I was slightly stunned to see the news of J. D. Salinger’s death. I haven’t read him in decades, but he once meant a great deal to me. It wasn’t so much The Catcher in the Rye that moved me, but his book Nine Stories. When I was in high school, my dream was to become a novelist, and I studied his craftsmanship very carefully. I loved the subtle inner harmonies. Even his use of commas was something to pay close attention to. It seems futile to employ that level of literary craft nowadays. I did a wee bit of it in The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, but no one has ever noticed a single instance. If Salinger was writing during his years of seclusion, and if they publish any of it, I’ll be sure to check it out. I still love good writing. It’s a dying art, though. Few writers or readers have enough patience. Salinger also served as my introduction to Zen and Taoism. At the time, I thought they were weird affectations for a Westerner; but they’ve ended up meaning everything to me.
Archive for January, 2010
Ever since leaving home at the age of seventeen, I have lived in—have grown up in—what you could call, I guess, a left wing-bohemian milieu. Most people I’ve known in that environment don’t like to use the word “evil.” They don’t believe in evil. But if you point to something that is clearly evil—a government massacre or something like that—they will cop to its existence. The reason most of us don’t like to use the word is because it tends to be owned by right-wingers and evangelists, who often have bizarre notions of what constitutes evil. One thing that I know is evil is egotism. Yet a lot of people nowadays see egotism as a virtue. Ayn Rand considered it such. The Reagan Revolution was founded on the idea that selfishness and greed are virtues. It was really just the door being opened for egotists to have a free hand. Whether it was my country, my city, my football team, my family, or me, the Reagan revolution said that you are supposed to look out for Number One. They even considered it a moral stance. That’s what I call a biological idea of morality. And it’s not moral at all. To be moral is to restrain your own desires and to safeguard and promote the common good. To deny the truth of that, which is as old as the hills, is really a form of insanity. We are now a nation—with globalization, a world—of hardened, angry egotists. I see the situation growing constantly worse. The egotists are driving the car and the rest of us are their helpless passengers. If we don’t stop them, the car will eventually go over the cliff—which will put an end to their trip, but a lot of innocent people will be harmed in the event. They’re already being harmed.
In America, truth lies buried beneath a pack of lies. Whenever somebody tries to talk about truth, the liars begin to bray. They don’t stop until discussion stops. There is no debate here. We’ve lost our understanding of the meaning of words. What will change this? The only way most of us ever understand anything is through money—an inherently disastrous way to live. The financial crisis of 2008 was a warning—not just about the financial system, but about our whole imperial way of life. The Universe is intelligent; the Universe speaks to us. We were taken right up to the edge of our worst fantasy of disaster. And then we were momentarily let off the hook. But we’ve chosen to ignore the warning. The underlying problems remain the same. And the liars shout down anybody who tries to point out what’s really going on. It’s the Empire Game, full speed ahead. Best be careful.
Stephen Gaskin once said something along the lines of, “When the Republicans talk about freedom, what they’re talking about is the freedom to loot the ship.” He said that shortly after Reagan became president, and it stayed in my mind. I return to it over and over as I see, after nearly thirty years of damage, just how accurate his description was.
Yesterday, I finished my first pass through the second draft of Chapter 12—working title, “The Diamond-studded Highway.” It came in at 84 pages (double-spaced, 8 by 11.) I’m taking the day off—going for a longish bicycle ride—and then I’ll start working through it again tomorrow. A few days ago, I had an important conceptual breakthrough regarding the last third of the book. It was the last nagging question I had about the overall structure. The answer had been right in front of me all along.
Yesterday was also the day that I got my first ever fountain pen, the pen I intend to use for the writing of the third and final draft. A gift from Judy. Thank you, Judy.
Today on the supposedly liberal San Francisco Chronicle’s website there is a poll:
Where should the U. S. focus its military might?
The choices are: Afghanistan/Pakistan; Iraq; Yemen; Iran.
The only sane choice—pulling out of the region entirely—is not listed. Opposition is disallowed. Of course, these polls are just fun rides at the Cyberspace Carnival. But they reveal a mindset: We’ve entered an era of constant warfare. We’ve become self-deluded junkies crawling through the sand toward the source, craving another angry fix. Who sees an end to all these wars? Unless we find wisdom, the only end will be our utter exhaustion and ruin as a nation.