Words from the heart. Vulnerability without pretense. Passionate gushings forth of the soul. These things have lately comforted me. I found an uncharacteristic entry in Thoreau's journals, where he expresses his vulnerability, and his lack of courage to face it. Though written in his private journal, I find it very admirable. I read the passage several times, as I often do with my own writing, trying to extract all the feelings the words could possibly evoke. February 10, 1852: "Now if there are any who think I am vainglorious, that I set myself up above others and crow over their low estate, let me tell them that I could tell a pitiful story respecting myself as well as them, if my spirits held out to do it; I could encourage them with a sufficient list of failures, and could flow as humbly as the very gutters themselves; I could enumerate a list of as rank offenses as ever reached the nostrils of heaven; that I think worse of myself than they can possibly think of me, being better acquainted with the man. I put the best face on the matter. I will tell them this secret, if they will not tell it to anybody else." Though I'm sure my list of failures is very remarkable, I'm not sure my spirits hold out to share them even with myself, and so they hide deeper, and come out as subtle self-loathing.
It excites me when I find random connections with Thoreau that allow me to relate to him more personally. I was delighted when he wrote about kittens. Those adorable little creatures that I so love were part of Thoreau's life too! Thoreau also mentions what we call "spooning," though he calls it, "lying in spoon-fashion." People used to cuddle in the ninteenth century! Why does this amuse me? I can't explain why. Kittens and cuddling, two wonderful things I wouldn't immediately associate with the ninteenth century, and there they are! Little nonsensical things like this make me think about the wonderful world we live in.
I browse some of my older entries, and it strikes me that I used to have so much to say. My diary used to be a good record of my thoughts (if not always my emotions), and who I was becoming, and I never worried that my ideas and opinions weren't conclusive and would surely change. Consistency is, after all, "the hobgoblin of little minds." I worried about writing boring and awkward prose, but I still wrote. I still made an effort. Now I'm full of uncertainties. I rarely post an entry on the day it was written. I thought I'd have come a little further than this, that I'd be a little more certain of what I believe, that I'd be able to say by now, with confidence, "I know something." Yet I don't know anything, and I don't know how to begin to know something. The writers' proverb, "write what you know," has never helped me much. I comfort myself thinking that I'm like Derrick Jensen -- that my twenties are a time of relearning everything I thought I knew, even relearning how to think -- and by the time I'm thirty, things will make a little more sense.
I thought by now I'd have gotten over the torment I suffered in high school. After all this time, a part of me still wonders, every time I meet someone, if they're the sort of person who would have pulled my pants down in high school. Everyone else seems to get stronger. College erases high school pains. They learn to trust that people the people they meet today are different than those who hurt them before. Except for me. I can't do it. Sometimes I will just know someone is trustworthy, and all my barriers come right down, maybe more than they should. I don't know why that happens. Usually, though, trusting is difficult. I'm no less sensitive than I ever was, and I want to outgrow that! In some ways I've grown. Occasionally strangers will shout or laugh at me just to be cruel, or because I stand out (wearing something weird, or riding my scooter), and now I mostly shrug it off. I get plenty of compliments from nice people. I no longer waste my day brooding over someone who chooses to laugh at me. But in my worst fears, they laugh. They know my Achilles heel and strike me there. No hero comes to rescue me. We don't escape together, to the mythic forest paths of my dreams, victorious in friendship, and stronger than the world. They just hurt me. All of them. And I give up. My sweetest dream is a birthday party, one thrown by friends who care about me, and who I can rely on to continue caring about me, though I'm nothing but me. "Perhaps the most perfect friendship in the world is one that doesn't ask for anything," wrote Anaïs Nin, in her early journals.
I've been reading Nin's journals, and Thoreau's, written in very different styles. I read journals as works of art, as the records of living, growing people, and find inspiration in that. I used to think my journal could be a work of art. I wonder how many ideas in me are yearning for expression. I wonder what, if anything, I have in me that's unique. My ideas are confused now; I'm not sure I have a clear enough view of anything to express what's deep inside me. I censor myself too much, and wonder what might come out if I just wrote. I tell myself not to write until I've learned enough -- about writing, about life -- and then I'll be blessed with understanding, finally wise enough to write. But I know that's not true. I'm more likely to find understanding if, rather than instinctively withdrawing into myself, I act, and actually get involved in the world rather than withdrawing into my own mind. It goes against my impulse, but I need to stop pondering, waiting for inspiration, hoping the next book I read will provide the missing puzzle piece, but simply act. (Maybe not "simply" -- I have no idea how). I need to pick up the Fool and the Magician, though I crave the Hermit and the High Priestess. This is typical of Enneagram type fours, which I'm pretty sure I am, though the type description doesn't completely fit: "Fours typically never feel that they are sufficiently 'together,' but they must nevertheless have the courage to stop putting off their lives. Even if you start small, commit yourself to doing something that will bring out the best in you."
I used to think that the mere sharing of my thoughts might be helpful to somebody; that just by reading the course of my thoughts, as expressed in writing, someone might figure something out about life. Now I doubt my thoughts could ever be an inspiration to anybody. Maybe that's not quite true... just the other day, come to think of it, a friend told me I inspire her. She seems to find comfort in things I write even if I come to consider them pointless, expendable, much like many of the entries I've tried to write, but later scrapped. Maybe I should write such foolish (Foolish) confused ponderings with a little more confidence. I wish I inspired myself! I wish I knew I was beautiful. I wish others saw it, too.
I'm impatient. I read philosophical treatises -- or try to read them -- and I see little or nothing worth bothering with, because life is too short! I find so many other books, highly admired by some, but I can't find any life in them. I don't have a patient enough eye for beauty. I fear superfluity in my own writing (and in life). I fear insignificance. I fear needless complexity. Now, especially, I fear superficiality; and I want to bear my soul and everything in it, but I don't know how. Had I written some of the things many respected published writers have written -- and these includes those writers I myself have utmost respect for -- I'd probably think, "What's the point of this?" Does that mean I'm not a writer? I just find life too short for superfluity and insignificance. Show me meaning, show me the very marrow of life, show me something that makes me mad to live. "The only ones for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the skies and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes awwwww!..." That is poetry. I probably say little that's not commonplace, and I often yawn, but if you knew my soul's true longing, you'd see nothing suits me better. I used to think writing was magical, that a good love poem might cause the earth to virate as a harp, that a really good one might shatter the supersymmetry of the entire universe. That's what it should do.
Derrick Jensen is an incredible writer. Everything he writes is so clear, so passionate, so uniquely himself, and when he tells his writing classes that everything they write must be such that reading it would be preferable to sex, he means it. Here's something he says about writing: "There are a hundred people inside each of us who can write. There's the bitter old man, and the lonely woman. The happy old woman or man tired but satisfied with life. The ecstatic young man, the gleeful little girl. The angry woman. They all have strong opinions, and they're all inside each one of us. Unfortunately, the only one who can't write is the one we wear on our faces all the time. The polite one. The bland one. The one who wants approval. The one who wants a grade. The one who hedges every strong opinion, every strong impulse. The one that can't write worth a damn."
I was in Boston recently, strolling around Downtown Crossing and the common, thinking about what a lively place the city is every time I visit. I was given three free granola bars in the course of a few minutes. A homeless man in the common was politely wishing all passers-by a good morning. I wore my cowboy hat, and a man asked me if I was from Texas. He happened himself to be from Texas, and he happened to be one of those passing out granola bars, an act of giving, evangelical work for a local church. We talked for a while. He was focused on Christianity as an active practice, as doing rather than merely believing, as bringing love into the lives of others through hospitality and goodwill. Though I like to get to know people, and find out about their lives, I'm terrible at sharing my own beliefs, especially with those I fear won't understand (which happens a lot, since I'm such an eccentric person). So, in the conversation, I tried to focus on common ground: our mutual love of the gospels, a desire to share with others. I told him about the passion, the je ne sais quois that I saw in him, and he said he could see the same in me. He somehow got the idea that I would be a good preacher. We seemed to find a lot of common ground, but I feared our differences would set us apart. The love and caring I saw in him, I thought, was genuine, but I still couldn't get myself to express my true feelings (or, at least, not all of them). I was guarded, and very obviously so, when he asked me about my philosophy of life. I fear more conflict than I can handle, and I fear being shot down. I think if I tried to express myself, I'd fail to do justice to my beliefs, and end up feeling like a failure. I wish I knew how to be confident and myself in such situations. I wish I had asked him: Why does it matter that we accept Jesus in name -- or become proper Christians -- when many people live and spread the spirit of Jesus who are not, and never will be, proper Christians? If people of different faiths can be equally certain of the rightness of their path, and can be equally transformed, why not celebrate our differences? I don't know how he would have responded to these questions. We prayed together, and I parted.
Nothing I tried to do in Boston worked out, and besides that, I found out conclusively (I'd suspected) that the beloved bookshop Avenue Victor Hugo is closed. Perhaps the bookhop, of all bookshops, that gave me a Neverending Story vibe -- so many books stacked right to the ceiling -- is gone. All those wonderful books, there must be some magic about some of them! I wonder where they make their homes now. The Lucy Parsons Center, where I hoped to find a good history of anarchy (the Spanish Civil War and such), was supposed to open at noon, but I waited there till about 12:30, and still no one arrived. Obviously unwelcome in Boston, I took off for Salem. I was specifically hoping to find some nice renaissance garb at the Fool's Mansion, and I was lucky to find a nice pirate shirt that fit me for $45. I love it. The Fool's Mansion is the only place I know of, unfortunately, that's not a renaissance faire, where I find a decent array of period clothing ("Gothic, Renaissance, and Victorian"), or any for that matter, although most of it happens to be for women. I walked around various bookshops and magical supply shops for a while. Not one of them compares with Taproot right here in Worcester, although Salem is a great place to find a splendid array of pagan-oriented consignments. It was a beautiful day and I sat for a while along Derby Wharf before eating dinner at Salem Beer Works. I was most disappointed with my meal -- Spinach and Artichoke dip -- and I wouldn't have eaten it if I didn't pay $7. Nothing like Asheville's. The blueberry beer wasn't that great either. What I'd expected, was a deliciously creamy, even juicy, distinctively blue beer filled with berries. What I got was an average tasting brown beer with perhaps a slight taste of blueberry, and a few whole blueberries at the bottom of the glass. If that's what blueberry beer is like, I am sorely disappointed. I was really happy with my find though -- the pirate shirt -- and I think it looks great on me!
Last month in Las Vegas I finally bought the cowboy hat I'd been longing for... except, a better one -- it cost me about $60. Now there are a number of things on my wishlist. Though my priorities seem to change, right now, at the top of the list is a pair of roguish lace-up leather trousers (when they lace, you just can't call them pants!) of good quality and hopefully at a reasonable price. I'd like a nice suede vest, too. Together that would be awesome! Maybe I'll sell my kilt... leather is more fun... wait, a leather kilt! Nah. It might be useful to have a low-maintinance short kilt, but right now, kilts just aren't doing it for me. The roguish look is more appealing. I'd like a pair of good leather boots or rubber gillies... a tie-dye shirt (that totally screwed up your train of thought, didn't it?)... and not an article of clothing, per se, but hair braids. I haven't had a haircut since December, so it's slowly coming along. I rarely think in terms of outfits, but mostly, in terms of particular items that I'd like to have, even though I'd spend a thousand dollars and still end up looking like a dork.
I've been drawn lately to people who are like me, or people who are INFPs, who have something to teach me about living in the world as an INFP. I feel a sense of camaraderie with fellow INFPs. It's nice to understand and to feel understood, since that's such a rare special feeling. I recently finished Helen Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, which I found to be a wonderful read, and very inspiring. She was the sweetest girl, and throughout the book I found myself wishing we could have been friends. It's much how I felt when I read Anne of Green Gables, or (much less so) when I watched Amelie, except Helen Keller really lived, and save fourteen years, we would be contemporaries. Helen even wrote that she wished she had more friends like... well, like me... who were up to having ponderous discussions about poetry and literature and life. I'll write more about her book, too -- there's so much to talk about! Sometimes I feel that friendship transcends time, that I have friends in the past and future, though we've never physically met. Helen Keller, Amelie, Anne of Green Gables, all undoubtedly INFPs. Bastian in the Neverending Story, also a likely INFP. Anaïs Nin is likely INFP, though I haven't read enough to rule out INFJ, and her alter personality, Miss Linotte, is most definitely INFP. I'm trying to come up with a list of INFPs because I think the standard one is too short. Pope John Paul II is very likely one. Hamlet. And, from what I've heard, the heroine in Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. I have bought a copy, and plan to read soon. It looks fun -- and fun to read aloud! -- this particular translation by Charles Johnston:
Now Latin's gone quite out of flavour;
yet, truthfully and not in chaff,
Onegin knew enough to savour
the meaning of an epigraph,
make Juvenal his text, or better
add vale when he signed a letter;
stumblingly call to mind he did
two verses of the Aeneid.
He lacked the slightest predilection
for raking up historic dust
or stirring annalistic must;
but groomed an anecdote-collection
that stretched from Romulus in his prime
across the years to our own time.
I'll write if anything exciting happens, but unfortunately, I don't think that's very likely. Life has been so boring -- save me from banality! (And teach me that banality isn't the evil it seems to be).