I create art (forms. It's not enough that I create mere art).
Art forms in my brain, prior to any artistic act I might do.
If I never act on it, it is nevertheless art, world mimesis.
I do this because I have to, because society demands it.
It's a way of life I have been conditioned into, my life.
The problem is, it doesn't often come out right (outright).
All kinds of intervening variables intervene variably.
Society is a big one. It put that shit in there, yet it balks.
How many ways can I express a self that's splintered?
1) Gathering momentary facts, like in a dream I had about a Sean Connery type character (in the 1728 living room) who is writing down and collecting single, momentary ideas and experiences ("facts") with the intent of presenting them to film execs as ideas for movies. He has a collection of these items in a notebook that he carries with him. This is a symbol for my writing process; this is exactly what I do, as a first step, which I always want to make into some kind of "immediate" art, discrete pieces needing no contextual framework; like a photograph collection.
2) Momentary glimpses of people, specifically facial expressions caught off-guard, abstracted perhaps from video, revelatory of "inner states" of people; but also brief exchanges between/among people, like Maggie Mason does (or used to do) on her website.
3) Terse "poems", descriptive words akin to the images above.
4) A receptive attitude, a psychological state, specifically of women, where, because they are being penetrated or have been penetrated, they "open up" to the peni-traitor; that is, they open up psychologically because they were physically opened up. (In the case of rape, the opening up would be an unwelcome state--except in some rare forms of neurosis.) [This would be a specific example of a "captured" image/inner state, where the photo, and even words, violate the woman, so that she might be (psychically) affected in the same ways that a rape victim might; and, certainly, she would be affected in that way were she ever to see or read the artwork.]
5) As explained in #1 above, I collect these specific (verbal) images and I try to make something out of them by rendering them via transitions into a story/book format that more or less integrates them; but these could be visual images as well, collected and integrated via some thematic device. The images could be collaged, but they could also stand alone in book form. This could be "normal" photographic art or it could be surreptitious and thus, for the most part, autistic art.
6) Novelizations [like the "professionals" (read "hacks") do for Star Trek, Star Wars, et al.; or like screen writers do with stories and novels--sort of] of any specific show or movie of interest, done more for the purpose of personal edification (autistic art) than with intent to publish, although, with fogged/altered revision and/or initial design to make "transformative" (think Ian MacGregor's Moulin Rouge), it could be publishable.
7) Collecting sound recordings (see which later) is maybe a briefer form of this novelization motive, capturing "real life" being analogous to films created by people other than myself.
8) Like "autistic art", music can also be autistic. I play autistic music, in that I "perform" only for myself, never for an audience any more. I never felt comfortable performing. Now I know why.
9) A methodology and format for asking questions (a la Socrates), where maybe the answer is inherent in the question (in that intelligent people will come to realize the error, flaw, corruption, etc. that the question points to). Use this method to (try to) influence "society" toward dealing with the problems it should be dealing with [specifically, ones that directly affect me] instead of wasting the people's money on wars, corruption, and other dead-end efforts. (For example, if money were devoted instead to scientific and medical research, maybe we'd be a lot farther along on the road toward learning how to eliminate not only the diseases that plague us, but all of the corruption, terrorism, and other bad behavior caused by errant mental behavior as well.) Turn everything into a question. "Any attempt you make to answer any of these questions will reveal your biases and point out the agendas you have. Intelligent people reading your answers will know this about you from your polemics."
10) I have digital video camera sunglasses that I use to take surreptitious pics of people when I'm out in public. Then I load these into my computer, extract still shots, and alter them so as to be unrecognizable as to person and place. This renders them as usable elements in larger works of art and in comix. Or, I can use them "autistically".
This is the aut functioning, back and forth, between the splinters that society creates in me: Artistic aut is the art that autistic people create and put out for public consumption; autistic art (as I described it last month) is done for one's own (autistic) self, not to be shared, or to be shared among a very limited number of people. I divide my writing and art into two different categories: 1) for public consumption; 2) my private stock, a cache to be made public after I am "gone", or maybe just before that, while I am still around but more or less impervious to social/legal consequences, pieces derived from experiences with/of (as opposed to imagined, even if that imagination is based on) real people, how I interpret/change their content (it's not really their content; if I perceive it, then it's my own, although society may have different ideas about that), such as altered images and stories in which I use those people in a direct as opposed to a fictive fashion that makes them more or less identifiable, but yet legally used. Obviously, what I mean by autistic art would be the second category above, the first being social art.
Art is a priority in my life; but not. This drives me crazy.
I've become aware of (at least) three different priority classes:
1) Things I "must" do, for social &/or personal survival/health;
2) Things that have completion dates/times;
3) Things I want to do or would rather be doing.
I've known of this basic conflict in my life for a very long time, but I've never before considered it in terms of priority. I've always thought that priorities had to be established across these three categories; and maybe I will ultimately decide that they do. But it now occurs to me that the conflict is not really a matter of establishing priorities as much as it deciding how important it is to cave to the demands of society and nature. I've said many times in the past that I want to do what I want to do, and not what other people (or even my own basic physical nature) would have me do. For example (the circumstances that bring my attention to this matter right now):
I forced myself to go to sleep late last night (slept for five hours until morning when I didn't really need it because I've been on a daylight sleep schedule) because I planned on getting up early this morning, to put out the garbage (which is no big deal except that I had a lot of things in the basement that needed to be cleaned out, most of which got thrown away) and also I saw in an ad last night that a local store has cheese on sale for $2/lb. Can't pass up that deal. But, when I got up this morning after having spent most of last evening making great progress on finishing up my new novel, all I really wanted to do was work some more on it, while my motivation was high, which it always is after just awakening, because if I wait until later in the day to do it, I just know that my motivation will wane; because that's what it always does in the afternoon. Furthermore, I've been wanting for days now, ever since I finally managed to get an old batch of refrigerated yeast that I wanted to salvage fermenting away, to make a batch of beer (or several), because I also want to use up all the malt that's taking up all my refrigerator space and so that I don't have to drink the crappy cheap beer that I've been buying. So...
What do I do now? I've already used up a chunk of time/motivation getting rid of all that garbage before the garbage men arrived. Now I can go to the store or make beer or write. Which will it be? What are my priorities here? One time restraint, garbage, has already been dealt with. So do I work on the second time restraint, the cheese sale (because if I don't get there early, they'll sell out, I know, because that's always the way it is at that store)? Or do I give in to my better nature and work at what I really want to do, make beer while writing by running to the computer between discrete beer making tasks? I'm freezing up here, unable to decide. And writing is the usual way I thaw myself out. [But I ended up going food shopping instead.]
Now [ i.e., later; time is relative, especially when I'm writing], obviously, I'm writing; but I no longer feel so motivated as I did this morning. [In fact, it takes the entire month to get back to doing this here, right now, where I left off a month ago, processing my raw journal notes]:
Here's the deal: I'm developing a new method of writing, which is really an old method I used to use many years ago, before I...but wait. I'm getting ahead of myself. I want to use this method to construct this month's pastiche, even to the point of including in it this explanation I just wrote (yesterday, not last month, which is where these journal notes are from and which is where I'm posting them now, a month later); even to the point of including this embedded note to myself that I should include this explanation; even further to the point of...
I have labeled the content of this new method [after my penchant for creating mnemonics for aspects of my methodology so that I can better retain the "advances" I dream up, when otherwise they will run out of my sieve of a brain] "o&e", for odds and ends, all of the little bits of crap that I write out in my journals that I can't seem to find a place for anywhere else. Often I'd try to dump that o&e into these pastiches, and for the most part, that worked out okay, except that it took so goddamn long to write that way. So I set about to create this new method for using it [which itself is developing into an excessive work routine; maybe you just can't get there (Easy Street) from here (Self-Expression Avenue)].
David Mamet wrote a book, Wilson, a few years back, where he dumped a lot of miscellaneous and diverse details under the science fictional pretense of revealing the future (our future, but the book's past) as newly discovered archival material from a distant past, before a series of catastrophic events that destroyed much material that aids in social recollection. The book was obtuse, confusing, hard to read, and harder to understand; but the significant fact for me is that it was a collection of odds and ends, stuff that Mamet probably didn't know what to otherwise do with. My monthly pastiches and to a lesser extent my novels and short stories have always served this purpose; they are my collection of personal archives. I make no apologies for their erratic nature (well, maybe that's not so true; in fact, maybe what I'm doing here right now could be seen as an apology); however, unlike Mamet, I make no pretense as to what I'm up to:
O&E content in my newest method is rendered in a Beckett-like manner (which is how I used to write when I was younger and under his mesmeric continental Irish influence) of strung together ideas, phrases, and sentences and hung on the framework of an ongoing storyline that is either 1) coincidental after the fashion of a protagonist who is traveling (whether literally or internally) somewhere, or 2) intentional, either on the part of the protagonist who has a plan for what he's all about, or merely on the part of the author (me), who in any case of necessity has a kind of plan, however semi-conscious, if the protagonist has one, but probably has a plan beyond that of the protagonist, some outline, likely in the form of a traditional story arc. So the protagonist babbles on and on in a near stream of consciousness manner, all the while carrying out the plan that one or the other of us has in mind; because if there is no plan, then any old blathering could be considered art (which is actually how I would like it to work out--i.e., the easy way; but I guess I've pretty much shot that trial balloon out of the sky).
So, anyway, here it is (or rather there it was, in case you failed to notice it started a number of paragraphs ago, unless you've been one of the very few dedicated followers who noticed that it actually began years and years ago), the newest method, o&e, hung in this particular case upon the framework/structure of a monthly semi-blog pastiche. [Actually, if I were really serious about doing this, I wouldn't have put in any of those paragraph breaks above. Maybe I'll resist doing it below; or maybe not.]:
I, as an author and as a person who (most) often becomes my own protagonist, travel through my life, through the world that gave me life and nurtures me, heading somewhere; but here's the problem: I, the protagonist, have no idea where I am going and often don't even know where I am until long after I've been there and gone, such is the nature of my retroactive observation; and I, the author, have no idea how to establish a structural plan for my protagonist to follow, whether or not he will know he's following one. This problem is in part caused by autism, but not entirely. It is also caused by postmodernism, that is, the postmodern confusion between the various forms of authorship. And I have no idea where to look for a solution to my problem any more than I have an idea for where to look for clues as to where I'm going. [I'm not even sure whether I am the author or the protagonist as I write out these ideas.] And even the world's (arguably) foremost authority on authorship, Umberto Eco, can't seem to enlighten me. He writes (on The Modern Word website), "I think that a narrator, as well as a poet, should never provide interpretations of his own work. A text is a machine conceived for eliciting interpretations. When one has a text to question, it is irrelevant to ask the author." So, being the author here, it's irrelevant, it seems, that I try to figure this little difficulty out for myself. And the protagonist, the narrator here if you will, is far denser than I am as to what is going on. All kinds of things happen inside and without the text that enlighten and confound the relationships between empirical author, model author, empirical reader, model reader, and, yes, even perhaps the character-narrator. We might even go as far as to include all characters and objects that act as characters here. The whole issue is made even more complicated by the fact that authors do not write books. That's too simple an explanation for what is going on in literature. Society uses authors to create texts and, through its conditioning, education, influence, and manipulation, chooses the ideas, words, and images any given author uses. Society writes books. To believe otherwise is to overly narrow the focus of what is going on in written communication. [Which is, incidentally, why I don't believe in copyright, unless you mean that which I myself "own" according to the laws that you, society, adhere to; that is to say, by making this statement I am not abrogating my rights as author in the traditional sense. This is merely a theoretical position I take. If you, society, will choose to eliminate all copy rights, I will applaud you; but I'm confident you will not do that, greedy little bastards that you are.] The complexity of mutual influence between the authorial aspects of a text is so complicated that it is impossible to ever unravel it. It makes for nice scholarship when academics and gifted amateurs give it the old college try. But, like a lot of academic pursuit, it's hardly worth the practical time devoted to it. It's the equivalent of (being capable of) doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. It's edifying, satisfying, and even fun for some (types of) people, but all it ends up doing is pointing out how much more complex written communication is than we as mere single, mortal individuals are capable of understanding. This, then, is why I do not bother so much with what my various (internal, to myself and to each of my individual texts) authors are "up to" when they complicate issues that other "simpler" (but not really) empirical authors, being more enamored of popular acclaim than I, choose to render in a more "straightforward" narrative. (It's not really any more straightforward than that which an "obtuse" author might write, given the true nature of the writing process; it only seems that way because of the chosen style.) Whatever is happening within (and without) my texts is a social concern, from which, being both an adherent of what might be called the blasť, disaffected, disinterested, and/or merely expressive school of (anti-)literature and, as well, autistic, I am doubly removed. I write because I feel the need to do it. I must express myself in the way I do. And I do mean something, in fact a lot of things, when I write. But what the texts really mean is not my concern. That is a concern of the society at large, and, as well, over and above the "literary" community that might be either positively or negatively interested. I have tried to point out here that meaning, like my destination, is ultimately an impossible thing (for me) to know (and for you as well), except in the most superficial way, in smallest part, of limited passages. We humans are, despite our greatest efforts and advancements, still for the most part an unconscious species. What eventually evolves up out of us, the greater regional or global organism, may become more consciously intelligent. I certain hope so. But until that time...I merely write, what's passing through my mind, most of which I am oblivious to, trying to get somewhere I know not. But then, who really does? The person who claims to know is probably at best misguided.
[Okay. So maybe an unparagraphed format isn't such a great idea. It may be all right to break the material into paragraphs again as long as the ongoing nature of the (semi-)narrative is preserved. Besides, it's too difficult to correct and revise; harder to find places in the text in the html editor.]
The origin of this year's "winter episode" (see below; but don't jump ahead, you might miss something important in this earlier explication) has been developing for quite a while and has only been waiting for the
right wrong time when the anxiety, looking for an issue to latch onto, finally finds it and converts itself into paranoia. This started almost a year ago, even earlier in that I have been aware of the problem for years now: I need to get my ass (by which I mean my mouth) to a dentist. Anxiety escalating toward paranoia is causing me to suspect that I may end up with false teeth; and I don't think I would like that very much. How much of this is paranoia and how much is real? There certainly is a basis in reality, but how much?
I have to develop an act to use when I finally motivate myself enough to call the Pitt dental school for an appointment; but then I have to do the same thing, no matter where I go. So, let's get up for it, bite the bullet, and just do it. It's no big deal, really. And I can use it to practice acting, scripts, my list of "Rules" (a la Zombieland), etc.
That was remnants from last winter's episode (included in my book Drastic Changes) still hanging around, haunting me; this winter's episode involves general pain in the lower abdomen. Tender testicles. A more specific pain right at the top of the groin area, left side. Oh no, I start to think as the pain increases slightly over the course of a day and a half. Could this be the big C? I'm so screwed. I have no health insurance. Medicare doesn't kick in until August. Can I possibly wait that long?
"Aren't you afraid?" She wants to know if I'm afraid of dying, but she doesn't know that's what she wants to know. (Or else I'm the one who doesn't want to know.) Instead, she thinks she wants to know if I'm afraid I might have cancer.
"Of course I'm afraid. But it's no big deal. It's nothing new. I've always been afraid. I've lived my whole life like this so why would I act any differently now? Unless..."
Unless I can figure out some way of using my fear in some way, like writing about it maybe:
Anxiety and paranoia drive me inward to introspection and outward to research to verify or debunk the causes of my distress; thus I (attempt to) turn their negativity into (somewhat) positive results--over and above how I use them as content for my art. After several days of internet searches, I follow up on an early hit that informs me one of the causes of abdominal pain can be a pinched nerve in the back, which I thought possible since I was currently experiencing a flare-up of ankylosing spondylitis symptoms, specifically with left eye inflammation, which started around the new year, went away, and then more recently returned; so I made the connection of inflammation of the eye with possible inflammation elsewhere and considered, first, kidney inflammation (infection), but later, when I googled "intestinal inflammation", I finally (re-)discovered the fact that ankylosing spondylitis also causes intestinal inflammation. Pinched nerve. Intestinal inflammation and maybe ulceration. I immediately though belatedly (I don't think that's redundant) recognize this as the actual problem (or else I am deluded by the most positive aspects of my incorrigibly hopeful mind into believing it is).
A quick ingestion of garlic and cayenne supplements (seems to have) relieved the problem. (Who knows if it was the supplements or something else, even that maybe the episode had already run its natural course?) But, what a relief! From the pain, which wasn't all that bad, in fact it was quite tolerable in comparison with the idea that I might have a terminal illness. Yet another (imagined) catastrophe avoided. Maybe.
I'm left with the idea of life lessons, not only the obvious ones like how I'm going to have to start exercising (to relieve and mitigate some of the more severe symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis) and eating better, stop going on junk food binges that can cause gastric distress, buy whole foods, actually take the time to cook my meals (although sandwiches on whole grain bread would be quite sufficient if supplemented with veggies), maybe even become a vegan. I could manage that easily with the extra income that social security will provide (if the fascists that are insinuating themselves back into control of the government don't succeed in "privatizing" and thus disabling it), but less obvious lessons as well:
Lesson #1 (re-emphasis; I've "learned" this lesson several times before): Anxiety (about anything, but especially about my health) that threatens to escalate into paranoia derails depression, which I had previously been sinking into. There's a fine line between merely staying in out of the cold and depression. The winter blues (SAD) is, perhaps, a physical form of what is otherwise thought of as a mental disease; but, when we come right down to it, it's all physical, because the brain/mind is a physical organ. [We have probably developed the idea of "mental" illness from the fact that we superstitiously believe that the "mind" is something more ethereal ("spiritual") than physical, which, now that I think further about it, probably should have caused us to develop the idea of spiritual disease, except that we are such superstitious cunts that we set that area of our fictive lives apart and make it so goddamned sacrosanct that we don't dare to suggest that our spirit could get sick, our spirit is that part of us that is so pure. In fact, it is, but only in physical terms; It's The Light, which is a physical phenomenon, though its "mysteries" are yet to be scientifically "discovered". The Light is the point in physical (i.e., all) nature that is as much "spiritual" as physical, the singular phenomenon from whence our ideas about spirituality emanate. The cosmos, especially when we consider how its minute characteristics (sub-nuclear phenomena) play out in grosser physical affairs (think quantum mechanics), is a purely "spiritual" (in our deluded terms) experience, another arbitrary, illusory fine line: physical/spiritual. I cross that fine line all the time mostly without ever knowing it. I vibrate at its conjunction. We all do, some of us more consciously than others.] Yeah, some of what I experience as the winter blues is actually a deeper kind of depression. Sometimes I even cry. But I suspect that that doesn't necessarily mean anything, since most of the time when I cry, it is empathetically, for other people, not for myself. When I would cry for myself, I tend instead to get defiant: "You can't make me cry, motherfucker, no matter what you do. Go ahead and hurt me or even kill me if you must, but I'll never give you the satisfaction. I'm not a child any more." (In that respect, I can't remember ever being one.)
Lesson #2, added here as an aside because, although it does not derive directly from the big C paranoia, it fits in with the "lessons" theme: Last summer, my sister gave me a wood stove that she removed from her old beach house before she had it torn down to be replaced by their retirement home. (That's a home where she and her husband will live when they retire, not a place that will house a lot of old people.) I planned to move my old wood stove out onto my back patio, which I will semi-enclose to contain the heat, thus making it possible to start up earlier in the spring and extend into the winter my two and a half season small engine repair and miscellaneous projects activities out there. But, as I was preparing to move the stove, the top diverter plate (which slows unburned particles from too quickly rising up the chimney so that they can be burned up in a secondary conflagration) fell out and I saw that it had been severely deformed and partially consumed--by the bad habit I developed over the years of burning (hotter-burning than wood) plastic trash in order to extend my resources and save a little bit more money, and the further-polluted society be damned because it created that toxic trash in the first place and what's the difference if it pollutes the environment immediately or does so longer-term in dumps; I know, it's a bad rationalization, but I'm still not sure that I've changed my mind about it all. Then I noticed that one of the two side-plates had also been deformed. The lesson(s): first, it's nice that someone (my sister, and just maybe some cosmic entity or force) is looking out for me, in this case by providing me with a new wood stove before I even noticed that I might soon be needing one; second, I shouldn't be burning plastic; and, if I can't come to that sane conclusion by my own wits, then I need to be informed of it and maybe even gently coerced into it.
Lesson #3 (an idea arising out of the previous lesson, which I thought at the time I wrote it out to be an unrelated aside, though its relevance seems to have been all along unconscious in my mind): Trust more in society and be more spontaneous. There are, after all, a few positive social factors; it's not all a vast negative right-wing conspiracy. It's so easy for me to get down on society, given my basic asocial nature; but such a simple example as my sister giving me a wood stove indicates to me that there is, out there, a lot of value and support to be derived, if only one has the ability and willingness to accept it. A while ago I created a contingency script (it's really an anti-script), to be used, if ever, when circumstances permitted, by which I mean when I might suddenly finds myself in a sociable mood, which will occasionally come upon me out of the blue: Talk to strangers as if you've known them for years, as if they're your best friends even. On the few occasions I've done this, it's been a wonderful experience.
Lesson #4: How much time do I have left? Will I get any substantial part of my plans and goals accomplished? How many books of the fifty or so I have planned can I finish? How many more paintings can I get done? How many more guitars can I build or repair? What's really important? How can I better establish priorities? Because, right now, my prioritizing skills suck. I plan to live to be at least 111 (based on a Jane Roberts/Seth prophecy about the "end of the world" that I want to verify or debunk), but is that a realistic goal or merely an idle fantasy? Although I know that fantasies can be turned into reality via expectation and self-fulfilling prophecies, if I don't otherwise sabotage the process by spouting unwitting semi-conscious mantras capable of programming the subconscious against my longer-ranged goal. "I think I'm gonna die" is this kind of mantra. I gotta get that goddamned song out of my head.
I think I'm gonna live. I think I'm gonna live...
But even that is not positive enough.
I know I'm gonna live. I'm going to live. I am going to live.
I live. I'm alive. I'm alive forever.
Or at the very least until 2051.
No other possibility, please. Let's not sabotage the prophecy.
I have a lot of doubt about publishing my latest book Drastic Changes, and even more doubt about sending my sister a copy (which is what I initially intended to do), not only because of the subject matter (especially the first section) that is, though fictionalized, closely based on family concerns, but also because of the style. A standard model literary critic would not consider it "good" writing; but it accurately depicts the state of mind I (oops, I mean the protagonist Jack) was in during the time period that the story spans. Therefore, by (my) definition, it is good writing. (I've never been very conventional in this way; or in a lot of other ways, for that matter.)
And then there is the other main issue: No matter how many times I reread a document, especially a larger one, no matter how many mistakes in spelling, grammar, usage, or awkwardly worded sections I correct, there's still going to be more I've yet to find. And the more time that passes between readings only complicates the problem as my developing artistic skills and sensibilities cause me to want to express what I've previously written in a better way. Eventually, I know, I've got to let go of past expressions and let them slip into the past where they belong. Unless I become a poet like Walt Whitman and work on one primary book throughout my life, I will never achieve the level of perfection I feel that I should achieve. Few people ever do.
My books have a lot of flaws, because:
1) I don't have an editor; or, rather, I am my own editor. (I edit myself.) But I don't like to edit (myself). Usually, after critically reading through the pre-published documents a few times, I give up and go ahead and publish them. And later, rereading the book piecemeal, I'll catch errors (or friends will point them out to me) or I'll come across sections I don't like and/or would rather have expressed in a better or different way. And I'll correct these in future sub-editions (changed POD files).
2) I don't have a publisher; or, rather, I am my own publisher. (I publish my self.) I actually do like publishing (my self) and want to do a whole lot more of it; but there is only so much time and energy available, which the rigors of editing further limit.
3) "Art is never finished, only abandoned."
I'm settling into winter survival mode pretty much full time now. It's funny how I always think in December and January that I'm at the depths and then in February, when I'm even lower, look back and realize how relatively easier it was back then. (And then in March, as the effects drag on...)
But, as much as I hate winter's cold and low light levels, I appreciate the season for the opportunity (or excuse) it provides me to hide farther away and spend almost all of my time writing and compiling books, which I hypothesize is what I'm supposed to be doing, in addition to developing my "spiritual" awareness of and personal advancement toward the Kristos phenomenon. (Is it anywhere near accurate to describe an experienced first-cause as a phenomenon, when it is in fact the only phenomenon extant in this known cosmos? Doesn't the singular 'phenomenon' suggest that there are more of them? That is, can a single phenomenon even be experienced if it is the only phenomenon? Because what other phenomenon would then do the experiencing? But then Kristos, as the lone phenomenon, can experience itself, via advanced human consciousness. So I guess calling Kristos a phenomenon is perfectly all right.)
When people read what I write, they generally react in one of two ways: 1) They don't quite understand what it is they're reading and believe or suspect that I'm some kind of egg-headed intellectual who is talking (writing) way over their heads; 2) They think I'm either goofy or insane, totally brain-addled; or else I'm a terrible writer who is so self-deluded that he can't see how what he believes to be excellent writing is actually garbled crap. [Maybe that's actually three ways.]
The fact is I'm not crazy (even if I do say so myself). Many of my characters are crazy, but I am not, notwithstanding the fact that I, as empirical author, overlap my characters in a lot of ways so that separating us out is often impossible, except perhaps by some sophisticated linguistic techniques that most people know nothing of. In any case, the crazy parts, by definition, belong solely to those characters, not to me. I wouldn't have it any other way.
As for being an intellectual whose work is way over the heads of readers, well, what do you think? Remember, whatever opinions you have of other people say at least as much about your own self.
I am only myself. Other authors, in order to write fiction, may pretend to be something they are not, in order to create characters they are not, when their own selves are not quite adequate; but not me.
I am my characters; or, rather, my characters are me. Or, if they're not, they soon enough become me. This is what happens to me (whether or not I am writing). People inhabit me (whether or not they are "real" phenomena).
I am splintered in this way: so much of me gets parceled out to other places, people wanting pieces of me, that it feels like there is so little of me left to manage my everyday affairs, let alone to write about them, or whatever else.
Back when I was posting most of my journal work to my website, I was feeling like I was missing the way I used to compile stories out of my journal material. So I decided to go back to that method/format.
Then, after writing nine stories, which I expanded into a novel and four novellas, I started to feel that I was missing posting to the website. So now I'm posting again. I guess I should be doing both, in balance.
But that's the basic problem, isn't it? Balance. If I could maintain a substantial balance to my life, I wouldn't be so...so what? So...unbalanced. And I could maintain that balance...if I had much more time.
I recognize that time is short. I've been intuitively aware of this fact for many long years. No matter how much time I may have, it is always in short supply; because there are just too many things I want to do.
...and if I didn't fall subject to periods of anxiety that threatened to escalate into paranoia and drive me into long periods of research and introspection to determine the exact nature of my "distress" (i.e., where it falls along the real/imagined spectrum) by sorting it all out into some kind of more or less logical analysis:
I suspect that ankylosing spondylitis is the only problem I have that has the potential to compromise my health and longevity. The symptoms:
|eye inflammation||diminished eyesight||hot compresses|
|pressure in head/ears||high blood pressure||?|
|heart rhythm||valve damage||?|
|irritable bowel||ulceration||posture & NSAIDs|
|restless leg||probably none||posture|
|fever (chronic fatigue?)||?||sleep|
Does the inflammation begin in the intestines and "crawl" slowly up the spine, settling finally at the top and then dissipating? That's what I now imagine it has been doing each time an "episode" occurs, with the exception this time that it has dwelled far longer at the base than it usually does. Perhaps previously it moved quickly up and so I didn't notice its progression; or maybe it's a bad hypothesis.
...and if I didn't have to sleep, which uses up a lot of valuable time and, when I will not willingly submit to the need, significantly decreases the quality of my work and eventually threatens my regular heart rhythm.
...and, especially, if I didn't dream, because dreaming increases the workload, presenting even more possibilities:
Bad night. The pain has returned. Fear escalating into paranoia.
Dream of the old workplace, but out along Rte.22 where Burger King actually is. An expansive one-floor warehouse type of building stretching way back off the highway with a single row of employee parking spaces along the otherwise barren western wall. Eileen is skulking around, first outside, then later inside. I don't have a car. My new one was supposed to have been delivered here from the dealership a quarter of a mile up the highway (long since replaced by a now defunct movie theater complex); but the error wasn't due to a car salesman's incompetence (but perhaps by the fact that the dealership no longer exists). So I am stuck. [Brief flashback: At 6023, Dad and I are working on a car, repairing my old one, trying to get me some reliable transportation.] So I'm walking instead of driving along the building next to the parking area, heading into town, which is just down the highway as if it were Second Ave. I need to buy some things, personal items, but feel guilty about leaving during working hours, even though, being a management employee, I have that right and, besides, I'm on my lunch break. I return to work without going into town (the guilt having won out?) to discover Eileen still skulking, up to something, I'm not sure what, except that it involves somehow stabbing me in the back. An old, huge robin, very disheveled, comes in an open window and sits on the sill inside the building. I'm amazed that it is not afraid of me or others who walk by and I conclude that it's too old to be bothered. [!] Someone, Wayne maybe, walks by. I point the bird out to him. He has sandwich makings with him and offers the bird a whole piece of bread. The bird opens its mouth and he lays the bread in there, then he lays a strip of bacon atop it, and finally some lettuce. The bird closes his wide mouth as if he's chewing it up, slowly, methodically, not in any hurry. I myself, as I had earlier passed by, intentionally stayed away from the bird because I didn't want to upset it in any way. [!] Smooth transition to the river bank (downtown now). I, or someone else who I am acting as, runs toward the river and jumps in, but as if it's not quite so voluntary an action, and as if, although the water is quite shallow, only ankle deep between the bank and a sandbar about fifteen feet out, he (the guy I am, but as if somehow detached and observing him) is afraid he'll drown and scurries to get bank to the bank. [There is no reason at all to be fearful, but I am afraid anyway. Paranoia.]
Awake, I realize I was not paranoid about working at that job (and probably the same is true for all the other jobs I had). It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you. And I now know for sure that they were. The "fear" I felt in the dream was sort of a heightened sense of anxiety, more like repressed fear than actual fear itself. I realize I've felt this way all my life. This is not a new realization, except that I now know not to classify it as paranoia. People will take action against me behind my back. Maybe my ("odd", different) behavior (symptoms) prompts this as a reaction, though, if it does, it is not warranted. I am who I am, and if you feel you have to stab me in the back because you are too much of a coward to act openly toward me, to express to me how you really feel about me, then that's your bad, not mine.
I am the product of my environment, of my society. I am what you have made me into, either intentionally or, more to the point, as a reaction against your unyielding non-acceptance of physical and genetic difference. What I express, in one way or another, you have dictated.1 In any case, you are responsible for me, your creation. When you criticize me, you criticize yourself; when you condemn me, you condemn yourself. I started out addressing this comment to society in general, but I end up here referring to people, because people implement society's will. People are society, acting mostly unconsciously in concert. You are society. You are either for me or against me or else you don't give a rat's ass, which is even worse, I suspect. I have every reason to be afraid of you. You have proven to me what you are capable of and willing to do.
I try to analyze the general fear, which can real or unreal:
Fear of people/society v. fear of nature. Is nature out to get you? Yes. Sooner or later, it's going to kill you. Until that time, it's going to try to harm you, afflict you with scourges, diseases, etc. Fear of nature is fear of real phenomena. The fear may be blown all out of proportion, such as when you have an unfounded suspicion that you are dying of a terminal illness; but, sooner or later, nature will get you, if you are not first run over by a bus or gunned down in a drive-by or die by one of the many, many other dangerous situations we must live with every single day. It's a simple law of nature: People die.
Fear of people is not necessarily so real. People, for the most part, are not out to get you (unless you consider that the fucked-up mentalities of people prompt them to unconsciously perpetrate all kinds of caustic behaviors that just might affect you in one way or another; I do). I give up. Fear is fear, and there's no real accounting for it. It happens, and whether it's real or not isn't really the question. It is. Whether it's paranoia or not is the real question.
Lying awake, in pain (stomach and groin), exhausted but not wanting to sleep, dream residue fear prevailing, transferring to my physical situation, I begin to experiment with my prone posture: Lying on my left side, twisting my torso as far as possible so that my upper body is almost face down while my legs remain where they are, I can move the pain away from where it seems to be, first into my left hip, then, if I twist myself far enough, into the very base of my spine at the lowest vertebrae; and if I twist myself as far as is humanly possible, I push past the balance point and begin to feel the familiar tingle of restless leg syndrome. This is a great relief, both physically and mentally. It's obvious that the pain is emanating from my spine, caused by the ankylosing spondylitis. But when I return to a normal posture the pain returns to where it had been and seems not at all like displaced pain, but very real. I'm beginning to wonder if spending most of my hours through the entire winter sitting up in bed working instead of being up and about is causing this problem. Very probably.
I fall into a semi-sleep state and half-dream about an attractive (to me, though not conventionally so) woman who is willing to help me in whatever way she can. (I reserve the more obvious ways that she can "help" for later.) She gently pushes her tiny hand through the skin of my back, wrapping her delicate fingers around the lower vertebra of my spine, and inserting her thin index finger into the space between my two lowest vertebrae, relieving the pressure and pain residing there. I awaken out of my "swoon", disappointed that we had not had the time to "get to know" each other better and not really so sure this that "dream" had so much to do with my pain as with something else entirely.
I remember the last time I was in this much pain. The summer of '07 I think it was. That was far more painful than this is (and, not so coincidentally, involved exactly the same ultimate source) and it lasted three weeks! So, if I can trace and rationally attribute this pain to that same source (by "posturing" myself "properly"), then there's really nothing to worry about, for at least three weeks, anyway. We'll see how I feel then.
Each new manifestation of AS symptoms I experience always throws me off my game as I struggle to decipher the ailment by tracing the pain paths back to the original source to assure myself that I am not in fact dying of some as yet to be determined disease. How many times in my life have I thought I was going to die? In a way, during those times, I was right: Some day I am going to die; though not just then. But in another way, the "real", rational, objective way, I was paranoid, based on misinterpreted symptoms. And yet, to me, in those moments or during those days of the turmoil of my psyche, I was every bit as world-weary as a man who has seen it all through countless adventures, escaped death by the skin of his teeth a thousand times. Such is the experience that paranoia affords. And a longstanding relief from it has always been: Activity:
The other day as I left the bedroom to brave the elements to start my lonely old Toyota, my second car that I never drive during the winter and so must keep it in running shape by a quick jaunt down the road now and again, I tried to put a pencil I was carrying into a side pocket of my oversized nylon track pants that I wear like snow pants over my sweats when I go outside, and I couldn't understand why I couldn't get it in. I remember semi-consciously having tried to do this before, so I examined the pants more closely this time, and I was pleasantly distracted by the discovery of a pocket on the front that I didn't know was there. This pleased me, to have this convenient additional pocket, into which I put the pencil. It even had its own Velcro flap. Later, when I needed the pencil and went to extract it, I realized that in fact I had the pants on backwards and that new pocket was not new at all, but was the normal one on the back. So there I was, driving around the neighborhood dressed like a doddering old man who has his pants on backwards. Has it begun already? Should I start looking for a full care retirement home? No. What I should do is get my withdrawn, seclusive ass out of the house more often. Physical activity is what is required. In addition to physical maladies aggravated by inactivity, I'm suffering from cabin fever and stir craziness. I sure do miss the summer (every year).
This season befuddles me. (Actually it's probably the transition between seasons more than it's the winter per se, which finds me quite content not to have to do anything at all that involves going out if I don't absolutely have to.) I'm back and forth all over the place: out or in, write or paint, this or that project, motivated or lethargic, cold or warming up and wanting to get out and do things, full circle and around it all again and again.
And football has ended for another six months. No big deal, really, except I do like the anticipation of an up-and-coming Steelers' game that provides me with a lame goal during a fairly goal-less season. And I can use players (like I use celebrities in general) as fodder for psychological analysis when my story characters temporarily dry up; for example:
Roethlisberger is a great talent; but I don't think anyone, especially the manboy himself, realizes the extent to which his self-destructive instincts are interfering with his game play. It's been obvious to me ever since his motorcycle "accident" that he is fighting himself deep down and he brings that fight out onto the field. It's a subtle interference that his subconscious is throwing in his way, and he needs to get a firm grip on it and learn how to deal with it, consciously, because the longer he lets it slide the more potential for disaster it will develop. You can see it working in his extracurricular activities more easily than you can see it on the playing field. He may say he's dealing with his problems, he may be able to convince management, ownership, and league officials that he has rehabilitated and reformed himself, but I still see the bugaboos at work deep beneath the surface. All he has done so far is forced his internal drama to act in a more sophisticated manner. And it affects his game, whether or nor he believes that it does.
I have a friend who visits me. She says she doesn't care at all about football. I can relate, but I pretend I can't. It's hard for me to pretend like I'm such an asshole, when I'm not. I mean... Well, I mean, I am an asshole, sometimes; but sometimes... It's just that... When she gets all uppity with her anti-sports crap, I just don't want to hear it. Not that I like sports all that much. I consider it pretty much superfluous since I stopped participating. But it has its place. I agree that it's way too overrated, but Neanderthals need their activities and interests too. (I know that's not fair; but what can I do about it? I'm an asshole, remember?) She has other issues with me too:
"I don't think it's healthy for you to stay in this bedroom day and night all winter."
"It's more healthy for me than being out in the cold. The cold kills my back."
"I'm talking about mentally healthy. It's like a sin against God or something."
"If God wanted me to go out, It wouldn't have dumped all this cold and snow on us."
"That's not true. You should go outside and do something for a change."
"Maybe I'll call my nephews and we can play some football in the snow."
"Maybe you could shovel the snow instead. I could barely get up the steps."
I hate shoveling snow. I always figure it'll melt, eventually. Actually, I wouldn't mind it so much if it weren't so damn cold outside. But the winter has one big advantage: I don't have to do any yard work.
If I never had to do any yard work because it would always be winter, as much as I love the summer. I could live with that. But, if it could always remain warm and I would never again have to do yard work, but I could never write again, I definitely would not make that trade. I hate the cold, but I could restructure my house into zones that would make living in it during a year-long cold season bearable and still efficiently heated and work on other projects besides writing, projects I tend to reserve for the summer months; but in a continual summer of glory days but without writing, I would literally go nuts. Writing is my therapy and my vengeance against an insane world. If I don't like something, I write about it. If something pisses me off, I'll get back at it with words. I'm sure glad that, among all of the people in my past whom I have regrets about, how we interacted, there were no writers. I'd hate to think that there were people out there who might document my past foibles in the way that I document those of others. If I want my flaws and bad behaviors documented, I'd prefer to document them myself.
It's been a whole year since that last (winter) episode involving my brother. He stressed me out so much with his antics that I had to document it, just to salvage a little bit of sanity. Things he's said to me for years that never bothered me suddenly took a serious affective turn. For example, when he'd criticize S____ for having "cheated" him out of a lot of money (legally, via bankrupcy), refusing even to use his name and becoming irritated when others used it, it bothered me, that he could be so negatively attached to a mere name. (Whatever happened to "sticks and stones"?) But, after I recovered, hiding out back at home, I realized that all he was doing was projecting; because, in effect, he himself has ripped me off for a lot of money by not paying me for the hours I put in working for him, and he has probably done the same thing to others as well--because if you'll rip off your brother, then you'll do it to others who are less significant; assuming I am in any way more significant to him than others are. So that massive three-month episode that I wrote about and actually turned into a book was vengeance, pure and simple, although I didn't see it that way at the time; I saw it merely as self-defense. I fictionalized the experience, of course, in order not to upset anyone too much should they ever get wind of the enterprise.
Changing names and locations is a compromise I make with society in order to avoid libel litigation. It's probably not necessary since everything I write is the truth, but the particular nature of a lot of my work (psychological insights, intuitions, etc.) defies knowing for certain whether the truth is actual "fact" or not. The compromise, though, is not self-censoring. Nothing has been censored, only superficial appearance has been changed. The hard-core facts remain, thinly disguised. In fact, the truth may not be so literal and thus not libelous at all, since it is truth of a different order, not of this world, but of that analogous one that society has introjected into this mess of mine that scientists call a brain, but which I think more of as a mirror that renders what might otherwise be external facts internally even as it distorts them into forms that I recognize differently than other people who, were they made privy to the ideas and images (which they just might be if they chanced to read what I have written), might believe themselves to be mirrored when they are not, since the material has been so altered to such a degree, both by me and by society, that what once might have been them [it is not at all a foregone conclusion because the degree of blending, morphing, and generalization that typically takes place (in both me and my work) would make at best (or worst) only bits and pieces of what is left of their once mirrored psyche remaining, and at worst (or best) no longer (if it ever were) them at all] has been rendered unrecognizable except by the intimate intuition of their essences that they have that they are so familiar with. In other words, the people and events I write about are not real at all; in changing what little "fact" I include that has found its way into my distorted "brain", I have rendered all of it into a whole new world of a different kind of truth.
Therefore, I need not worry about how changing names and places might be compromises. My single most important compromise (with society) took place so very long ago and is not ever likely to be trumped by these little insignificancies I write about today. I write fiction. Pure and simple. I cannot do otherwise. The fact that some portion of that fiction happens to be (based on) true (fact) is irrelevant. The stuff inside my head (brain) is hopelessly altered, compromised by the fact of my compromised (psychological) existence. I write what I am, not what you are. It is only your vanity that recognizes, if you do, yourself in my words. Get over yourself already. This is my truth, not yours. Go write your own. (You can include your distortions about me in it if you wish. That's your prerogative. And I won't object. Even if it's outright defamatory lies, you can't ruin my reputation too much more than I have already ruined it myself. Besides, any notoriety I might develop might translate, somehow, into celebrity. Hey, it could happen.)