Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Henrik Ibsen

This here wildly bearded fellow is Henrik Ibsen, whose name I'd heard many a time without complete recognition. Now I've just finished reading about him, and about his major plays. His characters are already having an effect on me. The Wild Duck is about a home, a family, that continues its existence by ignoring all the secrets and problems it hides below its daily distraction. A man takes it upon himself to shed the light of frank truth into the home, and this ultimately destroys the family. One character, a doctor who helped the family maintain its lies, apparently, before the truth-seeker came to town--I really shouldn't be writing about this without having read it, but momentum drives me onward--says this:

"Deprive the average human being of his life-lie, and you rob him of his happiness.”

Many similar proclamations have been made, especially around the turn of the century--philosophers, psychologists, writers, characters. And yet, they would say, to expose the life-lie is our regrettable duty.

Somehow this line, this notion of the duty to disillusion ourselves, to draw things out of shadowy fantasy, is breaking my little heart this afternoon. It is a little heart, mine. It sits on one edge of history's crater, and gapes, childishly.

Because I can't figure which end is up, which door is disillusionment. If being here were like being a child playing in a box. How to exit the box. Language, a useful tool, is utterly confusing as a compass. Which way of speaking about life isn't a fabrication? Don't words always represent life? A representation isn't the thing itself. And what is a thing other than a entity so named because of its participation in a system of being?

There are two moments when I really feel truth: in the moment of epiphany, and in the moment that so often accompanies epiphany, which is really the original meaning of epiphany--manifestation: when I become aware of myself as present, as a being here. When an object is manifested as not-objective, but as present. It feels like truth. My lamp in front of me, disclosing its being to me.

But I am a child, using the toys of other children to act out the world, inside my box.

Language causes to flow over me fluctuating waves of euphoria and humility.

Subject verb verb phrase prep phrase participial phrase as d/o prep phrase conjunction noun.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


During Friday's class, liposuction came up--(now I'm imagining the word "lipsuction" in comical white block-letters floating up to the surface of a pool)-- as we were talking about pop culture, and the ways in which "image" pushes it, pop culture, along. I told them about the billboard I see everyday, which I will describe now: in standard san-serif 5 foot tall font is written "Forever Young" above an almost nude and obviously late-teen female body.

What I can't figure out is this: why don't we tear this shit down? You might say: because Americans are stupid, can't think for themselves, and believe whatever Blaxmart sticks through their eyes. And I say to that this:

You're wrong, but I can't figure out why. To be as definitive as possible. And this is why I'm perplexed-- I've read the papers of a few hundred regular-joe American students (from all our cultural enclaves--or those at least in so-Cal and the NW), and what I find in them is a lot wisdom, albeit sound-byte wisdom. It's humbling to read the paper of one of my supposedly stupid students and find a generations-old truth, and feel small, feel like I'm being taught. It happens, it's in their papers. And they seem to understand it.

There must be some... failure of communication between our brains and hearts. If we're dividing the human into meat chunks. Soul and spirit if we're making metaphysical distinctions. However we say it, blatantly false and entirely vapid advertising seems to work on us. If I have fat vacuumed out in clots, I'll look like a nymphet. A lolita.

And people like myself are complicit whether we want the legs of a fairy queen or not-- we take the Adamal bait: wife/girlfriend has legs sucked by Blaxmart the snake, while I learn a liking for licks from the lolita pop. Despite whatever well-polished truths have tumbled down the Heraclitean river of time to me.

My body has acclimated to the fog, and my mind switches off at the heart's fading.

Shall we rouse ourselves? Even Green Day is saying, "Yes, we should." Or so it seemed they were in the song I heard on the radio the other day. Even pop radio is demanding that we rise from the toxic slums of the corporate-driven post-christian image-obsessed apathy we've been been driven into, despite knowing better. We know better. My students do, in their papers.

Oh truth, you greener snake, sitting on the branch opposite the other snake. The same tree.

We're all going to die! Isn't that the most fascinating thing in the world?!

It is. My mind tells me this. My mind speaks in little aphoristic fragments. It says: love, and think about death. Let the love of those around you make the thought of death less... incapacitating... and then try to answer the question.

Which question? The one begged by a meaningful and sometimes-beautiful world wherein love happens, wherein there is consciousness of death, wherein there is a lack of specific knowledge about what will come after the utterly individual death each of us will find ourselves experiencing very soon.

And if we turn into fertilizer only... Shall I go down in a blaze of glory? Or shall I try to make the soil I will become a dirt that's free of mind-numbingly stupid chemicals? A living soil.

If my mind blinks out permanently. But I have stories in my heart that say otherwise.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

All these things

After another night of the new insomnia-- the new one being different than the old in that it is, in fact, insomnia, rather than a bachelor's hypochondriacal attempt at creating drama-- I feel crusty around my eyes. I'm waiting for my heart to rouse. Which is why I am listening to Sigur Ros' untitled track # 3, with the oscillating tower of piano, with the kind of steady escalation that unfailingly makes me feel like I'm lifting slowly into an autumn sky, or flying on the back of that dog-dragon in The NeverEnding Story.

I'm grading this morning, and thinking about vocabulary, and the failure to have one, both on the part of this poor student whose paper is prostrate before me, begging for mercy, and on my own part. Are there -- this is a question-- are there ways of learning to have more words more presently at my disposal, more eagerly waiting for my witty, authorial deployment? I find myself constructing sentences for the words I can remember. In fact, I can feel, if I turn up the right knob of sensibility, I can feel that little poot of disappointment every time I'm forced to adjust syntax in order to use a less precise word. Not the word I wanted, not the word I know is out there in the crowd, pushing toward the front. The one obscured by all the daily cliches, leaping hands-raised over the lost faces of the ones I want. I'm the Rockstar, dang it, looking for my love, and this ugly pre-teen adjective keeps forcing her sweaty ill-formed body up into my face.

Well, an hour and half has passed since I rose from my "sleep," my "slumber," my "sheep-counting," my "rocking back and forth like a man in agony," my "snoozapalooza," and I'm feeling the papers calling, the ones made of words, for which I am finding an increasingly keen ability to critique as a language mechanic. Unfortunately, I'm still like the apprentice at the shop, the thin-necked barb-wired-bicep punk who greets you at the door and makes you lose all hope of having your car's issues correctly diagnosed. But be patient, he may know something. Maybe he's learning. Maybe he'll be able to help. He wants to. He wants to.

Repetition equals sincerity. Writing is difficult. To write gracefully, to pitch it rhetorically, to say something meaningful.

Before I go: last night I was driving home from a rousing game of Solar Quest with my sister and brother-in-law (see "bachelor" above), and just as I was pulling off the freeway, this dude inside my head started reasoning with me about my responsibility to go through with an English PhD. I was glumly listening (we do this often) and it dawned on me again (this too) that he was wrong. There is no responsibility, to myself or to anyone else. My body, my nubbins of being, will go the way of any organic thing, and who knows what kind of being may come next to make me, and how. But certainly whether or not I had a PhD, or owned all the properties in Jupiter's orbit, which is what finally won the game for my sister, will not make a speck of difference to my otherly self, to the self I feel prophesied to me when I listen to this album. I'll say my piece to you as well (yes, head-dude, even to you): you're going to die, and what matters isn't what you accomplish, but how. Learn then to have loving presence, to be lovingly present, and all these things will be added unto to you.