26 November 2007

Of Thanksgivings and Of Turkeys

Yes, once again in the air. But this time I can’t really tell which is the louder, the noise of the jet engine or the snorting of the snorer behind me. I know, I know, there is no way to control snoring when one is already asleep, but somehow the noise of the snorer enters my space uninvited and offensively. It pisses me off, actually.

Headed to a Home for the Holidays Thanksgiving. It’s a conflicted visit with some anticipated reunions and some unwelcome events.

Dylan says, “Everybody’s moving, if they ain’t already there, everybody’s got to move somewhere.” There is some truth to his statement: even Thoreau kept heading off on expeditions and adventures—I think his term for his occupation was to be a purveyor of huckleberries. But lately, I have traveled too, too far, and have lost my bearings. I don’t seem to be able to settle--the writing moves along, but in fits and starts—like the traveling. Getting up and sitting down, everybody moving, if they ain’t already there. Or am I just restless myself, and incapable at this time to sit with the writing for any extended period of time.

Reading Wayne Booth’s autobiography, My Many Selves: The Quest for a Plausible Harmony. I respect that title--that is what an autobiography might be—and at least he acknowledges the original and often conflicting split; and the writing of the autobiography as an attempt to create a “plausible” harmony--one that makes sense. Of course, it assumes that a harmony that can be created has a reality. But finally, the harmony is only a fiction. I wonder what it is that sees the self without rents and cracks, and assumes a harmony. Or perhaps the adjective ‘plausible’ acknowledges the conflicts and asserts the singular Self as creative fabrication.

The concept of leaking assumes serious cracks and rents; indeed, a sense of health depends on them. If there were no egress the whole would explode.

Returning to family returns me to unacknowledged—repressed—pasts with no opportunity or companionship to study them. All these feelings and attitudes erupt like Vesuvius, and like Vesuvius, these feelings and memories freeze and smother the present. I think this was in Adam Phillips: as long as memories stay buried, they do not change—but then, behaviors built on them don’t change either. Perseveration. Compulsive obsessions. Reenactments with no consciousness of the original act.

Once they are unearthed, however, these memories begin to decay, and then, they are, if not inaccurate, then certainly unreliable, and so what hope for self-awareness and insight.

In the air (sigh!) on return. Daughter One remained behind. It is hard to leave a child behind because I leave a not insignificant apart of myself behind as well. That is, when I leave the daughter behind, I give up the role of her father as it exists when she we are contiguous, and now I have to reinvent myself without her. Yes, I miss her, but I guess I miss me, too. I seems to me at times that life is a constant process of reinvention, achieved with more and less difficulty and success. One of the advantages of consistency is that the necessity for reinvention is minimized--every day I go to the same office, teach the same students in the same classroom the same materials as I worked with last semester.

13 November 2007

Priorities? Who would such fardels bear?

Here is the news report from the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush on Tuesday signed a big increase in the Pentagon's non-war budget, and vetoed a spending measure for health and education programs prized by congressional Democrats.
The president's action was announced on Air Force One as Bush flew to Indiana for a speech expected to criticize the Democratic-led Congress on its budget priorities.
The $471 billion defense budget gives the Pentagon a 9 percent increase, roughly $40 billion.

I read this news item just before class today. The class towards which I was headed was Foundations of Education. And what should I tell them today?
Actually I would tell them this: the President’s action today--which I suspect will be supported by the craven and immoral members of Congress (a redundancy certainly called for here)--contradicts everything they will learn about education and about their roles as teachers. George Bush defeated them before they began!

Personally, I think he does it just to annoy me. What other reason could there be for such blatant stupidity? I have students who would be too embarrassed to use such logic to explain their behavior. There are children who have more sense than our fearful leader. My thirteen year old loves Hannah Montana, who, thankfully, has more principles than the entire Bush administration possesses.

My thirteen year old sees the absurdity in Bush’s action, and the stupidity of his actions. The hypocrisy of George W. Bush threatens the educational system of the United States; the hypocrisy of George W. Bush teaches better and more perniciously than all the brave teachers who must subsist in the schools Bush will not fund. George W. Bush and his evil pack are more dangerous than all the terrorists he can’t protect us from because he is so ignorant. We live in very dangerous times because George W. Bush is the President of the United States of America. Today, the greatest enemy of the United States is our government headed by George W. Bush and his merry band of hateful women and men. I hold them all in contempt. They are contemptible.

10 November 2007


I am always a bit surprised when someone asks of me a favor. Of course, first I am always taken aback that someone would actually request something—anything—of me. Somehow, this demand seems like an ill-mannered strategy to impose a burden on someone else. I know, I know, this feeling is all about me and nothing about the real world. I know, I know, we live in this world together, and for survival must (even relievedly and happily) depend on each other. Clearly, somewhere and somehow I learned that it is bad form, if not bad behavior, to ask anyone to do anything for me, even if what must be accomplished is not at all possible for me to do. Should I bee brash enough to ask someone to do something for me? And admit some need and inadequacy and dependence? Hah, not likely!

On the other hand, the shock of the request derives not only from the request, but from the idea that someone actually thinks well enough of me to ask for the favor in the first place. To ask of me a favor speaks of some confidence in me, which surpasses even that which I have in myself.

And yet, paradoxically, I have grown into a philosophy which commands others to command me. I want to be made responsible that I can grow in my responsibility.

Ask me for a favor? The nerve!!

Ask me for a favor!! Please?

05 November 2007

Parents Weekend

There are these scripts that I carry about in my mind, scenes of some dozen or sixteen lines which have been inserted and which I could speak. And those scripts are rarely serviceable in my real life. They don’t work. I could speak the part, but the lines aren’t mine, and truthfully, I can’t get anybody else to inhabit the roles and speak the speech I pray them speak.

Here we are at parents weekend, and I didn’t see any parents. I didn’t see anything. I spent the time with my family, Family Weekend an alternative title for these three days. Did go to the movies several times: Martian Child and Dan in Real Life, the first somewhat interesting and the second not at all. Our dinners were pleasant and delicious, and conversation was active and engaging.

I am reminded that Parents Weekend is designed by the college to make parent visits possible, especially for parents whose children are first year students and who have been away from home for the first time and for a long time now. Thus, colleges have to design activities to keep the parents busy, and so there are concerts, plays, lectures and talks, but really, why would I want to sit quietly when I could be actively participating with my daughter. I didn’t come for enlightenment; I came to see my child.

So we are at the airport too early on Monday morning, heading back to our real lives. Of concerts, lectures and plays. And, of course, movies.

02 November 2007

Into the Air Again

Once again, in the air. For most of the past several weekends I have traveled someplace by plane. I have renewed my membership in the Silver Elite cadre. I get to enter the plane right after the first class passengers and right before everyone else. I feel completely ungrounded. And there is one more trip yet to make—New York for Thanksgiving.

I have been on this flight before; I recognize the flight attendants. I suppose it never crossed my mind that even flight attendancy has a routine all its own, and that most mornings, these workers arise and head to the office not unlike the rest of us. Their offices tend to move at 500 miles per hour and move through space miles above the ground, but the office veritably (veritably: able of truth) remains the same day-to-day. And the responsibilities hardly vary: admit paying passengers, organize the cabin, deliver instructions, serve beverages, clean-up, and organize the debarking. And then on to the next city, or the same city, and the same routine until tomorrow, when it all begins again. It is our modern day, and today I ascribe much of the nightmare to Frederick Taylor and scientific management, the system which seems to have colonized the world, not unlike those pods in Invasions of the Body Snatchers. Everybody wonders about efficiency, worries about efficiency, as if the greatest sin in our time is to be unproductive, to engage in a frivolous, non-utilitarian act. To waste time. As if time isn’t mine to do with it what I would. As if there is some accounting system which will tally and evaluate my use of time

I am guilty myself of this neurosis. I rationalize by saying that I am being responsible; but I wonder sometimes if this busy-ness isn’t all an attempt to avoid myself. Thoreau quips that the man who exits the post office with the greatest number of letters has almost certainly not heard from himself in a long while.I often do forget the sound of my own voice. I suffer a fear of non-productiveness, and I surround myself with books and papers and music devices and journals. I hide behind my efforts. I am never far from an activity, but always on the verge of neurotic terror of idleness. Too often I leave the post office with too many letters. Certainly I accumulate too many catalogs.