Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

I went back and fixed the spelling errors (I hope) in my post below. I think it's good for me to produce such imperfect blogs, but the English teacher in me reels and when I spot errors I spruce up!

I won best costume at the party Saturday night. I did not have the best costume. In fact, I wore Mikey's costume, a giant afro, funny gold sparkle glasses and a big money sign around my neck; huge adidas shirt, baggy blue sweats with a white stripe and his air jordans. Yeah, I was funk guy, or something like that; we didn't know we could go until two days before and I had to hurry. Steph was a goth. If I find pictures on the web I'll post a link.

I think I won because of the way my wig bounced back and forth when I was shaking Manhattans. Or maybe it was the Manhattan's themselves. Whatever, I got a bottle of Clicquot as a prize. And I stopped drinking early, before food and dancing. I appreciate both my caution and concern for my health.

Our friends have a large two story home built around 1900 and it makes a cool place to party on Halloween. Tonight I'll probably stay home, worry about Mikey (making sure he's with somebody's parent tonight) and eat candy and maybe watch a spooky movie with my honey.

gotta run.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

My First Episcopal Funeral

I attended my first Episcopal funeral yesterday. It was for a woman who attended the service at church I attend. She was 70 though she looked younger. I didn't know her well but still found the time very sad. We recently installed a columbarium so her ashes were inurned (I think that's the term) right in front of me. To see a little gold box, it looked almost like a gift box, six by eight inches perhaps, and know that all that used to be an entire, smartly dressed every Sunday, red-headed woman with a lovely british accent is now inside that tiny container...it was chilling, frankly.

The service was so beautiful though. At the end, after the priest put that little gold box into the columbarium and tightened the screws on the face plate with a screwdriver we read the final piece of the liturgy, something like 'even at the graveside, we shout alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.' So many times I think of Christianity, church, my faith, as something which helps me now, in this life, to be a more loving person or receive desperately needed help in my relationships and my healing. Attending a liturgical funeral reminds me what my faith is finally about: 'I am resurrection and I am life.'

My EFM class is still waddling through Genesis so I haven't had a chance to read the gospels from a scholarly perspective, at least without much needed outside guidance. I can't say if the doctrine of eternal life in Christ is soundly rooted in the gospel history, but I believe it to be. It was in Paul in the 50's. It's heavy in John and I'm sure in other places in the gospel record. When looking at a little gold box too small for a single shoe, it becomes the only important tenet of my faith.

And on that faith, or my questions regarding what is surely the greatest promise which can be made to the fragile frame of mankind--you will live forever if you trust Me--EFM is helping. I'm being exposed to what most Christians would call higher criticism only from a Christian perspective. Simply put, I can read how Genesis has roots in ancient middle-eastern and Babylonian mythos, how it probably derived from multiple sources and was written by committee and these ideas make sense at least in light of what we know about history and literature. The text still retains, so far at least, its religious force; in fact that is growing for me. I simply understand it the way it is meant to be read. Initially this has been very liberating. Such a perspective leaves some very big questions unanswered, true, but it helps me more than it hurts.

Might these scholars be proved wrong, was written language actually advanced enough during Moses' lifetime that he may have written these books? On that last question, it seems unlikely, but on the larger question, yes, the textual scholars my curriculum derives from could be wrong. However, the fundamentalist method for reading scripture is surely incorrect. It is impossible not to be a cafeteria reader. These verses fit my world view, these don't, I'll stick to the former. Sure we can quote Paul in Romans about homosexuality, or in Ephesians on marriage, but what about his comments regarding head coverings for women? Women not being able to teach men because of Eve's sin? These become rabbinic, cultural, local precepts. This is only a beginning. The mental energy spent trying to support inerrancy in the face of the evidence would be better spend on acts of love; I could certainly say the same about many of my own intellectual pursuits, I know. The NT is not a new law! Unless it is read as the Great Law: isn't it in Matthew that Jesus says the law and prophets, all of scripture at his time in history, hang on two points: love of others and love of God.

I know many who read this blog, most, will disagree with my view of scripture even though my own view is still developing (and I didn't state it very clearly here). I also know I intended to write about the resurrection in this post and have drifted in my usual didactic way. Worse, I know I don't have time to go back and change it! But, for me at least, uncovering what I feel to be a rational approach to the Torah makes true religious sense. I need it. I can't spend my life defending an imperfect book and believing my faith rests on my ability to do so; plenty of inerrantists wouldn't feel that need; I would. Jesus lives outside any text. It's him I must continue to find, may God help me, find me, over and over.

***

Things are feeling better at home the last couple days, thank God. If there is one thing I must learn it's relaxation. This may sound silly, but for someone with OCD relaxation is a critical key and even when I'm not actively obsessing or am obsessing only a little it's still critical. With so much on my plate this semester between work, home, and church, relaxation is more important than ever. Without it I cannot feel my life. This is a great loss. Oddly, and sadly, I notice I get as wiggly nervous in the face of strong positive feeling as strong negative feeling; both emotio sets get shut down, masked by ritual or some other bullshit rapidity.

Well friends, I have to go. Be well and Happy Halloween to all. S and I are going to a friend's party tonight and dressing up. How fun, or I hope for fun. I'm getting older. Give me a good fire, a great book, and family all home and I'm happy.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

What Friends Are For

Just a quick note to say thanks to all my blog friends; their names are mostly in the margin at right and my handful of loyal readers know who they are! Great minds and hearts, all.

I'm in blog limbo again. I haven't had time to work on my posts much or even to post much, and I'm afraid I'm getting too English teacher specific. It seems that all I've been doing the last couple of months is read for my Am. Lit. class (and yeah, it's kinda gross that I'm teaching the course and am reading some of the content for the first time, but hey, I do my best and it's only 27 bucks a unit). Since all I'm doing is reading and grading papers, up here I talk about books, mostly.

I haven't been in many of my friend's blogs but I'm trying to catch up.

Thanks, Scott for telling me to turn on that funky letter looking verification thing; suddenly I see that everywhere and I was wondering where to get the code. It was just a radio button; thanks Scooter, and rock on while you're at it.

Things are not easy right now in my life. Coming out of ocd, in some ways, is like stopping drinking. I hate to use that analogy, but I believe, sadly, there is some truth to it. My obsessions are down, oh, 90 plus percent from doing exposure therapy, but now my marriage and family are adjusting, or trying, to the new me; the me I hid, in some ways, from all of us. Plus my truly wonderful son is 13. Thirteen. Parents, you will remember that age if you don't already. Then work BS. And the recent deaths I mentioned in my last post.

One death I didn't tell you about: once a year or so I look up my ex in-laws; Estella, my ex-wife, is not on the web, period, but you know how that is...looking up exes, hoping above all hope to find a really hideous picture. What I did find is that my ex father-in-law, a man I knew fairly well for nearly a decade, is dead. He died this spring. He would have been mid 60's I'm sure. I don't know how, but the picture of him looked exactly as when I knew him. It's sad, really, that he's gone even though I haven't seen him in, oh, 13 years or so.

Regarding blog: I want to keep telling my story up here, do a good while while I'm at it, but the time has not presented itself. Even now, my fingers are flying over the keys. Yuch. The writing feels so good I'd like to savor it.

***

I have gotten away three weekends for sailing classes in Santa Cruz this fall, and each weekend has been wonderful. I also got one blustery day on the Bay with my skipper and his regular crew. There was lightning in the distance, some solid wind and rainbursts...it was great for me to face my fears, actually.

Plus, skippers are just a necessary parts of the cosmos. I show up to sail with him, now with four days of official instruction under my belt, thinking I'm pretty hip; new sneaker-topsiders, sailing gloves and even bright yellow raingear I got from westmarine with my mom's birthday money check.

I meet him in the office of the sailing club and give him the firm, confident handshake of someone with four days of training...

'Hey, skipper.'

'Swab.'

He smiled when he said it, but there it was. At the end of the day he suggested I wipe out the rusty sink in the Catalina 36 with my new raingear so I'd look like a real sailor.

Still, he was very helpful that day, letting me sail in some fairly heavy wind and teaching me moment to moment. James is more than alright. He's Tibetan Buddhist, a recovered alcoholic, and hilarious. Without him I would never have taken up sailing, probably.

It's great to speak with you all, even briefly. Every soul in the margin is in my heart.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I think I should read the rest of the novels

Apparently my Harry Potter alter ego is Harry himself; I always did like his disregard for convention and innate sense of destiny. According to the quiz, "You can be a little reckless and hot-headed at times, but a more brave and courageous friend would be hard to find."

I find this a little uplifing today.

Last night after my very happy post I ran out of time rushing to EFM and had Del freaking Taco for dinner; S and I got in a pretty big conflict, again, and have only partly patched it, and then I couldn't find my truck keys this morning so even though I telecommute today I'm stuck here as far as errands and taking Mikey place goes. That last may not be a horrible thing as I have tons of work to do (and am taking just a little break here).

Fighting with S I freaking hate, though.

And on an even darker note. I found out last night at EFM that a woman I knew in our church, someone very vibrant and healthy and about 60 or so, died of an aneurysm in her aorta this week. Bip. Dead, dead. We weren't close, but since my little parish has an older population, I can think of three deaths of people I passed the peace to every week just in the last year. My father called me this week and told me an old family friend whose children I hung out with in high school died. She was 63. My dad actually dated her for about a year before his current wife (her best friend). Her son introduced me to my first girlfriend. I hadn't seen her in twenty years and I got to visit with her last time I was at my dad's house; I'm glad I got that at least. She, too, is gone.

Death hurts.

I don't have St. Paul's level of confidence, yet anyway. I surely can't explain the mind/soul issue or the nature of the afterlife (he couldn't explain it either). But I hate to see people, even believers, go. I suppose having those I love die is part of getting older; the awareness of my own mortality grows stronger with each. My grandfather, grandmother, aunt, an uncle, a first cousin...all in the ground less than three hours' drive from here. People, when I was a child, who seemed like fixtures in the universe. Death really is the final question. If these minds continue to exist, they surely can't contact me about it.

But this is all I have time for. Reading Scarlet Letter for school and a coule sci-fi books since I'm teaching that next semester and refuse to get slammed on prep. next spring the way I'm getting slammed now. Be well all. Sorry to see Theology Mom go offline (another loss) and happy to see Twyla going on vacation though I'll miss her whymsical mysticism. I'm behind on everyone's blog, I know. But I've forgotten none of you; I'm a loyal Harry Potter kind of guy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Badger's House

I found a very good article HERE on the American side of the Lewis mythos. It's worth the time to read.

The one thing the author doesn't address explicitly, but would probably agree with, is that Lewis' work often holds great appeal because he, somehow, baptized his child-imagination, baptized it into the world of Christianity but also the world of adult reason. His children's books, like his adult books, are about ideas as much as they are about children. And frankly, most of us would rather read theology in narrative form, even child-narrative form, its breathe is so much warmer, than dry rhetoric.

I admit in my arrogant soul it used to be bother me how many adult Christians loved the Narnia books. I loved them too...when I was a ten. But there's no reason why adults shouldn't be nourished and nurtured there (and no reason why, when I have a little time, I shouldn't go back and read them myself). Yes they are books for gradeschool kids, but then Lewis was openly influenced by Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows, a book I read, and loved, as an adult though it is a child's novel about home, brotherhood, the fireside conversation and the comfort of the garden gazing ball. Incidentally, this same domestic-mythos is what makes Tolkien's LOTR so irresistable: who doesn't want to live in the Shire: walks in the wood, beer from the cellar, parties and presentes, fresh food and fire, hospitality, bright waistcoats and open friendships? Who wouldn't fight, even die, for that kind of life?

(I know I 'assign' reading up here too often, but if you haven't read WITW, by all means, do. It's very lovely).

This all reminds me of something a little different. I was in college during the 80's preppie movement; I was, sadly, a sworn devotee of the upturned polo collar, friends. When the Lands' End catalogues arrived each month (free no less) I pored over them like another young man might hold pictures from home. I could feel how warm I'd be in that sweater, imagine how well-dressed, cultured and pedigreed, I'd look in that shirt. I felt secure pretending I had a past, pastoral status, money and clothes that would bring me positive attention and actual physical warmth. LE catered to the American love of the imagined country British life: they called suspenders 'braces' in the catalogue, offered sweaters from the U.K. and 'authentic' waxed cotton field coats. In short, in the 80's LE provided a homespun version of Ralph Lauren's over-priced opus. You might not be from the landed gentry, but if you wear these eight-wale moss-green trousers and this amber-heather shetland lambswool sweater vest you can pretend pretty damn well, well enough for America.

(Once in a while I still wake up at night and pray I don't end up like that catalogue-obsessed couple in the film Best of Show; for the most part my obsession is past.)

I think this anglo-love fueled the rash of 'irish' pubs in the nineties. I wanted to walk into a bar and order a pint of bitter like Ransom. But perhaps that fad has passed while I've been in the mountains. Whatever, I'll drink Guiness or Boddington's over Miller Lite any day of this life. On a darker and Lewis-connected note, it did some very strange things to Walter Hooper.

I drift.

The essential, and it's sad how I confused this, thing that Lewis (and Tolkien and Grahame) were getting at was something much more substantial than herringbone sportcoats. They were talking about domestic warmth and comfort, love of family and friends, and even God. My life has been mostly hard, but the times those things have come together I have known ecstasy.

When the cold autumn is hard in the air outside our mountain house, but inside the woodstove is thrumming light and heat off the wood floor and peaked pine ceiling, the oil lamps and candles burn throughout the room, and the warm smell of stew or bread fills the kitchen, and I come home to two loving people, or welcome them home myself...then I can know deepest satisfaction. A good I.P.A. or red wine, autumn, fresh food, warmth and light and moments of silly family closeness...there is no other. If I also allow the smallest touch of God...it is too much pleasure to feel.

That's what these authors remind us exists in the world. It's one underlying force in all these books, especially in LOTR and WITW. Simple, but acutely real, pleasures Americans are leaving behind ("yes I'd like fries with that it's okay we'll eat in the parking lot in the car Tommy turn off that game boy when you have greasy fingers hurry up drew carey is on in twenty minutes we have to get home.") In addition to domestic beauty, these authors give us wonder. The wardrobe which really does lead to another world, a world of clear good and evil no less, as in Tolkien, where I can hack orcs for a living with a clear conscience, a feat for which I feel genetically suited. These books take the fantasy we all lived in as children, part of our normal childhood development, and bring that make-believe into our adult lives. Along with it, they bring echoes of a life most of us have lost or at best have to fight for, and also, especially in Lewis and Tolkien, the God who walks with us, who eats with us, who is present in the warm slowness.

Do I have this all of the time in my own life? No. But domesticity, even hospitality, is one thing Steph and I do well. At our best, we eat and drink well and stay stovewood warm up there among the oil lamps and candles. At our very best, we bring others with us. Last Christmas we had an open house and more than twenty people came; two spiral hams, a huge pot of mulling wine, fresh rolls coming every thirty minutes out of the oven. If you are ever lost in the snow like Mole and Rat, look for a friendly door to knock on; you might find Badger's house. If I'm very lucky, you might find mine.


Drink with me now friends, the bottle stands by you: 'here's to the great things: wood that splits on the first whack, fresh rosemary, cool windy weather, stew from scratch, winter beers, wine of every color, Bowmore whiskey and Bailey's; and most of all, to my family, my wife and son, their loyalty surpasses knowledge. Also, to the Creator, who has made us a little place in the universe, here in this moment, to love without violence or fear. Cheers.'

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Book Report

Actually, my office hours are long past; I'm killing time before EFM and catching up on work. When my jaw muscles start to feel like I've been chewing steak for an hour though I haven't been, and my chest muscles contract...time for a break.

A blog break!

Ah, the sweet luxury of blog. I swear I feel like I'm sinking into a warm jacuzzi right now. I can smell the chlorine...feel my trunks puffing with air...

'Hey man, it's really good to be here; someone pass me a cold Sierra Nevada...what is it when two drugs interact and become stronger, well, that, I want that with the hot water and the beer.'

***

Emerson is a language magician, no doubt. We read three essays by him, Nature, the American Scholar, and Self-Reliance. Each has common points but each is also different. I was stunned by the force of Nature; it's not an essay easily dismissed. The other two less so, though SR has some beautiful one-liners, some of the best I've seen in philosophy.

After thinking about E a bit more I'll say this: For one, his philosophy is not Christian. Could it be held by a Christian? Yes, generally, for Emerson seems to use rabbinic hyperbole to stand out, especially in SR. If the intention below his language can be found, he's fairly harmless, though he does not know God in the way Christians say God can be known. I can't deny the power of the natural world, and I think a person would have to 'try' his philosophy for a while before he could critique it. It is also possible Christ provided a new way for E to commune with Himself after Emerson walked away from conventional religion. Only God knows this answer. But while E's work is impressive, comforting, nurturing, and in SR, quite boldening (if that's a word) it lacks a tenth of the force of any single chapter in the gospels, or any of the better passages from the epistles. Am I being narrow-minded? Emerson would think so, but he would be wrong.

He places books below inner conviction and instinct, the God-placed movemements of the soul. Perhaps he's right, but he admits his own philosphy was drawn from Swedenborg and he cites and draws on many other authors (including the gospels). I don't know...any man who can put Ceasar and Jesus in the same line as examples of what man can accomplish earns my distrust, for Ceasar was a butcher.

Yet I wish I could speak to Emerson, see if he really took his ideas as far as he appears to. In places in SR he seems mean-spirited, as when he decries charity for those he feels no bond with (to pay for the education of 'fools in college' for example); in other places he feels snobbish or self-obsessed. But I know that SR has helped many people to believe in themselves, it helped my wife have the courage to return to school, and there are lines I want to put on my office door except that I'd look even more arrogant than E. "To be great is to be misunderstood," "Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age," "Suppose you contradict yourself, what then?" (What then as in, "so what?")

I still love to read him, but if Regis would say, "is this your final answer?" I'd say, "No." Though maybe part of the answer. Whatever he is, he's a beautiful walk through the country of the soul. I think that what he says may not be as powerful as how he says it, but my guess is about ten thousand philosophy professors have made the same assessment.

***

And on Lewis' Mere Christianity...since Funkiller brings it up in the comments...

I haven't had time to return to the book, sadly. But I would say Lewis' great strength is crystal clarity and an ability to sift through non-essential issues. He draws on several prior arguments in his defense of the faith, the ontological I recall for sure, but he does this in the most casual way. And he says some things I hadn't read before, or at least not in that way before. I want to read him again.

One thing Lewis realizes I can't dispute is that if God exists and he is the Christian God, the personal and moral God, our puny attempts at reason are pathetic indeed. If God has built mind into his universe, that mind, our minds, are below Mind. In fact, God would exist in a world we can not even describe; we have neither concept nor terms for Him or his house. Such admission, such awareness, is important in any theology.

***

Patrick O'Brian. I wonder how many women like the Aubrey/Maturin novels? They strike me as so guy. The Aubreyliad, the twenty-novel series is often called. It is that. This is naval war raised to the epic scale. Whatever can be said against the books, they are literature and I'm a true fan; I'm beginning the twelfth now. If you can wade through hundreds of obscure naval terms (I bought the dictionary someone wrote for the series books ago) the human story beneath is worth it. Could they be better? Yeah, I wish he'd written more about the female characters in the saga and focused less on naval action, but even so, I can't critize him. He's just too good. Someday it will be literate to know what a futtock shroud is, or a cathead, or a lubber-hole, the same way it's considered literate now to know terms like dryad, argonaut, rosy-fingered dawn.

***

I really am too tired to continue. I need to do my EFM reading (I think this is in my car) and even heavier, tonight I'm doing my spiritual autobiography. Out loud. Twenty or thirty minutes. One of the possible themes is 'intellectual history' or some such, but that sounds very dry; another is 'relationships.' A couple of people so far have been quite tranparent. My story, I think, will blow the windows out of that little room. I don't know how much to say (my wife is present, along with a bunch of half-strangers) but knowing me, I'll say plenty. Hey, any chance to let it out!

Wish me luck.


Peace to all.

Troy

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Emerson

Tonight my Aunt B, the one from Sedona that we so enjoyed staying with last spring, came to my mom's house. My mom, for the last couple years, has only lived about 40 minutes from me in a town more remote than mine. I see her a handful of times a year, usually, though last time I was up I did interact and try to engage her which I knew she wanted. It was hard, truthfully, and even harder later in the day as my feelings came flooding. Aunt B is visiting her and she went to dinner with us and came by our house tonight. It was great to see her, and it made my mom easier to be around. They are very different women.

Now S is going to sleep and Mikey too and, as usual, I'm cramming for work.

***

I wasn't a good student as an undergrad, not until my last year or year and a half. I had a horrific anxiety disorder then, ocd over which I had no control, and panic attacks, generalized anxiety...I had that whole chapter in the DSM pretty much. For some reason being in school, going to class, even taking the bus to school, shot my anxiety through the ceiling. I have never taken the time to wonder why this was. It got so bad I dropped out; luckily got a medical withdrawal which wiped out two semesters of F's and Unauthorized Incompletes.

There was this wierd self-destruct mechanism at work in my academics. Even in high school, I was a mediocre student until I discovered literature, ended up in an A. P. Brit. Lit. class which really wasn't that tough, earned A's on everything, then failed to do the final research paper and got a C in the course. In college, I'd not attend class for weeks at a time, not buy the textbooks...at least one time I went to the bookstore to find they'd already been sent back...not attend finals; I remember having to look up where a class was so I could drop by in, say, November. It had been so long since I'd been I didn't know the room.

This is all very sad now. I wasn't partying, surfing, skiing, humping, doing whatever a guy my age could do for anti-academic pasttimes. I was just too scared to be on the campus. Too self-destructive to do my own work. Once I was in the library with a bunch of other people from my fraternity 'studying' for finals and I wasn't doing a damned thing. This girl I knew was writing a paper on a Frost poem and needed help. Instead of doing my own work, I helped her write the paper. I remember one line still. She was writing about the Frost poem "Design," about the spider, and I dictated to her 'death, the most disruptive of all human events.' She used that line later in a campus paper article.

Not that it was a great line, but the point is I was imploding, self-hating, doing someone else's work and not caring for my own needs. One day I went back to school and trotted in to the Chair's office (back when I thought chairs were important people in English departments) and told him I wanted to be an English major. Great, he said. He pulled my file and there were the grades: American Drama: F. British Literature: U (just like an F). A stack of those. When he asked me why I had these grades I told him my story, or a little of it, and he said, 'some people jump off buildings, some people walk across the freeway with their eyes closed, you don't go to finals or attend class.' He was right.

From then on I got straight A's. For a year and a half of undergrad, and all through my graduate work until I got some stupid class in rhetorical theory (teaching composition, ironically) my final semester and my depression and senioritis and old need to not be perfect was kicking in. Depression, not anxiety. I got a B there. But I was the oustanding graudate student in English for my year; got a medal from the President and everything. I got a certificate too, and the sad thing is I have no idea where it is, even where my diploma is.

You know, my first major depression hit in June of 90. I had just started graduate school. I finished in May 92. I got all those A's while flailing for my own survival.

But I meant to talk about my undergrad years here. You see, I never read Emerson. There were a lot of people I never read because I wasn't attending my survey courses. I'd squeak by with a C, or worse, fail and retake them for a C. Hence I missed lots of education, in English and elsewhere. I spend plenty of time these days making it up.

I bashed Emerson a bit in my last post. I hadn't read more than a quarter of Nature at the time. I suppose he felt like a self-absorbed party guest yacking by the icechest; there was something bout his tone that I couldn't stand at first meeting. That has changed. Now that I've finished Nature I have to stagger back in awe: here is a philosophic idealism, deeply optimistic, very Platonic, actually quite complex and hypnotically profound. There's plenty of philosophy I haven't read, but this is one of the most remarkable essays I've seen. Maybe in time my opinion will change, but the empirical matter-only ghost that howls in my soul has been hushed for now. Emerson's idealism is so poignant, his stress on the mental phenomenon so persuasive, artistic, seductive...wow. That's about as good as I can come to a response. Wow.

Do his ideas play out in the real world? I don't think it would matter for him as long as they played out for him the individual. That answer I don't have. I've been interested in Thoreau for years, used to teach the first 80 or so pages of Walden, the essay called "Economy," in composition classes. But I never ventured further into American transcendentalism. Sure, it's the Romantic movement in American Literature, though I don't think any British document tops Nature. It has been many years since I read Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. Emerson's genius, his ability to take other philosphies and coalesce them into his own, cannot be denied. He could write more clearly, in a linear and exemplified fashion, but then that might undermine his world-view.

Whatever, it's no easy piece but worth the effort. I don't think I could have understood it as a college student; I barely understand it now and I find myself making notes in the margins when he's drawing on Plato, Phillip Freneau, responding to the matter-distrust so prevelant in gnosticism and many Eastern sects, using Descartes, a quasi-Buddhist enlightenment, and something very like postmillenialism. I'm sure I missed the bulk of it, too. But even though his ideas are abstract, they are lovely. I've thought about philosopohic idealism for years, since I found Plato, the belief that mental states are more real than matter, but I haven't seen anyone take it as far as Emerson and tie the whole thing back into the beauty of the woods.

Oddly enough, twenty years back, this was one of my most wicked obsessions, that the things I saw in the outside world were not real and that I'd act on that belief, fail to reach out for a pencil tossed to me, or not grasp a doorknob, and hence be mad, completely broken from the world around me, insane and overwhelmed in my delusional belief. The fact that delusions don't work like that was something I didn't know for a long time. My obsessions felt very real, quite a part of me, at the same time that they felt terrifyingly crazy, or deadly, or catastrophic, for many years, even, taking the widest view of my OCD, for more than two decades. From 18 to 24 or so de-realization (a clinical term for this feeling of unreality) followed me around like a waxing and waning cloud, beaten back only by xanax or radical distraction. It was the horror ridden heart of my ocd long before I'd heard that obsessions weren't madness. Now to be able to listen to Emerson's idealism, drawn from Berkeley and Plato but much richer, a theistic, Nature-based idealism like none I've seen, to breathe in those ideas without terror or fear, without disease, is very moving.

For to see Nature as phenomenal, primarily mental in its construction, yet supporting, sustaining, nurturing, utterly anthrocentric, emanating God and spirit and truth and beauty...what a way to live.

I suppose this post will appeal to the few who might also like Emerson, or maybe the zero since I have few readers anyway and the chances of finding an Emerson fan are slim, but may I suggest you try a paragraph or two from the essay? If Emerson's right, you won't need much philosophical baggage to get to the heart of his idea. Me, I need much more time to work through him. Better yet, get into the woods or near the sea and dream.

I wonder what happened to Transcendentalism, to his own philosophy in his life? Did it sustain him the way traditional faiths have done for so long or did he lose confidence in it? Suppose I'll find out as I continue teaching him. Tomorrow I actually have someone visiting my class (the English chair, hah, though I like the new one) so I hope I can make some coherent sense out of this mystic sea of electric abstraction.

Thanks for listening gang. This was a wierd post, I know, but it's what I needed to say. Back to Faust now that E is out of the way for the moment.

Troy

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Hard Day's Night

Yeah, work.

It's almost midnight, I can't sleep yet though I took benedril two hours ago, and why? Work. This semester I just haven't been able to catch up for more than maybe a day, then slam, I know I'm behind again. Or I'll get caught up in my online classes and realize I have to read for my lit courses or prep for my grammar class and it's the end of the day and I'm beat...it's been the toughest semester I've had since moving north. Our writing lab was disbanded in favor of a basic grammar class and instead of being less work or a reasonable parity it's been tons more effort even though the students are awesome, wonderful people. Plus, some of the books I picked for Honors and some of the readings in Am. Lit. are very hard...no wonder I never read Emerson's Nature. He's the genius Joseph Campbell. A deconstructionist dream, non-linear, highly abstract, in places circular, do I smoke a contradiction or is it just the bizarre diction...a spell-weaving writer and a swell guy, sure, but one of the strangest collections of philosophies I've ever seen compiled in one place. In short, along with Faust, hard as shit to teach.

Those of you who read know that last semester was not easy for me at work, and now this semester is even tougher. As I've probably said, I'm being evaluated, whatever that means to someone with tenure (and huge ego wounds). I know I'm a good teacher, some days better than that, but it feels like only I hit my stride from time to time in each class and many days I'm scrambling. Am I too hard on myself? Yes. Am I also behind? Yes. Should I have not taught two summer classes and prepped my butt off instead? Yes. Do I like frantic work like some seem to? No. I hate it. Business does not equal value.

On another note, Steph and I continue to grow, therapy has been good as usual lately, and my EFM class looks promising, perhaps a place during the week where I can draw and not feel drawn on, or so I hope. While many things are good (like the gorgeous, cold-air arrival of a mountain fall) many things feel like complete crap right now. I don't know how the new chair will respond to my old schedule deal; the last one clearly didn't like it. I should find out soon though as she's on my committee and I've had to request classes for fall and she does the schedule. Now that I reflect, I think I even messed up my schedule request.

Sleep has been hard for a while now, probably in significant part from coming off several months of valium. My pain is gone most of the time, the muscle pain I was taking it for, but without that med slamming me to sleep each night I'm struggling. Then, of course, work floods my mind.

I admit I'm glad to read Emerson and Faust (again) and be able to get paid to do so, but this is just one of those awful, awful terms where I never feel like my feet aren't slipping, where traction moments are quite brief.

But as I said, moving disjointedly, things are better at home and I feel going very strong with my son; I needed to make some changes there and they do seem to be happening. I prayed for my family about three days ago, this from a man who never prays and simply felt compelled to actually kneel and do it the old-fashioned way, found myself, oddly, praying for protection, spiritual protection, for my wife and son, fervently for twenty or so minutes. Then many things came to awareness, many through Steph and I getting into a fight: we not only handled the fight better than before, ever probably, but also I saw areas I needed to change with Mike.

For all this I am grateful.

Well, before I throw out any more paragraphs lacking unity or coherence I better split the webwaves. This feels like Pascal's Pensees (sp?) Sincere thanks to all for letting me toss out this very real share. Thanks KMJ for what you said below. I am a chronic thinker, yes, an idea chain-smoker, many times I wish I could simply sleep! At least my insomnia moves in stages, comes and goes.

Spritual warfare? It may be very real. Lately it has felt so. If that is the case, then I really have nothing to worry about ever. As I change spiritually I find huge difficulties suddenly shoved in my face so I can hardly breathe, often old issues that have been dormant, but then I, S and I too, grow past it. So whatever is happening, I'm changing and growing in ways I used to only hope for. Is life nirvana? No, and knowing that is a pretty big step in itself. Learning to embrace all of life and all the parts of my loved ones, eventually even all the parts of myself, it's a powerful process and a slow one, but it's happening for me.

Be well gang. I hate to 'hang up' but I really have to try and sleep and I think the antihistamine is beginning to help. I've done my Faust/Emerson reading for tonight. You know, Emerson really bought into Berkeley's whole esse est percipi (if I can remember the latin): to be is to be perceived. Matter, Nature, the metaphysical world, only exists when it is perceived by mind. That old philosophical problem, the tree falling in the woods, should be taxing enough to put us all, including myself, to sleep. Or I could think about My Left Foot which I just saw for the first time: I thought I had challenges.

Peace and more focused content another time,

Troy