07 June 2017

Two quotes and three blahs

Dear diary,

The picture here is some samples of cheap flooring. You're supposed to choose just one style, but I want to mix them all so that our...

Now I'm sick of talking about our house. I'm not a carpenter from Nazareth. I don't like using air-powered nail-shooters or staple guns. I hate toolboxes. I don't like walking on roofs, and I don't like when others walk on my roof. I don't even like watching from my window as the workers walk on the roof of the adjacent apartments. I'm afraid they'll fall.

So here's an unrelated quote from The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler. I'm only copying it to get away from this entry's borginning (boring beginning).

I believe it has been lately maintained that it is the young and fair who are the truly old and truly experienced, inasmuch as it is they who alone have a living memory to guide them; "the whole charm," it has been said, "of youth lies in its advantage over age in respect of experience, and when this has for some reason failed or been misapplied, the charm is broken. When we say that we are getting old, we should say rather that we are getting new or young, and are suffering from inexperience; trying to do things which we have never done before, and failing worse and worse, till in the end we are landed in the utter impotence of death."

I love this passage, and I feel instantly that I agree with it. But then I look closely at myself and admit that I hate to "fail worse and worse." So I was old when I was young. So I guess I disagree with this passage after all.

Youth. When you have it, you hate it – you see it as an hindrance, because the adults resent your cherubic disposition, and your peers are interested only in insulting and harming you. Then, when you age, the only reason you're not relieved to see youth go is that it took your healthy complexion along with it. Now you're weathered. But this indicates character, at least on the silver screen; so now Hollywood pays you to play the villain.

I don't like where this new train of thought is heading either...

So here are Alethea Pontifex's words to Mr. Overton regarding her nephew Ernest (who is godson to Overton); this excerpt is also from Butler's novel:

"Don't scold him," she said, "if he is volatile, and continually takes things up only to throw them down again. How can he find out his strength or weakness otherwise? A man's profession," she said, and here she gave one of her wicked little laughs, "is not like his wife, which he must take once for all, for better for worse, without proof beforehand. Let him go here and there, and learn his truest liking by finding out what, after all, he catches himself turning to most habitually—then let him stick to this; but I daresay Ernest will be forty or five and forty before he settles down. Then all his previous infidelities will work together to him for good if he is the boy I hope he is."
     "Above all," she continued, "do not let him work up to his full strength, except once or twice in his lifetime; nothing is well done nor worth doing unless, take it all round it has come pretty easily. [...]"

I've probably repeated this a million times here already, but the idea of a profession bothers me. None of the good professions exist any longer, like the profession of Shaman – at least such titles are not monetarily compensated (as far as I know) – or the profession of Village Poetry Reciter. So most of the best people of modern times are forced to work as computer programmers, nurses, handypersons, financial ill-advisors, lawyers, teachers aides, or telemarketers. Also there are bakers. Food service workers of all kinds. Priests and prostitutes, vending spirit and flesh.

But my point is that all professions are dying except those last two. Doesn't Breton say somewhere in one of his manifestos that surrealists should abjure work? I need to read those again. The 1924 manifesto and the 1929 manifesto. As a favorite-teacher award, my sweetheart received from one of her students a gift certificate for a book store. She handed it to me and said, "Here: since we read everything together, take this and spend it however you think is right." The thing is worth about two quarters of a hundred U.S. dollars. So I wrote down a few ideas about what I might buy; now I'll add to my list André Breton's Manifestoes of Surrealism, translated by Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane. Other books in the running are The Complete Poems of Elizabeth Bishop; Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano; also a volume published by Library of America and edited by Phillip Lopate called American Movie Critics: From the Silents Until Now; and I'd like to get a copy of Byron's Don Juan all on its own (I mean bound separately; because I have the full text already but it's in a thick collection with all of his other works, so it's cumbersome to haul around, and I'd like to haul it around to parks and read it all the time). Or if I end up buying some films instead of books, I'll get as many as possible directed by John Cassavetes.

Back to Alethea's speech in the quote above. I like how she contrasts the process of choosing a job with that of choosing a spouse. Why is it like that?—I mean our traditions: why are they so funny? Why is it so hard to change them for the better? I guess they have changed over time, but not for the better; or at least not fast enough.

This leads me to think about modern dating. In my country, strangers routinely go out to dine with each other at expensive restaurants, as a way of discerning whether they'll be compatible for marriage. But marriage consists of enduring the banal pitfalls of daily life: shouldn't courting lovers try to do stuff that they might be expected to have to do regularly, from bland bad to bland bad, in order to gauge their compatibility? For that's what life really is: it's bland and it's bad. Yet what are these young hopefuls training for? Not many married couples spend the majority of their time at expensive restaurants. (Actually, all of my own contacts do nothing but fine-dine; but I'm presently aiming to write for the common reader, because that's who I've been told is this magazine's audience.)

When Alethea says "I daresay Ernest will be forty or five and forty before he settles down," my ears perk up because this instant I occupy the junior side of that age span. So it seems that I have five years to settle down. If I must "learn my truest liking by finding out what, after all, I catch myself turning to most habitually," then I'll become a curator of an art museum. If that doesn't pan out then I'll buy myself a seat in the U.S. senate.

*

I wanted to end this entry by logging more of my thoughts about the ongoing new Twin Peaks series (I gave one first bare impression in a previous post), because its director David Lynch is very important to me, and because yet another episode recently aired; but now I've run out of time. (Sneak preview: Although the third and fourth were largely genius, I thought that the fifth was as mundane as the first two hours. Therefore thumbs down. Off with his head.) I hope I remember to remind myself to elaborate on that next time. I went to the park with my sweetheart Monday afternoon; and I ruined the outing, as I spent our whole walk declaiming my opinions on this topic. My obsessive opinions.

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