A gut-level understanding: More random bits from Journal 13

Tues. 3/5: Don’t recall what I did A.M., though it was probably screwing around and general mischief leading me away from the righteous path of homework. Philosophy class at 1, probably talked with J.T. in front of Foreign Lang building after. Went home, then to work [at Daily Illini student newspaper] — M.C. wanted me to slot [on the copy-editing desk] for him so he could do interviews. … So I slotted 5:30–8, when R.E. took over slotting and I helped J.B., who was going nuts at Night Editor desk trying to coordinate pagination and design his own double truck page. So I took over, imposed order on the chaos, sent wire [stories], got in control while J.B. designed. But K.K. didn’t get his first page to us ’til 8 p.m., when I know I had sent all he needed by 6:30. He was apparently tied up interviewing some senate candidate who arrived early. … I left at about 9:15. Went home, read assignments for Weds., wrote, watched some MST3K, finished at about 3 a.m. or so. Then tried to read Chinese poetry for Comp. Lit. class, but skimmed then without gleaning or retaining much meaning, so went to bed. [Page 119-20, Written 10 March 1996]

3/8–write a detailed history of this last week. High school bedtimes–and now. After today, I feel almost done with school, though I do plan to do homework this week. Car hassles–not worth owning one, too much trouble to me. … Teaching story writing–I’d like to do that. … Start with writing an idea, but you have to let it go. All these things I heard but they never hit me in a gut-level understanding (it was always just intellectual understanding) until recently. [Page 95, 8 March 1996]

It’s neat that [my brother] N and I have gotten the chance to work together (or “togezzer,” as the old German R would say). We have different senses of humor, which leads to misunderstandings and snappiness. I’ll say something, and he’ll snap at me. I think I underestimate a lot of people — I’ll say what to do next. But N is smarter than a lot people, and he usually has already thought of what I say when I say it. It’s neat to work with him, we’ve had some good times. But I think it’s good we don’t work together all the time. As Mom said, we’re very different people. [Page 3-4, 27 Dec. 1995, late night, home post-Petro]

Dad said a relationship is two people who are looking for same thing at same time. [Page 11, 16 Jan. 1996]

Girls stopping me for directions offered to give me a ride. “We won’t kidnap you or nothin.” [Page 11, 17 Jan. 1996]

It’s not that I derive my worth from another’s opinion, but that I’m no good at even getting the other’s attention. I’m generally happy on my own, which in itself is an eerie trait. No, I most likely will meet another woman at some point in my life, but still—what the f__ is wrong (or overly right, in the case of intimidation) with me now? [Page 58-9, Saturday night, 3 Feb. 1996]

Sound bites—ideas are gonna be dumb if you only have seconds to explain. [Page 83, Wednesday night, 21 Feb. 1996]

Kendallville, Indiana Days Inn. Looking at this one way, it is kinda exciting to be on the road, staying in hotels, headed to a new city. But I’m so apprehensive—I wish somebody was with me tonight—namely, my M. It would be so nice, so comforting if she were here now. I wouldn’t have been so road-weary, time would’ve gone quicker, I would have a companion. (Though I’m almost glad she wasn’t with me when I was so stressed and frustrated around Chicago—I couldn’t escape the people! I finally got going on Route 6 and made good time—though twilight and after, I was a little dazed, less alert—dim, ill-focused headlights and my tired eyes. I drove from 2 to 9:20 but only got about 150 miles from M’s house!  [Page 173, 24 May 1996, 10:20 p.m.]

When (and if) M and I kiss, I want to put my right arm around her back and feel her body, her presence, her back—that’s my image, anyway. So what’s gonna happen? Write letters? Visit each other? She will apparently be in C-U next year again, though I don’t much want to be. This summer I’m in Pennsylvania, after that, pretty much anywhere but Illinois. But maybe … long weekends—who knows? That’s really all I can say—who knows. If we are a good match, I think it’ll work out. Else, no. Who knows? [Page 153, Saturday evening, 13 April 1996, Petro]

We can’t be any more than friends: Random bits from Journal 13

At Copy-Editing Camp. PHILADELPHIA, Pa.–Temple University, New Residence Hall on Broad Street, Room 213A. Not a whole lot to say yet. I already wrote about the bad neighborhood and the security measures of this building. Felt a little dazed most of the afternoon. Made it into the city; I didn’t feel all that stressed, but I must’ve been because of the sweat was pouring out of my armpits. I think that took its toll, because I felt a little dazed, just out of it, the rest of the evening. We took three cars to dinner at Chili’s, and as I am the only one [of the students] who drove here, I drove my car with 3 people in it–Marilyn, Annette, and Robb, so it was tight in there. Then on the way back, My-Linh got lost and made me run red lights to follow her, so I didn’t much like that. But for my first bit of city driving, not bad. Marilyn, who’s from NYC–Queens–said she respected my ability to keep up with My-Linh–not an easy task. It really wasn’t too bad. I was concentrating on not losing My-Linh so much that I didn’t think about “Driving in the City.” Near Temple, it’s not good. Marilyn once pointed to a corner and said, “There’s a good place for a crime.” [Page 178, Sunday, 26 May 1996]

The ideas I had last weekend about motion and my friend S--cars and their coming into contact, which is not prevented by anything in nature. There is nothing, no laws in nature, that says these two cars can’t touch–no concrete barrier–yet we come at each other at 60 miles an hour and come within a foot or two–mere inches–and expect to never crash. Like I wrote last week, it wasn’t only drunk driving that killed S, it’s motion–change, the change made possible by time. The fact that we can change (position) in a moment allows for motion, and two objects in motion toward each other, intent on occupying the same physical location at the same time–this is deadly. [Page 105-6, Sat. 9 March 1996, at Petro]

The four of us roommates–we all have very specific relationships with each other. How DK said middle-aged businessmen are dispassionate, resigned to jobs they don’t care about. [Page 62, 6 Feb. 1996, night]

C did say tonight that she had never thought I would feel rejected. She thought my problem is that I never had a girl-friend before–not so. I’m just not sure where our intimacy is, what my motivation is to care about her. Last week, after Sunday, was cool because we were just casual friends. I was over her, but then Saturday, she called twice and came over and told me she loved me, etc. She did say she wasn’t sure why she did stuff like that. I wonder if she isn’t somehow attracted–but she later said that she just feels like telling people (including me) how she feels about them, whether that’s selfish or not. So I’m still learning about myself her, though this. … She’s always saying how well I know her–well, maybe, but I’ve never felt she knows me, even though she did say today that she felt from me that I would like to be friends in my heart but my head said no–true to a point. [Page 26, 22 January 1996]

In January, I told C that I had felt rejected when she said she didn’t want me to have any “ulterior motives” and then when she started up with another guy … She seemed to not understand that I would feel that way. Here’s my hypothesis: she wasn’t telling me I was a bad person, but that I wasn’t the perfect person for her—I didn’t fit her standard of the ideal man. But I felt bad–and, no, I didn’t feel that I was a bad person, but I wanted her—her company, her whatever it is that we say we want when we say we “want” somebody. The thing is that I valued her judgment–I had adopted her standards and value system as my own. OK, so maybe this isn’t what I felt–I felt her loss, the end of something, a death, an end. But the idea that I am trying to describe tonight is different—how you take on the other’s value system (in a Sartrean sense) and so when the other refuses us, we mistake her personal ideal, which is not an External Standard, with some permanent value system–that because I don’t match her personal idea, that I am truly a bad person in an objective sense. [Page 125, 14 March 1996, 10:20 p.m. Petro]

I don’t want long-distant relationship—I want a full relationship of touching, sharing, talking—being together. M is a neat person–one of the prettiest, hottest women I’ve ever known, smart, ambitious, funny, up-beat–it will a long time before I will meet anyone like her again. But we can’t be any more than friends–having not even kissed, I don’t think we will or can–that would introduce too much. I mean, we could kiss, but that would be hurried and shallow. Then again, not to attribute our weird vibe tonight to such cosmic unfairness as our short time together. She may have been cooler towards me tonight, somewhat less sympathetic, less excited, because of a basic dousing of whatever spark was there. I don’t know why–hell, if I did … [Page 157, Monday night, 15 April 1996]

Stories are timeless but minds are time: Randomly editing journals

Stories are how we pull our experiences out of time. Stories are how we carry experience forward. Stories are how we get experiences out of time.

Of course, there’s memory, too, for carrying forward experience (though without communicating it), and stories, too, are a form of memory–efficient memory. If I’ve made a story from or out of a momentary experience, then that story sometimes replaces (or almost replaces) the sensory memory. When I talk about the 1998 earthquake experience I had–“cat going left, house going right,” that’s the key line in my story–I only vaguely recall that moment of the earthquake, as I was half-asleep, just waking up. Now I can also recall the light fixture hanging from ceiling doing the penduluming for minutes after, and perhaps recalling the story helps recall the pendulum image-memory, but that’s a snippet at best, a couple seconds of seeing a light fixture, whose shape I don’t recall and though it was in a dining room next to the room I slept in, I don’t recall much else of context of the walls or house, etc.

I have these memories, and memory works associatively– there’s no index of memories, but one might help recall another. Associative memory makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint: if you find yourself in a new situation, or in any particular situation, you’ll probably think of past experiences of being in similar situations, and what worked then might work now. And the more situations I’ve been in, the more I can call from–once I lost my dad, I felt I could then relate better to other grieving people.

Story is useful when it carries experience forward–when it plucks experience out of the particular and abstracts it into words. And yet, there’s also a sense that we carry these experiences forward and they shape how we have new experiences (like the heads-up display on the Army helicopter I looked into a couple days ago at Dixon veterans’ park), and to an extent, this stories-up view/perspective of new experience can be useful–reminding myself to stay out of deep grass because ticks might be there. But it also might be limiting. I might look only for particular things on my walk–Where’s the road edge? Are cars coming? Look out for other dogs or critters my dog might want to chase–and I don’t really notice the sky. No, it’s not efficient for my mind to record everything. But I also don’t want to have a mind that merely sees and spits out prior experiences.

I’m thinking of how many allusions I make, and how I noticed this in recent weeks when talking to neighborhood kids, realizing that those young people don’t know what I know. So an allusive writer like Tom Eliot is both a pinnacle of education and also kind of a dead end–he knows a lot; he knows too much to look anew. Not to pick on Tommy Stearns Eliot–lots of media is referential or cliché, (another form of mind-trapped-by-experience, not “trapped,” but “boxed in,” because escape is possible–so I want to assert).

Some stories (such as fairy tales) are traditional in their structure, and some other stories are nontraditional–they don’t make a direct characterization or draw obvious lessons but show moments and let readers draw the conclusions about characters or moral statements about the world. But with my random editing of journals, I’m not really doing either. With the random-selection process, I have not chosen pieces so as to present evidence about character or worldview–I mean, partly I imply this–that what I said on one day may not be what I say on another day, though surely some beliefs or character traits might seem to carry over across time.

In a way, it’s nice or at least OK that I don’t have journals from my childhood–it prevents the attempt to connect childhood tendencies or experiences to adult perspectives, as if we were shaped entirely by our young years. We’re shaped all life long by experiences! The phrase “formative years,” meaning childhood and adolescence, implies that we’re fully formed as adults–but I have kept learning. I don’t deny, of course, that some early experiences are perhaps of disproportionate influence–building the foundations of my mind, of my mind’s heads-up way of seeing and getting by/operating in the world–but I’m hardly “formed” by age 22 or 30 or 45.

Lately I’ve thought of my journal writings as me writing to myself, not to others, and I’ve thought of them as me working out/analyzing, brainstorming–trying to understand my own life and experiences.

Sometimes it can be entertaining just to see how a certain mind will react–like wanting to know person X’s take on event H. Comedians–Robin Williams, say, it’s fun to see what he would do with an idea, or Chris Rock, or, of course, Steve Colbert and Seth Meyers, they have reactions to news every weeknight. My wife, M, says she likes that I still surprise her, and I like her funny comments, too. That is part of liking a person, liking spending time with a person, no? You like hearing what their reactions are; you like listening to how their minds work.

Is there an M style in everything she does? Well, yes and no: no, in that it’s not like she’s peculiar (having traits or habits a comedic impressionist might use) in everything she does, but what she does, she does as M, as herself. She’s gotta use the body and mind she’s got in order to do whatever given task. We do whatever we do as (while being) the people that we are at that time.

My earlier idea was that there’s traditional stories, nontraditional stories, and then my random journal bits. But what are those random bits of journal? They’re not telling an important (because to write or tell a story is to assert its importance/value) story, as trad stories do, and the journals are not merely pointing out possibilities in story structure, as nontrad/experimental stories do, though the journal random edits build on these both. I have been taking anecdotes and complete statements from the randomly selected pages, but there’s been no overall, overarching message, and maybe that’s the key: maybe what my random edit technique asserts is that there is no overarching meaning. There’s no plan or structure to life (beyond what one creates, anyway).

When I’m looking at a whole book of comic strips (like Calvin and Hobbes) or poems (the Collected Poetry of [Anybody]), it seems a bit intimidating–and there’s a sense of one after another, an endless procession of days. And so I don’t usually try to read all of a poems book–that ain’t the point! The point is to be woken up. It’s OK to sample, start anywhere, end anywhere. Each piece of the larger collection is self-contained.

With long stories, you learn (and/or are trapped) in the larger structure– the world of the longer story (fiction or nonfiction), and these longer stories must be fashioned–they can’t be written all at once, so they must be planned out, outlined–and that’s not how anyone lives, and it’s not how ideas really appear/occur. Ideas appear in my mind all-at-once, whole images or sentences, and my journal writings reflect that.

There’s an idea that there’s value in longer texts because they force one (as a writer) to organize one’s thinking. There could be a bias in the culture toward organized thought–it’s simpler for readers to swallow. When I’m mind-tired, I don’t want to wrestle with unfamiliar (experimental-structure) texts. On other hand, short is good, too, when I’m tired.

So what I’m doing is figuring out my experiences each journaling session. My journal is about figuring out my recent experiences, processing them, perhaps learning from them, and so a journal reflects (maybe doesn’t fully capture, but at least reflects) my mind, the current level of training of my mind each day. “Training” there is used broadly–whatever media I took in yesterday may be a kind of training, well, a small part of the training. I guess the way I’m using “training” here is similar to how I’ve used the term “sensibility” before–the current status of one’s mind, the way in which you’d respond to the world today, how you’d create today, even as I have created this journal text today and continue to create it at this moment.

Each new idea is born whole and born of my mind at its current training. A mind is new all the time. I’m a different mind later today than I am now. Hell, I’m a different mind now than I was when I started this day’s journal. What journals allow us to do is see the mind at various changes/states/shapes/versions, different versions of the mind. Each moment is whole but/and unique, like snapshots of a kaleidoscope.

Time is consciousness. A moment of time is (or might as well be considered) an idea–it’s only by changing thoughts that I know time is changing. A story allows one to condense time and preserve a version of an experience across time, pulling ideas out of time. This makes stories seem timeless–which allows us to see the common human experience Iliad characters have — how their experiences weren’t so different from ours 3,000 years later.

But no one can live in a timeless story (as I once kinda thought I could) because we live in time! We also are not aligned in our daily living with plots and themes. We live not just key scenes but we live all the conscious moments of a day! And that’s what the journals (written in real time for a portion, not a whole, of each day) reflect.

[Edited from Friday, 28 June 2019 journal.]

Watching is better than asking sometimes: Random bits of Journal 16

Changing my mind about jobs from hour to hour. [Page 31, Thursday night-early Friday, 26 June 1996]

Was going to sit in the Bull Run on a quiet Monday night, just have a beer and write. No such doings–the place was packed, with Bucknellians, I guess. Looked at the map for over an hour tonight. It’s easy to do when I have other things I could be doing. Well, anyway, I looked at the map of Illinois compared to maps of eastern states. Lots of straight lines in Illinois–square roads. Small areas of metropolitan yellow separated by vast safe distances of white. Out here yellow is splashed all over the place (Connecticut, NYC) and all the lines–roads, county borders, park limits, etc.–are all curvy and jagged. And I was thinking about going back to Illinois and remembering what I didn’t like about Illinois. You can see the towns–here, you can’t–that’s true, but you can see all the town, take it in at once glance. There’s no hills, hardly anywhere. Pennsylvania is pretty, that’s for shore. There’s hills. I like hills, mountains, even these ridge-hills here. They’re pretty. ‘Course, there are other reasons I’m going back to Illinois, Darling ranking first among them. And culturally, Urbana is right there. [Page 64-5, Mon. night, 12 August 1996, 11-ish, Towne Tavern]

The [magazine] story isn’t new or fresh when it gets to the reader (who also reads it in solitude). It’s just a piece of text (filler, essentially) that goes in this month’s issue, and then there’ll be more copy to replace it in next month’s–there must be! For there must be another magazine next month to print the ads and make the money and keep the jobs and make the owners wealthy. This is the real significance of the story, of any story–copy. Text. Filler. It may mean something to the reader, it may change his mind or inform him, etc., but to the writers and editors and production people, it’s just copy. Sure, they love it when a story sparks controversy or elicits a reader’s letter, but they like that not so much for the intellectual-leadership function , the “bringing truth to the people,” as much as it is because it generates interest that increases sales and, eventually, ad revenue. God, this sounds cynical. But if magazines were really about teaching and ideas and publishing ideas and informing the public, they likely wouldn’t publish on a regular schedule. They would publish only when they had a story that they felt must be published, a story whose publication would benefit the public good.  [Page 174-5, Tues. 14 Jan. 1997, at Perkins restaurant]

The older guy–50s–facing me from the next booth smiled and shrugged when those two guys left without paying. We all heard their situation–they said, with kind of an honest but slightly edgy tone–that they didn’t want to be rude. The black-haired guy sitting right behind me said to his buddy when he got here that he liked the atmosphere here. Wonder what he thinks now? The older guy smoking Salems–I wondered why he was sitting in the smoking section. Didn’t like like a smoker, seemed kindly but had a corporate moral-ambivalence to him. He told the manager and bus-fellow that the pair went back to the kitchen and around the side but couldn’t find anybody [to give their money to]. The manager said they could have just left their money on the table, but I thought, what if they only had a $20 and their bill was much less? I wouldn’t just leave my credit card (which is how I have to pay, having no cash ’til later this week). [Page 185, Tues. 14 Jan. 1997, at Perkins restaurant]

Weekday mornings here in town–sleepy, yet overtones of work, not entirely comfortable. The straight-walled old houses, two-stories, brick, rectangular homes. Guy in the little house next door was without kids this weekend, unlike last weekend when he brought them here and they played on the dirt pile. Watching is better than asking sometimes, like this kid setting up his household in the lawn. It’s probably just a yard sale but it’s more fun if I make the story up. [Page 10, 15 June 1996]

Explain you to you: Random bits from Journal 265

Saw: (1) Over summer saw squat buildings at Superior, Wisconsin–not sure why that’s on my mind. (2) Saw big pile of cheese on my rice–the last of the zipping plastic bag. (3) Zipping bag whose zipper had broken, and I used a twist tie to keep it shut. (4) I moved green beans from freezer to fridge to thaw for dog dinner tonight. (5) I saw all the dog’s carroty poops, as I tried to pick them up in the zipping bag. Might as well use that bag first because [as a former cheese bag] it’s likely to smell good to pets and they’d pull it out of the pocket of my [dog-walking] vest. [Page 49, Mon. 25 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

Did: (3) I like the idea that I’m writing (in my journals) some of what happens between the stories one tells. Saw: (1) [A woman teacher] tell some girl in hallway before 7-8 period that her shirt was inappropriately sheer–and of course I don’t know how the teacher was made aware of this. [Page 165, 31 Oct. 2017, 10th hour]

What else would you describe to someone who hadn’t done it–for example, eating a Snickers? Let’s think about this hypothetical other–someone who really is limited–or, maybe the real (likely) audience is people who already know what it’s like to eat Snickers and you want to impress them with your cleverness or make some philosophical point about comparisons, or about real, lived experience. [Page 71, Thurs. 28 Sept. 2017, 10th hour]

Invisible–like a freshman boy at a dance! Ha, you still may be a little bitter about that, eh? You don’t need to be bitter. There were reasons why you didn’t ever date much–namely, you didn’t want to. [Page 88, Tues. 3 October 2017, 10th hour]

Part of nonfiction writing is getting to know yourself and expressing that–figuring out who you are as a person, as a writer. … An essay defined as your thinking on paper–but unlike an assigned topic, where do ideas come from? From who you are, what you’re interested in, how you see the world. I wanna suggest to you that getting through to yourself is a life-long process. Getting to know yourself may take years, decades. I know myself better now than I did five years ago–and this isn’t just therapy. Knowing what I want to do has changed what I write, well, or at least what I want and try to publish. OK, so, today, write who you are–a self-definition. What interests you? What parts of your life do you enjoy more than others? Write a who I am nonfiction. Now, go question yourself. Why do you like each of these? Why do you say that? Explain you to you. [Page 23-5, 20 Sept. 2017, 7-8 period]

Today’s journaling topic: How’d you get home without using roads or bike path? I’d leave school campus walking northwest … I’d walk from field to field (if there were, say, some kind of military invasion?) … bearing west, and I’d go through the woods there … and  (at 3 miles/hour, 24 miles would be an 8-hour trip!) I’d eventually get to creeks–ford them. Rock River at Byron–I’d take train trestle over–or if not that, a canoe? Or a log? I’d be fearful of the currents. Maybe they wouldn’t be too bad. But what I’m thinking is that there are too many variables–I mean, why would I be doing this without roads? I’m a fugitive? Cars don’t work? Three are foreign invaders? So, would I want to travel without being seen? At night only? Would they be tracking me–in which case, use the creeks, staying away from mean dogs at farm houses. What time of year–iced-over river? Are crops harvested? How badly do I need to get home–or would I meet up elsewhere? How communicate? How important is my escape? Am I a spy? Or could I just die? [Page 57, Tues. 26 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

Drawing from page 125 of Journal 265

Verbing nouns. Then you’d have to say there’s a common judgment–like if you say, “you really did that like a freshman would–you freshman’d that quiz,” you’re implying connotation–though I don’t know if “to friend” something connotes. [Page 126, Mon. 16 October 2017, 10th hour]

I read [in a local businessman’s autobiography] his list of things that seem good to have–family, business, lake house–but I don’t get a sense of why he liked any of these, other than that he was proud to have them. Why’d he have a Wisconsin farm, anyway? It’d be a pain to truck equipment there. Was there some tax break or something? It’s as if the world beyond business were invisible to him–and maybe it was. He went to sports events–that’s about it? I mean … I guess I gotta go–Justin’s under his desk with leg screw out. [Page 105-6, Tues. 10 Oct. 2017, 3rd hour]

[Random technique, in contrast to the technique used here, was that the first and last pages of writing in this journal were entered as the range into a random number generator, and the generated numbers were page numbers I looked up.]

Becoming useful to yourself: Random moments from Journal 265

Topic for journaling freewrite: What’ll you be at age 33? Well, for you, do 15 years in future–shoot, 58! Damn, I’ll be nearly retired. I may not live, of course. But say you do, you’ll probably still be here, teaching. That’s not so bad. In 15 years, I hope I’ll still be married to M. I pretty much would like my life to be then like my life is now–journaling, dog walking–though my poor Sammy likely won’t be around then. It’s not stasis I want but routine. I like my life. What could change it–deaths, crises, problems–it can only get worse? Ha! [Page 22, Weds. 20 Sept. 2017, 3rd period class. I write daily journals in my creative writing class  as my students also write so I can model journaling for them.]

Ceiling detail, Cherryvale Mall, Cherry Valley, Ill. 29 Sept. 2017

Have them write about reality. So, yesterday, we went to a place and wrote about what we really saw, heard, felt, [movies leave out smells because smells can’t be transported via wire (media) so it’s not a priority for those actors/producers] and so, let’s talk today about what you really think real is–how define it, what is it and what it’s not, how can you tell. Let’s do a definition of real: what is real matters for you as an individual because what you regard as real is what you think matters. If zombies don’t exist, you don’t have to prepare for zombie apocalypse. But if you fear nuclear war is a real possibility, you act differently. [Page 23, Weds. 20 Sept. 2017, 7-8 period class]

♣  So, what do I value? Gardening. I want to live in a place where I can garden, not just for the fresh food but also for the experience of growing and caring for things, digging in the dirt, weeding, etc. I value having some time each day to journal, to create. I value not overworking but keeping my work confined to my workdays, as much as possible. I value being aware of my thinking, aware of my distinctions. I value being honest–not blunt, necessarily, but honest. I value, sure, freedom, accountable government, etc. I value not-knowing, uncertainty, not being over-confident. [Page 33, 21 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

  Some things I saw this morning: Saw flea-like bug, 2nd day on a row. Saw solid-color sheets for senior toga day this year: Maria, red toga. Jessie E., sage green. Justin, Jessie G., Karly: black. Jocelyn, red. Mychaela, teal. Gwen, burgundy. Saw my dog poop twice, and saw and heard him bark at neighbor. Looked at my red canvas-covered 9 by 12″ journal–nice journal, though corners weren’t completely covered. Saw cut-up green peppers for lunch and washed tomatoes.  [Page 39, Friday, 22 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

  Topic for journaling freewrite: You go to school to make yourself useful to others, but how can you be useful and interesting to yourself? Well, the first part of that was a problem for me. I didn’t want to be interesting to others. I programmed, liked it, liked having the skills, being known for that, but I never thought much about jobs I’d work–not ’til I got to college, not ’til well into my year of  Computer Science. I never thought about job as being useful so much as finding my work satisfying. Thus, my philosophy major and my teaching job. [Page 52, Mon. 25 Sept. 2017, 10th hour]

  I said on drive in to work today that I might as well look at myself as the calf in the pasture–as not really in charge. [Page 55, Tues. 26 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

 OK, it’s now 8th hour, noon:58, and I’ve been reading online and getting bored with that, and I’m sleepy and I don’t feel like grading and it’s Friday, so push stuff off to the weekend, or to next week, huh? [Page 74, Fri. 29 Sept. 2017, 8th hour]

Building labeled 102 State Street, Madison, Wis. My great-great-grandfather H.I. Gibson practiced dentistry in this building a century ago. Photographed 1 Oct. 2017.

 Mitch Hedberg is dead. 59 people died at that Vegas shooting. To be alive, and then dead. Tom Petty’s dead of a heart attack–66 years. And to be alive and then dead. My uncle works out–his dad had a stroke in his late 60s, right? … Today’s a new day in which to live. [Page 85, Tues. 3 Oct. 2017, 3rd hour]

Topic for journaling freewrite: What’s the least-loved thing you own? Well, that’s a good question. The cat, I’d joke, or the cat’s shit, but I don’t hold onto that. Maybe broken garden tools–that one-prong cultivator, or the rake with broken-off head. Papers I can’t give up but don’t really want to look at often? What about clothes that I don’t like wearing but haven’t discarded yet? Or maybe gifts (like now there’s a blender thing around kitchen) that we don’t use and can’t get rid of ? What about all the stuff I’m saving to use “in case”–like old shoes I’m keeping just to wear into a creek or into cement (like if I’m helping work it) one day? Or for “least-loved,” what about this: pants that are still in good shape but which I’ve grown too wide-waisted to wear? [Page 100, Fri. 6 Oct. 2017, 3rd hour]

[Today’s variation of a random-page-number look-up: I’m getting a random number for the first 20 pages of writing, then adding an additional random number of 1-20 to that page, and repeating until the end of the notebook.]

What’s it feel like to be alive? Random bits from Journal 263

I got somehow transfixed on a red (L.E.D., probably) sign showing “P L A” and then “LOTTERY” in bigger font. And as I stood with my back to a freezer case watching this flashing at service counter, I somehow felt–it felt deep. I felt I had some insight–more a feeling than an idea–into time, maybe. One flash of a word followed by a second-long flash of the other word (a second or two), with moments of blank between–I’m not sure. [Page 92-3, Thurs. 23 Nov. 2017]

Up-close pumpkin. 23 Nov. 2017

Two water streaks just appeared on deck-door glass. They appeared so suddenly that I immediately wondered if they had just appeared or had been there for a while. I paused there to look out [“there” being at the beginning of this paragraph] and I noticed the battery-powered lights M brought out to deck in the summer and I see some bulbs have water inside. [Page 36, Sat. 18 Nov. 2017]

I’m back after having eaten a Nature Valley bar and having put on my green jacket because my back of neck felt cold. Maybe I should move socks and t-shirts into dryer and start another load. [Back at 9:12 a.m. after moving socks to dryer, starting new load of pants and button-shirts (woven, not knit, fabrics, so they can be dried in dryer).] * And I had a 2nd bar and I switched from green jacket to gray so’s I can zip it. And the cold air coming in through dryer prompted the thought that I’m cold sitting here because of the northwest wind making this corner of house colder than other sections. [*This asterisk marks where I got up and poured 2nd tea and came back.] [Page 46, Sun. 19 Nov. 2017]

That is the question I often return to: what is it, what’s it feel like to be alive? And so when I write about history, it feels a little like I’m wasting time besides the point. On other hand, I know that this question–“Existence?”–persists. [Page 43, Sat. 18 Nov. 2017]

The history-as-accomplishments idea was in contrast to just looking at, say, the field I was driving past when I thought this last afternoon. My point is not just to celebrate small things, but how being alive is so much more than accomplishing things! That it’s wondrous to be alive, just to be able to see and smell and touch and also to think — being alive is great! (Though I do also acknowledge the feeling of a 76-year-old with cancer being tired of fighting it.) [Page 9-10, Weds. 15 Nov. 2017]

How strange to me it is that someone would be willing to do that for the fame, or, I mean, maybe I see the choice. Though it’s not like I was directly given the choice–“be famous or not”–but it never occurred to me to choose something where I’d sacrifice my own interests. Now I sound self-righteous–I don’t mean that. I mean something more like: maybe there are social/societal paths that are available but damaging? [Page 205, Thurs. 30 Nov. 2017]

Maybe these people who are ambitious enough to climb to the highest levels of business organizations, government, etc., maybe they are unreflective people. Maybe the positions–the power and influence and etcetera of their positions–corrupt them, but maybe a lot of people are already warped and that’s why they rise to that level? Why they sacrifice other parts of their lives, why they do whatever the networks tell them to do, why they sacrifice ethics for going along? [Page 198-9, Thurs. 30 Nov. 2017]

I’ve sometimes–OK, often–thought it’d be a good life as an artist to sell one’s work. Yet maybe there’s something insidious about selling art at all. Maybe there’s something corrupt about that. I’m not sure if I can say why it’s corrupt–maybe because it’s selling not a product or service but merely an  idea (in the guise of an experience?). I’m not sure. But maybe it corrupts both commercial artists (who try to amuse, please, pander to fans) but also the fans, who think that there is something special about buying books or records/music as compared to buying other things. Maybe what’s insidious are the expectations and reputation around an artist and art work. [Page 182, Tues. 28 Nov. 2017]

As adults, lotsa people seem willing to run things, to represent their business or institution or party or whatever, and not fret too much about their own personal opinions. Or, it seems they don’t care too much about that. It seems as if they get ego-strokes by being seen as a leader or a role-filler. Didn’t these people have rebellious thoughts when they were young? Maybe they didn’t. [Page 144, Sat. 25 Nov. 2017]

After we got home, I pulled (and tin-snipped) a C-shape metal piece from around the driver’s side (left) rear axle. It’s maybe a shielding for the disk-brake or something, but it seems to have rusted loose. That explains the rattling and backing-up noises I’ve heard lately. I noticed it under my car when M went into her office to get papers (which she said she didn’t find) and then I took the loose disk off when at home. [Page 146, Sat. 25 Nov. 2017]