Six thirty AM.
I’m off to another early start, having woken up at four o’clock. The skies are blue and cloudless as the sun ascends across the street. We might as well enjoy the sunshine if it doesn’t get too hot. Looks like Father’s Day came and went and I didn’t know about it. I guess I wasn’t a fan of my old man, especially in my childhood… Yesterday I reflected on the ideas I probably had as a young person, and the most salient one had to do with primitivism, from reading Tarzan and similar things. Now I don’t see the appeal of this concept; it keeps you unreasonable and subhuman like the animals. It’s a reverse Doctor Moreau. The desirable thing is to humanize the world, not drag it down to the level of brutes. The Greeks rose the way they did by venerating the human image. What led me to these thoughts was reading the Jack London yesterday and pondering his writing animal stories, particularly about dogs, and evidently praising instinct above human reason and civilization. Is it elitist to glorify the things that make people peculiarly human, such as intellect? And is it more egalitarian to pull down the human spirit to the primordial slime? Which policy works better for human beings?
I’ve been up since two twenty this morning, and I don’t even know why. So I read parts of my journal and then, at four thirty, reread “To Build a Fire.” One of the ideas foregrounded in it is the wisdom of instinct versus the folly of rational judgment. The man in the story who freezes to death has no connection with the earth. Also he lacks imagination and experience. His dog, on the other hand, has both the ancestry and instinct to know how to survive, even when it’s 75 below zero. These counterparts of man and dog remind me of “The Prussian Officer” by D.H. Lawrence, which describes a contrast of two soldiers, one centered in his head, the other in his body, but each dependent on the other. London’s story was published first, in 1908… After that, I moseyed over to the market and bought some essentials for the day. It’s still painfully early and the sun has hardly cleared the trees on the east side of my street. By this weekend it’s supposed to be in the nineties here, and already the climate makes me feel rather odd, affecting my behavior a certain way. I see Roger outside his house, up with the birds today. There’s not a breath of air outdoors. It’ll be a long haul. When it gets warmer this afternoon I’ll fire up the air conditioner and hang out beside it…
Quarter of ten.
Business goes on at the market. Michelle is training another new employee, a gray haired woman named Lisa. She seems very nice as well as competent. As I arrived in the parking lot, I observed a woman wearing her jammies and a clownish red and white robe getting out of her car. She cursed when she dropped a bottle on the ground, and had an armload of plastic cups and other debris. Apparently she’s a regular at the store, because Michelle knew her and maybe Lisa too… It was rather calming to stroll off on my errand today. The gray clouds stood around the flat valley floor like sentinels. But there were no people outdoors at eight on a Sunday morning. I’m tempted to look at Russell’s history of philosophy today but his style is so dry and flavorless; quite a chore to read. Still I respect his reputation as a mature and responsible philosopher. Another impulse would have me read more Paul Bowles for his understated writing, a little like Jack London in places: impassive and naturalistic… The expected rain didn’t pan out, and in fact the whole forecast has changed to say cloudy weather all day… Speaking of Jack London, it’s been ages since I read “To Build a Fire.” I tend to underrate his stuff, but really some of it is brilliant.
Quarter after eleven. I found a good copy of his writings on the shelf. As I remember, London was a heavy alcoholic and he died young of its complications. After writing his ten thousand words daily, he permitted himself to drink. Once he tried suicide the fast way by drowning himself. It’s kind of strange to consider being so close to that threshold, yet I did something very similar with my life. The most pertinent question is, Why?