Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How Does The Artist Create Himself?

How does the artist create himself? How does the artist transform his common, conventional state to one of artistic awareness. How does the artist train his senses to accept those necessary but forbidden impulses or trivial ideas that exist outside human reason and put them to creative use? Let me give you some advice:

It is so important to be lonely and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful and stark moment at which our future sets foot in us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and fortuitous point of time at which it happens to us as if from outside. The more still, more patient and more open we are when we are sad, so much the deeper and so much the more unswerving does the new go into us, so much the better do we make it ours, so much the more will it be our destiny.

The artist must be open to a state of reverie, which suggests an opening up the sense of wonderment. Reverie removes us from reality, entering areas even more intense that interiority. In this respect, reverie has phenomenological overtones: through reveries and poetic image we gain insight into the very workings of mind and imagination, what Shelley meant when he said that imagination is capable of "making us create what we see." Reverie negates pure representation and transcription. It struggles against fact and data. It is an effort to burrow into pure memory, which is distinguishable from sensation, which is "extended and localized." Pure memory is intensive and powerless, beyond movement and beyond sensation. It allows penetration into spirit, into intuition. What is necessary, above all, is to separate memory from cerebralism. Cerebralism leads to the adoption of reference points, objects, relationships; what emanates from pure memory allows one to possess objects, surely to transform them.

It seems a bad thing and detrimental to the creative work of the mind if reason, or cerebralism, makes too close an examination of the ideas as they come pouring in -- at the very gateway, as it were. Looked at in isolation, a thought may seem very trivial or very fantastic; but it may be made important by another thought that comes after it, and, in conjunction with other thoughts that may seem equally absurd, it may turn out to form a most effective link. Reason cannot form any opinion upon all this unless it retains the thought long enough to look at it in connection with the others. On the other hand, where there is a creative mind, reason -- so it seems to me -- relaxes its watch upon the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it look them through and examine them in a mass. The noncreative person is ashamed or frightened of the momentary and transient extravagances which are to be found in all truly creative minds and whose longer or shorter duration distinguishes the thinking artist from the dreamer. The non-artist complains of the fruitlessness of trivial ideas because he rejects too soon and discriminates too severely.

If you wish to be an artist, be open to yourself and the world about you. Accept those trivial ideas, fantastic imaginings, and forbidden impulses which are inimical to social convention as necessary raw material and building blocks for creative activity!

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Fear of Death

I think that fear of death is perhaps the root of all art, perhaps also of all things of the mind. We fear death, we shudder at life's instability, we grieve to see the flowers wilt again and again, and the leaves fall, and in our hearts we know that we, too, are transitory and will soon disappear. When artists create pictures and thinkers search for laws and formulate thoughts, it's in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something that lasts longer than we do. The woman after whom Leonardo da Vinci shaped his beautiful Mona Lisa is already dead many centuries, and so too is Leonardo -- but his work will still be standing a hundred years from now, and longer. It will go on shimmering in a gallery of the Louvre in Paris, unchangingly beautiful, forever smiling with the same sad, flowering mouth.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Indian Ascetic

How strange his life had been, he thought. He had wandered along strange paths. As a boy I was occupied with the gods and sacrifices, as a youth with asceticism, with thinking, and meditation. I was in search of Brahman and revered the eternal Atman. As a young man I was attracted to expiation. I lived in the woods, suffered heat and cold. I learned to fast, I learned to conquer my body. I then discovered with wonder the teachings of the great Buddha. I felt knowledge and the unity of the world circulate in me like my own blood, but I also felt compelled to leave the Buddha and the great knowledge. I went and learned the pleasures of love from Kamala and business from Kamaswami. I hoarded money, I squandered money, I acquired a taste for rich food, I learned to stimulate my senses.
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
I was also having trouble with the so-called parietal rules at Harvard which said that a woman must leave a student's room by 10 P.M. Every second that I was not studying, I spent at Wellesley, meeting women. This was a paradox that was becoming more and more pronounced in my character. While I still considered myself a spiritual person, I was becoming increasingly obsessed—an even stronger word would not be out of place—with sex. I saw it everywhere. I wanted it. I thought about it all the time. No woman seemed safe from my predations. I look back at it with horror. I had absolutely no understanding of what I was doing.
J. Moussaieff Masson, My Father's Guru.
—I was afraid of myself, I was fleeing from myself.
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
One evening I was invited to meet an older (perhaps forty-five) professor of Indian philosophy who was visiting from India. She had something of a following in India and was even considered a kind of guru. Somehow the discussion turned to spiritual matters. This woman said she had never felt sexual desire in her life because her mind was filled with spiritual thoughts. There was simply no room. As the guests were leaving her apartment, she asked me to stay a little bit, as there was something she wanted to tell me. When we were alone she said: "You looked as though you did not believe what I was saying. Is that true?"
"Well, actually I don't, no," I replied.
"You don't believe I am free of sexual desire?"
"I will prove it to you. Touch my breasts."
I did as I was told.
"See, I feel nothing. Now touch my thighs."
I did as I was told.
"Again, nothing. Even if you enter me with your penis, I will feel nothing. Do you believe me?"
I did.
"See, I feel nothing. The whole time this is going on I am thinking only about the higher self, the atman."
J. Moussaieff Masson, My Father's Guru.
To whom else should one offer sacrifices, to whom else should one pay honor, but to Him, Atman, the Only One? And where was Atman to be found, where did He dwell, where did His eternal heart beat, if not within the Self, in the innermost, in the eternal which each person carried within him? But where was this Self, this innermost?
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
Where was it? Where was it?
Robert Ludlum, The Parsifal Mosaic.
It is not surprising that the very word for asceticism, tapas, is . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
. . . insidiously related, tied to, and involved with . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
. . . a word commonly associated with . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
. . . seemingly opposite things—
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
. . . with virility, with sexual prowess, especially with increased potency (evidence for this is found not only in the Sanskrit texts, but in the observations of many travelers in India). The myths of Siva show such connections in detail. It is not surprising that the concern with incontinence would lead to fantasies about the powers inherent in semen; we can see this attested to in the ancient stories containing oral pregnancy fantasies (a ubiquitous theme in the Mahabharata: e.g., Kasyapa, Rsyasrnga's father, lost his semen at the sight of Urvasi, and it was swallowed by a female antelope who subsequently gave birth to Rsyasrnga—hence his name "Antelope-Horned").

These sexual fantasies of immense prowess are of course only the other side of the coin from constant fears of sexual depletion. Such concerns, universal and timeless, are particularly well documented in the case of the Indian villager.
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
‘The Victors’
The Diary of Richard Wagner: The Brown Book — 1865-1882.
Have you heard about it?
Hermann Hesse, Demian.
The sketch of . . .
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
. . . ‘The Victors’ . . .
The Diary of Richard Wagner: The Brown Book — 1865-1882.
. . . Wagner's projected music drama on a Buddhist theme . . .
Cosima Wagner's Diaries (editors' note).
. . . pictures Ananda, a disciple of Buddha, hospitably given water by a . . .
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
. . . maiden Prakriti.
Richard Wagner, Sketch of ‘The Victors’.
The Buddha warns Ananda not to speak with women; if he must speak to one to keep his eyes on the ground; and if he must look, "Then beware Ananda, beware."
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
Prakriti . . .
Richard Wagner, Sketch of ‘The Victors’.
. . . falls deeply in love and seeks out . . .
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
. . . Gotama, The Buddha, . . .
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
. . . beneath a tree at the city gate to ask permission for union with Ananda. The Buddha reveals her identity in a former incarnation as an overproud girl who scorned the love of an unfortunate, an arrogant act she must now expiate by experiencing the torture of unsatisfied passion. Only by sharing Ananda's vow of chastity may she stay at his side. Grasping his condition of salvation, she joyfully agrees, and Ananda receives as his sister one who has risen to his own level of self-denial.
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
So what is it that . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
. . . Gotama, The Buddha, . . .
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
. . . says? He says:
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
One must find the source within one’s own Self, one must possess it.
Everything else was seeking—a detour, error.
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
In the figure of the maiden, who was one day to become Kundry in Parsifal, Wagner sought finally to resolve his concern with . . .
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
. . . the realm of unbridled sexual fantasy.
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
These were . . .
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
. . . Wagner’s . . .
Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay—Saints, Sinners, and Madmen: A Study of Gurus.
. . . thoughts; this was his thirst, his sorrow.
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
Wagner saw resignation as the only solution to his infatuation for . . .
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
. . Mathilde Wesendonk . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . the object of his ill-starred adoration.
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
I have no inclination any more, no will!—
Would there were an end to it, an end!—
The Diary of Richard Wagner: The Brown Book — 1865-1882.
He wished passionately for oblivion, to be at rest, to be dead.
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
"The Victors" was a product of this frame of mind.
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
When the Self was conquered and dead, when all passions and desire were silent, then the last must awaken, the innermost of Being that is no longer Self—the great secret.
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
The ascetic . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
. . .theme of "The Victors" sustained Wagner and Mathilde in a state of exaltation after . . .
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
. . . Wagner’s first wife Minna . . .
Joseph Horowitz, Program Notes for the Ring Festival.
. . . had put an end to what was evidently the less abstemious phase of their affair.
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
Wagner . . .
Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay—Saints, Sinners, and Madmen: A Study of Gurus.
. . . wrote that at this particular epoch of his life he had . . .
Robert W. Gutman, Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music.
. . . one single goal—to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow—to let the Self die. No longer to be Self, to experience the peace of an emptied heart, to experience pure thought—that was his goal.
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
It had been more than a little characteristic of the conflict between asceticism and world-devouring hunger that made up the drama of his nature.
Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus.
I believe that the concern voiced ubiquitously by the ascetic in Indian literature—
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
‘seeing the world and the human self in one great all including vision, . . . ’
Jon Westlesen, Body Awareness as a Gateway to Eternity: A Note on the Mysticism of Spinoza and Its Affinity to Buddhist Meditation.
. . . in sum, . . .
Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders.
. . . the search for mystical experiences; as if only the ecstatic stillness of trance-states could fill the void of a happiness never experienced . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson and Terri C. Masson, Buried Memories on the Acropolis: Freud’s Response to Mysticism and Anti-Semitism.
—is an oblique reference to . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
. . . a sad past. The apparent reliving of a lost past in terms of grasping at the illusion of ecstasy can only represent a falsification of memory for the purpose of defence. And the dry, brittle memories of an emotionally arid childhood are as fearsome as those of more openly violent abuse.
J. Moussaieff Masson and Terri C. Masson, Buried Memories on the Acropolis: Freud’s Response to Mysticism and Anti-Semitism.
Gradually it has become clear to me . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
. . . that all ascetics must have suffered from harsh and unloving parents in their childhood . . . . I should add, however, that most analysts would disagree, and would qualify this by saying that often the harsh treatment was only imagined—often as retaliation for imagined evil in the little child himself, for his own destructive fantasies vis-a-vis his parents and siblings.
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
It seems to me that . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
. . . all ascetics suffered massive traumas in their childhood in one of three ways: they were sexually seduced, or they were the object of overt or covert aggression, or they lost those closest to them early in their lives. Their lives were pervaded with sadness; their rituals, their obsessive gestures of every kind, are an attempt to recapture the lost childhood they never had. It is not surprising to find that all addicts have suffered such loss.
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
At a later date I would gradually be persuaded that devastating loss in childhood figured as a probable genesis of my own disorder . . .
William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.
Psychoanalytic studies of addiction have enabled us to see "addictive" features in many areas seemingly unrelated to pure drug or alcohol addiction. Compulsive sexuality can serve as an addiction, as can the practices of asceticism.
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.

Friday, July 27, 2007

An Addiction To Music

I am detached and emotionally isolated. I often give an impression of coldness combined with an apparent air of superiority which is not endearing. There is a lack of ordinary human contact with me; a feeling that I am unconcerned with, if not superior to, the ordinary, mundane preoccupations of average people; that I am "out of touch" with, or "on a different wavelength" from, the people with whom I mingle but do not mix. Very often, I am accused of keeping other people "at arm's length" and of avoiding intimacy; an accusation which is in fact justified, since this is just what I feel compelled to do. Sometimes I am said to be "wearing a mask;" an observation which is also accurate, since I habitually play roles which, intellectually, I believe to be appropriate, but which do not reflect what I am actually feeling. Thus, I may decide that it is morally right to be generous, or tactful, or considerate, and behave appropriately in accordance with this decision. Because, however, my behavior originates from an intellectual decision rather than expressing my true feelings, it is likely that all that will be conveyed to the recipient of my attentions is an impression of exaggeratedly good manners. I lack the personal touch: the feeling, if not of intimacy, then at least of some shared common ground upon which one person meets another as a human being. There is in fact a divorce between thinking and feeling; an embryo form of the "incongruity of affect" seen in schizophrenia which is familiar to psychiatrists. It is this incongruity which accounts for the unpredictability of my behavior and responses, since, to the observer, there appears to be a complete lack of correspondence between what I say and the emotion I display.

It is likely that my disordered personality takes origin from a disturbance in my earliest relation with my mother. Whether this is so or not, there can be no doubt that I carry with me into adult life attitudes and emotional responses which mature persons have long since outgrown, but which are not surprising if considered as pertaining to an infantile stage of development. The more fundamentally insecure a person is, the more he is likely to fail to grow beyond his earliest emotional attitudes, or to regress into a state where such attitudes become apparent when things go badly with him.

Perhaps this helps to explain my love of music, which amounts almost to an addiction. A psychoanalyst named Pinchas Noy recorded that several of his patients admitted a recurrent pressing need to hear music. "Some time later all these patients vividly recalled early memories of their long-dead mothers." The same psychoanalyst alludes to "longings for the lost paradise of oral infancy," and to music as taking a person back to the primary period when the maternal voice conveyed loving reassurance. He also observes that some of his patients had become "addicted" to music, and felt deprived and unhappy if they had no access to it. This special need for music was not necessarily linked with musical ability, although interest in music and an aptitude for it are generally correlated to some extent. Pinchas Noy suggests that addiction to music is found in persons who have an especially strong desire to regress to the earliest type of emotional communication, that between mother and infant; whereas musical ability is rooted in an unusual sensitivity to sound. Other analysts find such statements to be unconvincing anecdotes rather than evidence.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Dusk. I paused to listen to the silence. The day was dying, the night being born -- but with great peace. Here were imponderable processes and forces of the cosmos, harmonious and soundless. Harmony, that was it! That was what came out of the silence -- a gentle rhythm, the strain of a perfect chord, the music of the spheres, perhaps.

It was enough to catch that rhythm, momentarily to be myself a part of it. In that instant I could feel no doubt of man's oneness with the universe. The conviction came that that rhythm was too orderly, too harmonious, too perfect to be a product of blind chance -- that, therefore, there must be purpose in the whole and that man was part of that whole and not an accidental off-shoot. It was a feeling that transcended reason; that went to the heart of man's despair and found it groundless. The universe was a cosmos, not a chaos; man was as rightfully a part of that cosmos as were the day and night.

During the past several years I have been more alone than at any time in my life, with no family friends, or coworkers. I have taken away something that I had not fully possessed before: appreciation of the sheer beauty and miracle of being alive, and a humble set of values. Civilization, which I glimpse as from afar, has not altered my ideas. I live more simply now, and with more peace.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Temperamental Artist

I realize that despite all efforts to the contrary, my existence will probably continue as a restless tension, a constant oscillation between life's opposing poles. My path to myself has reached its climax in a fascinating confusion of symbol and irony, fantasy and realism. It is only now that I at last have found the peace of sincere self-affirmation and life affirmation. The individual must take and continue along that path which the predominant aspect of his nature impels him to choose. Each, whether given to the senses or to the spirit, must be prepared to suffer the lot of his kind; to attempt in curiosity or desperation to do otherwise is to foster a perpetual dissension of the divided self. My center is the individual, opposed to society, its mores, and its institutions. And that individual is myself. I recall, nostalgically, the simpler years of childhood. I re-experience youth with its excruciating years of awakening. I think about modern man, the intellectual and the artist in particular, within the framework of a declining culture. It is in this, its intimately egocentric nature, that my artistic temperament bears the stamp of its age, an age of cultural decline, of spiritual and moral distress, and of extreme loneliness.

I am predominantly an esthete who lives only in dreams, hopes, and anticipation, and who shrinks before realization. I am a self-preoccupied, temperamental artist who vainly seeks a kindred soul. I am paralyzed by chronic indecision and indulge in romantic morbidity. I am an outsider consumed by my own hopelessness and loneliness -- a misfit, to whom the art of life and the art of love are foreign, a timid soul who asks too little of life and expects too much of it. I live in perpetual frustration and disillusionment.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Adrift in Paranoid Conspiracies

The following is the text of two emails that I forwarded to the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia as well as the U.S. Department of Justice. The emails discuss my belief that I have been the victim of a conspiracy controlled by attorney managers of my former employer, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld in Washington, DC. The conspiracy also involved the George Washington University Department of Psychiatry, where I was an outpatient during the period September 1992 to June 1996.


The attached email dated July 20, 2006 addressed to the MPDC is a fraud and a sham and needs to be investigated.

1. First, there is no such thing as "intermittent episodes of paranoid schizophrenia." Paranoid schizophrenia is a chronic disorder. Once you have it, you have it for life. It doesn't just come and go like the wind. Any psychiatrist would find the statement "intermittent episodes of paranoid schizophrenia" to be ridiculous.

The following chronology suggests that the initial diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in my case in February 1996 was a sham.

a.) In May 1994 I underwent comprehensive (2-day) psychological testing at The George Washington University Department of Psychiatry. The test results failed to yield a diagnosis and showed no psychotic thought processes. I was not on any medication at the time. In effect, the testing showed that there was nothing wrong with me and that I was not disabled under U.S. Social Security Administration rules.

b.) In January 1996 I submitted a letter to my then treating psychiatrist, Dimitrios Georgopoulos, M.D. that accused The George Washington University Department of Psychiatry of engaging in illegal conduct.

c.) About three weeks later, the psychiatrist, Dr. Georgopoulos, issued a written statement to me saying that I suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

2. Second, there is persuasive circumstantial evidence that Dennis M. Race, Esq. (of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld) did not consult with Gertrude R. Ticho, MD or the Sheppard Pratt Employee Assistance Program prior to terminating me on October 29, 1991. In April 2004 I provided Officer J.E. Williams (MPDC 2nd District, Badge 1226) tape recordings of telephone conversations between me and Dr. Ticho and Sheppard Pratt in which both parties deny having any conversations with Dennis Race or any persons at Akin Gump about my mental state. There is no independent evidence, other than Dennis Race's bald assertions, that Akin Gump spoke to anyone about my mental state prior to terminating my employment on October 29, 1991. There is persuasive circumstantial evidence that Dennis Race offered false or perjured sworn statements to the DC Department of Human Rights. The Social Security Administration determined that I became disabled and unsuitable for employment on October 29, 1991 based on the false or perjured statements of Dennis Race, Esq.

Also, my former direct supervisor who said she believed that I might have been homicidal is a court-adjudicated racist. See McNeil v. Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, U.S. Dist. Court for the District of Columbia.

I welcome an investigation of this matter. The attached email makes monkeys out of the MPDC and the US Attorney's Office.

-----Original Message-----
From: GarFreed
To: dc.outreach@mailto:dc.outreach@usdoj.govcharles.ramsey@dc.gov
Sent: Thu, 20 Jul 2006 15:49:12 -0400
Subject: Compliance Certification


Due to substantial and continuing concerns about my mental health and stability Cleveland Park Branch Librarian Brian P. Brown has made my access to the DC Library contingent on my psychiatric treatment compliance.

1. MEDICATION: I had a consultation with my psychiatrist, Henry Barbot, MD (DC Dept. Mental Health) today July 20, 2006. Dr. Barbot continued his regimen of Effexor (300 mg/day), Geodon (80 mg/day), and Klonopin (1 mg/day). I certify that I am taking all the prescribed medications. Dr. Barbot has not recommended any additional medications.

I suffer from intermittent episodes of paranoid schizophrenia.

2. PSYCHOTHERAPY: I continue in weekly psychotherapy with Mozhdeh Roozegar, MD at St. Elizabeths Hospital.

I continue to have beliefs about Brian P. Brown that have been diagnosed as paranoid. These paranoid beliefs are symptoms of a severe mental illness that renders me unsuitable for employment and unfit for jury duty. http://backgrinfo.blogspot.com/2005/10/how-i-came-down-with-paranoid.html

My former employer, Dennis M. Race, Esq. (202 887 4028) determined in October 1991 in consultation with Gertrude R. Ticho, MD and the Sheppard Pratt Employee Assistance Program that I suffered from a mental illness that might be associated with a risk of violent behavior.

My former direct supervisor, Christine Robertson, believed that I might have been potentially homicidal.


(202) 362 7064

Saturday, July 21, 2007

On Finding an Old Friend

I am so glad I found you. Sometimes, like now, when I am not able to sleep at 5 in the morning, I brood in the dark and think melancholic thoughts about my past. Then I turn on the only light permitted in my bedroom: the glow from my laptop, and wander across to your blog to look for a post or two. Within moments, I will have found one that resonates thematically with my thoughts. Then satisfied, my eyelids droop, and I fall asleep.

peace, Gary. peace.

While Going to Sleep

Now that the day has made me so tired,
my dearest longings shall
be accepted kindly by the starry night
like a weary child.

Hands, cease your activity,
head, forget all of your thoughts;
all my senses now
will sink into slumber.

And my soul, unobserved,
will float about on untrammeled wings
in the enchanted circle of the night,
living a thousandfold more deeply.

Hermann Hesse

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Entire World

There are hidden meanings for me everywhere I look. This life is a metaphor to me, a microcosm of the human condition. My reality is a symbol, a metaphor -- whether I feel well or ill. It is subtle. But it leads nowhere. It is a beginning and an end. It is my life -- full of strangers, people I'd like to know, people I'd like to forget. Though I am originally from another place, I never want to go back to my place of origin. I intend to die here.

This is the whole of my reality, my entire world. My life does not lead anywhere else. No one, not even my psychiatrists, expect more than this. Though my life is empty, my room in some perverse reversal of my identity is full: books cover the many shelves, pictures cover every wall, chairs and tables abound, for no one ever visits my room. There is no music in my life, though the room echoes with recordings of Chopin, Beethoven and Schumann. Though I am not a card player, I keep a deck of cards in my room. In this atmosphere, the deck of playing cards, especially the picture cards, seem highly colored and evocative, and I find myself lingering and discerning expressions on the faces of the jack, queen and king -- mockery, haughtiness, defiance. I am kept company by a host of royals.

I take long walks to pass the time. In my life there is nothing else to do but walk, for there is no exploitation, no work, no play. There is what you see and nothing more. No wanting, no desire. The melancholy of it, I think; but that is wholly my feeling, and probably the feelings of others who know of me and my plight. It is not heaven, not hell, but earth as limbo for me who has always believed in limbo.

There are no longer any thoughts of the past. The other world is so remote in time and space that it has no features. The emptiness of my life has replaced all other realities, and so I no longer even reminisce. My thoughts are of practical matters in the present. And though Washington, DC is my reality, neither politics nor local culture interests me much. I used to be vain but I no longer have much vanity. I am inward, even a bit shy. When I am not being silly -- in front of others I always talk in a jokey way -- I am solemn. I do not think all that much about the future, though I occasionally think of death or eternity.

My clothes are simple, but even so, that does not make me seem poor. On the contrary, it gives me a sense of serenity, and makes me seem indifferent and unworldly and spiritual.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Adrift in Foolish Dreams

I was a very well-behaved child. I was shy, lonely and withdrawn even then. I was even considered backward by my teachers. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Yeagley, called my mother to school for a conference and reported that I was mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in foolish dreams. Very early, indeed, I set myself the task of establishing myself as an entirely separate entity, influenced as little as possible by other people. In school, I did not revolt, I simply ignored authority. My first attempt to assert my individuality is interesting. My parents were indifferent to religion. My father was Jewish and my mother, Catholic. I was not raised in any religion. I, while still a school boy, deliberately emphasized my Jewish origin and went through a period of religious fervor which I later described as my first attempt to liberate myself from purely personal links.

And while I'm not religious today I'm very proud to be a Jew, very proud of my heritage. I'm convinced there is a higher consciousness, though I don't necessarily mean God -- at least not a personal God who sees into the hearts and minds of men and women. The God I believe in is elevated above human concerns, indescribable and ineffable. I have a theory that God is actually the unconscious. The two are linked together. When a person meets his potential -- and I don't think any man can do it in his lifetime -- then he'll meet God. In any event, those are my religious beliefs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You and I

The child that I was came to me
a strange face.
He said nothing. We walked,
each of us staring at the other in silence, our steps
a strange river running in between.

We were brought together by shared hopes
and common expectations
and we split.
A forest written by the earth,
watered by the seasons' change.

Child who once was, come forth!
What brings us together now,
and what do we have to say?

Did you suspect that you would become I one day?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm Considered Undatable by eHarmony.com

eHarmony is based upon a complex matching system developed through extensive research with married couples. One of the requirements for successful matching is that participants fall within certain defined profiles. If we find that we will not be able to match a user using these profiles, we feel it is only fair to inform them early in the process.

We are so convinced of the importance of creating compatible matches to help people establish happy, lasting relationships that we sometimes choose not to provide service rather than risk an uncertain match.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

my blog type

The following are the results of a questionnaire I took about my blogging style:

Your Blogging Type is Confident and Insightful. You've got a ton of brain power, and you leverage it into a brilliant blog. Both creative and logical, you come up with amazing ideas and insights. A total perfectionist, you find yourself revising and rewriting posts a lot of the time. You blog for yourself -- and you don't care how popular (or unpopular) your blog is!

Monday, July 09, 2007

My Private Metaphysics

I am hard on myself. Some take that as a positive sign. Self-knowledge calls for severity, and I am always willing to go to the mat with that protean monster, the self, so perhaps there is hope for me. But I would like to go further. My feeling is that you can't be known thoroughly unless you find a way to communicate certain "incommunicables" -- your private metaphysics. My way of approaching this is that before you were born you had never seen the life of this world. To grasp this mystery, the world, was the occult challenge. You came into a fully developed and articulated reality from nowhere, from nonbeing or primal oblivion. You had never seen life before. In the interval of light between the darkness in which you awaited first birth and then the darkness of death that would receive you, you must make what you could of reality, which was in a state of highly advanced development. I had waited for millennia to see this. Then when I had learned to walk -- in the kitchen -- I was sent down into the street to inspect it more closely. One of my first impressions was of the huge utility-pole timbers that lined the street. They were beaver-colored, soft and rotted. On their crosspieces or multiple arms they carried many wires or cables in an endless falling relay, soaring, falling again and soaring. On the fixed sag and flow of the cables the sparrows sat, flew off, came back to rest. Along the sidewalks, the faded gray cement reflected red at sunset. There were automobiles that rode along the street. We didn't own a car when I was young. My parents purchased an old Pontiac when I was seven years old. I knew people by their faces -- red, white, wrinkled, spotted, or smooth; smiling or violent or furious -- their eyes, mouths, noses, voices, feet, and gestures. how they bent down to amuse or question or tease or affectionately torment a small boy.

God appeared very early to me. His hair was parted down the middle. In my fertile imagination God had a full head of hair, although my father was bald. My image of God was a correction of my father, I suppose one could say. I understood that we were related because he had made Adam in his own image, breathed life into him. Anyway . . . this was the world. I had never seen it before. Its first gift was the gift of itself. Objects gathered you to themselves and held you by a magnetic imperative that was simply there. It was a privilege to be permitted to see -- to see, touch, hear. This would not have been impossible to describe to an intellectual, though most people might find these ideas esoteric and odd. The intellectual might reply dismissively that Rousseau had already covered the same turf in his Confessions or his Reveries of a Solitary Walker. I don't feel like having these first epistemological impressions anticipated or dismissed. For fifty-two years I have seen reality under these same signs. I have the feeling, too, that I have to wait for thousands of years to see, hear, smell, and touch these mysterious phenomena -- to take my turn in life before disappearing again when my time is up. I might have said to someone once, "It was my one turn to live." But I doubt that anyone hearing that phrase would understand the full meaning of that sentence and I probably had to surrender my wish to make myself fully known by describing my intimate metaphysics. Only a small number of special souls have ever found a way to receive such revelations.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Lonely Boy

My early family circumstances, the actions and attitudes of my parents, were such that I might have resigned myself to permanent disillusionment and despair. It is testimony to my strength and resiliency of character that I was able to withstand these stresses. Nevertheless, their effects were readily discernible to all my contemporaries. Apparently abandoning any hope of establishing warm and loving relationships, I largely withdrew from the society of my fellows and playmates, and from my parents as well. My happiest hours were those when I was free from the company of my parents, which was seldom the case -- when all the family were away and I was alone by myself. I remained shy and monosyllabic because I had little thought of communication with others. If you, my readers, had been present you would have noticed the early signs of withdrawal in me, for I remained indifferent to all praise, retreated and was happiest when I was alone. Of those who were my schoolfellows and who in after years might offer their reminiscences of me, not one would speak of me as a playfellow, none would have anecdotes to relate of games with me, rambles through the neighborhood, or boyhood adventures in which I bore a part.

Essentially I was a lonely, withdrawn child. I understood nothing of social life; consequently I was ill-humored with other people, did not know how to converse with them, and withdrew into myself, so that I was looked upon as a misanthrope. My schoolmates probably looked on me as isolated and neglected. I was sometimes unclean. It is possible that my uncared-for appearance was a mute cry for help, an expression of an anguish which I could not express in words.

Another distress signal was my inability to make progress at school. What was striking about me was that I learned absolutely nothing in school. Really, I didn't learn very much in school. There was not a sign to be discovered in me of that spark of creativity which glowed so noticeably in me afterwards.

In early childhood, when my emotional survival was at stake, I seem to have found sustenance in fantasy. My sister recalls me "leaning in the window with my head in both hands staring fixedly at one spot." I said: "I was just occupied with such a lovely deep thought, I couldn't bear to be disturbed.' The center of my fantasy life was my music which occupied virtually all my waking hours. School and friendship counted for little compared with the gratification and sense of wholeness that I received from listening to music.

With the aid of my music, I wrapped myself in a protective cloak of my own daydreams. Freud writes that "unsatisfied wishes are the driving power behind fantasies; every separate fantasy contains the fulfillment of a wish, and improves on unsatisfactory reality." And my reality paled in comparison with my ideal world. When my sister reproached me: "How dirty you are again -- you ought to keep yourself clean," I replied: "What's the difference -- when I become a senator no one will pay that any mind." Surely we seem to be in the presence of a fantasy life of rich and unusual dimensions.

Monday, July 02, 2007

College Days

I attended the Pennsylvania State University, where I earned a bachelors degree in journalism in 1975. The main campus of Penn State is located on a 6,388 acre campus called University Park that sits adjacent to the town of State College. State College, really a borough, is located in Centre County, Pennsylvania. It lies in the Nittany Valley between Bald Eagle Mountain and Tussey Mountain, near the state's geographic center. The town was settled in 1859, it was named for Pennsylvania State College (now Pennsylvania State University), which was established there in 1855. The population of State College is about 35,000.

Penn State maintains a number of regional branch campuses around the state, one of which, the Abington Campus, I attended for the first two years of college. The entrance requirements for the main campus are quite rigorous. The University accepts only about half the students who apply. The branch campuses have lower entrance standards. In all likelihood, I would not have been admitted to the main campus at University Park had I applied there for my first year of college.

Penn State Abington was established in 1950 when Abby A. Sutherland, principal and owner of the elite Ogontz School for Girls, gave the campus and facilities to the Pennsylvania State University. The campus is located on a picturesque 45 acres in a northern suburb of Philadelphia. For the first two years of college, while I attended Abington, I lived at home. Abington features a small-college atmosphere in a suburban setting, 15 miles north of Center City Philadelphia.

I can still remember the heady excitement of my first semester at University Park, at the beginning of my third year of college. I could sense the material of my mind thinning, spreading, growing transparent; sometimes I was feverish with the excitement of what I was learning and my eyes felt dry and hot and overlarge, the skin around them felt abraded. After hours studying in the library, I would walk outside and the color of the sky at six o'clock on an October evening -- slate blue, shot through with black -- seemed as inviting and dangerous as if I were a child playing too late, too hard, and at any minute I might be called in. But I was not called in. I was told to stay out later, to travel further: the world of ideas was mine. I belonged there; I could inhabit any region of it. My body, both overexcited and repressed from all that reading, would insist on movement. I would run down the hill toward the town, toward State College, and let the wind bite into me, hear the buzz of the cars and watch the lights come on in the town at the bottom of the hill.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

How Books Reveal Themselves

As a reader (before becoming a writer) I read as I had been taught to do. But books revealed themselves rather differently to me as a writer. In that capacity I have to place enormous trust in my ability to imagine others and my willingness to project consciously into the danger zones such others may represent for me. I am drawn to the ways all writers do this: the way Homer renders a heart-eating cyclops so that our hearts are wrenched with pity; the way Dostoyevsky compels intimacy with Svidrigailov and Prince Myshkin. I am in awe of the authority of Faulkner's Benjy, James's Maisie, Flaubert's Emma, Melville's Pip, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein—each of us can extend the list. I am interested in what prompts and makes possible this process of entering what one is estranged from—and in what disables the foray, for purposes of fiction, into corners of the consciousness held off and away from the reach of the writer's imagination.
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination.
How can "the totally Other" act on us, let alone give any signal of its utterly inaccessible existence? The ultimate "particles," the bondings of elements in human consciousness whose orbits generate the quantum jump of faith [that propel one to imagine the "totally Other"], are presumably multiple. They are not unambiguously accountable to even the masters of introspection, of self-decoding, such as Pascal or Kierkegaard. They sink their roots into the finalities of the unconscious. Childhood experiences (according to Freud, this is where the discussion should stop) are seminal. Each atom of time in our life-histories can be causal either way. Belief or non-belief are closely resonant, thought at depths of intricacy that defy analysis, with our immersion and dissatisfactions with language.
George Steiner, Errata: An Examined Life.
As a writer reading, I came to realize the obvious: the subject of the dream is the dreamer. The fabrication of . . .
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination.
. . . "the totally Other" . . .
George Steiner, Errata: An Examined Life.
. . . is reflexive; an extraordinary meditation in the self; a powerful exploration of the fears and desires that reside in the writerly conscious. It is an astonishing revelation of longing, of terror, of perplexity, of shame, of magnanimity. It requires hard work not to see this. It is as if I had been looking at a fishbowl—the glide and flick of the golden scales, the green top, the bolt of white careening back from the gills; the castles at the bottom, surrounded by pebbles and tiny, intricate fronds of green; the barely disturbed water, the flecks of waste and food, the tranquil bubbles traveling to the surface—and suddenly I saw the bowl, the structure that transparently (and invisibly) permits the ordered life it contains to exist in the larger world. In other words, I began to rely on my knowledge of how books get written, how language arrives; my sense of how and why writers abandon or take on certain aspects of the project. I began to rely on my understanding of what the linguistic struggle requires of writers and what they make of the surprise that is the inevitable concomitant of the act of creation.
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination.