10 April 2016

My current reads, personal politics, & a tree

I haven’t been updating this diary as frequently as I should (the rules demand at least one new entry per day) because I fell into the trap of believing that inconsequentiality is a BAD thing; whereas the fact that what I write doesn’t matter is a VERY GOOD thing. How did I forget this!?

“Lights… camera… action!” That’s what movie directors are rumored to shout. First the crewmembers are reminded to ensure that the lighting is ignited and properly illuminating the shot. Then we camera operators are… I hope you get the picture, because I’m not going to explain any further.

Any pleasure that addictive substances give you will subsist only during the beginning of your relationship with them. You will surely reach a point where the substances no longer offer anything positive, contrariwise they leave you with a lousy feeling until you embrace them tighter. This is why I HATE addictive substances, and I have always avoided them (I know about their trickery from reading books and watching tragic movies); but I LOVE imaginative artistry, because the delight that it gives me is lasting and real. Even if one hasn’t revisited it for years, a poem endures within one’s deepest folds; because poetry is made of mind, it’s like the music of thought: it exists within oneself, not out in the otherness.

He had them all in his memory. Some indeed had never been written down.

That’s from a short text called “A Visionary” by William Butler Yeats; it’s part of his Mythologies collection, which my sweetheart and I have been reading of late. Daily we read fine books aloud to each other. We just finished Boccaccio’s Decameron; and we’re slowly working through James Merrill’s The Changing Light at Sandover, which we read together once already, but it’s a vast and dazing world that’s a pleasure to revisit. Also we’re reading (for the first time) the Satires of Juvenal. And, after finishing the essays of Francis Bacon, we started in on some essays of Samuel Johnson—selections from The Rambler—the most recent of which (I mean the last that we read; the words themselves were written around 1750) was called “Courage and Enterprise”: as my prime vice is cowardice, it shamed me well; here’s just one sentence:

It is below the dignity of a reasonable being to owe that strength to necessity which ought always to act at the call of choice, or to need any other motive to industry than the desire of performing his duty.

I’m also a little ashamed to admit that the current events of the political realm have me in thrall. There’s nothing wrong with caring about politics, of course; but I’ve always avoided the subject, because I saw how my dad fell into an obsession, which I feared to inherit. Now I’m obsessed. I’m hoping it’s just a phase that will abate after the presidential election. Please pray for me. No, on second thought, don’t pray—just send me money. My dad, as I’ve said before, was a mad-dog far-right conservative-republican fanatic. “Liberal” was the dirtiest word, to him. My consolation for inheriting his political obsession is that at least I’m on the polar opposite side. The 2016 election has provoked me to learn a lot about myself; I’ve realized that most self-styled liberals are not nearly leftist enough for me. The lefter the better, I say. (Probably there is a point where I’d be against continuing to proceed leftward, but the pendulum seems so snared in the wrong direction that I want to yank it back with force.) I’m not at all against capitalism; I’m just for injecting a heavy dose of socialism into the system, to cure its ills. I don’t wish for all-out, authoritarian socialism; I prefer capitalism that is heavily regulated. There are some things that are better socialized, and others that are better privatized. Insurance, health care—these are government’s concerns; it is evil to leave them in the hands of private business: anything that affects the citizenship collectively should be handled by government, because government’s aim is to fortify PEOPLE not profit. And I’m all for shrinking the war machine while expanding the aid machine, foreign and domestic; and I love to hear about the expanding goodness of farms…

Here I must cut myself off or I’ll never stop.

It’s hard to chisel out a quote from Oscar Wilde’s essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism,” because the entirety is excellent—it’s a work of genius that our time has not caught up to—and each part shines brightest in its surroundings; but now I’ll give a few lines that came to my mind after I typed the stuff above:

I can quite understand a man accepting laws that protect private property, and admit of its accumulation, as long as he himself is able under those conditions to realise some form of beautiful and intellectual life. But it is almost incredible to me how a man whose life is marred and made hideous by such laws can possibly acquiesce in their continuance.
     However, the explanation is not really difficult to find. It is simply this. Misery and poverty are so absolutely degrading, and exercise such a paralyzing effect over the nature of men, that no class is ever really conscious of its own suffering. They have to be told of it by other people, and they often entirely disbelieve them.


We pulled a dead tree out of the ground yesterday, in our courtyard—it was just a small tree. It seemed diseased: its trunk had slouched over and was crumbling under the weight of its own branches. I was able to heft its roots right up out of the ground, with my two bare hands. One of my fondest memories about this tree is the year when cardinals nested in it. My bedroom window is at ground level and very near the place, so, without bothering the birds, I could watch them do their daily comings and goings. Eventually they laid eggs; and soon there was a brood of baby cardinals hopping to and fro in the courtyard. Then they grew up and flew away, and the tree got removed. So now the hosta plants have all the dirt to themselves.

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