Tag Archives: random editing

I lived my life in a different context: Random bits from Journal 234

There’s something about the new concussionball season—that it’s pretty much just like all the other seasons. There won’t be much that’s brand new—which, I know, is what fans like: minor variations within known and set rules. But I’d like some novelty, I guess. My old joke: “Hey, there’s football game on–wanna watch?” “Nah, I’ve already seen a football game.” Not a hilarious joke, or even a funny joke, but comic in that it misunderstands the fan mentality. And of course, the business of sports requires multiple games, multiple seasons for revenue and, of course, there’s some value in the tradition. Winning the Superbowl in its first few years probably didn’t mean as much as it does in the 50th year of that prize, once the prize is known. Of course, by year 50, your team’s win makes it only one of 50 winners. [Page 96-7, Sunday, 4 Sept. 2016]

The school days make the day go slowly, in a good way—to be alive each day at work, to know I’m alive. Sometimes the amount of work seems overwhelming. Neighbor Beth walks Lou-dog just now. A student wrote that his dad beat his dog after the dog chewed the dad’s boots. That’s probably not great (an understatement, and I’m not sure why). It makes me feel bad, when jackasses beat dogs. Dogs are so wonderful—and it’s not like beating them does anything but make the beater into a monster. Dogs as nonviolent protestors? [Page 68-9, Friday, 2 Sept 2016]

I feel bad for how busy students taking A.P. courses are–take a study hall instead! Ah, well. I lived my life differently, in a different context. There weren’t A.P. courses offered to me. But, you know, these kids could—but don’t have to—max out on stress here. I’m pretty happy with my life. It is a little odd that we make choosing a career such a big deal when, frankly, we all get to a point of settling. Maybe that’s cynical to say, but I don’t say it out of bitterness. I mean it in the best way possible—not even “settling” but letting go of ambition. Ambition  belongs to the young, and even there it might not be so great. What if following your goals (your usually arbitrarily chosen goals) is exhausting, doesn’t make you happy, anyway?

I read or saw something—the statement that someone (the “I” speaker) was willing to do anything to reach his/her goal. But why, I thought? As I’ve said before, how do you really know you want that goal you’re working so hard for—how do you know you’ll be happy in that job? I had a thought last night—got a fortune cookie message last night: “Learn Chinese: Still, Hai” and “Lucky #4, 7, 34, 22, 50, 32,” but also, “Your dearest wish will come true,” and I actually felt a little hopeful—”Maybe I will publish a book of my own writings, done my own way, and it’ll be popular!” But I also (or later) thought: maybe what maturity is is getting what you want while also being wise enough to know how to take it, how to receive it, how to react to it—which is to say: maybe I publish a book only once I’m also aware that doing so won’t be all that big a deal. That even if you published and won a Pulitzer, you still have to live your life, deal with dog poop and back pain and daily classes—new students won’t care who I am. [Page 22-43, Sabado, 27 Augustus 2016]

What matters is a focus on my own life, interests, being alive, thoughts and feelings, writing what I want to write. Living in a way where I choose what I want to do, you know? I mean, instead of doing things for others, to try to impress others. The last thing I’d want right now (well, OK, not the last) would be to be nominated for the Man Booker prize—who wrote the best example of the novel genre. I don’t want to write to those standards, to that outcome. Teaching poetry, sometimes I do read kids’ work aloud to the class (anonymously) and maybe this gives them a notion that there’s a standard for writing poetry, that they should be externally focused on product rather than internally focused on process, on their writerly experience. It’s hard to focus on internal/personal/individual experience in the classroom setting, which is kinda outwardly focused on doing what teacher asks, earning the grade, though I do try to focus on process, on having them try, on giving them some leeway.  [Page 170-1, Weds. 14 Sept. 2016]

Grades are the currency of the system: Journal 33

I still don’t understand freshmen, where they are intellectually and how to teach to them, reach them. No abstraction, I know, stay concrete, and that’s more foreign to abstract-thinking me. Also, my top student, S., asked me during her quiz retake Friday what “underlie” meant in my question “Why did Dalton think atoms were what underlie matter” or something. I’m confronted by the fact that nobody asked about this on the first time through the quiz, nor even did any of the re-takers. So none of my students are asking questions, or something. And they got a little out of hand Friday during the measurement lab—a little loud, little off-task, etc. I can’t even understand what student M.C. is telling me: “8 of these bad-boys” as he casts down his meter stick on the floor. I can’t fathom his language, it’s so odd. A flaky child. And yet I don’t want to script him (or my attitude toward him). Keep up the positive expectations for all students, Matt. [Page 37-8, Sunday evening, 9 Sept. 2001]

Too late to write much but … So weird and fascinating to watch Grace dog try to find her rag doll after we hide it. Real thinking going on, a method to her searching. And in quarry pond now, I break ice for her to drink out of, and she drinks, then tries to pick out chunks of ice, usually with her mouth—submerging head until almost her eyes! And today I also observed her “splashing”/scooping water and ice out with her front paw. She doesn’t even do anything with the chunks once she gets them. She walks around with a chunk, or sets it on ice. Even they slide back in sometimes! I didn’t start her on this—she was doing it herself with ice; last two days I broke ice for her. Sometimes she crunches the ice, but not most times. No snow (beyond a dusting) this whole vacation, so no sledding. [Page 213-4, Friday night, 3 January 2003]

On my way home yesterday, it occurred to me that if I really teach all process, then I’m devaluing Newton and established, mainstream physics — If I want “Suzy” to develop her own theory of light, am I saying her theory is as good and as valid as the Accepted Theory of Light? No—this morning I can answer no, because I’m not saying they’re equally good. There are surely better and worse answers/theories.

After weeks of searching, I finally found some evidence for waves in Galileo’s Two New Sciences—he gave evidence that when you get a glass singing, there are waves in the water inside, and chisel leaves marks across brass plate. So there’s the evidence—but is it convincing? Is it compelling?

I think I need to go more process-based. Maybe introduce some history, I’m not sure, but I’m not trying to teach “physics” anyway—I’m not the Conservator of Physics–I’m teaching particular students. [Page 107, Tuesday morning, 22 Oct. 2002]

What I seemed to need (felt like I needed) was to truly do nothing—just lie and nap or just watch TV. Even reading for fun would’ve felt taxing on brain, like I was forcing myself to do it (as I felt reading Monkey Wrench Gang that day one summer). Normally, I’d have felt sick of doing nothing, I’d’ve felt the need to do something, and I’d have gotten up and done dishes or something. Never got that stir-crazy feeling today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel more like working, though maybe not, too. I’d really like to catch up on sleep and rest (separate from sleep ) so I felt better during week. [Page 145, Saturday evening, 16 Nov. 2002]

  • Exhausted, slept 6:30 to almost 8:30 tonight, grumpy all day, pissed off.
  • Puzzles, problems, concepts—these aren’t just dismissable “schoolwork.” These are also ideas not dealt with or taken seriously many other places—not in factories, for instance, not on sports teams, etc.
  • I show kids the big ideas, help them identify those, but let them fill in the details? Not bad idea.
  • Principal today was on me about grades—it’s just too much to do. I’m too busy, feeling run down, then that.
  • I was displeased with students, but realized mostly that was because I was feeling bad myself. My generalizations, as I’ve been thinking, are not valid.
  • Principal’s expectations (and by extension, the parents’ expectations of me) not meeting my own—a disconnect. He’s telling me a set of priorities, and getting grades into the computer is one of those priorities. Once again, it’s reinforced to me how important grades are to others, though they seem beside-the-point, an afterthought, to me. I forgot: grades are the currency of the system. My priorities are planning, and beyond that, planning thought-provoking activities. It’s just a reminder to me that that’s not a priority in the system. That’s how the system is, and once again I have to concede to the system. That’s the conflict of expectations. [Page 287-8, Wednesday evening, 26 March 2003, and Thurs. morning 27 March 2003]

Commentary in Trib today—English prof was criticizing other profs for not teaching grammar, mechanics, but rather being more open-ended in their teaching. I can’t defend what his targets did, but I considered that as possible criticism of what I’m doing in my classes. After all, I’m admittedly not teaching how to solve problems with formulae, etc. I’m not doing the standard physics class, and probably kids will leave class not knowing what some might think they “should know.” But I think I’ve thought about this enough to argue against that criticism.

First, that there are two approaches to teach: the rules of the system (any system), and empowering people to form their own rules and ideas (to not be tyrannical)—that is, the foundational split between what to think, and how to think. Students are entitled to their own perceptions and judgments. They might leave thinking I’m no good. I can’t do much about that, other than tell my side of the story.

Second, he’s accusing other profs of doing intentionally what they do. Lord knows I don’t intend to do everything that happens in class (“intend” as in logically think it out, reason for it, judge its pros and cons, etc.) and furthermore, I’m a new teacher, still feeling my own through things, this is my “rough draft year,” I’m trying out new things—that’s bound to be less comprehensive than others’ teaching, but I think it has its own benefits. Spontaneity—I told 1st hour the other day that I don’t plan ’til 7:30 before 8 a.m. class. That way, the teaching is fresh, not “day-old” (and I can’t plan as well the evening of the previous day—I’m too tired then, not mentally fresh).

Trib story on state test scores—I have so many objections, but mostly they are philosophical ones. A “letter to the editor” would not be the proper forum; only a full essay or book would be.

The strong, not always pleasant personalities of “geniuses” like Wittgenstein, Popper–so far removed from notions of “good teaching.” They didn’t need to be liked, so why am I worried about not tutoring for Mrs. T? Who cares if I say no, even if it pisses her off? Further, it’s interesting to me to see how both men (I’m reading Wittgenstein’s Poker) had neuroses and character flaws–they may not have even been “normal” like the people I meet everyday. They may have been truly odd, neurotic, not really healthy, not socially adapted. And I guess that surprises me because I must’ve thought (for much of my life) people are mostly singular, most people are basically like me. I’m not sure that’s a true or accurate assumption. People very often are very different. It’s truly hard to really understand another person. Journalists sketch a profile the best they can, but profiles are mostly inadequate.

In physics today, we talked about formal vs. intuitive knowledge. Formal knowledge is when one has to think things through, like learning Spanish. Intuitive knowledge is when one is fluent in Spanish, when it’s “second nature” to one. Doing any new skill vs. the unthinking proficiency of repeated use. You don’t think, you just do (as described in title essay of Breakfast at the Victory). Lecture-style physics is formal vs. seeing something first-hand, developing one’s own ideas. Is knowledge-becoming-intuitive how our brains can get used to operating in a world it sees upside down?

Telling students what to think is dead learning! Knowledge must be created anew, for each person, by each person, for it to be real. There are lots of ideas already thought and published, say, for example, in the history and philosophy of science. But I as a newcomer to science had never been exposed to these. I barely knew this was even a field of study! So I had to create from almost nothing, create anew for myself, because all these thoughts out there are all dead until they are explored and rediscovered by each new individual.

Why don’t these ideas get into the mainstream culture? It’s as if academia is where ideas go to die. Popular American culture, news, etc., is so vacant–so few ideas, generalized into meaninglessness and repeated ad nauseam. It’s like with the Trib article—it’s so establishment, siding with the politicians and the administrators. The press seems to take their side by accepting their terms and boundaries for the debate. It’d be hard for me to express my points as serious, legitimate points because I’m so far from that debate. Why does the press buy into the politicians’ terms and debates and perpetuate those? Why don’t they advocate for a new debate—or do you get marginalized, like I was as agriculture reporter at WILL. I asked about organics at the Farm Bureau and I questioned the National Corn Growers on labeling, but my norms were so far from theirs, their off-putting answers actually made my points.

No wonder the “public debate” (to what extent it exists at all) is so damn vapid, empty. Think of sources of info and discussion—TV, newspapers, Time magazine–each article is short, just a summary. You need length of article to spell out complete thinking. M says there’s no time given to most people to think now—speed of the workplace. Long boat trips, carriage rides gave more ruminating time? And there’s no time to think in school—thinking well takes time. No wonder adult discussion is so insipid—philosophy (not formal philosophy but the idea that there are ideas behind decisions, and not just self-interest) is almost absent from political and public discussions. This is a big idea—I’m bored with shallow reporting because there’s nothing there, no substance, all shorthand.

No wonder TV bores me–it is damn dumb! It felt dissatisfying, but I didn’t know why ’til just now. Actual thinking, good discussions are rich experiences. With TV, our minds are not being stimulated much.

Lack of time to think in school is one of my big frustrations now—time for me to think, and students, too. School schedule lacks unscheduled blocks of time to think. Creativity requires free time. Schools are essentially arbitrary the way they are set up to run—50-minute classes? Totally arbitrary, no relevance to learning (unless there’s some research on this?). But 90-minute classes are also an arbitrary choice, good for some subjects or topics but not for others.

So I’m not going to feel bad about taking all period for one topic! Or taking time for things—not every second has to be scheduled. [Page 136-40, Wednesday evening, 13 Nov. 2002]

That kind of message I keep telling myself: Random bits from Journal 30

Δ Nor have I, on a larger scale, achieved non-attachment to things. I could certainly live without almost everything that I own, excepting my journals. Sure, I know that if the journals were accidentally destroyed (knock on wood three times), my life would go on, but at this point, I still want them. They are becoming more valuable the further away I am from them in years—they remind me of who I was and what I did and thought and felt, and when I read them now, they inform my image of myself and affect my thoughts and choices now. I can learn from them now (and of course they served the purpose at the time of reflection, self-discovery, and meditation in the act of writing, but all those are practices, not things). [Page 133-4, Sat. 2 June 2001, 4 p.m., Journal 30]

Δ Monday morning—up early to write. Last night felt bad because once again it was Sunday night and I hadn’t gotten homework done—talked to Mom and she said I so often seem unhappy with my work (M said I’m under a unique set of stressors that my mom didn’t have when she started teaching—the emotional stressors of M’s illness, my dad’s death, etc). But then M said some really good stuff—I feel I’m not doing a good job teaching, but why do I feel it’s important to be a great teacher? What’s my motivation—better yet, what’s my reasoning, my programming—why do I tell myself it’s important? I didn’t think too long on this, but came up with: my self-image is as an Outsider, and so I feel I have to go into the system and reform everything—correct all the ills of the years. M said she’s learned through her illness that it’s important to love yourself no matter what (she said it a better way) — that I’m a good person no matter what kind of teacher I am.

It is very valuable to look at that kind of message I keep telling myself—my programming, as it were, built up over time, over the years. One other message I realized last night is “money–it’s good to save it,” which I did when I was in high school, but that was the last time I had a good sum in the bank, and so I have felt bad every time I think about how much we’re in debt or how much I spend on books, etc. Every time I ‘m telling myself I’m doing bad by not saving. Wow, what a powerful statement to make to myself. No wonder I’ve felt bad. So I have looked back on my senior year as the last time I really did something good financially–how silly is that? How many other things did I do optimally well at age 18? Very few.

It seems that I vacillate back and forth, especially with books: feeling an urge to buy (buying as entertainment) and then feeling bad for spending money, then soon enough the urge comes again. A few weeks ago I was trying to reform myself by not buying at all. I was living by the “saving is good” value and trying to live up to it. And saving is not bad, but I wonder if I can do this more consciously. I can accept myself and my situation as it is—and go from there. I don’t have to wait until I’m debt-free to be happy! Likewise (something else M said that’s very good idea) I don’t have to wait for anything to be happy! I don’t have to wait until I’m a good teacher, or in M’s case, until she’s eating better or until she’s well again. A good message: I can love myself right away and still change things, just not make the love contingent on the change.

It is interesting how, especially on the trip, how I would get excited about buying, looking forward to book shopping. I feel I should even things out—not look forward so much, accept things more. Like on Saturday: I went shopping, but what I needed was quiet time, and so I read and then bought only 3 books instead of 8. And maybe it’s OK–the books I bought can be a good investment for me, an investment in my career, etc. (It’s not a waste of money as long as I actually read them!) [Page 337-8, Monday morning, 11 Feb. 2002]

Δ Physics has been a bust lately. I don’t know where I want to get, so no wonder my classes are less than focused. I’ll make up the test first for the next unit so I know what to teach (even Arons says this–put it on your test to let kids know it’s important). I even said 6th hour that I want suggestions for how to help them learn problem solving, as Mom had said she has done with her classes—”Tell me why you don’t get this,” though more tactfully. Ashley H. and others said they get the notes but get stuck with homework at night. More practice, and it’s true, I haven’t done enough guided practice with them—weird, huh, how for fear of teaching them too lecture-style, I’ve ended up teaching little at all.

And I’m tired of the calculator games. I guess I can just ask them to put those away instead of me getting worked up about it.

And maybe more practice period will help. And maybe I put off review because I wanted review sheet to be perfect. Instead, just do something.

And I’m finally feeling better. Had bad cold almost two weeks now and of course my lessons were minimal—I was barely there myself. I would like some time off to prepare stuff, but when I do have time, last Thursday’s snow day and last weekend, I’m just recuperating–sleeping in, etc. Ah, well.

Funny I should feel so down on myself this evening. I actually had a pretty good day today, felt more mindful than in a while.  [Page 335-6, Monday evening, 4 Feb. 2002]

A Possibility for Meaning: Random bits from Pocket Notebook 157

My dog, Gracie, was going around the pile to get [flying disk toy]. Her spatial powers, prediction. She tried one spot, couldn’t get there, didn’t try any others, went right to an opening on the other side of the wood pile, a little path in. [Page 3, 16 March 2006]

Random lists of words: There’s no meaning there, and yet, what’s valuable is the sounds of the words, the interesting juxtapositions and metaphors/comparisons, shaking your established concepts. [Page 83, 23 March 2006]

School trains people to be not-themselves, to play roles. That’s all others could do–no teacher is needed to tell you to be yourself. [Page 89, 24 March 2006]

Earl” show last night was funny but didn’t really make me laugh. Intellectually funny, but is it possible to be intellectually funny? [Page 93, 24 March 2006]

If people go to the city to Become Somebody, to Make Something of themselves, maybe people who stay in small towns by choice are trying to Be Nothing, no one, to not make anything of themselves. Sure, some want some attention—big fish in little ponds. Maybe an ambitious person in a small town is an anomaly, square peg in round hole, etc. But maybe it’s not even that—maybe I’d like living in a smaller town, maybe I’m not really one of the Ambitious. I’d just like to live in a college town. Or maybe I am ambitious, in addition. [Page 73, 22 March 2006]

Coyote—heart, eye, C-section. [I think this note refers to memory of dissecting a coyote my uncle had hunted during my biology class in fall 2002. Guided by a biology teacher who knew far more about dissection than I did, we cut out and looked at the coyote’s heart and eyeball. A student in this high school class said the chest-cavity smell reminded her of her C-section.] [Page 87, 24 March 2006]

I was wondering if, in a sense, only ideas matter, if only the judgments of others matter–the taste-makers, the givers-of-cultural-value that the article on book prizes talks about: professors, critics, curators, etc. Books don’t have inherent (intrinsic?) value except as paper. Walking into grocery store this morning, I saw a newspaper and was drawn to it, to examine it, like it was a fascinating object, but it is just a paper with symbols. (This idea’s an example, an instance, of an idea echoing and rolling through my mind. Laundry was nice to do this afternoon because it was not mental.) [Page 127-131, 30 March 2006]

Tone—how people read poems, you can tell when they’re ending. [Page 85, 23 March 2006]

The experience of learning to write each poem: writing a poem is learning (attentively, recursively, inductively—you’re not telling the poem how to be, you’re learning what it is, trial and error) how to write that poem. You’re sorta passive—involved, attentive, but you’re not controlling the process, the experience. (This isn’t entirely my idea; I read someone else say that each book teaches its writer how to write it.) And it’s about the process, the learning—that’s the value, not in the poetry commodity. I wouldn’t have said this last year. Last year I would’ve been afraid to tinker with first drafts—but that’s missing the point of the experience. I think that I thought, until recently, that I wanted to have this Ability to Write Poetry—this talent, like Superman has flying ability, to whip out poems with a flick of the wrist. No: I now conceive of writing poetry as learning to write poetry, entering the creative experience, entering creative mindspace and playing. And somehow that makes it easier than thinking of writing poetry as an Ability, a thing either you have or don’t have. Being willing to engage the poem. And the other thing: being done all the time. Moving in wholeness. Not thinking I have to get the poem to some perfect level. [Page 47-57, 21 March 2006, 5 p.m.-ish]

It’s boring to see kids’ journals filled with same word over and over. There’s no surprise, no change, not even a possibility for meaning there. It’s boring to look at. Little value in looking back at those pages. Even dull pages that say things like “I’m bored today, did that yesterday” have at least some interest for me as a reader. [Page 69, 22 March 2006]

5:33 How our first reaction to city is how different the people look (from people in the small town where I live)—handsome and trim and well-dressed and having real jobs. They look like the people on TV! (M said she had that reaction on a prior visit to Chicago; I had it this time.) [Page 155, 30 March 2006, I think]

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]

“Bubbly ruptures” of fathers, children, homes — Random text bits from Journal 142

I wrote Saturday, I think, or Sunday, that I might need to wrestle with my ideas about Dad. Today, I don’t think I need to be so deliberate as that. Clearly, I have lots of questions still. Since I didn’t — don’t — feel like I knew/know him, since he’s a cipher, an enigma, to me, I’ll have plenty to ponder for, maybe, the rest of my life. [Page 66, Mon. 13 June 2011]

Neighbors — how one is distant from them, one may not like them, even, and yet, in living so close, one is naturally bound to them. They’re gonna see and hear (and smell, potentially) how you live. They’ll see you unwashed, mowing your lawn. … All of one’s home-living — showering, shitting, getting sick, eating, having sex, playing board games, scolding one’s kids — these happen in proximity to others.  [Page 81-82, Thurs. 16 June 2011]

My wife, M, has been saying lately that she’s not sure she wants a kid. She said yesterday that it seems exhausting. But then she smiled at a kid in a cart while his parents weren’t looking, and a couple had a little girl in checkout line ahead of us, and the girl had a little doll she kissed, and the parents didn’t want to take doll from her. They tore off the doll’s tag instead — pretty sweet. M said after that that maybe she could have a kid. [Page 217-8, Sun. 3 July 2011]

It felt really good to be going home to apartment. In my tired state, I’m starting to feel I don’t have a home, that homesick feeling of not belonging anywhere. Woke up overnight not sure where I was for a moment. I’ll probably feel that a few more times in coming days. It’s the end of an era of sleeping here, in this hot, dusty, crowded apartment, but it has been home for quite a while. I’m glad our new place is nice — makes it easier to go than if we were moving to a worse place. [Page 111, Sat. 18 June 2011]

As a teen, I found each book was, in a way, a door to a room I hadn’t known existed –– for instance, I liked Maynard Ferguson’s covers — “Chameleon,” MF Horn 1 & 2 — but I didn’t know the original versions. I didn’t know the influences, tradition, or history. And now that I see this, not all of history but the pattern of influences and contexts, now I’m less likely to experience any new thing (music, building, book) as entirely new. … So I probably won’t have that sense of wonder, of the possibility of finding a new realm in a magazine, that I had as teen. But I don’t feel inferior to others or their writings now. [Page 89, Thurs. 16 June 2011]

Why’d my dad leave the security and relative prestige of the bank — where people came to ask him for money–and go to sales, where he had to sell to some of these same people? I’d never thought of that, but, no doubt, some clients may have enjoyed that turn of tables. They used to ask him for money; now he was asking them. [Page 61, Mon. 13 June 2011]

They — my cousin’s kids — have to come to terms with that, have to figure out why their dad did what he did so that their own lives had to change so greatly. Shit, I’m still trying to figure my old man out–the divorce, but also his character. Maybe it’s all funneled thru the divorce question: what made him the way he was so that he would do what he did? Or maybe it’s sappy to think it’s only the divorce I see as the frame. It’s everything: his jobs, his depression, his basic unknowability.  [Page 164, Sun. 26 June 2011]

I was over at the house, packing canned food into bags and wiping the brown rings of what seemed to be–by deduction–sauerkraut juice from a can that had a pestilential-looking greenish bubbly rupture — botulism? Some nasty thing that indicates it wasn’t processed properly. [Page 164, Sun. 26 June 2011]

Sometimes I like to write down the words I hear, and I’m fascinated by the transition from vocalization to marks on page. But today, that doesn’t necessarily seem to fascinate me. That’s OK, too. I mean, sometimes, I think that these expressions of my soul–these writing sessions–have a a certain value in themselves, a scream from the void, as it were–a sign I existed. I’m not sure that that matters, either, really. After all, only other people can make sense of these things (and that’s only if they can figure out my handwriting), and each person’s interpretation of this text might vary, anyway. [Page 32, Thurs. 9 June 2011]

You don’t think of others as dumb just because they haven’t thought of the things you’ve thought of. Anybody over 30 — well, most people over 30 — are fairly competent. So you can think of yourself at 30 as competent, too — not lacking or callow, as you tend to think. [Page 209, Sat. 2 July 2011]

I found this note [see note contents in paragraph below] someplace while cleaning and moving. I’m not sure the date of this note … I’d guess last 4-5 years. But somehow it seems neat to find ideas I had written down before. These ideas don’t seem so special at the time I write them — they’re simply “what I’m thinking now.” But then, later, they seem interesting. [Page 209, Sat. 2 July 2011]

What do you take seriously? My daily journals. Life is serious, naturally, but also joyful, playful. [Page 209, Sat. 2 July 2011]

Submission to the unknown: Random bits from Journal 284

I could say — write, I mean, and post — something about how I will post fragmentary, incomplete pieces of text — my journal — because I don’t have answers for people (Clooney’s character in O Brother: people are looking for answers, he says a couple times). The GMA show today said Michelle Obama’s upcoming book tour is selling out stadia — woof. 23,000 seats at United Center (though maybe not all seats are being used). J.K. Rowling only sold out Radio City and its 6,000 seats. I don’t suspect I’ll ever write anything that would sell out anything like that — I’m not otherwise famous, as Obamas are, and I’m not likely to offer escape, absorption in story, or laughter as some authors do. But I’m OK with that. [Page 117, Sun. 23 Sept. 2018]

I don’t feel there are stories in my life — traditional stories, where a character is presented a situation and has to make choices. But maybe I’m just not framing my own experiences properly. Think about those times you did make a decision–like, OK, when M got sick and I chose not to run away but to get married so I could get health insurance for her. But running away — though it was an option, I guess, it didn’t occur to me as a legit option. And I left MTU after a year — that was a decision. So I suppose I could tell stories that way. Of course, I don’t make momentous decisions every day (though maybe I’m not seeing the momentous in the decisions I make — eh, I don’t choose to see life that way). When I’ve make choices. it’s because I followed my intuition, feelings, not because I followed some moral principle. I’m not sold on the idea of picking out moments of choices–much more of my life is spent just being. [Pages 168-170, Thurs. 26 Sept. 2018]

But I somehow also (in a vague sense) like this model of looking in my own life and my own memories for moments of inflection. It points out problems in the model of daily life as being this smoothly ongoing thing. There are these evaluations all the time/very often, and sometimes moments become intolerable — like, say, my needing to pee. [Page 212-3, Sat. 29 Sept. 2018, writing at coffeehouse in Rockford, Ill.]

Now there are the Knausgård  novels, which are deeply personal and whatnot. And he has gone in-depth — lotsa details, reviewers and readers say, but the few excerpts I’ve read haven’t been — they’ve been neither all that nor a bag of chips (excuse the lameness of that last line — the cheesy cleverness still amuses me at times, and it’s better to write that shit in journal rather than say it to a human. See, I still will/would edit my journals before publishing them). No, I don’t want to piss off my brother or uncle or others by my writings, as Knausgård did. I started reading an excerpt from his most recent (6th? 4th? I’m not sure) book, where he talks about the blowback to the first book — though he is an asshole, you know?  [Page 132-3, Sun. 23 Sept. 2018]

I read some students’ “Poetry is” statements — yes, from back six weeks ago — and when kids were saying things critical of poetry, I didn’t push back. To “poetry is boring” or “poetry is confusing,” I would comment: “sometimes!” I don’t want to pretend that all students are gonna like what I like. To be a fan of intellectual culture is to accept that not all others will get it — that many won’t get it. [Page 198, Sat. 29 Sept. 2018, writing at coffeehouse in Rockford, Ill.]

When we get down to freewriting in my creative writing class, as I did this week with the fiction freewrites, it really can be hard to make that change, that submission, submitting to the open page, to the unknown. Submission seems required for the new thing, the new text, to happen, to be born. [Page 82, Sat. 22 Sept. 2018]

A view from near the spot in Magnolia Bluffs Park in Rock County, Wis., where I met two plein-air painters. 30 Sept. 2018

The ladies had painting stations. The one who left first (the one whose station lacked an umbrella) showed us three of her recent paintings as she had backed her car out of her parking spot but she also hadn’t left yet. [Page 232, Mon. 1 October 2018]

At Magnolia Bluffs Park, Rock County, Wis. 30 Sept. 2018.

5:55 a.m. smart cell (phone) time: so, yes, here I am. Here we are — the cat’s on my lap after he jumped on. Had a dream my friend D somehow gave us his chocolate Lab — which was, in the dream, my uncle’s bloodhound, old with some grommets in his flesh — 2 up by shoulders, 2 by his hips. And so there was that. … The kitchen’s a mess. We made burritos early, before 5, and I walked dog [about 20 minutes] — too tired for more. Came back, put away the remaining burrito meat (Grillers meat) and was in bed just after the Entertainment Tonight show started at 6:30. [Page 239, Tues. 2 October 2018]

[Post above made using same process as the previous post, getting random numbers, going to those pages in my Journal 284, and finding a bit of text there.]