New Leaf Journal
New Leaf One
January 24, 1994
Keep The Pages Flowing!
Keep the pages flowing!
Do not stop!
One hour of writing a day.
In the process, I hope to come up with something of value. I want to win people’s love and admiration. A little worship from animals wouldn’t hurt either. After all, they have souls, and, even though they can’t pay mortgages, a little worshipful energy from them wouldn’t hurt.
I feel vulnerable this morning. I feel vulnerable whenever I write. I walk on the edge. I have no idea where my words come from. They seem magical, a gift from above. When I write I seem to disappear; my hands become instruments.
Creation can cease or overwhelm me at any moment. Will the word gifts keep arriving? Must I pray, beg, fall down on my knees? Is sitting at the computer enough?
No one knows how a word is created, much less a sentence, poem, or novel. Yes, I wrote them yesterday, but will I write them again today? Every morning I stand at the edge of a cliff, peering into a new abyss.
I jump. . .and hope I can fly.
Creativity combines creation and destruction. The old must be destroyed before the new can be created. Creativity and security are opposites.
When I write, dancing in the frightening limbo of the ever-hanging present, I destroy my yesterday before I create my tomorrow.
Security is an illusion. There is only the hope for security, the hope that somewhere in a future paradise it will exist for you. Hope for that drives you on, fuels your daily fare.
What a shock to realize that, for the creative individual, security does not exist–and all human beings are creative, though much of their daily creation consists in denying their creativity by searching for security.
Are the dead creative, too? Perhaps, but quietly so.
January 25, 1994
Writing as Transcendence
I’m writing fast. Otherwise my creative process may dry up. Is that possible? Can mere distraction can turn my field commander into a corpse?
Who is creating?
Or is it God through me?
He calls out the words, passes them through my mind, hands, fingertips, and into the computer.
If this is the creative process, then I have nothing to fear. I am simply doing what comes naturally, speaking through the transcendent voice. An eternal whisper haunts my being. Great strength drips down from the transcendent.
But it is difficult to remember, difficult to reconcile. What part of me is transcendent? Right side, left side, front side, backside? Eyes, ears, nose, throat? I think not. The transcendent, my eternal part, is unseen, unheard, beyond touch, taste, and smell. . . even beyond thought. When my material self disintegrates and vanishes in a spasm of death, my transcendent will hover over my corpse, have a good laugh, then move on.
Where it will go? Perhaps it may tour distant planets and galaxies, or vacation on a distant beach in another universe, or move into another body. But I will always be in touch with it through my writing as its words, sentences,and ideas sift through my hands.
Thus, there is no reason to worry, to write fast or slow, to wonder if my creativity will suddenly dry up. How can it? It’s part of the universe.
Even the thought of drying up is part of the universe.
Voice Of My Future
Writing is the most important thing I do, even though it makes no money.
It brings me to higher places, uncovers higher ground.
The sounds of language passing through my mind make me feel just great!
Gifts rain down when I write.
Writing clarifies meaning and purpose. It is a calling. Am I afraid to face it? Wasn’t Moses afraid to face his calling, afraid of the responsibility and burdens of leadership? Finally, he accepted his destiny of his talent and followed his path.
I am ready to follow mine.
Rise each morning. Write your hour! Create your most important hour of the day.
This morning’s voice sounds strange, foreign, wild, yet full of discipline, a cry from the wilderness, a powerful hibernian wind gusting from arctic heights, blowing away old forms and creating a clearing for the new.
Where will writing lead me?
I do not know.
But I will follow the voice of my future.
Falucca Of Perfection
One of the Egyptian mysteries is the remembrance of perfection.
How do you reach perfection?
By walking the broken road of imperfection.
Witness the name of the Nile river boat falucca. I knew the word lay hidden somewhere deep in my memory. Had I waited for it to rise correctly spelled from my memory bank, I would have waited hours. I would never have written a thing. Instead, I fished for the sound, misspelled it again and again. Finally, when the time was right, it rose instantaneously and mysteriously from my inner computer. Then it sprung from my mind and jumped on the page. Perfection!
January 27, 1994
The Nonsense Path
Where does the Nonsense Poad lead?
No one knows.
This unknown path calls me.
Doors can open through the unexpurged writing of nonsense.
But walking the irrataional Nonsense Path cannot be a goal. Goals destroy the path by making sense. Nonsense travels concealed in darkness; it is often the way of disaster, dynamite, and the devil.
But the road leads to Luminescent Land where nonsense brightens the day!
A walk on the Nonsense Path cannot be planned. Best is to unleash the mind. Let it wander through criss cross fields, dig in hidden hills, unearth secret turnips, ostrich eggs, phosphorescent worms, and rocks pitted with gold.
The Nonsense Path often reveals hidden plans behind the world’s apparition.
January 28, 1994
Four Pages A Day
Can I write when I’m drained?
Can I write, then throw away my pages?
I’m trying, oh, Lord, I’m trying! Squeezing, pushing, limping, grimacing, pounding the keyboard, sweating to write my four pages, and thus squeeze out the hour creating my freedom.
Freedom from what?
Freedom from my obligation to write four pages.
Freedom is my burden. Only a magnificent unobstructed flow of verbiage can set me free.
I’m racing through my vocabulary powerhouse. Gray skies outside my window, umbrella people pass my house, huddled in scrumped-up postures, fighting wind, cold, rain, and sleet. They’re going to work. I’m home at my computer, trying to create something of value for I don’t know whom and I don’t know what. Yes, I’m hoping for approval and recognition. When, when? It’s an endless quest. I put in hours every day for forty centuries and still there’ll be no end to commitment. Tied to the Promethean rock, pushing Sisyphusian rock up a hill for no political cause, ontological explanation, or higher purpose. Where is the sanctified road I can walk upon? Vanished. I pour pour, hoping to reach the four-page quota.
Perhaps I’m developing a skill, a looseness, a writing fluidity that will someday do me good. But when? And what kind of good? Am I doomed to write in circles for the rest of my life?
Let me look into this. Is writing in circles so bad? After all, the sun moves in circles; so does the earth; so does the entire solar system. If it’s good enough for them, why shouldn’t it be good enough for me? Perhaps going in circles is the natural way, the best way. Going in circles may be a talent that I never recognized.
For thousands of years mankind has asked: What is the goal of life, its purpose and meaning? Why write, pray, or hope? What about love? I’d love to have a readers poring over my words, telling me what significance and meaning and lofty purpose my writing has had on their lives; I want their respect, love, and admiration. But how long would such admiration satisfy me? Probably five minutes. Maybe more. But not much more. Would it inspire me to keep writing? I doubt it. It’s nice to be loved, respected, and admired, but sadly, it’s not enough to make me write. The writing process has its own magnificence: it’s a subtle brand of torture like a sado-masochistic orgasm that comes from being spanked or whipped. Maybe I like to punish, afflict, and torture myself. Whipping myself brings blood to my beaten cerebellum. A rush of hot blood fills my brain when I write, flooding my mind and brimming over onto the pages. A brain orgasm. My suffering gains importance. It pushes me to have great gasping mental and spiritual orgasms which are rewards in themselves. Next to these orgasmic rewards, the love and admiration I might receive from my audience pales in significance. Why would I want love from my audience when I can have my own orgasms writing? Why should I torture myself for their love when I can torture myself alone and receive the same orgasmic benefits? Sick, you say, sick. Solipsism at its worst. You’re right. I am disgusting, an ego driven maniac, uncaring about others, totally self-involved and thinking only about the glories, benefits, and ecstasies of my own ego. It’s true. Although I follow the Ten Commandments, I really don’t care that much about them. Following them doesn’t lead to any orgiastic ecstasy.
I am creating The Book of Me, Me, Me. Isn’t that immoral, indecent, and selfish? How can I, in good conscience, leave the world to its own miserable devices, forget about the suffering of others and concentrate totally on my own suffering? What about helping others? What about the Golden Rule? What will mother say?
I, I, I, Me, Me, Me: Is this art? Am I drifting further into myself, and ultimately into insanity? If this is insane, it’s not unpleasant. In fact, it is pleasant, bordering on glorious.
I would love to retreat from the world. Wouldn’t I have a safer, happier life just living alone? After all, what could be more entertaining than my own brain?
January 30, 1994
A Sunday Morning Walk Through the Words
Can this existence be serious?
How can anything be serious that dies tomorrow?
Time is an illusion.
I’m giving up my plans. When tomorrow comes, I may not be here to greet it. And “tomorrow” doesn’t mean twenty-four hours. It means next year, five years, fifty years, centuries, millennia, even millions of years of geological time. From seconds to millions of years are only quantitative differences. Qualitatively, time remains an illusion.
How can I break through this illusion?
I am disgusted with the movie screen which my transient human form considers to be reality. I have asked too much of the world. It cannot give me what I want. I am looking in the wrong room for permanence and light.
Why pursue these goals which always lead to disappointment and emptiness?
Sabbath days are days of rest for the contemplation of higher things.
Can this transient body really be all there is to me?
Can the transient bodies of my friends be all there is to them?
Haven’t I know them previously in other forms? If this is so, why worry about money, death, business discouragements, no tour, weekend, or folk dance class cancellations?
What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll die. That’s it. Is that really so bad? Or is living worse? Good questions for a Sunday morning walk through the words.
January 31, 1994
Adventures In The Unknown Continent of Myself
I have nothing new to say.
But I have a refreshing new way of saying it!
Let me begin by repeating my vow to write every day.
Some good days, some bad days; so be it. I have no control over good or bad days. That’s the adventure of it. Instead of knowing every habitual, rust-covered step in advance, I enter the spontaneous process. What can I discover today? Will I find a new adventure in the unknown continent of myself?
Good days, bad days. . . but an hour sitting at my computer is well within my range. Questions of quantity and quality will then take care of themselves.
I May Be Alone, But I Ain’t Lonely
I am never going back to the old days. Never, never, never!
The days of slavery are over. I’d rather die alone, stuck in a hollow carved out of a mountain oak, than return to the bending, twisting, cringing, of constant fear and the pain of other-directed slavery. Sure, I may end up standing alone, but at least I can roar my lions’s roar of freedom.
I may be alone, but I sure ain’t lonely.
Others criticize me. Why listen? Why believe them? If I don’t satisfy them, they complain, criticize, and blame me. Perhaps in a larger cosmic sense, I am partly to blame because of my limitations as a human being. But these limitations are not going to end simply because someone else is dissatisfied. They won’t end even if I’m dissatisfied. Limitations are part of the human condition. Criticism of me is besides the point. I’m going to do what I have to do whether they criticize me or not. So be it.
February 1, 1994
Joy Is All I Have left
Why am I so depressed this morning?
Could it be from the collapse of Greenwich Pharmaceuticals? I bought 1000 shares at 2 1/2. It went to 4, then collapsed to 1 1/16. Now it may well go bankrupt. The same thing happened with Martech. Collapsed from 8 to near bankruptcy. I bought 2500 at 3/4 and it immediately went to 2. Now it’s back to 1, and every day I wonder about bankruptcy. My stocks are doing miserably. No one has registered for my tours in the last three weeks. I’ve had four cancellations. That’s mucho money lost. Only three people have registered for the President’s Day Weekend. My folk dance classes are diminishing–especially Monday night. So business is miserable, too; I’m losing money.
These are all good reasons to be depressed. But they’re not good enough for me. I’ve been through this routine many times before. It’s the nature of business, the nature of life. Vicissitudes–how can I take them seriously? They’re annoying, but they come and go like a will of the wisp. Can a grown man base his happiness on vicissitudes?
My blues are a habit. If I ride the currents of up and down long enough eventually I take them seriously; soon I begin believing they are the only reality. Fear of losing money is a reality. Do I believe in this fear? Not really.
I hate to admit it, but I’m happy!
Do I dare believe it? There’s no other choice. My old habits have been unveiled, and in the harsh light of introspection they simply fall apart. There’s no reason to worry about money unless I’ve got nothing better to do with my mind. Sure, I could lose all any day now, just as I could lose my life. Every living thing is up for grabs, including me. It’s up to God. Whatever He wants.
I asked a person from Ethical Culture if God exists, and she answered, “It’s up to you. It’s your choice.” My choice? What power that gave me–and what insecurity. But the whole thing is ridiculous. Of course God exists. He’s running my fate and deciding my future. I’ll put in my best effort, but nevertheless, I have no control about ultimate things such as death and marketing.
I’m ready for a new habit. Stocks, business, career, money, could all collapse. Let’s not take the ephemeral too seriously. I need something everlasting.
If I give up depression and choose joy, can I stand it? Can I survive happiness? But I see no other choice. Old Man Depression doesn’t fool me anymore. His bite is gone; he’s a shadow of his former self, just another guy hanging around the store waiting for a lift home. Sure, I’ll give him a hand, why not? But to give him all this power? Forget it. That’s over.
The Bible says it’s okay to be joyful; so do the Vedas and yogic writings. The only one who really opposed it was my mother, and my teachers in the first and second grades.
Joyful attitude, joyful life. It’ll be tough challenge. But my old habits have been exposed as frauds. Joy is all I have left.
Land Beyond Recognition
The Land Beyond Recognition is the place to be. It’s where the saints dwell. God has a residence upstairs. It faces a park of eternity and infinity.
The Land Beyond Recognition is not of this world. How can I enter? One foot here, one foot there: a workable compromise. Dual citizenship. The trick is doing–and thinking–two things at once. Perhaps that’s why we have dual organs: two feet, two arms, two eyes, two ears–one for the lower world and one for the upper.
February 2, 1994
I’m opening up a new therapy business. I’m calling it Moe’s Flaw Cleaners.
February 3, 1994
Reading the Future–The Art of Prediction
All my stocks are going up. Up, up, up. I’m an excellent stock picker. Only problem is I sold them long ago. Yes, they were my stocks, but are no longer my stocks. I bought the right companies, but I sold too early. That’s because I couldn’t read the future.
In order to succeed in the stock market I must be able to read the future. How do I predict the future? By visualizing trends. And by using my imagination.
Perhaps I should give up the idea of this journal being literature, and rather think of it as my survival kit for functioning in the world. Perhaps I should give up the whole idea of “writing literature.” What is writing literature, anyway? Henry Miller didn’t write literature. He hated literature. Too phony, too pretentious. Rather, just pour out the real stuff, the trials and miseries that make up the suffering of the human condition.
I used to pride myself on my inability to predict the future. I used to call it “honesty.” No one can predict the future, I would say. Look at all the pundits who say things and are proven wrong. Only the here and now is true; only the here and now is real. the future only exists in my imagination and therefore cannot be predicted.
But now I say even the here and now exists in my imagination. So do the present, future, and past. Since I have no problem imagining past and present, why not imagine the future? Why not predict it? Why not, indeed. I’m starting to predict the future as of today.
February 4, 1994
My lower back is grinding out a new tune this morning. It’s a return to the old back ache. Why? A booking this morning. I’m doing a school program. I haven’t done one for a year and all the old performing fears have returned. Even though there’ll only be fifty middle school kids in the audience, I’ve been worried about this show for a month.
Has nothing changed? I’m just as nervous as always. Perhaps it’s the nature of my performing. No “perhaps”–it is the nature. Nervousness before every new challenge, it’s the only way I know. Sure, it’s a habit, but there’s not much I can do about it. Oh sure, I can go to shrinks, rationalize like crazy, figure out all kinds of reasons why I shouldn’t be nervous–I’m a good guitarist, I’m charismatic, I sing well, I’ve got personality, I’ve done hundreds of shows before, I’m older now and more mature–I can go on and on with the explanations and rationalizations, but, truth is, I’m just as nervous as if I started yesterday. That’s why I’ll just have to accept stage fright as simply part of the baggage of existence.
My performance anxiety never goes away. The only way it will disappear is if I give up performing. But I also get nervous before folk dance classes, weekends, and tours. I suppose nervousness will never go away. It’s part of my human condition. It can’t be “cured.” Instead of fighting it, denying it, or hoping it will go away, I’ll begin by dealing with it, by handling it.
One way of handling it is by writing about it. Aha, I like that. Turn angst into creativity; turn self-torture into the torture of others–namely, my readers.
I’m stuck with nervousness for life. It’s either die or be nervous. Nervus ergo sum; trepidus ergo sum.
Strangely, my back feels better now.
It feels like I’ll be writing this journal for the rest of my life. Writing it is so simple, so easy, so natural. The words pour out. No pre-conceived notions, no plans, no outline or plot to follow. I write whatever I like in whatever order I like. Any crazy thing that comes to my mind gets written down. It may interest no one but me, and it may not even interest me. But it serves the wonderful purpose of self-liberation. It is my daily psychoanalysis, my daily adventure into the unknown, into the unexplored realm of my self.
It also feels like the amount of writing I can do is endless. I can go on and on with this personal dribble. Most of it may be dribble, but it is my dribble. Is my dribble superior to everyone else’s?
So, I’m going with it. What a wonder! I’m so happy I’ve discovered this journal writing method.
And my back feels so much better!
February 5, 1994
Today’s not a good one. I can feel it. Those leaden weights fastened to my bones dragging me down, pulling me into syrupy seas of fading phosphorous where lily pads eat whale meat and Sarah Fosdick sits on an underwater turnip chewing tomorrow’s cud. How can cows live like that? Is it right? Shouldn’t they strive for more dignity? Or is that the nature of a twentieth- century cow? I’m sure Heidigger never had this problem. Did Thomas Wentworth Higgleson? He founded the Sideways Printing Press. Until his invention in 1742, printing was done in circles. Higgleson was also responsible for the sidewards wife. Until 1742 all wives went in circles, following the printing press of their choice. But Higgleson’s new invention caused a sensation from Brazil to Bretagne as wives of all sizes, colors, and shapes started going not only sidewards, but forwards and back as well. It wasn’t until the learned King John of Backswitch, decided to sail to the West Indies on a stitch that cultural habits changed for the better.
“Isn’t is a sin that poppycocks roll backwards?” he asked. “Can anything be done about it?”
The wayward empires of the John the Fruit and Lawrence the Mellon, two leading 19th-century romantic grocers, introduced fresh partridge and melon of water into the stirrups of all westward-bound horsemen. From then on America was discovered and bounteousness spread beyond bounds.
Can deviants create history as well as write it? “How can bricks lay hens?” asked John Gathworthy, well known mental institutionalist, as he fawned on a rope. “And what about parsnips?
If Larry Dunce swims up the Nile, will he reach the Elephantine slopes, or must he sail on to Byzantium?
Can the puppet John of Austria really rule the world or can he only rule in the service of a larger puppet?”
Big questions, especially for a Saturday afternoon. What would God say about this? Or is He too busy writing Himself? What other friends does He have? Me? Larry and Tom Hartwick? Vanilla Jones and Marble Marmalade? Nancy Pews and Jennifer Lemontree? What about Tom and Judy Snyder? Are they friends, too? Could they read His letters if He wrote them?
Does God worship Himself? Probably not. No one is that egotistical except Peabody Slead, the ice cream man who lives in a cone. He would beat his daughter for a blade of grass. Who can tell what he’d do for a tree? A wild, mean, savage, uncontrollable beast, that man. Only his wife, Jennifer Slaughter, calms him. She lives in a net and fishes for a living. Salamanders and frogs are her specialty, but sometimes she captures an ant or two. She doesn’t give a damn about their civil rights. As far as she’s concerned, all insects are the same, and so are rodents. Oh sure, you can find a rodent or two that speak French, but deep down they’re all the same and related Morphet Muffin III, king of rodents and hepplewhite in the upper New York State town of Hurtleville.
When the coffee juices are singing and the air sockets fill with Heptalian moisture, there’s no question that a rocket could arrive anytime soon. Therefore, it’s best to be prepared.
Caterpillar and dragons are on the march again. Hundreds arrived for their new line of work–metallurgy. These gigantic night worms dredge the banks of leperhood while casting about for the secret of time.
Will Leslie’swings be ready to win the acrobatic contest? Will the syrup of Gooey Stracapostosphere finally work? So many trials have already failed. It is no easy task to reach the stars in a basket.
I’ll leave now. You can’t call a hog a horse unless its wings are clipped.
February 6, 1994
On Finding My Character And Plot
I look at the writings of the last days and I think, what dribble! Could I have written all that awful stuff? Is my Judgement completely off? I thought it was so good when I wrote it; I was on my way to a new writing style, lofty ideas in the poetic making, dynamic metaphors spread in genius fashion across my pages. I am reaching my peak, becoming the Cervantes of modern literature, the James Joyce of word play and innovation. Soon recognition will come, and I will be loved and respected by the world.
But after reading what I’ve written I have to reassess. It hurts. Deception always does.
But maybe I’m wrong and just being hard on myself; I’m too close to my writing.
My job is to keep writing, not to judge it. Leave the judging to others. That’s why I’m going back to Barry. Judgements from others are not definitive, but they do give me ideas, directions, and thoughts, or, as a contrarian, something new to say no to. A good no is like a good shit–it relieves me until the next meal.
Another thing is this idea of plot. I can’t seem to write a plot or even think of one. And when I do, it dies stillborn. Yet the style of writing I’m doing now–the free form stream-of-consciousness style–flows easily and effortlessly from my fingers. Something that comes that easy must have truth in it. Perhaps I’m on to something but don’t realize it yet. I’m simply sitting down at the computer and speaking into it. Like talking to a friend who’ll listen to and accept anything I say.
Will this give me a plot? Or shall I ramble through pages of journal, ever satisfying myself, but never writing something worth publishing?
Ah, publication. Reaching my audience. Again how I love to be read and appreciated. It tells me I am good, worthy, right, and of value.
Value–aye, there’s the key. I want to be valued. I want to be and worthy of, living under God’s sky. Who will tell me I am valuable? How can I depend on publication, acceptance, and good reviews to tell me I am worthy? That will be a worthiness based on past work. Who will tell me I am worthy today? I know it should be me, but I’m running out of gas.
The only thing I have to go by is the ease of writing this journal. I love it! Does that make it worthy? Or must it be socially useful, too? Must others appreciate me before my worthiness can be complete?
Why di I rebel against writing a plot? Is it claustrophobia?
Maybe the “I” in my journal is the subject for my plot. The main character is me; the plot is the day-to-day adventures of “me”. Readers won’t know the “me” I write about. They’ll see themselves or another me. What and who is the real me, anyway? Damned if I know. This me that I write about is probably a fiction. Once I wake up in a few weeks or years, I’ll read my writing and feel as if someone else wrote it. I’ll be living in another dream then.
February 7, 1994
Give Me The Beautiful World. . .
What would Galileo, Newton, René Descartes or Immanual Kant say? These giants return me to the University of Rochester, University of Aix-en-Provence, University of Chicago, City College of New York, and to my fifth floor walk-up apartment on St. Marks Street in the East Village where I sat in my stuffed armchair, reading and dreaming about the great philosophies of the world. I loved those beautiful thoughts swirling about my head, making mincemeat of the miserable make-a-living realities I had to face beyond my door. Give me the beautiful world of studying all day. Free me from the world of strain, pain, frustration, and grasping. Who wouldn’t want to be free? A better question is, how can I get such freedom?
My hubris makes me feel I should be writing something great, the hubris created out of the mysterious stew of my dreams, imagination, hopes, fears, and competition with Descartes, Kant, etc. Could I go on without hubris?
If I give it up, will I have to settle for mediocrity–mediocre writing, guitar playing, earnings, mediocre everything? Will levelness and evenness will be the flat, boring road I travel on? There may be a blip up or down, but otherwise it’s the same road most man have travelled.
Is mediocrity so bad? It does take the pressure off, and levels the playing field. However, I may fall asleep on such a field and, although sleep is not a bad thing, you cannot capture the moral high ground by sleeping all day.
This all boils down to a problem of direction which raises its ugly disgusting head almost every day of my life. Why was I born? Where am I going? Why do I have to repeat the same questions over and over again? Why do I keep going round in circles? Am I a metaphor of the human condition? Can an artist live a lifestyle going round in circles, coupled with mediocrity?
It’s embarrassing to whine and complain about going in circles, to bore others with constant repetitions. I expect more from myself: originality, new insights, exploration of the unknown; to ride into the stratosphere, grabbing stars and galaxies along the way, and someday return to earth with a messianic message of immortality and hope that will save the world. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But who cares? That is my dream. After I save the world, people will tell me how worthy I am.
Perhaps this is crazy. But what else should I do with my life? Megalomania is my middle name.
No wonder I start off every day disappointed. I’ve got high standards. Saving the world is no easy task, especially since every night it slips backwards to zero. All the good work I did yesterday seems as nothing today. I’ve got to start all over again. This world refuses to be saved.
Ah, it is so freeing to let the words sing and fly helter skelter across the pages. Even if every word I write is worthless, the wonder of writing it down makes it all worthwhile.
February 8, 1994
The Grand Moment
As I sail through the miracle of piling words on these pages, I thank the forces above for the gift of language. The snow is falling. My day will be quiet, meditative, and pensive, and I am thankful for that. I am thankful for the yesterday morning of exquisite creation where I did the best I could.
Once in a great while a grand moment occurs. It is a moment when you break down crying over the beauty of the world, when you realize you are being guided by a Higher Hand. I had such a moment yesterday. Within it lay the essence of all I want. Impossible to describe. I fell to my knees, thankful for the most beautiful gift in the world, the gift of guidance and vision from the Higher Hand.
I’ll write whatever I want. Freedom is a dangerous thing, especially in my hands. But I can’t think of better hands to put it in.
I’m moving upward. Dreams of publication and recognition have disappeared. The weights have fallen off. I’m onto another track, heading in another direction. Free at last!
I’m bathed in the process itself. The glory of it! Yes, yes, give me my bath of gold!
February 10, 1994
I Need Miracles!
I need miracles! What better “proof” that God exists than a miracle?
But my training, my upbringing, tells me that miracles are ridiculous. No such thing. An illusion. Yet when I heard the Beethoven symphony at age fourteen and suddenly, for no reason at all, broke down crying over the majesty and magnificent of it all, that was my first miracle. And I’ve been experiencing miracles ever since. I haven’t called them that, but it’s what they are.
Many miracles fill my life. My life itself is one. Certainly writing these pages is a miracle. The writing process happens miraculously. How else can you explain it? Training, language, culture, all count for much. But after that, what or who puts it all together so I can sit down at my computer and let the words fly? Only a miracle.
Miracles put me in touch with the Great Ineffables like glory, power, transcendence, beauty, and creation. Ultimately, these are all beyond explanation. Attempts to explain such states usually serve only to trivialize them. Scientific explanations rely on causality: Understand the effect by examining the cause. And this is good up to a (small) point. But the beauty of a deed is beyond causality. Do we really know why we did it? We know how, or what, and can even give a few rational, purposeful explanations. But the ultimate Why? The ultimate How? These cannot be explained merely through cause and effect. There is a higher power, a transcendent force, running the world. Language and science can only infer it, speak of it metaphorically, but not explain it.
That is fine; that is the way it should be. Too much hubris diminishes and, ultimately, destroys us. Man is meant to be a miracle in the making. We’ll settle for nothing more. Why trivialize ourselves through constant psychoanalytical, biological, cultural, historical, and other explanations? Why take away our spiritual strength by diminishing our vision? Our subjective vision gives us strength; we know ourselves like no one else. Self-confidence in our little quirks makes us strong.
When I lose, I Win
Values rule the world in transcendental form. I know my values and what’s important to me; I know what I love.
When I do what I believe in, I shine. Power, strength, and happiness radiate from my being. Misery, too. That’s part of the struggle. Since I know what I want, it’s very important that I do what I want. Thus, pushing and driving myself, eliminating excuses, fitting my body and mind with tough love, make me happy! When I say no to sloth and, instead, get up early in the morning in put in my hour of writing, I feel great! When I run an hour despite the “fact” I “have no time” or “don’t feel like it,” I end up feeling like an accomplished master of my own fate. Yes, I can accomplish things even though I’m feeling miserable, weak, sick, and listless. Yes, I can run, write, perform, or whatever is important in spite of the feeling that every fiber of my being cries out: Give up!
But when I follow the road of ease, when I give in to the forces of sloth, I feel like a blown-out, decaying failure. Then I am no hero to myself.
I want to be my own hero. When I fight the dragons of defeat and decay that daily rise up within me, I stand up for my better self. I may go down fighting but I don’t give up. Then, even when I lose, I win.
February 11, 1994
Life As An Asymptote
The asymptotic responsibility of a snow driven day arrives early and tangentially for me this morning. What a pleasure to live life like an asymptote: always approaching, but never touching. It gives a sense of perspective.
“Blundering Babble!” He Cried
Only the deaf are blind this morning. And why not? Can’t you see the barren, empty morning sky sitting pregnant above me? How can this be? Pregnant and barren at the same time? Surely, a paradox, but it needs no explaining. Why introduce an audience where there is none? Paradox and nonsense and irrationality are all my middle names–perhaps last name, too. So, onwards and sidewards we go, marching to the jazzy tune of an 11/16ths drummer pounding out Bulgarian kopanica rhythms on a snowbound Fried Day.
White, white, white, the incessant snows are falling. Dancing caterpillars populate my lawn while trees sing in leafless splendor. Can a wasp germinate among such wires? Telephone poles are down, but communications are up. How can that be?
Woke up with a blinding headache. Why? I’ll never know why. Perhaps it is because America is falling apart. The political mode impinges on my peace of mind. I heard Dennis Prager on the radio yesterday. A wonder, he. What a refreshment in a political mist. He said, I have the answer for happiness: it is gratitude. Imagine that, gratitude. If you have gratitude, you can only be happy. What a novel twist. What about psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, which make you miserable? What about complaining about politics, crime, welfare, health care, racism, affirmative action, infirmative action, Bosnia, on and on, all of which make you miserable? How can misery and dissatisfaction survive if you have gratitude? These giant misery industries will crumble if gratitude takes over. They have a vested interest in promoting unhappiness. It’s just business, folks. Just let gratitude in, just let in a little happiness, and you’ll see a depression and economic destruction rarely witnessed in history. Misery industries will be hit hard. They may end up on the dole, needing government support. Welfare for the health industry. Gratitude? Forget it. If it does come, we’ll fight it tooth and nail.
Yet it is true: gratitude brings happiness. Rich or poor, possessions or no possessions, gratitude is a state of mind anyone can possess. Thus, it is within everyone’s power to be happy. But it’s a struggle. You’ve got to be a rebel to fight against the prevailing mood. You’ll be shot down at every turn. Lots of traps on the gratitude road. Still, it is a wonderful road to follow. What a challenge.
On the other hand, who wants to be grateful anyway? It’s much more fun to complain. I love to complain. It makes my day. And I like to hear others complaining, too. Then I can complain about their complaining. Complaints help pass the time while the snow keeps falling. . . like dandruff.
I’m afraid success will ruin me and I’ll never write again. That would be a tragedy.
Suffering may be good for me. God makes me suffer so I can get some work done and, in the process, rise from my surroundings to have a brief transcendental luncheon with Him.
February 12, 1994
Rambling Through Annoyances
It’s Saturday afternoon, not the greatest time to write, especially after having put in a two-hour-and-fifteen-minute run. . . still, the world of words awaits me and I must follow my compulsions, callings, and commitments. Meanwhile the horrible background radio disturbs me but Bernice won’t turn it off. I’ve closed fifteen doors and it still doesn’t shut out the miserable sound. Well, what can you do? Also, a pain in the ass is my Paint Plus computer program. Perhaps we should call it Paint Minus. It runs okay, only for some godforsaken reason it won’t print. Ask my fucking printer to print it and all it does is spew out page after unstoppable presque-blanque pages with incomprehensible computer scribble on it. What the hell it all means, I don’t know.
Hmmm. . .sounds like I’m mad this afternoon. Well, I am mad, damn mad. It’s the Paint program that’s jamming my nerves. I can’t stand the fact it doesn’t work! I hate it, hate, hate, hate it! My artistic creations are stymied in the bud. Plus, I don’t really know who can fix it. A vague hope resides in the phone number of the creators and producers of Paint Plus and, if I can find them, I’ll ask them about it. If their line isn’t busy, and if they still exist as a company, then maybe, just maybe, they can help me. If not, I can’t call Word Perfect. First, their line is always busy. Besides, they don’t know about Paint Plus. Next in line is Frank Carbone, my computer man and maven. He’s a good hope. I like him. He’s helpful, and he’ll try. Only question is, he may not know what to do. If he doesn’t, I’m really up the creek. I doubt if Ben knows, or even David. If I run out of options and no one knows how to get the fucking thing to print, then I’ve really got a long-term problem. It could go on for weeks, months, or forever. Well, I’ll get started and knock off my options one by one.
I’m also annoyed because this long run has worn me out. My frustration tolerance is very low. The slightest noise or annoyance makes me jump. I’m on edge, and the Paint Plus program mess just makes things worse. This, plus I heard Miki is investing in Mutual Funds that only go up. Her friend is a mutual funds maven and studies them all day with her computer. She’s given Miki good advice, and Miki’s money keeps growing. Bernice, too–her mutual funds investments keep going up. Makes me mad! Why aren’t my fucking funds going up? One reason is, I don’t have any. That’s also a good reason to get mad. Well, actually I have some money, but it’s not invested in mutual funds, only in stocks. But those stocks have been going nowhere for years. Well, that’s not quite true. Actually, they’ve been going up and down for years; the result of all that movement is they have gone nowhere. I have as much money now as I did two years ago. Joel is a nice guy and he does a good job of service, but his stock picks either go down or nowhere. Once in awhile something goes up, but it’s a rare occasion. So I opened my own low commission account with Fidelity to see if I could do better than Joel. After two years my results are about as bad a his. And yet I keep investing; I keep looking for individual stocks and buying them at what I consider to be good prices and waiting, hoping they’ll go up. Something in me just hates to put my money in mutual funds. No zing, no zip. I like to choose the companies; I like to feel glorious and super smart when my picks go up, and, although I hate feeling miserable and super stupid when my picks go down, I realize you can’t get the ups without the downs. If I buy Mutual Funds, whether they go up or down, I’m so far removed, so insulated from the stock picks and investment decisions, that I won’t feel much of an up or down. At least that’s where I am now.
But a compromise is in the making. I’ll buy a few mutual funds, put say 10% to 20% of my assets in mutual funds–see how they make out.
Maybe I can learn to love mutual funds if I buy them and they keep going up.
Another thing that’s starting to annoy me is these creepy people who write me about tours. Who the fuck are they, anyway? I know they’re answering the ad I put in International Travel News, or perhaps the one in the Paramus Adult Education Bulletin, or a public relations release I don’t know about. They’ve been responding for about a month, and I’ve been sending them lots of information with lots of my own personal hopes attached. Well, I haven’t heard diddledisquat from any of them. For all I know they’re either dead, dying, or decided to take two-year side trips to the moon. Where the hell are you, fucking people! Sign up, goddammit! Send me your fucking money, send me some checks, send me some deposits, send me anything–no, not anything, only money. Hey, it’s miserable and lonely out here just getting advertisements and junk mail with every mail delivery. Where are the fucking people?
Well, fuck ’em all, that’s what I say. I’ll send them my tour info with no hopes attached. Unfortunately, I still pop them on my mailing list, even though I may never hear from them again in this life. I’m sure they’ll be the first to register for my Next Life Tours when it sponsors small intimate group tours to the after life. Cheap, too.
Yes, folks, I’m getting sick of their complaining and their snide remarks and their backward commentaries on my marvelous tours. Well, yes it’s true they’re not really complaining. I know that because I don’t hear anything from them. Truth is, I don’t know what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, or even if they’re thinking at all. Maybe they don’t exist; maybe they’re phantoms who send me phantom mail with phantom addresses. Who knows? What a stupid frustrating business. Best thing to do, best way to handle it is to give up.
Ah, I’ve given up. Now I feel much better. It’s like going to heaven after a tough day on earth. Why worry? Me, worry? What, me worry? Worry, me? Relax. Have a Coke. Sip some wine, or beer, or purple marmalade soda. Look out over the vast infinity of heaven and give thanks that you’re not a hotel operator.
February 13, 1994
I’d like to learn a new skill. But to what purpose? Learning Hebrew is deepening an old skill. Does deepening of an old skill count?
I’d like to add an hour of reading fiction to my schedule. The Tales of Hajji Baba , a 19th-century novel by Morier, an English diplomat to Persia gave me the idea. It takes place mostly in Isfahan.
I feel so worthy when I perform these pearly activities.
I know what’s good for me. I just have to do it.
Man Is Not Alone, by Abraham Heschel, is a religious, literary, poetic, and theological masterpiece. Some books “are,” some books “will be,” some books “were,” but this book is.
How to react to the God experience? Wonder, awe, and helplessness before the higher Force.
Fifteen-Year Temper Tantrum
Could all this be the result of a fifteen-year temper tantrum? Is it possible things could move is such long, slow, apparently interminable cycles? The damn problems seem to last forever. Work, work, work, and/or wait, wait, wait, for years and years. Still nothing happens. How can it take so long? Maybe we’re on the wrong track? But we keep sticking around, hanging it out, fighting, arguing, sulking, refusing to compromise, locking horns. But it’s thawing now. Why, I’ll never know. Must be timing. But so long, fifteen years. Is it possible? So long? Must be. There is no other explanation. Look what happened with my guitar playing. That waiting period took over thirty years. Now I’m back to my original guitar, my original love of music. I’ve stripped away the audience; I’m going real slow and loving it. “Alhambra” is easy at last. It only took thirty years of daily practicing, pounding out that tremelo day after day, changing from high speed to low speed to medium speed to no speed, all in the hope of playing like Segovia before an adoring audience. I knew during all those years my desire to play like Segovia was ridiculous, untrue to myself, unhealthy, burdensome, bothersome, annoying, and sick beyond belief. But knowing it didn’t stop me from doing it. Somehow I had to live through the miserable process of personal transformation. Finally, one day, my old skin just fell off and was forgotten. It took thirty years. If thirty years worked for the guitar, why not a fifteen-year temper tantrum? That’s what my intuition tells me. I know my intuition is right even when my intellect is wrong.
The University of Gold
A hard tough schedule is the best way to go. I’m setting up the curriculum at the University of Gold.
1. Running, yoga, chi kong, calisthenics
2. Language department: Hebrew
4. Music–guitar and song
5. Reading literature (in English and maybe French)
Where does business fit in? Does it fit in? Only if I’m learning something new.
Am I learning anything new in business? I think not. I’ve already added a new tour to Greece, a new tour to Scandinavia, a few new dances, a few guitar bookings, a few miscellaneous. Basically, my business is set up. I can’t see any big changes. I spent years developing it. Now the only real work is publicizing my events. That’s the kind of work I hate. So I will only do the absolute minimum. I’ve always considered publicity and marketing to be the biggest pain in the ass and, since I don’t like a pain in the ass, I hardly do it at all. This is my biggest weakness, but a weakness I accept. The best can do is hire others to do it. That hasn’t worked well, either. I’ve incurred new expenses by hiring them. Now, instead of hiring them, I exchange services with them. Costs are down and it works out better. But for now, I can’t see any new movement in my business. I’ll just keep bouncing it along and concentrate on taking courses at the University of Gold.
Should I add business courses at the University? That would indeed destroy the division between business and study, the artificial distinction between learning and life. It might make business more interesting for me, too. The truth is, I don’t mind marketing it if I’m enthusiastic about it. I just have to market it in my own personal way, and my way is a rather unique mystical way. Basically, I just stand in the corner or center of the room and shine. That is my marketing method: shining. I refuse to do anything else. If any other ideas come along, they come as a by-product, an offspring of shining.
Does shining work? How should I know? I’m never really sure why other people do things anyway. They may join my activities because I am shining, and they may join them because they are shining. Or both. Or some other reason. I can’t waste my time worrying why other people do things, since I’ll never figure it out anyway. I can only figure out why I do things–and even that is pretty difficult.
My life consists of classes at the University of Gold. It’s all inclusive.
February 14, 1994
Watching TV Diminishes Me
We saw Shindler’s List last night. Everyone should see it. Words cannot describe such a horror. What a public service Spielberg has performed.
It made me reflect on the power of movies and television. Almost without fail, whenever I go to the movies or watch television I end up feeling slightly depressed and sad. This has been happening since I was a teenager. Why? Does anyone else feel like me? I’ve never heard it at all except in a book called Four Arguments Against Television. When the movies are over, and when the TV is turned off–with very rare exceptions, I feel unhealthy. Is it the power of the medium? The images of TV combined with the hypnotic glare of illusory movements, somehow diminish me. At the end, I feel weakened and apathetic. It’s a vague depression, like a heavy cloud, intangible, difficult to describe. I get no support or confirmation of my feelings when I describe them. No one agrees with me. Could I be so far from the mark? Could I be so removed from the modern world that even while everyone watches and seemingly enjoys movies and TV, I actually hate them? I hate the art form. It robs my imagination with its impersonal cold power. Maybe it’s simply the low caliber of most of the stuff I see on TV and movies. But I think it is the medium itself. It mesmerizes me and overwhelms me; it moves so fast I cannot think.
Actors take a risk in live theater; they create right before your eyes. Any moment, they can make an error or create the magic of human enlargement. They’re taking chances. TV and movies can always do another take.
Still, I’m still moving around the edges. I can’t put my finger on why watching TV and movies diminishe me. But they do.
I’ve had several physical breakthroughs in the last few days.
I ran two and a quarter hours on Saturday. Is this the post-fifty-six new beginning? Am I preparing for the next twenty-eight-year cycle?
I did eighty sit-ups yesterday. Usually I do forty or fifty in counts of two. Eighty! And no pain! I couldn’t believe it. I felt I could go on. But it scared me, so I stopped. Today, I thought I’d do fifteen or twenty “recovery” sit-ups. Instead, I easily did sixty, and again with no pain.
What is happening here? Am I moving to a new level? If I am, what about my writing, push-ups, squats, and music?
I did the scorpion yoga pose I’ve been doing for years. But suddenly, it got better! I held a longer balanced position on a one-legged squat: That had improved, too.
Improvements don’t come incrementally, but in blasts of sudden growth. You work and work for months, even years; nothing seems to happen. Then suddenly, one day, for no apparent reason, everything bursts into blossom. You move effortlessly upwards to the next level.
February 15, 1994
Leading A First-Draft Life
Yesterday my Hewlett Packard ink jet printer died. I replaced it by buying a Citizen Prolaser jet printer. This morning I noticed it has a high hum. Had I paid $700 for a high hum? Do printers hum? I don’t remember. Perhaps I’ll get used to it. Meanwhile, it’s a pain in the ass.
I’m discouraged, nervous, and bordering on panic this morning. Business feels like it’s falling apart. Two months ago I was roaring along with high hopes for tours, weekends, classes, and lots of money. Now I’ve back-slided into high expenses and low income. Sure, the miserable weather and all the snows have helped destroy things.
Last night we had the Hameed African Dancers. Juanita Hameed is a fantastic teacher and dancer. But the response of my miserable folk dancers was: Only four paying people showed up. This, plus six nonpayers, gave me a total of ten. Thus I immediately lost mucho money. Added to the new printer costs, today became a very expensive day.
There must be a lesson in this somewhere. I’m going around in economic circles. Money, money, money–all I think about is money and how I don’t have it. I keep spending it, too. An endless sieve. Where are the people? Why don’t they send me more money? Why don’t they register for tours, weekends, and dance classes?
Then it struck me as I moped around the dance floor last night, waiting for my nondancers and nonpaying participants to show up: Suppose my financial problem was due to me. What a radical idea. I always thought the problem was everybody else. That’s the answer I’ve been giving most of my business life. But truth is, when I have more money, I spend more money. When money rolls in, I make sure the money rolls out by buying more stocks, more equipment, more anything. The only thing that seems to dampen my spending enthusiasm is poverty.
So what else is new? I’m writing comprehensible sentences. What’s the matter with me? Is this psychoanalysis? Art? Maudlin, self-absorbed ego chatter? Or am I on my way to a higher art form, a better means of expression? In other words, will my future pages sing? Will they be read? Will I be loved for the wonderful things I am doing, recognized for the unearthly genius that, deep down, I am?
Dare I write such grandiose hopes and wishes? Butin this “truth” journal I must write whatever comes into my head. All words must be totally uncensored and unedited on the first draft. That’s my writing style. I lead a first-draft life. I hate editing. The adventure of flying through a first draft, with all the brilliant, illuminating, and miserable discoveries in it, are the reason I write. Why else waste time sitting and ruminating at the computer? Writing is my personal exercise in self-discovery.
I picture myself turning out volume after volume of New Leaves with not a glimmer of publication in sight. I cannot imagine anyone will ever read my writing. Can I write that way? Don’t I entertain, deep in my heart, the hope that some day I will be discovered? Even posthumously? I can picture it: A researcher goes through my house, finds my personal belongings and, lo and behold, he discovers my writing! He is amazed, mesmerized. What genius! he exclaims. I have found an unknown treasure. This incredible literary work must be published at all costs. I soon become world famous, and all the barings of my heart and soul go public. That is one of my fantasies. That means I am secretly writing for an audience.
Who is my audience? I don’t know. But that’s not as important as the fact that I am writing for one. Would I write if I believed no one would ever read my work? Could I communicate with nobody forever? Could such an empty vision sustain me?
If I am writing for an audience in the quiet of my room, it means I am still performing. Yes my writing is a private performance, just as my guitar concerts are public performances. In the closet of my mind, I am still a performer.
Who am I performing for?
Both sounds right.
Audiences come in all forms: customers, wives, children, people I speak to on the street. . . .
What about the idea of writing as a good-in-itself?
Is writing a good-in-itself?
In order to be good-in-itself, it must have transcendental value.
The answer is a paradox! My writing is both transcendental and audience driven; it is a good-in-itself as it reaches out to an imaginary audience.
New Leaf 2
February 17, 1994
The Entrepreneurial Life
I’m discouraged this morning.
Just because poor registration forced me to cancel a weekend, just because my dance classes are small and winter weather is killing my business? Just because there have been no tour or weekend registrants for the last six weeks and I spent two thousand dollars on a news brochures and mailings and my business is almost totally dead? Just because I’m running out of money, going into debt, and the last six weeks have been so miserable? Is that a reason to be discouraged?
There is no reason to be discouraged as long as you remain unreasonable.
Unreasonable, irrational, insane, visionary, delusional, are the best qualities to get you through bad times. Any reasonable person would have given up, not weeks or months, but years ago.
But I’m too crazy to give up. I’ll be pushed into a corner first, whipped, beaten, pulverized, and destroyed, but I’ll never give up. I’m too proud to admit or accept defeat. I’d rather die first. And my business is dying. But do I see it that way? No. I see it as a temporary relapse.
What is this quality about me? Why won’t I quit and move on to something else? I’ve been running some of my miserable low-to-no-paying folk dance classes for years, and for some crazy reason I won’t give them up. That would be admitting defeat. I’ll always find an excuse, no matter how crazy, to continue.
Am I courageous and indomitable? Am I nuts? Am I having a permanent, long-range temper tantrum lasting for weeks, months, even years? Never, never, never, I keep screaming as I kneel on the living room floor and pound it my fists. Why won’t people register? Why won’t they call me and send me deposits for all the great events I am running? Why won’t they show up in droves for the beautiful folk dance classes, inspired weekends, or adventurous world tours? Where are they?
Well, if I wait for them to make up their minds I’ll end up doing nothing. So I go about my business, or lack of business, limping along with those few who do show up, living on the edge, worried about money, pounding the table, and kicking the chair. Such is the life of an entrepreneur.
Complaining is wonderful. It is a balm in the ointment of misery. Thank you, oh Great One, for giving me the power to complain. For a few moments I am, not happy, but at least not unhappy.
One thing about complaining, though–don’t try it too much with friends. Most of them won’t listen long. I can’t blame them. It gets boring. Too personal. That’s why writing is so great. You can complain on and on and, in the process, keep all your friends. They will enjoy you more because you’ll be more upbeat and positive: all your negativity has been strewn across the pages; you’re released fresh and pure into the world.
I ask questions. I start the day with a question; after lunch I have another question; after supper, still more questions. By bedtime I am tired of questions. I ask myself why do I have so many questions?
But that itself is a question.
There must be some good in asking questions. If not, why would I ask them?
February 20, 1994
Make the Supreme Effort
Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi, in his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” writes: “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limit in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
What wisdom! Fulfilling my Miracle Schedule does just that. It brings me my best moments; it is tough and worthwhile. Take writing: I’m doing an hour a day. It is a difficult task and needs my fullest concentration. Writing stretches my mind to the absolute limit. When I finish my hour I feel great! I’ve given my best, made my maximum effort. Others can judge how worthwhile my product is, but there’s no denying the worthiness of my effort. Stretching my mental muscles to their limit creates the optimal moment.
There’s also the “first fatigue” which usually comes after thirty of forty minutes. If I push beyond it and break the forty minute barrier, I explore new ground. During those moments, when I’m pushing to make the supreme effort, discoveries and crazy new ideas filter down. I ascend into the unknown.
This is true in running, guitar playing, studying Hebrew, teaching folk dancing, or the other efforts I make. Going that extra mile, running for extra speed, is when I create the runner’s high, the exhilaration I feel after running two hours. The I did it! feeling. Even though my body aches and I limp, crawl, and can hardly walk, the victory is worth all the pain. I become a hero to myself. God has blessed me, given me a window into His realm. Making the supreme effort is the answer. Mihaly, you’re right: stretch the body and mind to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
Sales and the Triple F Threat
I wish I could love sales the way Susan Rosenthal does. Mention sales and her face lights up, her eyes dance with joy, and she’s heading out the door for the kill. She loves sales with a passion. If only I did, too.
Perhaps I do, but I don’t see it. My envy means part of me wants to sell, even admires sales.
Maybe I love sales but hate the word “sales.”
Sales relate to the two F’s: Fear and Force. There’s not one word about the third F: Fucking. How would fear, force, and fucking be? The triple F threat. But fucking is nowhere to be found. Fear and force have pushed fucking out the back door. Fear and force freeze and immobilize me.
Yet people tell me I’m a good salesman. They say I have an honest face and win people’s confidence. It’s true. I couldn’t have survived this long in my own business if I weren’t a good salesman.
February 27, 1994
Michael said, “I need a vacation. That’s why we’re going with you. We want to have fun.”
“Fun?” I answered. “How can I do that? People’s fun is their job.” It must be arranged by the Fun King living inside medulla castle. How can I help them? Only by having fun myself and hoping my own fun radiates out to them.
February 28, 1994
The Five-Minute Approach To Death and Rest
Dry day. Nothing in my head.
I need a rest day, two rest days, many rest days.
But I hate rest days. I hate giving up the rhythm of work days. Working day after day becomes a hypnotic drug. Soon I worship my work schedule rather than the energy that gave it birth. By then my creative cycle has run out. I’m preparing to die and be buried. . . and be reborn. Rest days are my death throes.
Rest and death are sisters.
What should I do while I wait, while I’m dying?
Writing, guitar and song, running–yoga–chi kong–calisthenics, languages, reading, business, cut all of them
back from one hour to five minutes. This will keep my fingers in the learning pie. The Less-Is-More philosophy wins again.
March 1, 1994
The Talking Rock
Excellence marches forward.
High upon the mountain top, Topper Martin sits, beer glass in hand, hat loaded with clichés. A long day has ended in Hungary. The poor die young. Hoping for an entrance to the Unknown Highway, Martin waits for the proper moment.
“Where do moments come from?” he asks. An adjacent sedimentary rock responses with a giggle. “You can’t hide anymore, Martin. Wisp past mountain tops, or scamper through deep valleys, fly behind clouds. Try as you will, you cannot escape from your destiny. Hiding may blind you momentarily, but soon the light will shine through your thick head. Darkness will fall from you brain. You will see your true direction in front of your nose.” The rock fell silent.
Martin ambled about the mountain deep in thought. Then placed his hot derriére upon the talking rock, hoping its sedimentary wisdom might seep into his deprived body.
Would the rock work? Would sitting on a light bulb make him shine? Todays strikings were really hot.
March 2, 1994
I can’t wait to talk to myself this morning. I do it through my journal. I can say whatever I want. No one else is listening .
Journal is my therapist. It’s free and always available.
I’m teaching five folk dance classes a week! It’s like having a regular job. Opportunities keep knocking. Can I handle it? They are a test to see how much I can do.
I am ready for a stretching adventure. Working like crazy is that adventure.
March 5, 1994
Writing Releases Inner Demons
Writing releases inner demons. I have plenty. They run wild, despoiling the Eden of my dreams. These libidinal creatures, decked with fangs and rabid claws, conquer first my lower body, then charge into my brain, dismembering mental organs before heading straight for the turrets, where they shoot down any good sense plans I have made. They’re a danger to myself and the community. I try to push them into corners and chain them up. They’re tough and won’t let me. The only way to “control” them is through writing. Somehow the rhythm of writing turns these demons into tadpoles, then into frogs who soon jump across the living room floor and fall asleep in the corner.
Demons are forever. They’re in my cupboard, kitchen, breakfast, lunch, supper, salad, soup, cheese, bread crumbs, bananas, cheeseburgers, water supply, and the milk I drink for breakfast; they’re part of my arm, leg, and heart. What is a heart attack but an attack of demons?
I’m satisfied now. My demons have been released. They’ve calmed down and are lying quietly in the corner. Some wag their tails, others snore comfortably. Their feeding time has passed.
Heroic Effort: The Realm Of Trying
I am sick and tired of myself.
I am not taking any big chances.
I am not standing at the edge of new cliffs, jumping off, and hoping to discovery a new landing.
I am mired in the land of the known.
I am sick and tired of it.
There’s nothing heroic in the land of the known.
I want to travel to the land of the unknown, the land of stars, high rises, sparkle, and growth.
It’s time to give up what I know, what I do, what I think. It’s time to plunge.
Into what? That is the question.
Starting a tour business was a gigantic plunge. I trembled with fear and anticipation before each tour; I started my trembling months in advance. I ran two or three tours a years. I spent most of the year trembling. This was uncomfortable, but I learned a great deal.
What makes me tremble now? What makes me shudder and scream? I’ve gotten very good at the things I do, teaching folk dance, running tours and weekends, playing guitar, singing, and writing. Even Hungarian and Hebrew are improving.
But I’m traveling on a known track.
Competence is fine, but what about dullness?
Where are my risks?
I want to lift myself beyond the mundane.
I want to rise to the heroic.
How can I fight the monsters in the abyss and emerge renewed and a hero?
I’ve created a concert program, tours, folk dance classes, weekend programs, and more. I’ve created products and services. Perhaps my answer can no longer be found in product or service.
Perhaps the heroic can be found in the performance of these services, in the trying and intensity. Giving it every inch and drop of energy. Pushing with all my might. My effort can be heroic.
Look at running as a paradigm. At the end of a run, after I’ve gone as fast or as far as I can go, I feel exhausted, but exhilarated. Even though every muscle aches and I can hardly move, I am a hero. Trying as hard as I can, I walk along the edge, reach my limits, and take a chance. I slip into the abyss. I struggle, scream, flounder, and fight. Finally, I rise, renewed and reborn. A mysterious process.
That’s where I can become my own hero.
The realm of trying can never be conquered.
That’s what makes it so attractive.
Infinite trying helps you travel to infinite realms.
The realm of trying is the last realm to conquer.
March 7, 1994
Dragons of Fear
I feel old, drained, aching, and forgotten. The zip and sing have slipped away, replaced by a gray hopelessness. Why bother doing anything when old age, uselessness, and death are just around the corner.
Why is this cloud descending upon me this morning? Why has it been following me around for the past few days?
It’s my upcoming Budapest and Prague tour. The dragons of fear take the shape of “feeling old,” “drained of energy,” “I ache all over,” and “everyone has forgotten me.” The old fears keep coming up.
What should I do about these dragons?
What to do? Fuck ’em! Yup, that’s right.
Fuck the dragons!
Fuck the fears!
Why pay so much attention to them? They’re no friends of mine. Long ago they came through my front door to attack me. But I’ve defeated them so many times, now they can only get me by sneaking in through the back door, hiding in my closet, bedroom, or under the living room sofa. There they sit, waiting to pounce on me during my weaker moments. Then they jump me, kiss and cover me with caresses, and, while I’m ever so relaxed, whack me with one of their favorite weapons. These days it seems to come in drug injection form. That’s because I’ve already dealt with their hit-’em-over-the-head” “This tour will fail,” “You can’t do shit,” “Business will disappear,” “You’re finished,” approach. They’ve given up their frontal attacks. The drug-injection approach is more sophisticated, more subtle. By first caressing me and then, when I’m off guard, injecting me with their poison, they think they can beat me. There’s a timer inside their fear drugs; they don’t enter the blood stream until a day or two later. When the attack finally comes, I’ve already forgotten where it came from so I think maybe there is something wrong with me. It often takes days to realize it’s just another dragon attack. This morning I was attacked. I’m in the process of recovering.
I don’t know or care where it goes. Care too much, and I’ll lose the charm; know too much, and I’ll lose the dream. It will bend out of focus.
Dreams can’t be held too tightly. If they are, they become concrete and fall to earth. Rather, let them float, forming and reforming, gently drifting side to side in a grass-blue sky pinked with marmalade towers. Dreams can be envisioned, not held.
Why is the air so thin tonight?
A great sleepiness psyches my way.
I love the languages, sounds, the beauty and excitement of strange birds drifting from the furthest reaches of my brain, perhaps even beyond. They come from mysterious places unknown to me. No one has ever visited these strange and distant locales before. I am the first traveler, the first voyager to the land of Nowhere.
This is the beauty of my daily adventure. As tour director, I try visiting a new land each day.
March 9, 1994
The Wonders of Negativity
My commitment is to writing.
Therefore, no matter what I do, don’t write.
Don’t write down a word, sentence, phrase, paragraph, or page. Don’t, don’t, don’t!
As John Paul Sartre wrote posthumously about Being and Nothingness: “It’s good to create being, but it’s better to create nothing.”
The great Hungarian semmi. Nothingness. Nihilism in New Jersey clothing.
I am amazed at how well negativity works. Look at what I’ve accomplished–or unaccomplished already. By writing nothing I’ve written a paragraph.
Ah, the wonders of nothingness and emptiness, the pristine clarity of vision in a vacuum.
Negative states are underestimated today. Instead, fullness feasts at every turn, leaving poor emptiness alone to roost neglected in its coop.
Since the road to perfection is strewn with broken shards, why not aim for the divine vacuum?
Witness my writing success. Had it not been for emptiness, I never would have achieved such fullness.
March 10, 1994
Sick, sick, sick; bored, bored, bored; tired, tired, tired. I’m sick, bored, and tired of the old ways.
Today I feel like eight pages, hours, dropping all barriers, giving my all, best, greatest, pushing, pushing, pushing not only to my limits, but beyond my limits. Move beyond the known.
But from what? I cannot say.
A yearning and frustration so deep I cannot verbalize it. I’m tired of the old forms.
I’m tired of English. If I use another language, no one will understand me.
Is that so bad?
I’ve already had forays into the land of the incomprehensible.
I’m leaving for Budapest and Prague tomorrow. Talk about breaking ties. But I’m not as nervous as usual, just more or less resigned. Naturally, I fear death. It happens whenever I take a trip. Trips raise questions: the ultimate question a trip raises is, “Will I trip?” Will I fall and hurt myself? I’m leaving all the old props behind: house, wife, car, books, dancing, friends, family, daily routines, schedules, way of life, everything important and familiar to me. I’m heading into the unknown with hardly any protection.
But I’m not so much afraid of death as of leaving my daily routine. The best way to handle this is to bring most of my routine with me. What can I bring with me? Writing, exercise, and study. Aha! That is my answer. I’ll continue writing four pages a day in Budapest and Prague. I’ll continue running in the streets along with yoga, calisthenics, and chi kong in my room. And study? Hungarian–and some Czech, too, and a little Hebrew on the side.
March 11, 1994
Love Of Worry
I had Chinese food last night. When I opened my fortune cookie, the paper inside read, “You will enjoy good health; that is your form of wealth.” I like that. Perhaps it explains why I’m not making any money in the stock market. It might also explain why I’m not rich. I was not meant to be rich. But my worries have always been about money, not about my health. Maybe if I stopped worrying about money, I would worry about my health instead.
I like to worry.
Worry must be good for me. Maybe it energizes me, protects me from something worse.
Or maybe it’s just a bad habit.
There must be other benefits in worry. It is often my warning signal: Something dangerous is coming up. Be careful. I should learn to love my worry–and use it to energize myself.
Why worry? The answer is: why not?
Just because worry doesn’t feel good, doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It’s just part of living–like having a leg.
Negative forces can be helpful. Denying them, shutting them out, may diminish my own force.
Face the devil and use him.
How do you turn worry into starlight, darkness into a beam of light?
March 14, 1994
I am a good tour leader. Why? My mistakes give people confidence. They think, If he makes so many mistakes, why can’t I be a leader, too?
My mistakes give people the freedom to make their own mistakes and survive. Through my example, a life of trial and error, a rocky path strewn with both victories and false starts, I give others confidence to follow their own path.
March, 16, 1994
Do Something difficult And Worthwhile
Ah, but I love these tours! Endless problems arise–a lost ticket, a stolen purse, a lost passport, roommates who hate each other, on and on.
What a challenge. What an opportunity to practice and develop my philosophy. Work hard at something difficult and worthwhile! And, of course, expect nothing in the process.
March 21, 1994
Thank God it’s over. I snapped yesterday, and am looking forward to snapping some more. I can’t wait for the time when I won’t see anyone. Alone, alone, how wonderful that will be.
I don’t mind the people. Rather, it’s the constant pressure of “being on.” It’s okay for awhile, but I’ve had enough. I need a break.
I want to celebrate. This tour was near perfect. Thus I am forced to face a bigger problem: If this tour was near perfect, how can I stand it? Perfection raises the question: where do I go from here? If you’ve achieved perfection, the answer is: nowhere.
Perfection is going nowhere and being everywhere at once.
If you’ve achieved perfection, all you can do is bathe in its glory.
How do you organize a perfect tour celebration?
I run around the block squealing and shouting “Whahooo!”
March 25, 1994
Traveling The Route Of Inner Vision
The tour has ended. It exhausted me. But what a success! This tour was the top of the line. No wonder I’m depressed. How will I top it? What is there to look forward to? I’ve reached the top of the mountain. Now there is only the slide down, down, down, into the valley of low energy and depression. How can I plan my next success? Impossible. I can call tour people, put ads in the papers, but it won’t work. I need to recover from this success before I can move on.
Meanwhile, I look at my future tours. Bulgaria has only two people registered, and Turkey has nobody. This compared to thirty for Budapest and Prague. I could cancel them, and that may happen. Were Budapest and Prague freaks, or a pattern of future tour success? I hope they were. What can I do, if anything, to promote my success? I’ve spent years developing my tours. They are ready for the world.
Does the world want them? Some do.
Where are they?
Is it up to me to find them?
As Joseph Campbell says, it is difficult for the hero to reenter the world, even more difficult than leaving it. By leaving it, the hero has listened to and followed his inner voice; he has gone to the mountain top, found his vision, developed it. Now comes the return. He is ready to bring his vision back into the world. But the world does not want it. It lacks this vision. That is what the hero sensed and why he left the world in the first place.
What to do?
He can say, “Fuck you all!” and return to his mountain cave.
Or he can say, “I’ve got a skill. I can help others. What do they want? I’ll find out and give it to them.” This is the commercial route. Although it may lead to public success, it can also lead to inner deadness and an ultimate denial of his vision. Or he can look for the few, the very few who appreciate his vision, give it to them, and slowly, painfully, patiently develop his own following. This route, although often followed with little public acclaim or success (though these may come), ensures the continuation of his vision, the faithfulness of his road. But there is no question it leads to inner peace and satisfaction.
The last road is my road. I’ve tried the fuck-’em-all approach. It doesn’t work for me. I can’t drop the public and live forever in my cave–although I often think I want to. But whenever I’ve tried it, after a few days I get frustrated and want to return to the fight. If I only retreat and withdraw, my fighting spirit starts to die. I must fight in the world for my vision, struggle to bring it to others, fight for registrations and sales. This, although I often hate it, is my nature.
I can’t follow the commercial route. Personally, I have nothing against it, but it is not my nature. As soon as I ask, “What do they want?” I lose interest in performing. The commercial route does not work for me. I am too stubborn.
Thus I must travel the “compromise” route, the route of inner vision and outer sales. Joseph Campbell says you do not have a complete adventure unless you return to the world. Life fluctuates between the cave and the world. This approach leads to inner peace. Perhaps this is true. We’ll see.
I am going public with my vision.
My purpose is to create a flow, not an original work. Let the river run. If a beautiful mermaid appears, or an octopus swims, or a rising sea monster grabs my boat, it does not matter, so long as my creations flow. And each word is my creation, even when it has been repeated a thousand times. The world vision rises and marches and sags through tantalisms of cataclysmic atrocities, wrenching abnormalities, chilling, distant, cry-screaming abodes located deep into the antipodes, where words sing in gold mine shafts and laser miners stub their toes on gold and silver bars.
Strike out on a new path, the dynamic Hero Road. The old byways are heavy with blood.
Ancient sewers are burning.
March 26, 1994
Realm Of Death
Should I make death one of my goals?
Karl Jung says it is a good idea.
Focus on death, and life will get better.
At least focus on the bodiless experience.
Home Is All Directions
I’m hanging by my finger nails. No plot, structure, or form.
I’m dangling in mid-air wondering where my next shelf will be.
Is this a way to write? Such free forms leading nowhere and everywhere at the same time?
But what else can I do? This journal writing style is my destiny. I can only follow my inner voice. It says, Go in all directions to find home.
Home is in all directions.
Home is everywhere and nowhere at once.
Why apologize for my writing style? Why search any further? I am home by immediately writing down what comes to mind. What’s the difference if my writing is incomprehensible? Who cares? I’m not publishing for a general market but for the one or two or more who are in tune with me. Who can understand Finnegan’s Wake? Not many. Not even James Joyce. But so what? Why judge everything based on comprehension? Is beauty comprehensible? As soon as you understand beauty, it disappears. Only the ugly is understandable, because it is so awful you want to understand it to make it go away.
I like writing babble. I like the fact that I can’t understand it. It makes reading my writing an adventure. I’m not even sure who is writing it. Is that my voice, or a foreign one creeping into my brain through the left ear? Who can say? Foreign voices can be intriguing and say things I would never think of. I hate reading my writing when I remember it was I who wrote it. I enjoy it only when I’ve forgotten the author. Besides, even when I remember I am the author, I’m not sure who I am anyway.
Who am I? Beats me. I’m not even interested. If I ever find out, I lose interest and look for someone else. Who I am is unimportant, even boring.
Losing interest in who I am frees me. I don’t care what I write. Any word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph will do. As long as I keep stringing words across the pages, I am happy. Words, style, or content doesn’t matter. Only doing. In doing I discovery vast regions of the unknown.
The known world bores me.
The Contradictory Joy Of A Sore Throat
Is it a sore throat or a cold?
Deep down I know it is neither. I got sick to mourn the passing of my tour. I hate mourning. Better to develop a known disease like a sore throat than face the sadness of tour loss.
Instead of crying through my eyes, I cry through my throat. I’m creating a sickness for myself.
I want to get down on my knees and cry and sing and laugh and weep and bellow and howl and scream and run around the room shouting with tears running down my face. Screams will change my life. I need a memorial to this tour.
What’s the best memorial?
March 28, 1994
Crawling On All fours Here On Earth
Am I ready for the peace of renunciation? Am I ready to renounce my desires for tour, folk dance, weekend, and financial success?
I would love to renounce them, to live within the peace of my books, studies, writing, music, exercises, and art. Withdrawal is such a fine word. This morning I especially love it.
I am scattered. My mental energies are pulled in so many directions. Focus and concentration bring me peace. By whittling down my interests to just a few I think I can achieve peace.
But, alas, it is only a pipe dream. I shall never achieve peace. I am doomed to struggle in contradiction all my life, to live in total paradox and suffer the ups and downs. Much as I wish for peace, I know that, except for a few rare moments, I shall never achieve it.
So be it. Failure, successes, wondrous sales, sickness, broken bones, muscle growth, all the bumps of the traveler’s life are mine, since I am so stupidly and helplessly mortal. I can touch God with a fingernail once in awhile, but most of the time I’m crawling on all fours here on Earth.
The Voice Straight From Hell
The most important thing in art and life is to follow your inner voice.
Be true to that tiny squeak of truth emanating from deep within the bowels of your being.
This is the voice of growth, knowledge beyond the static, mystic vision, the ineffable, unknown, and the higher powers within. To deny it is to deny aspects of your highest nature. And yet catering to its demands often leads across the line of reason, tradition, and cultural acceptance into a strange and alien land of languishing forms, giant, black-domed mountains, unleapable fiords, iron trees laced with concrete gates, and monsters of unimaginable ferocity.
Are more monsters in the inner world than the outer?
Is the outer world a reflection of the inner?
Do we create both outer and inner reality from the tiny bubble within our brain?
This bubble is leading me into the land of the unknown.
I need courage. Beyond that, I have little choice. A voice within is forcing me to follow, telling me it is unfair, nay, a tragedy, to leave this road unexplored. Unseen treasures await me. I would be blowing a fantastic opportunity not to take it. It may be a rough road, but not taking it would be rougher.
The road of the unknown is a wicked path full of barbed wire, bombs, barbs, and the incomprehensible. It’s the passion road. White jolts of irrationality come dressed in raw emotions and new verbal creations. Normal English cannot describe the mystic eruptions emanating from the black boiling bubble within. Only cacophonous word creations come close. I can taste them rising, boiled and unpure, from the inner cesspool of my being. They ascend through stomach, pancreas, lungs, and trachea, lodging for a moment in my throat just below the uvula before bursting past tongue and tooth, blasting lips apart and pouring their distorted, distended, bloated bodies onto my computer pages.
What can I do? I feel helpless before the onslaught. Barriers fall. The rush and challenge of new forms hurtles past the gates, unstoppable in its fury and freshness. I can only wait, watch, wonder, and witness this act of creation.
What can I do?
I’m only the scribe of words coming straight from hell.
I report their existence.
March 29, 1994
I was put on earth to write this journal. Sounds egotistical. I, little Jimmy, have a cosmic purpose?
Childish voices still scream at me from the back door of my mind. They are one of many voices I heard.
I hear too many voices. Would deafness be an improvement? One voice at a time would be better. But who knows from better? I take what comes and what comes is usually an unfathomable, indecipherable, tangled, mixed-up mess. Journal writing clears up the mess. I dump my shopping bag on the table and put all the new purchases neatly in the closet.
In many respects my mind is like Pathmark. Every day, I push my cart down the aisle, choosing mental goods from one shelf or another. Then I pay at the check-out counter.
My journal is my personal check-out counter. All my ideas are added up, put on a sales slip column, and handed to me. I bag them, push my cart through the door, and head home.
March 31, 1994
This morning I read an article in Forbes about an executive, educator, and writer who moved to the Virgin Islands and works there permanently. Since he moved to Paradise he has increased his work time, working uninterrupted for five hours every morning. Then he goes sailing, or swimming in the Caribbean.
The article made me jealous. I thought about moving. How nice to live in an island paradise far from the miseries of this world. Then I realized I envied his ability to work creatively for five straight hours . That’s what I wanted. If I could do it I would be living in paradise.
The point is, working five straight uninterrupted creative hours is well within my grasp. I don’t have to move or change location. But I do have to change my mind set. I have to be able to focus, and disengage my mind from the many trivial and annoying “necessities” plaguing my life. Many of these so-called necessities are business related; most have to do with money. Yet with proper organization I could do both: put in my five hour mornings of creative work and run my business.
Why don’t I?
First I must give myself permission to devote mornings to creative work. That means six or seven a.m. to noon.
By creative work, I mean writing, music, and exercises. Languages, history, and philosophy are for afternoons or evenings.
Where does business fit in?
What is my business?
How much of it do really need?
Business, although important, is a secondary priority.
My folk dance teaching business is in place. It takes almost no work on my part. Showing up is enough. My creativity and effort take off from there. But there is not enough money in folk dance teaching. But it’s a pleasant way of making a few dollars, good social release and exercise, and brings many a high moment. It takes nothing away from my five hours of morning creativity; it leaves my mind free.
Weekends and tours are set up.
The organizational part of my business takes little mental effort on my part.
What does take up mental effort is sales. I have to fill up my events with people, get customers for my tours, weekends, and folk dance classes. This is an ongoing problem, worry, and mental weight that may never go away.
Can I do my five hour mornings freely while I have this problem?
Can I get by on an hour or so of business a day?
Business has a place in my life, just not much of a place. At heart I am an artist and lover of study–a talmudic artist. I have a mixture of disdain, enthusiasm, and fascination for business.
I might be able to grow my business by doing less of it. I like that idea. How could I do it? I should delegate responsibility to my sales person and advertising/pr person. Then my job will be to think of new ideas. Some of them might relate to business, some to language, history, philosophy, music, writing, study, exercise, or something else. If I let my mind run free, who knows where it will lead me?
My “job” is to let my mind run free, and follow as it ferrets out new ideas, paths and directions.
New Leaf III
The Courage To Grab It
Why am I wasting my time trying to make a living? “Working” is a hideous thing, something I should avoid at all costs. Why push against my instincts and beliefs? Why do I feel so sick and lost?
Truth is right in front of me: I only need the courage to grab it.
I should follow my vision.
Give up hopes and the scramble to make lots of money.
I don’t believe in money, only the security it can bring. The desire for money only begets desire for more money. Desire leads to more desire. It does not loosen my mental shackles; it does not lead to focus, peace of mind, and the challenge of purpose I need to be an artist.
The Rest Is Shit
Since I returned from Budapest I have forgotten almost everything important to me. What happened to beauty, freedom, and my free-flowing, adventurous spirit? I have been crushed by my grasping: for customers, growth, ways of expanding my business.
Why am I bothering with all this? Where did my fresh and innocent vision go?
I often rediscover this vision in the arts and study. Those are my blissful fields. The rest is dung.
I should cut back on everything and return to philosophy, metaphysics, poetry, and music. I want to drop my obsession with tour business growth.
April 7, 1994
Finnegan’s Wake keeps bothering me. I can’t even read the damn thing. Why is James Joyce so incomprehensible?
Yes, that he could spend years writing page after page of nonsense is a literary tribute to nonsense.
If he can do it, why can’t I? Even though I can’t understand what he’s saying, Finnigan’s Wake had opened a door for me. Perhaps understanding is not as important as example.
April 10, 1994
Art, Passion, and Writing
Lack of confidence has been a roadblock to my dreams. It has prevented me from admitting how much I love music, writing, and studying. If I admit my love, then I’ll want to commit myself to them with all my heart and effort and soul.
I have no feel for political oratory. Perhaps deep down I know that most of it has only divided people, and that the arts are the ultimate unifier. People dancing in the folk dance circle don’t have time for political arguments. Although I love to listen to political battles from the sidelines, I rarely join in. You never win. Discussing politics is like discussing religion; nobody gets convinced and everybody ends up fighting each other. Politics rarely unites people.
But art does.
In my high school and college years I felt musically and intellectually lacking. What I lacked in skills and abilities I made up for in fervor and enthusiasm. No question, I loved music, loved my studies, the studying process, sitting down at my desk exploring the wonders of the world with book in hand, circling the universe, travelling through unseen worlds and unexplored realms. Ah, a wonder. I always loved it. Too bad I only got C’s and D’s in my tests. What kind of encouragement was that? I could never get good marks. I was great at wondering, enthusiasm, and fervor; I just couldn’t do well on tests. I lacked confidence, but not love.
How could I stand up or compare to the great artists I worshipped: Heifitz, Casals, Horowitz, Milstein? And of course the thought of writing music after hearing Beethoven was absolutely unthinkable.
I grew up among gods, worshipping gods, but not daring to approach them too closely. I grew up surrounded by a cloud. I may have felt inferior, but I was constantly aware of the brilliant and transcendent sun above me.
I already had the vision of transcendence. But my vehicles were thwarted. Music was unthinkable–my gods had taken care of that, and intellectual thought and academia were unapproachable, since my test marks had taken care of that. But nobody had ever tested or questioned my enthusiasm and love of learning. That remained intact.
Writing seemed to be a perfect compromise. First, I had no prior training in it, I had no vision good or bad to distract, discourage, or encourage me. No one in my family had ever been a writer. It was virgin territory. I liked virgin adventures.
Writing combined all my loves: music through the sound of the words and intellect through the meaning of words themselves. Writing was a perfect vehicle. I discovered this new direction during my last year at the University of Chicago. Upon graduation, I moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, rented an apartment on St. Marks Place, and spend my time trying to write a great American novel like my hero, Thomas Wolfe.
I had sat reading Look Homeward Angel on the subway. Wolfe had such passion in his writing. I got lost in his book and missed my stop, lost in a swirling flow, the passion of words which I found out later he wrote on top of the refrigerator. Nothing stopped him. He wrote on and on, hour after hour, in a white heat, an unyielding torrential passion, just like the passion I used to feel playing violin concertos in my room. Ah, that passion was glorious! Nothing could surpass it. I wanted it; I wanted more and more of it. I wanted to devote my life to feeling and experiencing that passion. There was a reason to live; that passion made a burning life worthwhile.
It was my guideline, light, hope, and ever-present sun. It represented meaning, purpose and beauty all in one.
The only problem is, vicissitues of life hypnotize you. You forget your passion. You wonder why you are living it in the first place. I often forgot for days, months, years. During those desert wasteland marches, I longed for my oasis. Something was always missing. I knew it was missing. I had lost my center and identity, the reason for my existence. Yet I was helpless to change course, destined to cross the desert before my passion burned again.
Am I ready to take it up now? I feel a qualitative change coming. Priorities are falling into place.
I will survive in this world even with clouds of transcendence floating above my heart.
April 11, 1994
Of Means And End
Am I smart! I always knew, if I ever removed my fears of financial ruin, I would find hundreds of other fears. Pandora’s box would open, and out would pop a stream of cloudy dragons and faceless demons. Financial fear was merely the lid. My narrow focus on money freed me from dealing with the other dragons.
Yet I’ve always made it, even though finances are and have always been precarious. Why not believe in myself? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on the higher forces that keep me in place? Why continue this never-ending worry about money?
Well, I’ve come to the end of my agony. The fear of financial ruin is stepping back.
New black doors are opening.
I woke up this morning almost paralyzed with nameless fears. Slowly they coalesced into fears of sickness and disease, of being unable to teach folk dancing or play the guitar. I could get an incurable disease at any moment, I could be overwhelmed by my unfulfilled talents, the creations I should have made, must somehow make but don’t have the time to make. Thus, physical and psychosomatic fears have replaced financial fears.
Do such fears boil down to lack of confidence?
This journal is turning into a personal psychoanalysis. Oh, no, not again! I’m sick of psychoanalysis; I can’t stand looking at myself anymore. Is there no end to this self absorption? Bus, what can I do? I must write what I must write. Today it is this.
But good things are coming out, too. I started reading The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. What a pleasure to read about the life of Michelangelo Buonarotti! I haven’t read a novel for years. Why? Novels are so involving I lose myself in them, I forget my work. I forget my financial cares. I forget to write, play guitar, call for bookings, think about tours, weekends, folk dancing, and getting more customers, I forget about business, survival goals, and purposes. I lose myself in a beautiful story, merge with a great idea. Reading a novel is a wonderful experience I have denied myself so I could be free to concentrate on my ancestral fears of financial ruin. Symphonic music is another uplifting experience I have denied myself. Financial survival has been top priority for years. I haven’t given myself the uplifting adventures of life, the celestial meetings with the gods through story and music. This is the price I have paid for freedom, entrepreneurship, and self-sufficiency.
It’s not a bad price. I won’t complain about it. But the price structure is changing; I’m moving into a new market of artists, novels, music, and transcendental spheres. I am taking another step towards knowing what I want and who I am.
Doing what I want is possible when I’m ready to do it.
Back to origins! What was the original purpose of my tours? To experience firsthand how folk dancers in other countries danced. I wanted to know the creative limits of my own choreography. How much could I improvise? How far I could go? How creative could I be and still stay within folk traditions? What were folk traditions, anyway? After years of running tours to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Israel, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Egypt, and Turkey, I found out. In the process, I became a stronger teacher, learned to lead tour groups, and improved my business skills.
Then a quantitative goal formed: I wanted to run tours to thirteen European and Middle Eastern countries, develop a multi-million dollar business, and sit at home collecting millions of dollars while other people ran my tours, did most of the work, and made me a millionaire.
How did I arrive at such a vision? Means turned into an end. My original goal had been to develop as folk dancer and teacher. Slowly, this vision degenerated into one of bloated economic security flavored by greed. Pursuing my artistic and intellectual interests wasn’t enough. Rather, I wanted more, more, more! I pigged out. I wanted money for its own sake. Almost as if to teach me through divine punishment, as my desire for wealth expanded, my expenses grew and my income diminished. Soon I was in big debt.
Worrying about money was killing my art. I hoped the stock market would help me achieve economic security. Then I could lead my life as an artist in financial peace. Soon, however, making money in the market became a goal in itself. The means had metamorphosed into the end. I was sure I could beat the system. But after years of small wins and losses, I ended up about even. In reality, I lost. Had I simply put money into low-interest-bearing accounts, I would have ended up with more than I started out with. Now I must admit my seventeen-year stock market adventure is a failure. It’s fun, fascinating, dynamic–but financially a failure. It’s no fun if you don’t win. You feel like a fool who has lost money, time, and expended mucho mental effort for basically nothing. This is the downward path when means metamorphose into ends.
April 12, 1994
Pathways To Radiance
This morning a gray day penetrates my den–my mind, too. I feel a compulsion to finish an hour of writing. I must do an hour, turn out four pages, push myself to accomplish the task. I feel incomplete without finishing, as if the day has otherwise been wasted.
My compulsion is genuine. Why? Two reasons: first, I’m afraid I’ll dry up, wake up with nothing to say, my ideas and efforts will have disappeared, I’ll become a dull mass of floating protoplasm. This negative reason for pushing myself is basically a lack of faith in the creative process and my own powers. Ultimately, it is a lack of faith in the higher powers. This lack of faith–really fumbling with faith–pushes me to write. My four-page, one hour daily writing program is the whip I use to drive me into the creative pig pen where I slosh and roll in the mud, roll, bang my head against the wooden walls, and, for an hour, do what feels unnatural but necessary.
The positive reason is that deep down I know I can reach transcendence through the writing process. I can attain what James Joyce calls “esthetic arrest,” cast my veil beyond maya and touch the cosmic essence of life, the real purpose and meaning of my existence. Often I rise from writing feeling loftier. I have touched my greater self and become worthy again.
Become worthy through my actions. Is that what esthetic arrest can do? Is it esthetic arrest when I am not arrested? I am no where near resting. Moving, moving, writing, writing, sending my brain rolling down the verbal cataracts. Movement, conflict, the never ending battle of words clashing, sentences rubbing against each other and producing sparks and ascension. Perhaps when I am finished arrest will come. God created the world in six days of action. On the seventh, He rested. Gazing upon His creations, did He experience easthetic arrest? He didn’t have esthetic arrest until the seventh day, when He gave the Sabbath so we too can rest and meditate upon the larger purpose of our existence.
What of maya? What of the illusion beyond day care?
Is there a higher purpose than art?
There is. It is the Radiance. The Radiance of Zohar, transcendence, violin playing, a Beethoven symphony. It shines above maya and through illusion. Life’s purpose is to touch the Radiance.
Art is a bridge to reach the Radiance.
Here is the answer to sinking, deep-boned hopelessness. That dark cloud appears when I put my hopes for happiness into the forms of this world. Then I realize they are merely forms, temporal paths to the Radiance. When I confuse forms with the higher reality, I sink deep into the Sea of the Lost.
Cataclysmic waves sweep over me, wash away hope, and leave me paralyzed in a darkness beyond death.
Could such darkness be a subtle pathway to Radiance?
April 13, 1994
The Secret Nature of Art
Apollo was the god of music, poetry, and medicine. Why? Music and poetry are the medicines that cure body and soul.
I often rediscover this truth as I play guitar, write, or dance. Last night I rediscovered it teaching folk dancing.
The evening started out slowly. By seven o’clock only two people had shown up. Another losing night, I thought. No money or people. But soon the regulars came. The music, the small but knowing community of folk dancers, moved together, creating a lovely evening of peace and satisfaction.
Maybe I should keep my dance classes a secret. Give up on advertising. If more people come, great, but if not, that’s not so bad either. Perhaps I was not put on the earth to make money but to bring beauty to others by bringing it first to myself. Making money has nothing to do with that. But there is something else going on here that I have sensed for years but never been able to verbalize: The secret nature of art.
The art experience, its transcendent beauty, oneness, and wholeness cannot be verbalized. At least by me. When I try, I usually trivialize it. I must sense this killing technique deep down within me, for I have always resisted telling about my events. I cannot advertise myself or what I am doing. I end up joking and fooling around. I never go directly to the point, to the center of the art experience. I resist because, deep down, I am afraid, if I try telling about it directly, I will kill it. The hidden aspect, the secret of the art experience, keeps it alive for me.
This holds true, not only for the arts, but for my tours, weekends, and dance classes as well. It probably holds true for just about anything good I do, since the art experience is central to my nature, fundamental to my personality.
I can’t talk about sex, music, writing, even history. Talking kills. I doubt I can talk about anything spiritual, bring it down to the verbal “explainable” level. How can you describe Shining, or its reflection in shining eyes? Only metaphors work. That’s probably why I use the indirect approach. A frontal attack can easily be deflected, whereas a back-door approach may help me gain entrance to the castle.
Art and business, transcendence and commerce, do not mix. Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and render unto Me what belongs to Me. I can see no other way.
Have I given up? Yes, I have. The phone has stopped ringing, checks have stopped coming in the mail, all my events and registrations are down. As soon as I am certain about something, the opposite begins to happen. Summits of enthusiasm and hope always lead down the backside of the mountain to bottomless pits of despair, which, in turn, lead to the towering tops of the next mountain. Man is a paradox. I am a leading example. I can hardly believe anything I say, because as soon as I say it, its opposite takes over. Such is the life of a Gemini.
Witness my argument against advertising and business. The “I am an artist” concept, although true, is again running into its opposite, the businessman/entrepreneur. It’s happening because I’m getting mad! Yes, mad! I’m getting mad because nobody is calling me; I’m getting mad because checks and registrations are not arriving in the mail and my folk dance classes are off. I’m getting mad, and madder and madder. Soon I’ll pop. that’s when I’ll return to business and fight for my events, classes, and loves. I’ll return with a vengeance. I’ve been sick and rolling downhill ever since my meeting at Scanam Tours. The downwards blast in the stock market didn’t help either. Perhaps I just need a rest. Well, I’ve gotten it. Time to start moving. Attack with full force!
April 14, 1994
How can I believe my cycles? Truth is, I can’t. I am fooled every time by the veil of so-called reality. Perspective is the first thing that flies out the window as I follow on the unending up-and-down path of hope or despair.
It’s easy believing you’re a fool when times are bad. Will I still believe it when times are good?
April 15, 1994
Good Deeds As Artistic Creations
When I devote myself to the life of the artist, I am also devoting myself to the performance of good deeds.
Good deeds are the moral equivalent of artistic creations. Good deeds are artistic creations.
When I read the beautiful story “The Love of Two Brothers,” and the story of Mount Moriah, I cried for its goodness.
I had the same overwhelming feeling of transcendence that I felt when listening to the Beethoven symphony at age fourteen, the same dissolution of ego and melting into the universal that I often feel when experiencing music of great beauty. The beauty experience, the ultimate art experience, the raison d’etre for life and art. But now I felt it for an experience, not of artistic beauty, but for the performance of a good deed, for a morally excellent deed, a deed of ultimate giving.
It is the place where beauty and ethics meet, the transcendental spot, the holy ground of the burning bush. Ethical beauty and artistic beauty come from the same place; they are the same place. Moses was the Beethoven of moral commandments and good deeds; Beethoven was the Moses of artistic power and beauty.
April 18, 1994
I Am The Christopher Columbus of My Mind
I’m afraid to look back, afraid to edit, afraid my words will cease to flow. Is this a common fear? Do other artists suffer from this or is it only me?
Am I protecting my creative core when I refuse to look back? Or is it something else?
Maybe my instincts are right; if I review now, I’ll kill my creativity and flow. I’m following my instincts. They tell me , not to turn back but to move relentlessly forward towards this new land I am exploring, a land no one has ever visited before. I am the Christopher Columbus of my mind. I’ve set sail, hoping to discover the new world. Will it happen? Is my uncharted approach correct? Will my scattered daily route, rising and falling on meandering waves of stream of conscious journal writing style lead me to the new America?
Deep down I know it will. And deeper down, I know there is no choice. This is the determined style and method for this period of my life. It is a path given to me by a superior force. I must follow it wherever it leads me. No editing or looking back is a weakness I must accept, at least for now. My job is to forge ahead into the darkness, pushing aside the brambles and overgrowth, uprooting trees, wading through swamps while trying to avoid patches of quicksand, staying afloat in a stormy sea, and to keep my ultimate adventure alive–the exploration of the unknown. Since it is unknown, no one can tell me where it leads. I can’t read about it or ask others. I can’t even ask myself. No doubt something exists ahead of me, some kind of destiny has already been written. What is it?
Do I really want to discover it?
Once discovered, will I lose interest?
Research and development is based on the hope something useful and saleable will be found. But no guarentees. It could all lead to nothing. Journal writing is my personal R and D department. Hang in there! Keep at it! There can be no other choice.
My Journal Is My Guide
Perhaps my journal is my guide. I’m posting my schedule on the bulletin board–a list of things to do peppered with philosophies of life to consider.
If my journal is my guide I’ll want to read it. It won’t represent the dead past but the vibrant future.
This could be a solution for me.
I think I like it!
April 19, 1994
A Little Pain
I write better when I am somewhat uncomfortable. You need a little sting of pain, misery, and discomfort to push the creative effort. The blood has to boil a bit. Too much comfort kills the boil. A little pain can be a positive stimulant.
April 21, 1994
Releasing A Swarm Of Mad Bees
Linguistic barriers are falling.
I hear, reverberating in the darkened halls of my mind, a conglomeration of Gallic, Hungarian, Arabic, Czech, Hebrew, Russian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and English? Add music, art and ancient languages, birds singing, trees whispering, crocodiles laughing, peapods stretching, pladypuses playing, dinosaur bones rolling, mountains sighing, metamorphic rocks groaning, earth bones cracking, suns rising and creaking upwards on a foggy morning, and more.
Writing this morning is a mysterious sound bath leading everywhere and nowhere at once. I am simply letting the door swing open, pushing down a wall or two. Sounds, trapped for years inside my aural Pandora’s box, escape into the atmosphere. I use my finger and mind combo in their unending service. I am thankful for becoming a more perfect instrument. It’s nice to know I perform a useful service by releasing such a swarm of mad bees on the public.
April 22, 1994
Goodness Is A Symphony
Goodness is a symphony. It makes you cry with the pain of its beauty.
Music cures. I know this.
I write music–but use words in place of notes.
Look at my early heros. Beethoven the king, along with Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Pagannini. Others followed. The highest form of creation was to write music. But only gods wrote music. I had to “settle” for so-called lesser forms, that is, playing their music. I could never create it. That would be too high. And too much trouble. Writing down each note, thinking about bars, measures, timings, and instrumentation, restricted me. Basketball had a physical freedom I couldn’t find in music. The incredible violin technique needed before you could plunge into the music and “forget yourself” was too great.
Something was missing.
Then I went to college, discovered books, and along with them, philosophy, physics, history, poetry, novels, and a whole new world of transportation through language. This deepened when I spent my junior year abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, where I lived, studied, and dreamed in French. The French language became my music, a sonata I could play whenever and wherever I was awake.
Two years later, at the University of Chicago, I was sitting in my room facing 55th Street when I realized that writing combined all I needed: music, intellect, philosophy, language, and poetry. But most of all, writing offered me freedom. I could easily move from one sphere to another. Music and basketball had trained me, but writing was my best personal means of self-expression.
Since college I have known how good writing is for me. But then, my Warden of Shit emerged, asking questions: How dare I write, me, a mere beginner, a normal person with minimal if any talent, just a Bronx boy who got C’s and D’s and an occasional B in class, who played an average violin and average basketball. Average, average. How could I dare put myself in the same constellation as the artistic and intellectual stars I worshipped? Wouldn’t it be better to stay on earth with the peasants? Was I good enough?
My Warden shouted a resounding no. With this attitude, it is amazing I did anything at all. But somehow my low self-image was countered by an unknown force, a voice speaking from a higher plane. “Push on,” it said. “Don’t take no for an answer.”
Luckily I listened.
Did I really have a choice?
Thus, as a writer, music is my center. I am writing, not a novel, journal, poem, or story, but a symphony. I cannot think of plot or make long-term writing plans. I grab the moment of music, and sing in the here-and-now.
April 23, 1994
On the Misery of Verbs
Adjectives and nouns are easy to understand. They are concrete visible substances. I see, hear, touch, taste, and smell them.
I also understand pronouns.
But I cannot understand a verb. What is it? Where is it? I cannot seize it. Adverbs, too. They are not concrete and visible.
Perhaps it is because verbs and adverbs are floating spirits. I walk slowly is a typical verb and adverb combo. How disgusting it is! I can see the noun walking before me. But I cannot see its verb.
Who are these miserable verbs and adverbs? Why are they so difficult to understand?
April 24, 1994
I have several plans in mind. They are sure to kill any desire to accomplish them.
As soon as I hear a plan, it turns into a must. Then I vanish into won’t. Too bad. I wish I were different. But, I am a paradox. Thus, while wishing I’m different, I’m happy that I’m not.
April 27, 1994
Barry read my journal in class yesterday. He loved it and so did everyone else. I was moved. Can I take all these compliments? Will they distract me, inhibit me, prevent me from exploring further? I’m on the verge of new discoveries. I don’t want success, which I’m so unaccustomed to–or failure which I’m so used to–to deter me from my goals. Keep my eye on the prize, the swinging ball of transcendence.
April 28, 1994
The Best Sales Tecnhique Is Prayer
Is God knocking at my door?
Yesterday I opened the refrigerator door and a pot of chicken soup fell out and spilled all over the floor. I screamed, stamped the floor, then smashed the refrigerator with my fist. Bernice said, “I’ve never seen you get so angry at a person.” I answered, “Damn this refrigerator! No one is registering for my events. Business has been dead for over a month. I’ve cancelled my Bulgarian tour; the Turkey tour is about to be cancelled, too. The July 4th Weekend and Smorgasbord Weekend have two people registered. My stocks are down. I’m almost broke. I’m mad as hell. Where is everybody?”
This is my eternal song of complaint, the entrepreneur’s favorite oratorio. But is there a God?
An hour later, the phone rings. An agent tells me she’s got a woman celebrating her sixty-fifth birthday who wants to book twenty rooms for her family at Camp Smorgasbord! Suddenly, from zero people I’ve jumped to an almost full weekend! Is that a miracle or not? Isn’t God looking out for me? Such miracles have happened in the past. When I crawl into the valley of despair, give up all hope, all possibility anything will ever get better, then and only then does a hand come down from heaven and lift me up. Is this the yad chazak shel Elohim I read about in the Bible? Why do such things happen at precicely these moments? Are they accidents or predestined events taking place only after I have “learned my lesson?”
If these metaphysical ideas are true, and I believe they are, then not only does God work actively in the world as a moral, corrective, and teaching force, but He helps me in business, too.
God may be the answer to my sales problem.
Whenever I despair that no sales and no registrations are coming in, Bernice tells me to go out there and sell harder, start calling people, start writing letters, in other words, do something about it!
This so-called “reasonable approach” makes me want to vomit. Truth is, the worse things get, the less I do. I can’t stand being bullied by people or by events. I refuse to be pushed around by my miserable business situation. So instead of doing the “reasonable thing,” fighting back by trying harder, I rebel by refusing to fight. I retreat into my corner, shouting, “Fuck you!” at the rejecting world. This may not be productive, but it makes me feel better. It’s like someone stamps on my toe and, instead of kicking them, I stamp on my other toe instead.
But perhaps instinctively I know that fighting back when you’re feeling hopeless is not the answer. Waiting it out is better. You’re not in control of who registers. Only God is. It is up to Him. Why should I scream, fight, and kick? Fighting cosmic forces is silly, egotistical, and fruitless. Why work so hard? Better to give in. God is stronger, more willing, and he’s got all the destiny cards. Sure, I’ll try here and there for the fun and sport of it. But I won’t expect anything from my efforts. I have little to no control over outcomes.
As I reflect on what I’ve written, I see the answer to my sales problems. I’ve been doing things ass backwards. I have not followed my basic belief, which is: I shouldn’t be doing sales in the first place. At first I thought I should hire others to do it. Now I understand the real answer is to wait and let God do the work for me. Or rather, let God do the work through me! Through me is the qualitative difference. I am the instrument. An instrument does not talk back, fight its player, or decide what notes to play. Nor does it decide to look for work. It only waits for its player. Without its player, it is powerless; without its player, it is nothing.
I am the business instrument. I will wait for my player to decide what tune He wants to play on me. While I’m waiting, I can have breakfast.
Business has a spiritual quality. It is based on the faith that God will send you customers.
A phone call from a customer, or a registration check in the mail, is a business miracle.
When people ask, “What is your sales technique?” my answer is: prayer. I kneel before my phone and pray it will ring; I kneel before my mail box and pray it will fill with registration checks.
Praying for customers is the bottom line sales method. All else is commentary.
April 29, 1994
Duty and Guitar Peformance
Is it my duty to perform my guitar shows? I wish it were. Perhaps some day my wishes will come true. What a shame I no longer want or need to “share my talents” with an audience. I hate/love to perform. I have given up performing. I don’t even believe it’s a shame. It’s of a relief. I often tried to figure out what the audience wanted. I gave up the reins and handed over the horse to the audience horde. The “What do they want?” thinking became a habit. This kind thinking sapped my power; it made performing a torture from which I have yet to recover. I still play guitar. But now it’s alone in my room. I love it–so peaceful, elevating, fulfilling, and relaxing. I don’t want to lose my love, throw it away playing for audiences and giving in to my old habits.
What a shame I can’t hold on to my love and play before an audience. But then I will have to take the chance the audience will walk out on me.
That is my fear: They will leave. That will “prove” that I am no good. I don’t believe this anymore, but these were my old thoughts. Could I develop new ones? Could I get in front of an audience again and, instead of “performing,” delve deep into my love of music, tone, sound, elevation, beauty? What a conquest that would be.
I would have to
think differently when I play guitar. Perhaps my guitar practice should be a meditation on tone. Perhaps it’s too early to figure all this out.
April 30, 1994
Nothing fails like success; nothing succeeds like failure. I aim for success, yet when I achieve it, I get depressed. Witness what happened in writing class. Barry read my journal. He loved it. So did the class. So did I. At last I was a “serious” writer, admired and respected. What could be better?
I went home elated. But next day my motivation and energy drained away. I sank ito a post-success low.
All this is nothing new. It happens over and over again. Some day I hope I can give up this failure/success syndrome. Concentration on success and failure sap my primary motivational force, my love of beauty. What can I do? I’m sadly human.
Road and Goal Are One
Road and goal are one.
As soon as I start out, I am there.
It’s taken eighteen years of losses to figure it out: the stock market is for fools. I’m a graduate of the University of Financial Loss. I’ve paid for my education dearly. I can’t remember how many thousands of dollars I have lost in the vain hope that someday, through financial success, I’ll be saved from the insecurity and vicissitudes of life. I’m disgusted. But I’ll simply vomit in the sewer and go on.
Aliens Are My Guides
I’ve been trying to take care of myself all my life with minimal success. Only when others take care of me do I thrive. I mean the “higher force others,” unseen aliens from other planets an realms that mysteriously come down to guide me over stormy seas roaring with wind-swept dragons. Aliens are my guides. Perhaps they are souls of the dead, or unembodied voices of the living. I don’t know who they are, or who sent them. But they guide me through this world of Stygean misery, along twisted roads, bisecting paths, and major highways.
Goal and road are one.
I must give up bifurcation and division, tear down the artificial walls I have created to imprison me in the small apartment of my mind.
I have to move beyond the city limits, suburbs, and mountain lanes.
Knock down barriers between road and goal.
Present is past and future.
Ralph Bates called me this morning. “You bastard!” he roared. “You guys are through up here!”
We lost our Nutmeg folk dance room because I put rosin on the floor.
I feel such a mixture of guilt, anger, sadness, and helplessness; I feel weak, and weepy, and generally kicked beyond recognition. I’m right, and they’re telling me I’m wrong. I’m right and they “fire” me.
I can’t wait around for justice to be done. I’ve got to take action now. Action is the best antidote to rage and frustration.
The more I think, the madder I get. I’ve called Bates, told him we would clean the floor ourselves or pay for a professional cleaner. His answer: “Fuck you! You guys are out!” He’s not a touchy feely kind of guy and probably was never in therapy. Floor therapy would help him, or rosin therapy ground into his brain by hundreds of dancing feet.
I’m calling Mrs. Conley. Maybe I can get to Bates through her, or maybe there is a higher authority like a board of directors. I may sue them for breach of contract. Of course, we have no contract. Neither do they. We have a verbal agreement to dance until June 3. I’ll ask them to honor that. Are they honorable people, or simply bastards?
May 1, 1994
Nutmeg Drifting Towards Oblivion
Imagine, the Nutmegers think I’m at fault, that I lost the room because I put rosin on the floor. I did it to protect them. Well, fuck ’em all. But I think, after the rubble clears, even Tom will see things from my point of view, namely, quality dancing on a safe floor.
In any case, the best approach for me today will be to assume that I’ve lost my Nutmeg group for May or for forever. If they’re disgusted with me because I’m fighting for quality dancing on a safe floor, then fuck them, too. There’s a lot of fucking going on here this morning, and, I’m happy to say, most of it is being done by me. Even Bernice is against me. Imagine comparing putting rosin on a dance floor to the Los Angeles riots.
I know I’m right, even though I lost the room.
I am right even if no one agrees with me.
How nice it is to shout from the hilltops, scream from the mountains, thunder to the world at large: I am right, you fuckers! You can all go to hell as far as I’m concerned. You can go to hell and I’ll still be right. When you’re buried underneath burning coals, I’ll be on the mountain top, looking over green fields warmed by the shining sun. I’ll be smiling in my personal heaven because, even though no one else agrees, I know I’m right.
It is a balm, blessing, and strengthening to stand up for your beliefs. I could lose mucho income, many folk dance “friends”, the “respect” of my so-called peers. It’s nice to be loved by others but best is loving yourself. The cheese may stand alone, but it smells just fine.
The words are flowing. Anger and indignition dissipate through my finger tips. Doubt, guilt, and fear prison with all jailers are drifting away, slowly drowning in my boiling raging sea. It feels great!
I’d love to strangle the disgusting creeps who are making my life miserable. I’m mowing them down with my Verbogun, freeing myself to walk down the sunny road towards my next goal.
May 2, 1994
It’s better to write shit than write nothing at all.
Shit may fertilize something.
If I write shit, I don’t feel wasted. I’ve tried, made an effort. Effort wakes me up, makes me feel better.
The words are flowing faster and easier. It’s almost nothing to string out a page or two. My fingers are moving automatically.
I wanted to improve my writing, develop my skill. This is happening as I write every day, pouring out words, drinking in and spitting out pounds of verbiage. My dream of becoming a writer is being fulfilled.
Notice the words being fulfilled. Notice the word being. It has not been fulfilled, it will not be fulfilled; rather it is being fulfilled. My quest is not over, nor will it be accomplished in the future. Rather it is being accomplished in the here and now, in a never ending process which may be fulfilling but will never be fulfilled.
Am I a writer?
What is a writer?
One who writes. Well, I write. Therefore. . . . Writicus, ergo sum.
Writing is my active meditation. It goes along with running. It’s hard for me to sit still. By writing, I run my mouth through my mind. Then its contents dribble out through my fingers onto the page.
May 3, 1994
I’m reading Paul Brunton again. A wonderful sage. He says, “There are times when writing becomes for me not a profession at all but either a form of religious worship or a form of metaphysical enlightenment. . . . Writing is an act of worship for me.” Later, he philosophizes on the meaning of life. “Life remains what it is–deathless and unbound. We shall meet again. Know what you are, and be free. The best counsel today is, keep calm, and aware. . . .The last word is patience! The night is darkest before the dawn. But the dawn comes.”
Such great material to think about. It started when I wondered when to begin my writing stint. Should it be after running, yoga stretching, or playing guitar? Should I put it off until I am more awake?
Good questions. But beneath them is the question, will I succeed? That’s the killer. Once questions of success and failure enter my writing process, I became afraid and a miniature writer’s block develops.
I want to make writing my form of worship, religious practice, and metaphysical exploration: a means to an end, not an end in itself.
To move my writing meditations upwards, I will have to give up my entanglements with success and failure. Step out of the opposites; enter the realm of One. The mind controls the illusion show. Writing can become a higher form, but it takes lots of practice.
And I must add renunciation of success and failure–very difficult, but a necessary step to inner peace. When I do this, my fears disappear and my writing flows freely across the computer pages. I just love swimming with the verbal currents. Blissful! It is the transcendental place I want to be.
May 4, 1994
On Conquering Writer’s Block
To make writing easy, it has to become a habit like eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, taking a run, going to the bathroom. . . breathing. But no expectations! Give up all plans of future glory, hopes of recognition, crowds cheering, audiences thronging to read your latest work. Do you have such expectations about brushing your teeth? Do you imagine throngs rushing to your bathroom to witness a brushing? Probably not. Writing should be approached the same way, as daily fare, a conversation with yourself. This approach takes the fear out of writing, makes it softer, easier. Then, it’s like discovering the center of the universe in a loaf of bread.
Telling About My Life
I remember discovering Zen Buddhism in college. What a revelation! Suddenly, I had found a philosophy I liked, one relating to my musical experiences. Experiencing oneness in a flash of insight was a common musical experience for me. Yet no western philosophers I read had ever written about it. Writings on aesthetics were too intellectual, empty, and missing of the mark. Somehow the Zen Buddhists just nailed the experience for me. I was hooked.
I discovered yoga at Chaits Hotel, again by accident. I visited a bookstore in Woodstock and saw a book cover with a man standing on his head. Since I was social director at that time and responsible for programs, I thought yoga might be fun to teach. I didn’t know any yoga teachers. So I decided to become one. Even though I knew nothing about yoga I figured I’d read the book, stay a chapter ahead of everyone else, teach the best I could, and see what happened. I looked at the whole episode an exercise in the art of the absurd, a joke. The idea of a human being standing on his head was ridiculous; the idea of my teaching yoga was even more ridiculous. Perfect! I bought the book and began to study.
Let me digress a moment. I notice I am telling about my own life. I am an expert on my own life. I know exactly what happened to me. No one can question it or tell me that I’m wrong. No one else has lived my life. It’s nice to be an expert.
Is this the direction my journal will be going? Will I be drawing experiences from my own life, telling tales of myself? It flows so easily. But it is so revealing. Do I dare? Will it all be boring?
These questions will be answered in the usual manner. Basically, I’ll go in whatever direction I have to go. The Big Voice running my show will point me in the right direction. When He points, I will obey. I will have no choice.
May 5, 1994
The Eubie Diet:
Unleashing The Incredible Energy Supply
How long shall I eat myself into oblivion? I should follow the Eubie method: one meal a day. It’s more than enough.
Sometimes I eat, not because I’m hungry, but to destroy myself. I pile in the food because I cannot stand looking at myself. It is a long-term bad habit.
Can I stop it?
Do I dare?
If I ate one meal a day, what energy I would have!
I am afraid of the energy.
Now I know. I was afraid to find out, but I found out anyway. There is an incredibly powerful untapped energy supply within me. It terrifies me. What would happen if I unleashed it?
Would it destroy or create a new me?
May 6, 1994
Vomiting My Way To Cranbury Chapel
Back Road to the Gods
Beneath My Surface Lurks The Fighter
This morning’s breakfast makes me nauseous. Writing after breakfast made me more nauseous. This may be a nauseating day. But let’s not knock nausea. It may be the back road to the gods. Nausea is a weapon: you have to fight with it; you have to fight against it. Keep the flow of words coming. Don’t let the nausea overcome you.
Nausea is giving me the energy to throw up this morning. I’m vomiting over the Cranbury Chapel. I fantasize a great sea of vomit engulfing that miserable place. I’d like to see Ralph Bates drown in that sea of vomit. If that can’t be done, I’ll settle for his burial under Puke Mountain.
I can visualize the soft greenish liquid forming in my belly, slowly mounting through my esophagus, then spurting forth with a joyous rush through both my mouth and nasal cavities, and covering the living room rug of Ralph Bates’s home with all kinds of artistic and folk dancing patters.
This kind of talk is absolutely disgusting. The more I talk about vomit, the more vomititious I feel. How can I, a full- grown, moral man, an educated and polite citizen of this country, so demean myself by wishing such foul repercussions upon an old man? Where is my sense of proportion and understanding? Truth is, I’ve given it all up for vomiting.
We’re meeting the Cranbury governing committee of the Chapel tonight. I’m hoping we can sway them to our point of view. I’m so fucking mad at these creeps! I can’t get the thought of being thrown out of Cranbury Chapel on a technicality, a miserable Bates whim, out of my head. Why are they bothering me? Why can’t I just be an artist and say fuck you to everyone else?
Well, evidently I can’t. When I want something especially when its important and I feel I’m justified, I simply won’t accept no for an answer. I don’t know where this never-give-up voice comes from. It’s almost unearthly in its quality. I experienced it in Leningrad, when I kept coming back to the box office day after day, sometimes twice a day, to get tickets for my tour group for the Moldavian State Folk Dancers. I finally got them. A memorable performance! But when the ticket office refused me, I could have given up. Instead, I got more determined. I kept thinking, Maybe there’s another way, a better way. Every time I was about to give up, new idea would appear. Where did these new ideas come from? It just doesn’t feel like me. Yet, it is me.
Beneath my calm, friendly, playful surface lurks the fighter. How else could I have survived as an artist? I find it very difficult to give up. In the face of resistence I get unbelievably stubborn. Is it healthy? What about my flexibility?
Whatever it is, that’s the way I am. I am proud of this inner strength, but I hate to admit it. I’m proud of my stubbornness, that I won’t give in, that I will resist. It is either stupid, courageous, or both. Luckily, I thrive on pradox.
The Irish and the Jews:
Qualities Of Scholar, Artist, And Fighter.
Fighting for myself, inner strength, dignity, standing up, never giving in to what is wrong, I know intellectually these are great qualities. Most people would be proud to proclaim they are brave, can stand up for themselves, believe in human dignity. I, however, am uncomfortable expressing these noble feelings even to myself.
It’s time to change my self-image. Evidently, I have always had these fighting qualities–the fighting Jewish-Irish. In my neighborhood, the Irish were the fighters, the Jews, scholars. Jews rarely fought; it was a shande. Only the Irish fought. They were uneducated boors. So said my mother. Later in life, after I ran my first tour to Ireland, I discovered part of me had always loved the Irish– especially that fighting quality. I have both the scholarly Jewish tradition and the fighting Irish tradition within myself. Later I also discovered, Jews had a long history of fighting tradition going back to the original conquest of Canaan, up through the Maccabean rebellion against Rome, and, of course, in modern times, the founding of Israel. The Irish, on the other hand, had a long scholarly tradition dating back to the pagan Druid priests of the early Celtic tribes. The Christian monasteries of the fifth and sixth centuries had their crowning achievement in the magnificent Book of Kells. No one uses the English language like the Irish. An incredible modern literary tradition with beautiful folk songs and dances, too.
I’ve got the Irish and the Jew in me. I love their qualities of scholar, artist, and fighter.
No doubt I’ve got other countries in me, too.
The Two-Hour-Writing Experiment
I’m breaking the one-hour writing barrier writing.
Is this a good idea? Will I pay for it later by not writing tomorrow because I wrote too much today? Will there be such an equal and opposite reaction?
I am afraid of moving into the extreme regions. When you push the natural elements, they usually fight back with a vengeance. Break the barrier, and a new barrier will be created–if not immediately, then soon.
It’s an experiment to see how far I can go. Should I up my quantity to an hour and a half or two hours? Could I stand it? Or, by pushing harder, will I discover new realms?
I doubt my tour to Turkey will go this summer. If it doesn’t, I’ll have much of July and all of August off. What better time that to start a new writing experiment?
Why wait for this summer? Why not start my experiment now? Wow! Wow and hmmm. . . .
My writing should be two hours of straight time in the morning. With breaks, of course. But an uninterrupted straight two hours. Wow. What a thought!
Will these two hours bring new fluidity to my writing, open new realms, new vistas? We’ll see.
May 7, 1994
Do I Dare?
Do I dare become a writer?
Do I dare commit myself? What does “commit myself” mean?
Do I dare write two hours a day?
Do I dare make writing my top priority and put everything else in second place? That means I would be committing myself to a “career” that makes no money.
I need to come to terms with the fact I will be putting heart and soul into something that will not make money. My “side line” will become my main work, and my “main line,” my money- making, will become my side line. But at least I be focusing on what’s important.
Is that a “higher reason” for losing our folk dance room at Cranbury Chapel last night? Ralph Bates said we’re out. At first I felt betrayed. But when I realized I had given it my best fight, I resigned myself to my loss. As I drove home that night at eight p.m. instead of the usual eleven p.m. I saw the sun set and said, “How pleasant to drive home early.” Suddenly, I had a wild thought: Some day I might thank Ralph Bates for his intransigence, for forcing me out of our folk dance room. He was freeing me to do something else. What would I do? Write, of course.
What an amazing thought. Suppose Ralph Bates is an angel in disguise. God sent him to no only force me out of my job but to rethink and reorganize my use of time and energy. This may be the message in my rejection. I couldn’t believe how granite tough he was; he could not be budged. When I finally let go of the room, I started to admire his absolute resolve. I doubt I could have done it. If someone pleaded, begging me for one more reasonable chance, I would have given it. Not Bates. I have to look in awe upon his absolute no, even though his is not my way and he is an absolute asshole.
I have decided on two hours of writing a day. This is a major commitment. It means my tours, weekends, and folk dance classes will come second. Will I be able to live with such insecurity and inner peace?
I’ll have to pray money will come from some unseen source, since I won’t be pushing to earn it. Maybe I should take a low-paying job in the post office if all else fails. But as long as I keep the dream alive–write, write, write–it won’t be too bad. This means admitting I am a writer. Not a hobbyist, dilettante, or amateur piddlying around with phrases. A “serious” writer. Serious is defined in terms of commitment. If my main commitment is to writing, then I am a serious writer.
I’ve always believed writing to be a lofty goal. Perhaps the time has come to give in to my grand passion, take on my grand commitment, begin my grand search and adventure. Look how events are forming to point to my new path: I have no registrants for my Turkish tour in August. If this tour is cancelled I will be free in August to experiment with two hours a day of writing. Now I am not as panicked about the possible loss of my Turkish tour. I’ll use my time in another way.
Is time to move on to a new adventure.