04 August 2017

Some thots ranging from bad to just OK

Dear diary,

I'm not going to have time to do this today, but you've got to remind me to do it sometime soon: I should talk about how I was surprised, upon first reading about the lives of André Breton and his fellow Surrealists, how much the Communist party meant to them; and how I almost couldn't reconcile what seemed these antipodes in my mind: the deep care for politics and the deep care for poetry. (For I believe Surrealism is, at its core, just the age old love of poetry dressed up in modern garb; attained via absurdity and the partial relinquishing of consciousness, etc.) ...And I should also compare this reaction of mine to the same confusion that I felt when first reading that story in James Joyce's collection Dubliners called "Ivy Day in the Committee Room," which gives much time and space to talk of the politician Parnell; and also the places in Joyce's other novels where the same subject comes up. (I knew nothing of Parnell, by the way: so I just presumed that he was a run-of-the-mill statesman.) I didn't understand how politics, politicians, or political parties could even attract a true poet's passing glace, let alone matter so much that they'd rise to the surface of a masterwork. But it's just like, when you're young, you don't believe you'll ever get old, yet then when you turn thirty, that feels as though it were inevitable, and then forty seems nothing, and fifty sixty seventy up to 120 are no big deal. At THAT point, to slide past death seems impossible. But then it happens, easy as breathing. Yet when you're not a vampire, it seems far-fetched to live through multiple generations of humankind. But it's like the lines from the "Song of Tom O'Bedlam":

Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end—
     Methinks it is no journey.

My point is that now I've been bit by the political bug. And it's as miserable as it looked to my happy-go-luckier self.

By the way, the thots (I began spelling this word like that because I saw Ralph Waldo Emerson do so in his notebooks) contained in the following entry are as follows, listed in alphabetical order: politics plus poetry; FB; bookmaking; online etiquette; newspapers; and marriage. You can skip ahead to the section that interests you most, by scanning your eyes up and down the words of the scroll.

And the title to this entry refers to the audio track "Hun" by Mr Oizo (which is the stage name of Quentin Dupieux, who is also the writer-director-cinematographer-editor-etc. of the 2013 film Wrong Cops, my current favorite movie) – a female computer voice introduces the album that the track heads off...

Bonjour. This is me again: Mr Oizo. You're about to hear a collection of some recorded stuff. Some are good; some are bad; some are just OK. Turn off the light, read a book. You are ready.

I simply like that, so I wanted to make it part of this blog. I hope you don't mind. Also I can't stop myself from reminding myself that I can avoid listening to the bad-to-OK Oizo tracks if I only trust my own critical judgment, which is better than the judgment of the artist (NOT because Dupieux is experimental—that's his strong suit—but because he values popularity and the cash that accompanies it and thus is always looking to make a "hit"), I say, I can get straight to the OK-to-good tracks by listening exclusively to my Oizo playlist on YouTube.

Now that I'm knee-deep in pop culture, or rather non-pop un-pop alt-pop anti-pop other-pop, I might as well tackle some additional online concerns that've been nagging me, which I've been putting off because I hate thinking about them:

Facebook. THE social network. I haven't used that system for a long time now. Should I review my feelings about it? How boring, alright I will. Right after leaving, I felt relieved. And then countless months passed, and I grew healthier and more robust in body and soul. I never felt the urge to go back and revive my account – it wasn't that familiar feeling of addiction, like when I try to quit drinking tea. But I did notice that my family stopped caring about me, not out of callousness but because they can neither see nor hear any creature who does not appear in their newsfeed. I remain totally off their radar. They don't even know who I am now. And friends who used to keep in touch with me thru Facebook are now as good as dead – I don't mean to be morbid, but it would be easier for me to converse with the ancient Athenians than to meet up with old school pals outside of Facebook. But the weird bonus is that people who I barely knew on Facebook connected with me via other accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, regular email, etc.) and we've bonded more genuinely than I ever did with most of my old school friends.

It's kind of like the feeling of being at an overcrowded wedding: everyone's talking and it's hard to hear, you have to shout over the commotion; it's chaotic. But then a fellowsufferer nudges you and says: Let's take a walk. So once you're outside, you hear the dull roar of the wedding that's continuing in the vicinity, and it feels as though you've both escaped from prison, because the walking path is so pleasant: it runs around a clear lake whose surface is smooth as glass, and the flowers and plants smell fresh, and the air is crisp. The conversation flows naturally and comfortably, you can hear each other perfectly in the quiet evening. It's a beautiful sunset.

Yet I sometimes do think of resurrecting back into the fusty realm of Facebook, if only for that same reason that Nietzsche's Zarathustra descends from his mountain. But then I decide against it, because I'm a lover of pleasure.

"Zarathustra has changed, Zarathustra has become a child, Zarathustra is an awakened one; what do you now want among the sleepers? You lived in your solitude as in the sea, and the sea carried you. Alas, would you now climb ashore? Alas, would you again drag your own body?"
     Zarathustra answered: "I love man."

(That's Walter Kaufmann's translation, as usual.) Bringing up Nietzche makes me wonder about my own contributions: to literature, to culture, to poetry, to thought. Nietzsche wrote his books fast and in a dithyrambic fashion, because he feared that he would lose his mind at early middle age, as his father did. Now Nietzsche's one of the most imporant writers, one of the greatest and most penetrating thinkers ever to live – chronically misunderstood, and it's beyond an understatement to say he's underrated – so no one will avoid appearing foolish if they compare themselves to him. So I'll compare myself to him now: I relate to his fast pace and dionysian fury in composition, because my dad lost his memory at a relatively young age too. I'm left with worries about what to do next, with regard to writing, because I bound all my publications up into one collection and another (plus an holy scripture), fearing that if I myself didn't do it, who else would? And if not now, when? And yet here I am with still a half-healthy mind. What went wrong? I always thought that, one day after finishing my final volume, my neighbors would find me dancing naked in front of the TV yule log. And then my mother and sister would have to take me into their house and spoon me gruel for umpteen more decades.

So if my mind refuses to crumble, what should I do with it? I don't want to write any more books, honestly. I like these ship logs that I keep semi-daily: they're light labor, and I can say whatever I feel, no one cares, that's how I like it. I can talk about bananas for a whole entire passage, if I want. Which someday I might do. But my (mis?)understanding of Nietzsche is that he wrote the Zarathustra books first, and then he went on to write all the others, like my favorites, Genealogy of Morality and Beyond Good and Evil and The Antichrist and Ecce Homo. So I sometimes get anxious that all my writings are just the Zarathustra-stage of my development, and that the real work comes after, and it starts now. And since I'm basically lollygagging, just sitting around leaning and loafing at my ease, tallywhacking. However, the truest, oldest, most transcendent part of my self—the aspect that shares an identity with the Ineffable—knows that those books I made are exactly right. Like when the flower opens and gives you its all: that's what I did, and there's no more that you can ask of me.

But I love second-guessing myself, that's why I hemmed and hawed about this so long. You never know: sometimes you find a flaw in your armor. And then you go to work either fixing it or making new stuff. So I'm glad that I was exonerated by the high court of my own judgment, so now I can spend my days contemplating spears of summer grass.

Yet why is naked dancing proof of madness? I say it's good. Even very good, and sane as love. I've cited the events from 2nd Samuel chapter 6 here many times, but I'm a person who admires a small number of well-built artworks intensely, rather than an ever-growing mass of new works flightily.

And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.

And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. [...] And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!

And David said unto Michal, It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD. And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour.

This is a good maxim: Let me henceforth strive to be "yet more vile than thus," and "base in mine own sight."

But what do YOU want, all ye who use the online social networks? (All that I myself want is your undivided attention.) When you do some good writing; or when you share an image that is excellent, of yourself dancing without shame before the LORD; what would you like best: for people to click the heart-shaped icon, indicating their approval? or for people to share your work on their own ignored unhip bulletin board? or for people to leave a comment?

And if you'd like for people to leave comments, would you prefer that they are kept short, like "Nice!" or "[smiley face hieroglyph]"? or do you yearn to hear a more in-depth response? Because I always fear that if I leave just a brief positive comment, it'll come off like I'm not willing to invest more of myself, more time and energy, in studying your creation... BUT equally I fear that if I leave too lenghty and involved of a reaction, it'll force you to attend to my ideas, and you'll consider it annoying that I shoved upon you the choice between two ugly acts: either to suffer the labor of reading and responding in kind, or to match the rudeness of my affront by rudely ignoring me.

I sound like I'm overthinking everything. Amen; so be it. I'm not as paranoid or neurotic as that last paragraph makes me appear. I'm really a loving soul, and very generous when it comes to the artistic realm.

But what kind of a loving soul finds it necessary to ASSERT that he is a loving soul? I smell a rat.

Speaking too highly of oneself does not make people like you more, does it? I always assumed that it turns people away. Above, I smugly compared myself to Nietzsche; and yesterday I said that Max Ernst is the brand new me. In past entries I've claimed I'm Emily Dickinson. And William Blake and Herman Melville. Therefore here is yet another passage that I've quoted and re-quoted before; but trying to bar me from repeating this is like telling a churchgoer to stop rote-lipping the "Lord's Prayer" or John 3:16 or Psalm 23. My well-loved passage is from Alfred Jarry's Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll Pataphysician, which is subtitled: A Neo-Scientific Novel; it can be found in chapter 14: "Concerning the Forest of Love" (English translation by Simon Watson Taylor).

"Are you Christians?" asked a bronzed man, dressed in a gaudy smock, standing in the center of the little triangular town.
      [...] "I am God," said Faustroll.

Now I'll talk about newspapers; then I'll give one quote from Gore Vidal's Empire; and then I'll bid you good evening. Then you can dance with somebody else. (I'm imagining we're at a ball.) (Better yet, a masked ball. And you're wearing one of those glittery white dresses with a steel-hooped cage crinoline underskirt.)

Is it better to read the newspaper or to avoid it? All the news is untrustworthy. But some of the news (or much?) is factual, right? THE TRUTH. Even a deity must remain true, otherwise he's a false idol and no one likes him anymore. If you pay attention to what the newspapers print, you might think that we're in war where we're not, and that we're not at war when we are, and that we won battles that we lost, and lost ones we won. CONCLUSION: I should learn to read at least French and German and modern Hebrew and Arabic and Spanish. So that way I'll be able to compare all the newspapers from all over the world. I should also learn Russian, that'd be helpful. Then I could read Tolstoy in the original. If you think I'm kidding, think again: I love Leo Tolstoy. Even aside from his stories, which are the best of the best, my friend Ludwig Wittgenstein told me about The Gospel in Brief, where Tolstoy offers his version of right spiritual conduct by parsing the abovementioned Lord's Prayer while telling the story of Jesus. It's worth confronting. Yet keep in mind that my friend Wittgenstein who recommended Tolstoy's Gospel to me also dismisses Mahler; so if you're a Mahler fan, maybe think twice about trusting the type of people I hang out with.

I'm happy that my bookshelves are all upstairs again. Now I can walk over to them conveniently while typing; which is good for my wallet, because I pay myself by the keystroke, but bad for the reader, who thus gets inundated with quotes. I grabbed the title Culture and Value, which is a selection of Wittgenstein's notes, to look for the source of the aforesaid anti-Mahler remark, and I found it among the writings dated 1948, but instead of that, I'll copy an unrelated sentence, for the sake of moving freely.

When you are philosophizing you have to descend into primeval chaos and feel at home there.

But now back to the topic at hand. How many hours of the day can one dedicate to newspaper reading? I can barely talk about it without going astray. I prefer to read poetry and novels, criticism, essays, plays, and also I love watching movies at night. We make popcorn and sometimes sip martinis. I live in eternity not clocktime. So if I must bulldoze aside all this transcendent activity for the sake of keeping up with current events...

I can't even end that proposition: it's unthinkable. It reminds me of the sad trap of dedicating all of your time to physical exercise, so that you can live another day to fill with exercise, so that you can live another day to fill with exercise...

And yet without the foundation of decent government and a forgiving and compassionate society, these vulgar daily struggles creep up and eventually strangle any artistic aspirations; so it's worth giving a minimum of effort to preserving the best parts of the current system and improving its worst parts, if only for the sake of Golganooza. (See my entry "Food for a Hungry Weblog" for scant info on that term.)

Anyway, here's the promised passage from Gore Vidal's Empire. It's from chapter FIVE. Page 194. I'm approaching the novel's halfway point. The subject is marriage.

Did Americans really believe what they said or were they simply fearful of that ominous majority whose ignorance and energy set the national tone? They certainly never ceased to pretend in public that marriage was not only sacred but the stately terminus to romance. Although one constantly heard of this or that bad marriage, adultery was seldom alluded to within the pale of respectability.

I suspect that Vidal is, on some level, seriously asking these questions himself through the thoughts of his heroine. My experience, having lived all my life here in rural Minnesota, is that YES the people "really believe what they say" about the sacredness of marriage. It scares the living heck out of me. People here are deadly serious about monogamy, too. When I read, for instance, certain European novels that take marriage more relaxedly—divine books like Boccaccio's Decameron—I'm always relieved; I breathe easier; I smile and feel glad. Now I'm reminded of one more passage from Nietzsche's The Antichrist (sec. 46):

Every book becomes clean just after one has read the New Testament: to give an example, it was with utter delight that, right after Paul I read that most graceful, most prankish mocker Petronius, of whom one might say... √® tutto festo—immortally healthy, immortally cheerful and well turned out.

But I should add that the reason I feel about marriage the same way that our good European feels about the Christian scriptures has nothing to do with the state of my own spousal relationship: contrariwise, my partner is my partner because she's not a sour wife but a very sweet heart. My distaste for marriage is a philosophical stance. We hold friendship high above legal contracts.

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam... but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. (Genesis 2:19-20)

Poor Adam. I am thankful that Lady Luck sent me no animals but a true soul mate.

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