Saturday, October 14, 2017

Doing Nothing

It's funny how as soon as one has bested any of one's inner demons, another arrives to take its place, as if they were taking turns in a relay. These days, having conquered more or less my adolescent need for identity and selfhood, i.e. having become a bog that is perfectly contoured to the sink of earth it inhabits, I have found a new demon to follow it. "Beyond the crisis of identity there are other crises," says Erik Erikson, or something like it, someplace in Young Man Luther (and probably in many other places too).

The hag that is currently astride me is the abject terror of wasting time. It's bad enough to have to eat and sleep. (Nabokov writes of the agony of having to abandon precious hours of consciousness every night -- a feeling shared by his insomniac creation Van-- and, to a somewhat less involved extent, by me.) One then also needs to deal with the problem of transporting oneself from place to place, none of which actively contributes to satisfying the inner obsessions.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017


"My life's work... requires autonomy like oxygen." (Anzaldúa) One finds similar ideas, as we will see later in this post, in D.H. Lawrence, in Sylvia Townsend Warner, in Samuel Butler, in Marina Tsvetaeva, in lord knows how many others. The desperate quest for solitude and autonomy runs as a persistent enough theme through all known literature (-- or, perhaps, it is just consistent enough in my own life that it always lifts itself off the page, unsolicited, of whatever I am reading) that one might be tempted to credit it with being the fundamental human struggle -- the meaning of life.

I've always been a little skeptical, however. Perhaps autonomy has been granted an outsized significance in the written word, since that written word, in order to get written, must have been created by people who fought for and won sufficient autonomy and solitude to be able to write it -- people who have, that is, spent a good bulk of their waking hours slashing like machete-wielders at the foliage of human companionship and solicitude, which I know from experience is forever threatening to encroach upon the precious few free days and nights one has in which to wring words, stories -- hence meaning -- out of the struggle.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Buzz's Axiom

I was texting with a friend shortly after the news broke that North Korea was proposing that it just might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific. This, of course, came shortly after our own President's suggestion that he might "totally destroy" another society. Both of us, my friend and I, were wrestling with much the same question. Wait a minute -- we thought -- could something like a nuclear war actually happen? I mean, really? For all the bombastic world-weary pessimism I affect on this blog, my answer of course was no. Beneath it all, my doubts about the future are paper-thin. I may obsessively fear the worst. I may plan for it. But I don't really expect it. Perhaps I believe that by maintaining my intensity of fear I am actively preventing it. Every time I'm in the vicinity of Yellowstone, say, at least ten percent of my mind is trained on the seething caldera under my feet, and wondering when it will go off. But I'd be as surprised as anyone if it actually did.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Five poems written this summer


Once you are grown and have left school
  you start to think
That some once-feared activities now are safe
Don’t be a fool

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Fever

On my way back from D.C. this week, where we were part of a vigil-turned-protest to defend DACA, I must have picked up something nasty on the plane ride home because I have spent this weekend with one of the worst fevers I can remember since college – when I was still living amidst the constantly recirculated air of dorm life (and full of the dubious microbes of dorm-mates). This is the sort of agony that can easily be diminished, of course, by a well-timed dash of ibuprofen. I have a private folk medical theory, however, – which checks out well enough, according to my sister and what she was able to find in a pinch on the internet – that the Advil works its magic in part by suppressing one’s immune response (of which fever is one manifestation), and this in turn allows the virus to survive longer. And so if one can spare the time to be incapacitated by fever, it is better to let it run its raging course unimpeded. The sickness will be more uncomfortable, but will be over more quickly.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Shusaku Endo's "Silence"

I was in the shower, and I knew I wanted to read Shusaku Endo's Silence. Just like that. Suddenly, after all this time. I've learned by now not to disobey these mysterious promptings, when they come, so I went out to purchase a copy shortly thereafter, but I was confronted as I left the house with two psychological obstacles to doing so. First was that I'd never wanted to read this novel before, despite having been vaguely aware of its existence and content since teenager-hood. The reason, I suppose, was that -- like all true sectarians -- my adolescent self shied away from reading any other sect's martyrology. I was only too happy to read about the socialist martyrs. The communist martyrs. The Unitarians and the heretics and the infidels burned at the stake, and so on. But Christian martyrs filled me with unease. I was far more comfortable seeing the Church as the persecutors rather than the victims.