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To buy is a specific act. To not buy is not an act.

The thing is, I should start saving money, just for the sake of being frugal and to further my larger goal of saving a down-payment on a house in this Near West Side, between-downtown-Urbana-and-the campus neighborhood. (The house across street that, just Thursday night, I indicated to D.G. as a house I would like to buy, went up for sale.)

And I have gone through book-0buysing spells like this before — summer of ’93 an example. I wonder if I’m a tad of a compulsive (“impulse” is more-appropriate word) buyer — because while I normally have a strong money-saving sense, my lust for books seems to overpower it. If this is a compulsion, it would be the other half to my obsessive behavior — double checking stove burners to make sure they’re off, and “notebook-wallet-keys” to make sure all are in my pockets.

But I don’t really think so. I’m not clinical. Sometimes I do put books back, telling myself I really don’t have time to read them, and that I can buy them later (sometimes the fear is that they’ll be gone later , and sometimes the fear is I won’t remember to buy them later).

And maybe the problem is partly one of existence. To buy is a specific act, and a book, a specific thing. To not buy is not an act; it’s a continuing condition of refrain from, and as such gives the positive act an overshadowing power that continues to haunt and influence after I leave the store. Every time I go back, I have to renew my resolve not to buy. And it’s (almost) impossible to use a negative state as a guiding principle because the anti-X statement inherently postulates and affirms the existence of X. The only successful response is to replace the statement or belief “anti-X” with positive statement of belief “Y” (Matt Nixon’s paper on “Forrest Gump” explains and credits this idea — as it relates to myths — to Barthes.). This idea like quitting smoking: gum or carrot sticks, if used as substitutes for cigs in the mouth and /or hands, merely remind of cigs.

So books — I think my motivation in buying is different this time from before. This time, I feel kinda like how N. described his buying of CDs when he was unhappy with his job. He was unhappy with work but he had to keep his job, and so he had cash and little time or freedom — so he bought CDs.

I like my job — I just wish I didn’t spend so much time doing it. I have cash but no time, so I buy books because it is fun, enjoyable to buy books, and I’m not fetishizing these books. I would like to — do intend to — read them. But I just don’t have time. However, I guess that I am fetishizing the books in the sense that I am buying/consuming objects, and that the act of obtaining is pleasant and that therefore, I am taking a materialistic view of these objects that are, in their creators’ purpose, idea-vehicles rather than commodities. (For the publisher and marketer, books are commodities — sales-objects, material, but for the artist, a book isn’t “product” or even “content” (I hate the currently fashionable use of that word to mean facts, numbers, stories, visual art and music in a publishing or media context, as if they are all interchangeable, for one thing. It’s very condescending and telling about the attitudes of publishers.) To an author, a book is the “story,” the “argument,” the structured (as opposed to a list of numbers) ideas. It’s the result (by my definition of art as the result of a certain mental state) of mental concentration, of putting ideas and words in their proper (according to inherent structure of the work) order.

[From journals of Sun., 8 Feb. 1998, Journal 21, pages 9-12]

The hum & crackle of possibility in real life: October pics & notes

 

My view from beneath the shrubs at school where I eat outside so as to not be maskless in my classroom during pandemic school. 5 Oct. 2020

‡  You need to double-check/peer-review your work when there are standards for your work — and there aren’t any for new ideas. [5 Oct. 2020]

‡  The work my brother and I did in building my new deck: we were moving things (dirt, concrete, lumber, etc.) around. The things, unlike my students at my teaching job, had no say in what work I was doing. Nor did I question my work, what I’m doing and why, as I do in my teaching work. [5 Oct.]

‡  There’s no time travel because only physical forces can cause physical objects to move — so what could replace objects how they were at an earlier time? [5 Oct.]

Foliage in Ogle County, Ill. 8 Oct. 2020

‡  3:56 or 57 p.m.: A minute ago, while driving on Lindenwood Road, I saw a white-faced black bovine sniff and rub its head on a trailer hitch in its pasture. [5 Oct.]

‡  My mind isn’t quite an animal’s mind. So it might as well be open (a human mind as its own kind). [6 Oct.]

‡  With my mind open, I can be at home (or at ease, at least) anywhere. [6 Oct.]+

‡  What ideas do you have about ideas? — I could ask this of my students. I’m thinking of my “creative reading” assignment today, and when I asked what they’d come up with, my student L. said he’d written sentences that were meaningless. I wonder if kids think writing has to refer to something real. If they don’t get see that it’s words themselves that prompt mental images and feelings — that our minds will find patterns in word groups and sentences, as I’ve said in other classes when we do “Poetry Bingo.” [6 Oct.]

Pre-mums. 2 Oct. 2020

‡  Is it possible that readers like to feel needed by their authors? And maybe my readers don’t feel I need them? [6 Oct.]

‡  I’m an exemplar of living my life the way I live it. I don’t seek fame because, well, I want to see what life is like without that. I want to not work at fame, anyway. [7 Oct.]

‡  At one’s job, one has to adapt one’s mind to doing what others want and find valuable. Some people go to trainings in order to learn to think like their bosses (about new trends, say). These people want practical help. But my ideas aren’t always practical. My ideas are usually meant to provoke new thinking, not to practically tell would-be bosses what the currently popular ideas are. [7 Oct.]

Central beam of new deck being built by my brother, Dan. 14 Oct. 2020

‡  I’m tempted to take pics of lovely color on trees. But I’m skeptical of what I’d do with those picture. I don’t want to present that lovely moment as lasting. It seems a bit unreal — is it worth preserving? We get that impulse to preserve when we see these brief colors. [8 Oct.]

‡  At end of my commute home: I heard on radio “Love on an Elevator” (Aerosmith) and thought how distant rock as an art form can be from experience — not the lyrics, but the bombastic music. Rock is formal, not personal or in time. [8 Oct.]

‡  Maybe no moments are important as one lives them. [9 Oct.]

Concrete, clay, tile. 14 Oct. 2020

‡  The magic’s in the seeing, in my own attention, not in getting others’ attention. I saw a pattern of columns in a row as I headed outside — I thought about taking pics but didn’t. I don’t need a pic. The magic is in the experience, in the seeing. [13 Oct.]

‡  Being conscious means having context awareness (when and where you are, what led up to a particular moment of experience, etc.) But if you write about a particular moment, the text strips that context awareness away. [14 Oct.]

‡  Were it possible to do work unconsciously, would/should we? [14 Oct.]

Sky in Ogle County, Ill. 16 Oct. 2020

‡ The hum (the crackle?) of possibility in real life — that’s not in film or on TV, except maybe in live shots. [15 Oct.]

‡  Possession, in the sense of “these trees are mine because I see them.” Why revert to ownership, which is odd, too. [15 Oct.]

‡  We inflict intellectuals upon the young. The professor’s non-academic peers don’t need him/her (except to consult on practical matters, for law, science profs, etc.). Even literature and philosophy profs, we consult on questions within their specialties, but not as general life-models. People get learnéd, and then we inflict them on the young. [16 Oct.]

Ogle foliage. 23 Oct. 2020

‡  The real learning we do simply happens through repetition — that real learning is unintentional, unconscious/subconscious. It proceeds/happens without metathinking. Examples: the skills you do at your job everyday, or how the journal-writing I do every day has trained my mind to get faster, smoother, at producing words. Perhaps all the new-material learning we do at school is too specialized. When we say kids should be lifelong learners, are we saying that because workers learn new things? But mostly we don’t learn new things. We do old, familiar things again and again. And we value repetitions — experience — in technicians, surgeons, etc. [19 Oct.]

Oaky undertones. 24 Oct. 2020

‡  My monologuing, as in my journal-writing, communicates moods. Whatever I write about, even if it skips from topic to topic or is unclear, readers can probably discern my mood at the time I wrote it — anxious, relaxed, whatever. (Maybe that’s the essence of a journal monologue: I’m alive in this style (mood) today, now.) And moods seem important to communicate, I guess. [21 Oct.]

Lorado Taft’s “Eternal Indian” (aka Blackhawk) Statue, Oregon, Ill. Recently restored. 24 Oct. 2020. See previous state of statue here.

‡  Thinking of historical people’s bodies (say, typical people who lived a 100 or more years ago) — how they were dressed, what they used for transport, it’s easy to forget that these people also had desires. They were as desirous of money, sex, etc., as we are now. They were as eager to make money as people are now — we now can afford (in my region, anyway) not to farm every inch of land (as Illinois farmers did generations ago) because we have other jobs and investments by which to get money. [21 Oct.]

View west from base of “Eternal Indian” statue over Rock River toward north end of Oregon, Ill. 24 Oct. 2020

‡  Having confidence that you’ll get fed is part of what creates relaxation on vacation. If food’s scarce, there’s no ease. [21 Oct.]

‡  How I get captivated sometimes by images, idylls — maybe I want out of my context? [22 Oct.]

‡  “Just assume pretty. I can’t do it anymore,” my wife said after she’d pointed out some lovely natural scenes, and then did that several times, as we drove along River Road in Ogle Co., Ill. [24 Oct.]

 

How different pandemic school looks. Students in the high school where I teach don’t use lockers this year, and furniture has been removed from classrooms to allow recommended spacing between students. 26 Oct. 2020

‡  We must choose what we’ll say about any topic when we start to write about it. I’m pointing out that whenever one crafts a nonfiction story or description, biography or eulogy, one has to leave out a lot — and one must choose what to leave out. What attitude would I take if I wrote about my school, say? [26 Oct.]

Fuzzy sunrise. Ogle Co., Ill. 30 Oct. 2020

‡  There’s no why — it’s what sounds good. I’m thinking here about how some music-analysts talk about pop music in terms of chords and keys (which is like when some English teachers talk about literature in terms of alliteration and metaphor) and how these are levers that artists can pull to make music. But I suspect that most creating artists don’t think first about these levers. They probably have a germ of an idea and explore it and follow it and make decisions (using their experienced-but-open-minded judgment-faculty) based on gut feelings — rather than intentionally thinking of the levers. [28 Oct.]

I voted early this election in the basement of our old courthouse and jail. 31 Oct. 2020

‡  There’s nothing I wanted to compete for, jobwise or businesswise. I sometimes think I could’ve lived a bigger life — have had more money, fame, titles. But then, I don’t really regret these lacks at all. I never wanted to compete for a job or to get more business. [28 Oct.]

‡  As someone whose main message (frequent perspective) is to question the common ideas, I don’t need to create a whole alternative body of ideas. I just need to point away from (question) the common ideas. [30 Oct.]

‡  I’m not going to win awards (which, almost by definition, are mainstream, Establishment) and maybe my point — the main message of my writings (not that I have often thought about my writings having a single message, but if they did) is to question the common ideas of the Establishment, to say that there’s always more than one way to do things and to think of things. So my point is to show that there’s a good life to be lived without Establishment praise. [30 Oct.]

“Used Pens (need sanitized).” Early voting office, Ogle Co., Ill. 31 Oct. 2020

Art happens now, so write anew today as you are today: How to write creatively (2020 edition)

Below are guidelines I’ve formed from my own writing experiences. They are attitudes and processes that seem to help when I remind myself of them as I write. I can’t promise that these will make sense to every prospective writer—original thinkers and artists must, by definition, form themselves—but these ideas below are offered to help you get started on your own self-creation. I will share these with my creative writing students in the coming weeks.

Freewrite. Put down what comes to mind. Transcribe your inner voice. Interrupt yourself—that’s OK. Let out what’s in. Everything you write is something you produced, so

Accept it all. It took me years to stop seeing my youthful work as bad. All moments are equal; none are privileged. Keep it all as it comes to you—trust that there’s a reason each idea comes to you when it does, even if you don’t know that reason. Write in private so you can later decide what writings to make public.

Follow your feelings in freewriting, in choosing words, projects, etc. For years, I thought that I should write novels but doing that never felt like it had authentic energy for me. What I should be doing—what kind of writing is the most-fitting for me to do—will not feel like work.

Keep the faith. Being creative means making something you’ve never made before, and you don’t know if you can do that!  You won’t know where you’re headed and you won’t fully understand what you’ve done.

If you want to make something that’s like something that already exists, OK—just follow the pattern. Buy a book on how to do that. But pattern-following is not what I want to teach you.

We’re trying to make texts that are new. If something is new, it can’t be compared to any existing standard or judgment criteria. We’re giving ideas to the world—we writers are helping others to see the world, life, reality, experiences in new ways. That is priceless.

You will change your sensibility, your mind, over time. That’s OK. Write anew today, as the person you are today. Some aspects of your writings made earlier will be similar to what you write now. Some aspects will be different.

The real value of, and the real message of, any text is what’s between the lines— what’s implied, what’s hinted at. If you write honestly and openly, you will say things you didn’t expect to say. You will learn from you—your best teacher!

If you are writing as yourself, you will  also sometimes write things you’ve read and heard elsewhere—that’s OK. Our minds learn from the world. Consider these things to be allusions or cliches, and move on with your writing (readers will be able to relate to you through these things). But if you are trying to write like someone else, you’re not being original—you’re denying yourself. You’re insulting who you are now. Instead, accept everything your mind gives you. (This may also make you a better person, more willing to accept other people as they are. If we were all perfect, we’d be boring. Being perfect isn’t interesting. Be willing to show yourself as imperfect—be interesting.)

All writing is about someone’s conscious experience, yours or others’. The physical world is the physical world—it’s not up to us. How we think about/conceive of parts of the physical world, that IS up to us. Any object, in an emergency, can be a weapon. All ideas are partial and arbitrary.

Love what you have created. It represents you—it’s your chance to influence the world. But your writings are separate from you. You are undefined, your mind is infinite and open.

Every moment is new. Creativity happens here and now—not in the past where Famous Artists created, and not in the future when you’re older or wiser or richer or smarter, etc. Art happens now.

You don’t have to make things that look like other things that already exist. You make your things, and all they have to do is exist! Others may not like or understand your art. That’s OK. Make things that you enjoy making. Since nobody knows where they’re headed, you might as well enjoy the process of getting there! Do what feels right—what engages your mind and afterwords feels satisfying.

There’s no perfect poem, story, nonfiction, or any other text. What gets praised and popular is all too often art that is pandering.

Final concept: Everything on the list above is a limited-at-best description of certain ideas, moods, and experiences I’ve had. I can’t communicate to you what it’s like for you to make art. You have to teach yourself. Learn by trying and seeing what feels best and what you like.

(P.S. Here’s an earlier such list.)

I’ve taken it into my own work, my own written world, world of my writings

OK, back at 9:02 after … reading NYTimes.com review (by Jennifer Senior(?)) of new Megan Kelly book. Well, I’m back. I didn’t feel great last night—overtired, a little anxious—so I went to sleep at 8. No SNL—though Dave Chapelle hosted and I read review this morn and M showed me last night as we were going to bed about 2 a clip of Kate McKinnon as Hillary playing some of Len Cohen’s “Hallelujah”—poignant.

And I noticed in my Nov. 2010 journal yesterday, in which I spent just a short time reading, some comments about some National Geographic show about people who claim to be Jesus. And I’ve long thought that my references to, descriptions of pop culture, especially TV shows, were kinda merely for the record. But last night I had a thought that maybe my writing about these things transmutes them—it’s no long just a piece of culture out there in the world. I’ve taken it into my own work, my own written world, world of my writings.

[From journal of Sun., 13 Nov. 2016, Journal 239, page 189]

Idea of a horizontal biography

In general, I’m probably a lot happier most days than I was in my 20s. I didn’t know where I belonged, in what job. I had money troubles and M had bad-health years—I don’t miss my 20s, to be honest. (I read some poet’s ode to his 20s last night in Pinsky book.) And I wonder how I’ll see my physics-teaching ambition—perhaps I was merely misguided, but I don’t think so. Perhaps I threw a lot of manic sort of energy at my physics teaching partly because I did want there to be a better approach than merely “Here’s a demo, here’s the theory and equation, now solve for velocity.” I recall those years as a bit of thrashing around. On other hand, that’s a years-later view.

I wonder what’s really in journals from those years (just before the daily journaling began) I mean, holy sh!t, I had a lot going on—being a new teacher,

(there I hear a truck. I’ve assumed it’s C___, but I heard on local news recently that Chrysler assembly was going offline for a couple weeks, I thought)

getting new preps each of first three years, doing yearbook, etc. But I did survive, you know—thank goodness. And anyway, that is the past—I’m here now—I’m here-now. I’m alive right now. I’m here now.

I’m getting dull there. It is odd how hard it can be to come up with sentences about now—why should that be? It’s easy enough to  describe objects that are sitting (verb choice?) that are—existing? Hell, they’re doing nothing at all. Objects don’t get verbs (until someone uses them or they get electrical motive-vation, capacity to move.)

It’s 6:11. I do want to get to my breakfast earlier. So, 6:15. Not reading this morning helped me be on time. I was gonna get to school and grade a little but also there could be slick roads this morning, Channel 17’s Joey Marino said.

I do like idea of a horizontal biography—the width each day, the breadth of my world and my thinking and my doing each day—rather than the linear-and-time-compressing, time-skipping history/biographical story. That’s not what it’s like to be alive!

[From journal of Weds., 15 Jan. 2020, Journal 316, page 44-6]

I was gonna say something else about Western mindset

I was gonna say something else about Western mindset having expectations—not being happy with the present situation. Maybe Westerners’ love-marriages suffer from expectations (abstractions) that arranged marriages don’t have.

Watched a PBS thing about animal rebelsa boxer crab who carries anemones, who kidnaps them in his claws, and sloths have moths to poop in their fur and feed algae that grows in cracks in fur.

And yeah—it’s an overcast day. I hear bird song and some droning (churring?) like frogs. It’s distant. I hear it coming through window behind me.

[From journal of Thurs. 3 May 2018, Journal 275, page 155-6]

Praise hampered me

I guess it started with [my brother] N__ saying my blog seemed smart but hard to read—like I was explaining the idea before stating it, or something like that, he said. I agreed. … N__ said—his basic point throughout discussion, as I understood it, was that I am smart (he used that word several times, even said he was complimenting me ) but I don’t live up to my potential. Basically, that I should be using my brains to make money. He said he admires Achievers. And M said at first that I’m an overachiever—and we debated what that means.

But my point was—and let’s blurt it out—hearing I’m smart doesn’t help me. One, it feels ostracizing (and when I said to N__ that he’s as smart as I am, he seemed genuinely to have not considered that before ), and I said when I see students who are smart, are great in philosophy discussions but they don’t do their work, I think of N__.

I’d sorta been aware of that thought before but maybe last night was first time I realized the extent of it—that I don’t know why those kids, why N__, both, don’t just suck it up and do the B.S. work because that opens more doors. I understood N__ last night and me as mirror opposites—similar, but reversed—that I sought praise, adult approval, that I never questioned the bullsh!t ’til much later in my life. It’s one of these whole-life (or large-part-of-life) narratives that in high school and college and beyond, I sought approval. Yet, praise hampered me (at Daily Illini, at R.T.H.S.) because it started to make me want to get more—a praise-aholic, a praise addict, not in a full-on addiction, but in the sense that I can fall under its spell. Even this fall, once I started blog and got a few readers, I started thinking about (stressing over) doing writing to please others.

N__ saw the b.s. of school but he couldn’t—well, he didn’t force himself to do the work. Yes, high school is b.s., I said, but it always will be—I’m in loco parentis, can’t let kids potty without asking me, as I at first thought I could do. And kids are hormonal, inexperienced sorts. And kids wouldn’t even appreciate adult skill and talent. They wouldn’t appreciate having a Nobel Prize-winning teacher. Every year you gotta prove yourself over to the new youngsters—which is, in a way, refreshing—they don’t care for titles much or accomplishment.

[From journal of Thurs., 24 Nov. 2011, Journal 149, pages 23-25]

Hot damn, I’m just tired

Hot damn, I’m just tired—nearly slap-happy today. Not enough sleep all week, I guess—not sure why. And, yeesh, let’s just get through today. I didn’t look through/grade the Rhet & Comp thesis & notes-organized worksheets. I did look into the fence—I looked over the fence [at the jail-construction site at Oregon, Ill.]—chain-link with red banner over it, the contractor’s name on banner. Not sure what name was, but it was also on the door of old liquor store next door.

T__ and E__ last hour seemed to journal and not partake in our talk about McDonald’s characters. [btw, the lots west of Judicial Center are scraped dirt and gravel on them now—no basements, I guess, but maybe public buildings don’t get basements. Carroll County has a really old county building—and I wonder what happened to that jail in Kansas or Oklahoma where the sheriff resigned rather than bring prisoners back into it. I’d forgotten about that.]

So, yeah, survive today—that’s all ya gotta do. I probably didn’t need to bust out my E.I.U. critique Monday in department meeting. Ah, well.

C__ said her mom, L__, graduated here in 2001. A__ and M__ are twins. I said to A__ today how dumb of me it was to assume she and T__ were sisters just because those two wore glasses and M__ doesn’t. But A___ said that when the three of them are together, others people often make the same assumption.

Watched a Colbert clip today where he showed clip of Trump at prayer breakfast, and Colbert said it’s clear Trump had never read the Bible before.

And what else? Well, class is nearly over—

[From school journal of Fri., 3 May 2019, 3rd hour, Journal 302, page 78-80]

I don’t know how to do this

Rochelle’s play—The Miser—good stuff. A lot better than [play at school where I student-taught]. Some collegiate-level performances from M__ and others.

Saw Mr. P__ [who will be my principal next year]—he said I’ll have two physics, two physical science, and journalism—I’m excited by the idea of teaching journ., but I’m just not sure what I’ll do with them in the day-to-day. But then, I don’t really feel I know how to teach physics, either. I have now seen one model (my supervising teacher’s—I don’t consider what [a physics professor whose class I took] did to be even a workable model), but I don’t really think there’s a lot of value in the lecture method. As [someone] said, I want to inspire, to make science fun—or at least, let’s say, interesting and exciting—for these kids.

But I don’t know how to do this. I need to do some thinking and researching on this.

Idea: As the astronomy book I just got prompted  me to thinking about science—why is it that the universe is a certain level of complication, but it’s not extremely difficult nor extremely easy? It takes a few years of study, but the basic laws about the universe are understood, enough for humans to manipulate their environment, use rockets and lasers and stuff. Why is the Earth this complicated but no more/no less?

And yet, life goes on much as it has for the last 10K years, with or without knowledge of the universe.

Likewise, a psychological question: ability to learn—why is it what it is? Learning takes work, effort, but it’s not too hard to do. What is the transference of ideas? Why is it possible at all—and yet, since it is, why does it still take some effort—why can’t we read this once and have the material committed to memory? Some people have nearly photographic memory, so it’s possible—why not more widespread?

Every year is a vital year for reproduction for animals like birds. If they don’t reproduce every year, their species would soon die out. There performance is now. And this fact hasn’t changed with human arrival—from a year 30,000 years ago, to 1100 A.D. to 1902 to this year, animals are always on the edge of survival, needing to eat now and mate this year (thinking of birds here, etc.).

I was unmindful this week and got out of touch with my body—heart beating from adrenaline, tired, eating when not hungry and eating too much at meal time and eating crap food at other times. Doing work today got me back in touch with my body.

[From journal of Sat., 7 April 2001, Journal 30, page 86-7]

If I had to work at it, then we weren’t great friends

If I had to work at it, then we weren’t great friends, and actually, we probably weren’t. I never hung out with __ on weekends like I hung with D.G., to whom it was easier to talk. … So, yeah, it’s funny to sit here and complain that this person or that person isn’t my friend. I have to remind myself that __ & __ (and others, but those two are people I sometimes think of going to talk to) don’t really want to see me. I mean, they might regard me as unwelcome a person, as burdensome on their consciousnesses, as some particular people have at times—not all the time—seemed to me.

(I’m almost afraid to put names there—don’t want to hurt people’s feelings if these got published one day. Well, if I’m still alive, I’ll edit it out …)

[From journal of Sat., 7 Dec. 2019, Journal 314, page 94]