The Real World

Ten twenty five PM.

Over thirty years ago, the name of Henry James was huge at the UO English Department; but when I ask around now, hardly anyone has read his work. Last year I began rereading his Portrait of a Lady and got bogged down because I knew that no one else had any enthusiasm for James. If I could, I’d return to school in a time machine like a shot and take the class on James with Professor Hines. At least then I’d have other people around me to discuss it with; whereas in reality I feel transplanted like some anachronism of a better, more civilized time. I was never meant for living in the real world, nor was the real world meant for a person like me. I am an outcast from El Dorado, the Gilded: perhaps Arcadia, where the Golden Age lingered on and never went out of style.

Or maybe school was intellectual Toys R Us: but is the transition to the real world growing up or growing narrow and rigid and poor in imagination? Like the child who is silenced from asking questions by a parent who’s lost all curiosity. Yet in a place dark and forgotten, the same questions are on everyone’s lips. 


A Good Winter’s Day

Quarter of one o’clock.

Overnight it snowed, but this morning the temperature wasn’t freezing, so the blanket of snow melted, and now the sun is even out. Maybe we’ll be saved from a bad ice storm tonight and tomorrow. Despite the weather this morning, Gloria came to work and we made a pleasant trip to Bi Mart. I bought eight cans of dog food, a pouch of treats, and toothpaste. She told me she likes the stuffed puppy I gave her last Saturday. And she made a few purchases herself, including a catnip toy for Casey. Later, during her break, she said she was just fifty pages from the end of LOTR. When she’s finished with it, she’ll give it to a youngster in her family for his birthday. Gloria had never really experienced fiction before, because her late husband insisted on nonfiction books and made it sort of a law. So, it’s quite a change for her to jump right into Tolkien fantasy. Her next project might be to read Norse and classical mythology. A while back I let her have Edith Hamilton and another book titled Children of Odin. I think she’ll enjoy those.

Love of Learning

Quarter after ten.

There’s some work being done in my neck of the woods. I saw that Dell is reroofing his house, and across the street from him, the new neighbor is having his house painted dark blue on the outside. I noticed that they’re doing it the hard way, with brushes and rollers rather than a power spray as they did to my house a few years ago… Then on N Park, the Wright tree service was parked at Randy’s car lot, with three guys sitting in the cab waiting to do something. Also, the cleaning lady was working at Karen’s salon because it’s Monday and that’s her schedule. But business was pretty slow at the store after nine o’clock. When I went inside, I had a vague impression of the old days at Community Market, with Vicki and JR and often Belinda in the morning. There’s a lot that I miss about those old times, yet too much of a good thing can be fatal, and if it seems too good to be true… My house sparrows are going nuts just outside my door. I see a bunch of adult males, likely competing for a female, though it seems like an odd time to mate. But it’s also odd for people to reroof and repaint in the middle of winter. Confusion reigns supreme.

Next day.

I am visited by Beatles music again in my head. If Christianity is the great code for Western literature, then The Beatles are the Rosetta Stone for rock and roll from their time onwards. Except for Walt Whitman, I’m finding literature to be quite onerous nowadays due to my involvement with the church for five years. I see religion everywhere I look. And even if contemporary poetry in the mainstream has moved on, in the public sphere it’s still the same old stuff. I notice that the church mostly ignores literature done after WW2, adhering to the 19th Century. It’s almost as though the last century never happened for them. Never heard of Oppenheimer or the Holocaust. We skipped from one Victorian Age to the next… The church has stunted my growth lately. It’s time for me to do something new. Take a class or something— anything to get me out of this rut. Learning doesn’t have to stop at a certain point, and history didn’t end with the 20th Century. 

After the Storm

I think my own life is in a rut lately. The sociopolitical scene is evening out and settling down and my personal existence remains the same as it has been for a few years. And yet I still get a share of drama and foolishness to deal with occasionally, to process and put away. It can be something as simple as a conversation with a person. Sometimes disagreements really jar with me, like when T— from church is very moralistic etc: it goes against my grain so that later I’m still defending myself or my parents. Some people stake their lives on a religion or a philosophy as if a system of thought were more real than life itself; but truly, it is the experience of life firsthand that informs our ideas so we can revise our vision of reality. And the discoveries of life are inexhaustible if you don’t hide away and pickle yourself or try to dogmatize life like a stone statue. Emerson says this kind of stuff in his essays and it’s still the truth; at least I think so.

Thus I think some folks have it backwards, putting the traditions before the actual phenomena that shape them in the first place. In this case, is it okay to trust your own senses and logic and judge the truth for yourself? And I believe the answer is yes, of course.

As Kant said, Dare to know!

But anyway, my day has been pretty dull— which is actually kind of welcome for a change. This Friday I get a haircut with Karen as I said already, and then Saturday it’s Gloria again. I’ll call Polly tomorrow. All of it very ordinary stuff and quite boring anymore. It makes me want to rock the boat a little, do something different just to watch the ripple effect on the water. It can be like a Luis Borges story: see how reality responds when you tap it a certain way.

The University Ideal

Five o’clock in the morning.

I just made an interesting connection between Plato and Jung. Jung’s archetypes of the collective unconscious may be similar to the Forms in the spirit world of Plato. Both are a kind of cookie cutter for our conscious reality. I’m still not a fan of Jung due to his racism and his general snobbery, preferring Emerson’s open minded attitude toward people and knowledge. Underneath it all lives a universal truth that every thinker has had a shot at identifying. They each have given it names and personal features, yet the secret continues to shift shapes like a great amorphous blob of prime matter… Speaking of this, I looked up hylomorphism on Wikipedia and recognized some concepts from Aristotle I’d learned at the university long ago. I’m just an amateur philosopher muddling my way, but the important point is to never stop learning.

Six o’clock. It is criminal how people have been priced out of higher education in the United States. But at the same time, most students who get to go to college can hardly wait to graduate and start making money. They don’t appreciate what they have while they’re there… And then again, maybe the university is not a physical place with a geographical location. Perhaps it is the spirit of the desire to know and be the perpetual student. Somewhere in the spiritual universe resides the University Ideal, and like the New Jerusalem, a day will come when its Form materializes on earth.