Even though this blog is a private diary and no one is able to access it but I myself (the real me, behind the mask of the computer screen, behind all the fame and accolades—the one who sings “Silent Night” to himself in the shower), I worry about its content and its style: my current fear—and this is based only on a vague memory of recent entries—is that I’m sinking into a comfort zone with regard to topics (they’re repetitive and predictable) and . . .
Instead of talking about it, I’ll just proceed. It’s always pleasant to list the things that one recalls having seen while going to and fro, and walking up and down in the earth; at least, if those things are boring, it’s the world’s fault, not one’s own.
Last week I saw a man mowing his lawn on a riding lawnmower. While out on a walk, I smiled and waved as I passed, and he gave me a dead-eye gawk. This prompted both terror and pity to fill my soul.
In more recent news, it rained all day yesterday, so I could neither walk nor ride my new bicycle. So I have no recent news from the outside world. All I can tell you is that I lit a green candle, for fun. And I went to bed early.
Before there were electronic devices to serve up memes and games from the internet, before there was television, before there were movies, before there was even radio, there was a world populated by humans and animals. Pre-radio birds, pre-radio June bugs: just think of it.
Before there were handguns, preachers had to use catapults. My grade school English teacher told our class that mobs in the time of Shakespeare were smarter than the mobs of today. But I say that mobs were just as intelligent 400 years ago as they are now.
Shakespeare’s own audiences needed only to listen with attention to the words of each play (not to mention that they understood the conventions of the theatre of their age), whereas we must expend additional effort brushing away the cobwebs of time: we have to perform something like an act of translation to get past everything unfamiliar, which is all peripheral (and unintended, by the way), before we can experience the actual work.
Those cobwebs of time accumulate until they’re so thick that they become like a sarcophagus. Except I think of a sarcophagus as a beautiful casing that contains an ugly mummy; and, with artworks, it’s the other way around: the outer husk is a formless and unshapely blob that conceals a golden statue.
The problem is that some people are actually attracted to dusty old cobwebs. A certain English teacher, for instance, is so satisfied by an ovoid mass of newspapers that he does not bother to unwrap them to find the avian statuette that they are concealing. He presents the packaging materials as the masterwork—it’s like eating the shell and discarding the nut; or mistaking the foil for the gem.
Now a schoolkid who would react favorably to the sight of a golden falcon is blighted with the teacher above, who praises cobwebs and relishes packing material. Therefore Shakespeare, to this child, is a continuum of dredge that somehow manages to be at once bland and cumbersome, since the teacher fails to remove the detritus of time.
It’s right to be suspicious of anything in art that isn’t fundamentally human. The saddest thing, in my expert opinion, is that, as a result of the rampant unaptness of artistic education, the modern varieties of entertainment seem, to intelligent youth, far more appealing than they deserve to be—for they are often passable but mediocre—whereas only the dust that has settled on Shakespeare is overrated.
Has rock music become a religion? It sometimes seems that way to me. Maybe it hasn’t become a religion but was born that way. I’m a self-loathing fan of 1980s rap, and from experience I can assure you, dear diary, that that genre possessed at least a religious tendency—it was not just a few times that I heard an emcee proudly assert “I live for hip-hop, and I will die for hip-hop!” That sounds religious, to me.
I wish that I had had better teachers of literature when I was a tyke, because I mistakenly thought that rap was the wildest and freest manifestation of art available. I value weirdness: I don’t feel the need to justify this bias, it’s just a fact of my disposition. I also value alien sublimity—in general, and especially in humor. Perhaps I overvalue ferocity in artworks because I fear it in reality (please bear with my false assumption that art can be distinguished from reality). What I’m trying to say is that I really admire the play called Hamlet.
But rock music. There was a time before the electric guitar, before the amp. Before the phrase rock gods. And then there’s punk rock—I like punk rock. But most of punk seems inauthentic to me: I only like a couple groups. But I don’t want to name my favorites because I’m afraid of getting spat at. I like the rock music from around the 1950s. My mother once told me that, when she was a tyke, she would play her favorite rock and roll tunes in her room, and her mother (my grandmother) would complain that the singers were yelling rather than singing. So an earlier generation can misunderstand the worth of a later generation’s art—it’s not always only the future that misreads the past.
Anything different and new will serve fine as a stumbling block. Jesus was a snag to the traditionalists of his day; but nowadays the heresies taught by Jesus have become their own tradition, while the current traditionalists have moved on and are occupied with abhorring the teachings of Nietzsche. I hope this pattern continues: I can barely wait to find out what comes next.