Since finishing the second draft I’ve been feeling a bit shell-shocked. I’ve been bouncing off the walls some. I’m finally coming out of it, though, and getting ready to leave for an extended trip to the woods. This is my last post until I return in early August. I’m going to take another month off after that before turning my attention to what you see below: my research material—books, some of my notes, and my first two drafts. The essential material, though, is in my heart.
Archive for July, 2012
One of the greatest difficulties in finding agreement on what to do about the problems facing this country is our idea of “freedom.” The great majority of Americans have the simplistic idea of freedom meaning “I can do whatever I want to do”—some adding “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” In practice, “I can do whatever I want to do” really means “I can do whatever my ego wants to do.” And that’s not freedom. That’s slavery—to your ego. The ego is wild and doesn’t give a damn about others. It wants what it wants and it wants it right now. I’m familiar with this territory. When I left home my aim was to be free to do whatever I wanted. And I pursued that goal for several years—into a great, lonely emptiness. Fortunately, I was also interested in what is true.
At this point in my life I see freedom as being free from delusion and uncontrolled desire. You have to have that interior freedom before you can really be free in the world. A man who keeps shooting up dope because he can’t make himself stop is a slave. And I think a lot of what we do in our day-to-day lives is much the same as what that dope addict is doing. Each of us is unique and we have to be who we are. But I also believe that the universe is a cosmos and when you be who you really are, you’re brought into community with others being who they really are. We’ve got to junk this idea of each of us having our own stuff, that we’re entitled to all this stuff because we worked for it. The earth can’t take it anymore. Humanity can’t take it anymore. We have to find a collectivity that is graceful and true. It can’t be enforced from the outside; it has to come from the inside. But we do have to find it. We’ll do ourselves in if we don’t. And that’s the truth.
The new supposedly dazzles the old out of existence, and people of our era are encouraged to pity their ancestors who had not the good fortune to be as we are.
This morning, after a little more than four and a half years and 940 pages, I finished the second draft. I’ll spend the next two weeks working—at my leisure—on a summary-type chapter. But that work is going to be exploratory, not something painstakingly outlined and crafted. In late July, Judy and I go on a week-and-a-half-long camping trip. When we get back I’m going to take it easy until Labor Day. Then I’ll begin work on the third and final draft. The last few months have been grueling—more than I’ve been talking about here. Today, I feel so good. I’m going out for a bike ride.
Yesterday I finished the first pass through Draft 2, Chapter 34. Tomorrow I start a second pass through the chapter to clean it up. That’ll take most of the week. Then I need to edit the outline so that it conforms to the finished version. After that, I’ll work on Chapter 35, which will be a commentary on the events in the book from the perspective of 24 years later. I think there will be such a chapter in the final version of the book and I want to explore how it might go. But I’m not going to sweat over it. Once I’ve let go of Chapter 35, the second draft is done, done, done. Four and a half years!
When I was writing The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill I knew all along that Street Song was going to be my next book—if there was a next book. But I haven’t been sure what book, if any, I will write after this one. I’ve had one recurring idea, and this week I found myself creating some research files. The book would be about the unique neighborhood I live in. (It’s the same one you see in the parrot movie.) The overarching theme would be how magic is undermined and destroyed by people with money. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. It’s the curse of this nation. How can we have a good life if the good life cannot find a place to take root and grow? I would spend most of the book establishing and depicting the neighborhood’s original magic, which goes back seventy-five years. I’ll be able to tell some parrot stories that didn’t fit into my first book. I have a title in mind, but I’m not going to put that out yet. It wouldn’t take me nearly so long to write this book. At the moment, though, it’s just an idea. My focus is on Street Song.