the bus where a nice girl is sitting that I'd like to get to know. She's tall, oriental, and sitting in a seat by herself. All the jocks are also up there, and I think they will resent my presence and give me a hard time; but they don't. They all but ignore me. [This was my orientation in high school. I felt that I was less socially "capable" that others--i.e., I was shy, suffered from completely unconscious low self-esteem, etc. But the "important" students seemed to like me well enough and would willingly talk to me when the occasion arose. And I too was also a jock, but I never thought of myself in that way.] CUT TO:
A classroom--subject, advanced English Lit: the girl (our friend) is in the class too, but our friend is not, because he is not so smart as we are (like in the movie). The teacher is a cross between James Remar and the English teacher in Just One of the Guys. He's cool and perceptive and I want to reveal my genius to him, but not just yet. Most of the other kids know him from earlier years. I take notes on scraps of paper, old brochures, etc., wishing I had brought a proper notebook; but in a semi-lucid moment, I realize that I can go home (to my real home) and transfer these scribblings onto the computer--which is what I'm doing now, I guess. Near the end of the class, the guy begins to check our notes. Apparently one of the missions of this class is to teach us how to take proper notes. When he sees my scribblings, he's concerned. I explain that I go home every day and copy them over into a more formal system. (I don't tell him that I use a computer, because I have this idea that either it's cheating or the personal computer hasn't been invented yet.) He asks me if that isn't a waste of time, when I could have done it right in the first place. I tell him that copying the notes over is a way I have of reinforcing the material to better learn it. He's impressed, not only by my system, but that I would take the extra time to copy over my notes at home. [The teacher is my own self (super-ego? maybe not--too kind and friendly and anti-authoritarian), monitoring the results of my method, and approving!!] CUT TO:
A non-descript area: (semi-lucid) the girl is somewhat upset with me because I am interested in other girls. And yet she's unwilling to pursue a sexual agenda with me. (She wants love first and foremost, which will translate, maybe, into sex after a long while, after I "prove" my love and fidelity.) I try to explain to her how I am, how I am not (necessarily, but I don't tell her this) interested in having sex with other girls. I'm only interested in getting to know them. I want to explain non-physical communion to her, how we can all be friends. But it's a nebulous idea that I can't quite manage to get into words, and I doubt that she would understand it anyway, being caught up in the instinctual games in the way that she is.
Yesterday, I got a nice folding table at Big Lots for twenty dollars. It's longer and narrower that the card table I've been using in the living room to contain the overflow from the studio (the tiny room behind it). The living room now has two tables laid out with art projects. I think I may pursue an old idea and convert the entire south side of the house (entryway, living room, studio, storage) into my studio and use the north side (dining room/office, kitchen, bath, bedroom) as my living area, since I most often watch tv in the bedroom anyway. Of course, this idea is already compromised since the office takes up half of the dining room and I use that area for verbal art. But visual art is becoming more and more dominant in my life, and soon I may be unified again. Maybe art in general will dominate the whole house, and I will have to move somewhere else to live. The girl next door moved out recently, to go and live with her boyfriend. Maybe if she puts her house up for sale, I'll figure out some way to rearrange my finances to buy it. I always liked that house with its large living room that opens spaciously into the dining room and its two roomy bedrooms. The only problem is that, if I bought it, I'd have to get a job, I think--not only to pay the mortgage, but the additional taxes as well. Still, it'd be great to have a nice place to live separate from my studio, which this house could then be, full time.
But I've got to be careful here. I find myself saying things like "I'm not nearly the artist that she is. I'm not very good." Those kinds of statements tend to generalize and generate unconscious contents that destroy any positive self-esteem I have.
When you tell yourself that you're not very good at any specific task (which may be true, although watch out for a self-defeating attitude here too), you have to monitor the language you use so that it will not enable unconscious negative generalization.
In this case, I should tell myself "I'm not as skilled an artist as she is, but as a person I am every bit as worthy..." and then follow that up with "...and as an artist, I'm capable of rendering exactly what I want while discovering serendipitous accidents.
People write and talk about (stray) cats finding their owners and adopting them. It's funny. My plants find me--and I have a lot of them, all acquired accidentally, as if I were meant to take care of them when no one else would. (And I find them in the woods too, or more likely, in my yard, growing errantly, destined to die when the winter comes if I do not dig them up and transplant them into pots and keep them inside.)
For every simple problem, there is a complex solution that doesn't work; and
For every complex problem there is a complex solution that doesn't work; and
For every simple problem, there is a simple solution that doesn't work.
Polemics can take you only so far, when you set about to criticize the authorities.
More general statements are less likely to be applicable to specific instances.
It's one of those paradoxes of life: we generalize to include, but end up excluding.
The fundamental flaw in government, any government, is the fact that the people who run it, want to. Thus it becomes an ego game. Government is hopelessly corrupt by its very nature (that is, it is composed of people). The less government that exists, the better off we all will be, of course. But laws against the corruption of human nature are essential to reducing not only crimes perpetrated by people against people, but to curb government abuse as well, which may result not only from the actions of self-interested politicians and bureaucrats, but may be flaws, intentional or otherwise, within the system itself. It's another one of those paradoxes we must live with: Which is better, in any given situation, the bad government or no government at all (or less of it)? In our present Amerika, we're rapidly arriving at the balance point. Any more of this shit and talk of another revolution is going to accelerate and make the idea more viable. I myself would love to see another revolution, except for the fact that I doubt that what we would replace our system with would be any better than what we have, and likely would be a whole lot worse--because the people who would lead the revolution would not be of the high-minded sort who led our initial revolt. More likely, they would be separatists, survivalists, and militia-types who would be intent on establishing a fascistic regime. What we need is a liberal revolution, and I fear that all we can hope for in this case is a bland, non-violent, half-revolution that ends when things get slightly better, as represented by the election of a Democratic president. A solution to this dilemma of ego-based corruption in government would be to prevent the re-election of incumbents. Always vote the bastards out. To this end, I have a potent and viable alternative revolution for you: elect Ralph Nader. Maybe he would end up being not so good as president, but he'd be a whole lot less bad than what we have right now.
A certain percentage of the ideas that I express in my various venues are just that, ideas, devoid of any belief value; i.e., there is no real personal significance vested in them. At another time, under different circumstances, I could have written opposing ideas. They are just ideas, nothing more. I'm reporting them, not proposing that they be believed in, that they be adopted as a part of one's life philosophy or code of ethics, or whatever. I am, much of the time, a reporter of ideas, some of which happen to be those that I believe in, but some of which are not.
I used to reserve the ideas I had that were not "mine" for inclusion in fiction, attributing them to other characters than the one who most represented my ideas. But any more I simply report the ideas as if they were my own, because they are worthy ideas (by self-definition, if I report them), even if they may not quite be ones that I give full credence to. It is this practice, probably, that gives rise to the criticism that I am not consistent. (No one is consistent. Everyone is a hypocrite. But most people keep the ideas that diverge from their ego-identity unconscious.)
I think that this practice of reporting just ideas is a step on the way toward becoming an objective reporter of (as opposed to a participant in) the human condition. It's a way of gaining distance, so that I might become less involved, more outside the fray, more Buddha-like, if you will. In other words, it's a means of attaining further detachment. One might argue that I am too detached already, that I've retreated too far and have isolated myself from the very society I would report on. But that's just another one of those valueless ideas.
Last night (this morning) I dreamed again about the old workplace, morphed once again into a different, but similar environment. I think [I've written of this before somewhere] that the purpose of this recurring dream (as well as a number of recurring fantasies that I will engage in) is to continue to practice those aspects of my past that I did not fare so well at, so that I may gain an expertise in, or at least an operational proficiency at the materials/operations. Since I've always been fairly good at the technical aspects of any system, able to learn what was necessary fairly quickly, what I'm dreaming (and fantasizing) about has to do with the human elements--office politics, interrelationships, and intimacies, both sexual and otherwise.
In this particular dream I was more adept than ever at dealing with a crisis and the inner turmoil of certain employees without becoming personally affected by the situation. In other words, I remained detached enough to analyzing the situation and propose solutions without feeling that there were personal consequences for my failure. I no longer feel that, if the (former work and social) situations are not handled exactly correctly (the often unstated and even sometimes actually vocalized demand of upper management at that last company), I will be thought badly of, reprimanded, or worse. I am advancing. I am learning. I am testing out ideas. I am fantasizing. I am dreaming. It's all becoming the same thing any more, more or less.
I got the clear vision last night: the transition is complete.
Oh, sure, there'll still be difficult times when I can't sleep.
And I'll keep dreaming about all the things that I did wrong.
But I've arrived at a point where I know this is who I am.
Now, more than ever, I know I am an artist, always was...
Always, misplaced among the businesses that twisted me.
My days are full and complete, and compromised only by the things I must do to survive. I know that's exactly the same as it always was--except that I now have a much more accurate idea of what is necessary, or rather, what is not. I intentionally, even decidedly, have let things drop away over the years until I've arrived at this place in my life where mostly only necessary things have remained. I'll keep paring away at it, the excess; but I'm fairly lean and mean right now.
And what remains? The art. I am an artist, after all. I write in the mornings, do art in the afternoons, or perhaps in the evenings if necessity or convenience suggests that I do one or two things to keep myself afloat or keep up appearances.
And I fill in the rest of the time with pleasantries--music, banal tv, or films. I am fulfilled. My local world is good, the days are sunny, and the Bush cartel is about to be voted out. It's too bad that the larger world is in such turmoil, but hey...
I'm seriously thinking (again) about not posting to this journal any more--or at least not posting to it obsessively every single day, even when I don't have a thing to say, only searching through my mind to come up with things. (There's always something in there.) But it's probably only an idle thought. I'll probably keep posting, because although I've moved on to what seem to me now like
bigger littler and better things (art; blogs), COD is a demanding pre-occupation.
2. Freudian typo: "Am I god, or what?"