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Tuesday, January 17, 2017


I'm reading aloud to myself a long book by Clark Coolidge, one of my favorite poets, A Book Beginning With...   It is over 500 pages, and mostly in prose, so I am just doing it a bit per day.  I've done three out of twenty sections so far and haven't' reached the 100 page mark.

It seemed the only way to read this, since passing one's eyes over it one would quickly give up by trying to read too fast or skimming over the text.  This is a text that cannot be skimmed because the point is to be immersed in its textures at great length. Its length, in other words, is part of the point.  I've heard recordings so I know how he reads. I don't emulate that exactly, but I don't try to veer from his style either.  I still hear his voice in my head and just imitate that voice very inexactly.

The first section, on caves, is the best so far.  The Beckett section is a bit less successful, but I'm looking forward to the section on music.

Coolidge invites you into a private world.  He isn't trying to appeal to what he thinks would already appeal to you, but rather invites you into his space.  If you share something of that already, as I do, you might find it congenial.  For example, he has sections on jazz, on Creeley, on Eigner, and on Beckett, so I share those tastes. This isn't literature meant to be "universal," appealing to everyone.

Anyway, incorporating this into my daily routine has been nice. My normal way of reading would be to have three or four different books on the table at any given time, in fear of limiting myself.  

I Joined the Choir

Not a metaphor or life hack. Yesterday I literally joined a local, secular choir in my town. I will attach the "life hack" tag to this, though, because it is part of my general plan for reprogramming my entire life.  I'm not suggesting everyone has to join a choir, because that is not everyone's interest, but it involves getting out and doing something with other people, a good use of time, music, and civic involvement, so it's got four things going for it.

Also, it seems somehow I am driven to involve myself in things my sister can no longer do. She was a choir director as well as being an organist.

Life Hack 15: Meditation

I won't tell you how to meditate because I am a beginner myself. But I will tell you to meditate, somehow in whatever way you find, whether by yourself or as part of some group. What this does is to teach you to quiet down an overactive mind and to clarify things that are important and things that aren't.

I am sure I am a lousy meditator, since my mind wanders everywhere. It doesn't really matter, because the more one does it, the less meaningful that kind of value judgment becomes. If you observe that fact that your mind is especially busy one day, that too is useful information. You don't even have to try to quiet it, in fact, you just observe the fact that it is busier than usual and it will quiet itself to some extent.

Probably the biggest predictor of whether your life is good is the quality of thoughts in your own mind. If you are tormented by negative thoughts night and day, you are not happy. The point of meditation is not to eliminate negative thoughts, but to be more accepting of them and taking away some of their scariness.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Life hack 14: it's not about you

Life hack for today:  it's not about you.  You live in your own skin, and have never been out of it. So it's natural for you to orient other events to your own self. Most events, though, are not primarily about you.  That's the filter you see them through, but most things do not have you as their intended recipient. You'll know when it's about you, because it might have your name on it.

Even then, don't be too sure.  Even your intimate partner's complaint might not really be about you, but about her father or her own life.  The parking ticket you got has your license plate number on it, and you have to pay it, but it isn't about you, because the parking guy just saw your car and an expired meter, nothing more.

Since it's not about you, you don't have to involve yourself in it.  You can relax about it.

A Little Known Fact

Today is the latest day, so far at least, in human history.  Never before has the date been later than it is today. Just so you realize how momentous today is.  Tomorrow, however, will set a new record for history. It will be even one day later than today, the previous record holder.

Each day in record history has also held this record, albeit in temporary fashion. If you read this post much later than it was written, you will be surprised that this date, so much in the past, was at one time the record holder. How quaint of people twelve days ago to think that they were so late in human history.


The correct terminology makes the landscape limpid

We can breathe, finally; as though things occupied their proper place

But the Lydian mode makes me think of Lydia Davis

The Dorian mode of Doric columns

The penumbra of words, like Clark Coolidge inviting you into private

Head-spaces, yet you accept that bargain, somehow

To live among those texture for a while

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Life Hack 13: A Little Emotion Goes a Long Way

There are heavy, emotional things. My older sister has a form of early onset dementia, a frontal temporal lobe dementia that began by affecting her ability to come up with nouns (semantic dementia), and progressed to where ability to understand and produce language is severely compromised. Although this is not Alzheimers, what she has is the equivalent of stage 6, (if that were what she has but it is not).  She is 59 years old and being taken care of by her husband and by my mother, who is 81 and in almost perfect health. The last time I saw my sister, last month, is probably going to be the last time that I see her and that she has some ability to recognize who I am.  So most of the tears I shed in the next few years are going to be about that.  There are also moments of joy in her life, small pleasures and joys and satisfactions, and I cannot imagine anyone being cared for any better. Her caregivers do not spend their days weeping, although there are tough things that they must do.

I've decided to read Dementia Blog, a book by the poet Susan Schultz whom I've met a few times in person. I'd like to see what she does with this subject matter.  I already don't like that she wants to make a political point about this (it was published in the Bush administration). But that probably is a judgment more about me that her. She sees dementia as a loss of the self. I"m sure it is that, but I don't feel that Debbie is someone different than herself.  She is still herself, but with a loss of certain brain functions and the life functions that go with them. She cannot read or write any more (for a few years) and now has given up the keyboard (she was accomplished organist with an advanced degree in church music). In lucid moment, she pointed to her organ and said that she could not play it anymore, and that she knew she had a disease of the brain.  She sometimes doesn't know which end of the spoon to hold.

Anyway, when I say that a little emotion goes a long way, I don't mean that one should be less emotional. Emotion is a kind of bodily signal that you should pay heed to, and even a small amount is telling you something significant. A lot of emotion is sending you a bigger signal about something, and a small flash of anger or disappointment, or a momentary flash of joy, is important information for your brain to pay attention to something.

You don't have to either exaggerate or minimize your emotions, because the big emotions are going to be big no matter what. The emotion is mostly about you, and it's not for others to "validate," even if that might be a nice thing for them to do. Validation is more about parking tickets, to me.