On Keeping a Journal

HandOn journal keeping, Joan Didion writes: “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be…Whether we find them attractive company or not” (“On Keeping a Notebook”).  She’s right.  I’m appalled at some of my own earlier selves – their behaviour, their emotions, their self-centeredness…they embarrass me.  People that have not documented their lives (even if only partially) in journals, don’t have to be reminded of their own earier shortcomings as they age, since there is no legible trace for them to recuperate later (aside from unreliable memories). 

It keeps one truer, more humble, I think, to know that there is a record – no matter how banal or inconsequential – a record of what was once important, what was once a central concern.  It reveals the utter fluidity of personality, the evolution of emotional maturity, the self-reflection that aids self-improvement.

Yes, that former me sometimes seems a stranger, or a quirky half-forgotten acquaintance, but I have to acknowledge her as having played a role.  Never forget where you came from or who you were.  It takes a certain lack of fear to face those creatures of youth – timid or wild, shy or extroverted, stupid or self-important.  We’re all chameleons after all.  We’re all composites, multiples.  Tolerance for others is often preached, but what about tolerance for those others that were once oneself?

The Political Landscape that is the U.S.

I’m reading The Great Derangement by Matt Taibbi, contributing editor for Rolling Stone.  It’s an irreverent and tragically hilarious look at what is wrong with America.  It made me want to cry as much as laugh.  His account of how bills are written is horrifying.  Keep in mind that he wrote the book prior to Obama taking office (although he has an epilogue that deals with the 2008 campaign season). 

Here is what Taibbi writes about the “changes” brought in by Democrats in Congress: “…a Democratic Congress elected to clean up corruption and end a war will instead further the same corruption and continue the war, because that is what the people they are really beholden to expect of them.  And it that Congress debates these issues publicly at all, the debate is mainly about how best to create the appearance of real action, i.e., how best to satisfy the voters’ demand for a withdrawal without actually doing anything.”  And, even more chillingly: “When the government sees its people as the enemy, sooner or later that feeling gets to be mutual.  And that’s when the real weirdness begins.” 

The book is well worth reading, if only to laugh at his tales of joining” – actually infiltrating – the Cornerstone Church.

The Hole

GardenMisc09 014I took this photograph of a spectacular rock because of the hole.  I’ve been thinking about how time gets sucked away and there is so little of it left for those things that matter the most.  I’m trying to spend less time doing banal things and more time doing things that challenge my brain and motor skills or that benefit me creatively and emotionally – artwork, writing, exercising, quality time with loved ones and pets.  The hole must be avoided – it’s the void of useless pursuits, wasted time, misplaced energy, and rewardless repetitive labour (some of which is, of course, inevitable).  Explore the texture and colour of the rest of the rock, its hollows and curves, its ridges and history.  Stay focused on the surface and its beauty and bypass the blackness that is THE HOLE!