Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Franz and Father

While I'm not making some comparison to the Dalai Lama dynamic, Franz Kafka died in June of 1924; six months later my father was born. It was a type of continuation of Kafka's legacy; I mean it to compliment both Franz and my father.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Journal Sanctity Revisited

Journal Sanctity Revisited

Sunday morning my 12-year-old was leaving momentarily for Scout camp and remembered that he needed notebook paper for an essay he was to write; his crisis became mine. What did I have to give him, given the time? Would he accept pages from my new journal? Yes. Here was the problem: the binding on this journal was good and it took me some time to figure how to tear the pages. Also, I didn't like this desecrating feeling; removing even blank pages seemed wrong (this was a good journal). He was on his way, though, and I shall not miss the pages, torn from the back. Once again, though, a journal had been in a measure violated, and the questions persist: Why do I give of myself and then begrudge the giving? Why does "saying 'no'" sound so cliché, feel so vicious, but saying "yes," so unappealing? Why is the giving, even of unmarked pages (signifying future commitment?), a sacrifice? Why is what I mostly and always have to give most personal?

I should simply have been happy that I had something to give, and that it had been very much a symbol of myself: poetry, possibility, and commitment to an examined life.

This morning I wanted to write an affirming letter to someone; appropriate paper lacking (or so I thought), I removed journal pages again. Perhaps this act was softened, made more do-able, by having first given pages to my son. Ah, a self-sacrifice. But was it really? It was the beginning of one, but a bit too abrupt.

I didn't give the letter--perhaps the expression was for me; it was too fast, too much of the moment, perhaps; affirming, I hoped, to the intended recipient, but really more about needing affirmation--and I fear--defense of myself. Having written this letter on journal paper causes me to think on journals more: journals are practices for social expression; with thought and drafting, I can make a letter that is truly affirming and truly for the other. I had better get some tape and replace the pages (sorry, no acid free tape here).

To the degree that art is not just for its sake (Toni Morrison has discounted "art for art's sake"); to the degree that examining the life makes it more worth living (for whom? For all, I should hope); to the degree that a journal is sometimes hygienic and therefore a personal concern with a personal as well as public purpose; to that degree, a journal is a private endeavor that should maintain its own confidentiality and integrity, preparing our minds and words and world views to live well with other.

Private intentional writing, whether or not we intend it to be so, is social, for it influences our vision of ourselves and others. We cannot escape the other-effects of any of our choices, including, very much, our word choices.

Myra's Mother

Yesterday morning I met Myra; after finding out that I was an English teacher, she asked if I corrected my own children's grammar. Yes, I said; me/I subject/object was a big one. She told me how her mother was very tight with her and her siblings' grammar. Was Myra's mother an English teacher? No, she said; the grammar impulse came because Myra was one of eleven children, and her mother did not want anyone to think her children were uneducated because they were so numerous.

Let me tell you; any woman has many children is by no means a careless hick; she is deliberate and gifted, and faced with the de facto social obligation to be better than the normal in order to avoid double criticism: the first, that she is fecund, the other that she is irresponsible.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Journal Sanctity?

My personal journal is missing, and I suspect a certain charming four-year-old has hijacked it. He has already made his own entries in it, with my tacit permission, but this morning I have something to say and the journal is gone. Maybe there is a metaphor here, a lesson, about identity and expression, about boundaries and quality of life, thought, and words. Here are the questions:

1. If the four-year old's entries are probably more wholesome and affirming than my own, and he makes better use of my privacy than I do, is he more entitled to it?

2. Could the four-year-old's entries be the redeeming of the book?

3. If I do not write personally and guard my personal expression, will I lose it?

4. What is the loss if a record is faulty and fierce?

5. Some boundary setting is permitted; if I allow people to invade the boundary through laxness or generosity and then begrudge it, am I not blameworthy for the loss?

6. What is the point of these questions?

I have a blank journal that I could start over in again. Maybe it's time to write a better life.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Stinking Zossima

In my wend through Brothers Karamazov, Zossima has just died and his untimely decomposition has caused criticism and alarm (saints were not supposed to decompose, and many considered Zossima en route to sainthood). Alyosha is most alarmed, but Ivan has prepared him for this crisis of faith, in a way, with the story of the Grand Inquisitor, in which Christ calls upon men to love him freely rather than on the basis of mystery, authority, and miracle. Does Alyosha realize this? Perhaps.

I read late to see Alyosha through his crisis of faith; I wanted to see him not give up, and I was not disappointed. It was wonderful to see how Dostoyevsky had Zossima's body perform a miracle by doing the "wrong thing," for it lead Alyosha to Grushenka (the prostitute) in desperation, but while there his grief and love saved him and, equally importantly, removed his aversion to/fear of Grushenka and found him seeing her authentically as a daughter of God despite her failings. In addition, she had a changed view of self, though not perhaps as profound as Alyosha's.

Brothers Karamazov is slow and rich reading, like poetry.