Archive for April, 2020


April 16, 2020

Mint said something then Roger coughed, in another room Jacob put something on a shelf. Roger thought he could hear it: it had occurred (that is, the placement of the thing on the shelf had occurred) between the moment Mint had said something and the moment that Roger had coughed. When Jacob came into their room, the both of them sat, Mint on the bed with the comforter and Roger on the sofa with the plastic sheet. Roger asked Jacob had he put something on the shelf. Jacob made a reply, with reference to the shelf, and Roger went to a different room. Mint rose from the bed and tapped Jacob on the shoulder. Jacob expressed an idea, which touched on the activity Mint had just performed (the tapping) then Mint thought of something else and made a reply to Jacob. Jacob roared with laughter and they both fell to placing things in a box, then to placing things on a shelf, the shelf that was by the mirrors. (Roger looked into the room, saw what they were doing, and coughed.)

Mint looked into the mirror and said something, then he turned in profile and said a second thing, which was thought to have been in jest. Jacob looked to one side then to the other side. He expressed an idea that pertained to Julie, and Mint responded with a reciprocal notion of the person he had named, and thought of Julie, then Jacob and Mint smiled, two nice smiles, and Mint looked closely in the mirror. Mint looked closely at the face that he saw reflected in the mirror and whispered something to it, which seemed “bitter to himself” (as he would later express).

Jacob had an idea about the mirror, and a separate but nearly simultaneously occurring idea about Mint’s activities around the mirror, then raised both of his hands toward his own head. After a period of looking at them, he put his hands (fingers) through his hair, about which he had the idea that he had washed it recently, which in fact he had. It felt that way and it was that way, was roughly what he thought about this: that he had recently washed his hair and his hair indeed felt recently washed, which was not how it always worked out. He had an idea about the conditioner he had used and expressed this idea to Mint. Mint expressed an idea about hair washing, about how he did it, then put his hands on either side of the mirror, staring in. Mint had an idea about something to say around the same time that Jacob did.

The room was quite small. Roger came into the room then left it. In another room, he started beating on the walls, with a hammer or mallet it sounded like, but they weren’t sure, then he started breathing so hard, in and out, that they could hear him though they were in the next room over, maybe a couple rooms over; then he stopped and it was quiet. When Roger next entered the room, he expressed an idea about Julie, then Julie herself appeared, somewhat behind him, with a smiling face. Roger coughed and the others came near to her, indeed they had come almost as near as to her as Roger, but Roger remained in between them.

Roger coughed. Julie expressed an idea about it, which made Jacob laugh and Roger smile nicely. Mint also smiled nicely and handled an object in his pocket. Roger, who had been nearest to Jacob, now moved nearer to Julie, then, expressing an idea, moved far from the group and out of sight. The garden gate clanged shut — they all heard it.

Jacob and Mint expressed ideas to Julie, who not only listened carefully but responded with ideas of her own that she expressed, or mainly expressed, and neither Jacob nor Mint was aware of, or would have minded, that Julie thought more than what she expressed, for Jacob himself often thought more than he expressed; Jacob, indeed, thought more than he expressed about Julie in particular, and Mint was often unaware that he expressed less than he (Mint himself) thought, his thought seeming nothing that a person would say. Perhaps Jacob’s thoughts were like that at times: things a person wouldn’t say because they oughtn’t even be thought.

Roger and Jacob thought more than they expressed about the person and demeanor of Julie; and Julie thought more than she expressed about the work of Roger, Jacob, and Mint, which had not been precisely what they’d discussed; and Mint, though perhaps unaware that what he thought was quite expressible, knew that he thought and knew what he thought: thought of himself, without expressing it, as being a sad person, as a person without hope.

Julie had something in her pocket too, which she began to handle, the expressions going back and forth, and the clang of the garden gate was heard again and soon there reappeared Roger, expressing ideas and smiling and laughing. And so Julie and Jacob expressed ideas that set them all laughing, except for Mint, who smiled nicely, and Roger, whose laughter was interrupted by coughing.

Then Jacob set down the box, which was heavy, and Julie and Mint brought forward the objects in their pockets, respectively, a personal check and a stainless steel key, the latter of which Julie took and the former of which Jacob took as Julie expressed an idea, which made Mint and Jacob smile nicely, while Roger, ducking to the side, spit.

As Roger, Jacob, and Mint all left, Mint had an idea he was conscious of not expressing but had articulated for himself: that he couldn’t understand at all how people laughed so easily, and suddenly Julie expressed an idea to Mint who stopped and turned to be only with her while the others went through the gate. She expressed an idea to him, and he shook his head, and she asked him a question, and he put up his hands, and she expressed an idea and he felt very sorry. Then she looked and he looked, smiling nicely, but he didn’t meet her eyes again.

Jacob and Roger didn’t express their ideas. There was a pounding now on this part, and now on that part, of the nearby wall, which they both were faced away from. It grew loud, quiet, seemed to have stopped, then started again, and with renewed vigor, before suddenly once again stopping. Then there was a little tapping in just the one corner. Then it was in two corners that the gentle, almost pleasant, tapping occurred, growing louder and sharper; then weaker, buffered; then multiplying in more and more spots, so that now the whole wall seemed alive and near bursting in a deafening crescendo with the thundering of many hammers of all sizes, here and there, high and low, gentle and pounding, steady and intermittent, held by a whole troop of workmen, it must have been, then all dying down as there arose a savage whirring and, its companion sound, a fierce wall-shaking grinding, the inferior giving way to the superior, the tapping and scraping to the whirring and grinding.

They faced away from this wall. Roger turned to the side and coughed and moaned, and Jacob, though moaning also, turned to his side and slobbered and spit, having coughed up something that looked to him “disgusting”, he had actually said, yet also perhaps betokening improvement; then rolling again on to his back, he closed his dim eyes and expressed something.

Roger reached for something, breathed heavily out. Mint handed it to him, whatever it was, and Roger greedily stuffed his face with it. Mint expressed an idea to Jacob, listened carefully to Jacob’s reply, then took the action that that reply most seemed to call for, it seemed to him.

It was right at this time that Julie came in, “plopped” the plastic bag on the plastic chair and announced a conception which made them all roar with laughter. Burst out laughing. Roger and Jacob expressed some ideas. Roger and Jacob laughed and then coughed. Mint, his action completed, found he had difficulty expressing his thoughts, though he smiled and even started laughing. Mint wasn’t sure he had thoughts to express, yet he had thoughts. No ideas, no ideas! Mint told himself, surprised by the sudden appearance of Julie.

He had a positive thought about Julie, which he was conscious of as having occurred to him, (perhaps it was in the manner of a cough, he supposed, a very positive sort of “clod clearing” cough, as he thought of it), and was conscious also of having this very negative thought of himself — it was rather negative yes; yet also, too, kind of positive. He appeared to himself, as an idea, like a healthy positive gob of phlegm he might have got out of himself, as a body, was the thing. And the thought of Julie was the positive cough that got out the also positive appearance of phlegm.

(And the whirring and grinding of himself, he thought, of the walls of himself. The whirring and shaking and pounding of his walls: and the phlegm and cough of his thought of her and the cough and phlegm of his thought of him. And the syrup, yes the cough syrup –the cough syrup? An idea: he thought this was an idea but perhaps he wasn’t expressing it right. Not like an adult who had an idea. Not like a person who had courage would express their idea when it was unpopular. A real adult person who could laugh at his own idea if it should sound funny coming out. “A real adult was one with his expressed idea in a way he could not be,” was something he confusedly thought.)

Julie thought not that she had come to see something new and positive in Mint, but that previously, though she had seen in him something positive, she had previously only seen it negatively expressed. Mint, having previously been merely “not elsewhere”, Julie now saw as being here, so to speak.

This worked out and thoughts were expressed. Motions, gestures accompanied the thoughts, or sometimes occurred at random. A man by the wood of the fence was alone. Many saw smiles and made smiles themselves; some laughed; garments were rearranged by gravity or by their wearers; silverware and plates were set upon tables; bugs flew, and the lights went on.

After still more thoughts were had and still more expressions were made, people all said Roger must have been drinking the rum punch (which of course he was) because he was talking on and on about “Labor” and … “Yes I am talking about Labor again,” he confessed, though he was really thinking and talking about a topic somewhat broader than the Labor movement (about which he was also, however, he could also be passionate): about how good it was to work, and how bad it was not to work, and how much more interested he sincerely was in cleaning up after parties than in being a guest at them — which was “just what he liked,” his preference. The drinking when not thirsty and the eating when not hungry and the talking and thinking when there was nothing much to think and say doesn’t much appeal to me he told them. And all the abundance and extravagance when there is so much want; and all the relaxing and idleness when there was so much to do; and all the toys and the games when there is so much waste; and so on, and so on, so that it felt like “a breath of fresh air” to Roger, when everyone, finally taking the hint, started in, as a giant team, with the clean up: lifting and stacking and clearing and scrubbing, and breaking up certain things and putting certain other things back into designated places, all the guests and all the honored couples, inspired by Roger’s speech and enthusiasm, and even the jogger who had wandered in and had leaned exhausted against the wood fence, even he had taken a keen interest in supervising the recycling station. So that soon people were commenting that, if someone didn’t stop Roger, he would would embark on some sort of home improvement project, and jokingly hid from him some masonry in need of repair. And so on (though in fact Roger did see the Masonry and came up with a plan) leaving the place much better than they found it.

“NAUSCOPIE” of writing

April 14, 2020

“NAUSCOPIE” (the alleged capacity to detect the appearance of a sailing ship beyond the horizon by visual means only) and my own feeling that I can detect good and bad writing –discern the one from the other– by merely looking at it: that is, not by reading or comprehending it, but just looking at the words as one might look at a drawing to discern whether it is good or bad. Nauscopie of writing: by which art the space between the words indicate the quality of the writing.

As ridiculous as this sounds, and surely is, I remain half serious about it, having noticed about my bad writing a certain ‘look’ — though by ‘good and bad’ probably something like ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ is meant, or ‘beginning and advanced student’, rather than the more or less interesting works of a professional, for example. As if the spacing of words held a clue. (Could I tell from looking at a latin text, which I don’t understand, which was the work of Horace and which the work of a Roman teenager? Or does my special ability of logoscopie apply only to English?)

In sum, I don’t think I could distinguish between the major and minor works of Kant, or between the stronger and weaker arguments of a supreme court case just by looking, but perhaps between the work of a better and worse student? or the work of a student when he has tried more and tried less?

This might be an interesting experiement: present subjects with the closing arguments of legal cases (or even the majority and dissenting opinions of supreme court cases) and ask them “just by looking” to say which they think has the stronger argument, and which they thought won the argument, and which argument they thought most agreed with their own sense of justice. (1) do their glances have any predictive power? (2) supposing not, how do their glances inform their judgment? (3) supposing so, is their glancing more predictive than their reading? That is, does their glance tell them more than their reading does?

April 13, 2020

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Shoulder of the Jogger and Tale of the Red Sauce

April 10, 2020

The shoulder of the jogger. I had been looking to see if the jogger ahead of me was the same jogger I’d passed previously. This previous jogger had worn a sleeveless shirt and had a tatoo of a kind I could not recall on her shoulder, while this current jogger had a shirt I’d call sky blue in coloration, and I was looking at the shoulder of it, which had a sleeve, and no tattoo could be seen there.

That corner of her shirt, –and I don’t believe I’m joking when I say this — although I may be joking– occurred to me as something important. Looking at the figure of a woman is something that will in some engender sexual excitement; and sexual excitement derived from things that don’t seem sexual we call a fetish; but what I saw on this shoulder was a kind of distillation of ordinariness, something so uninteresting, it seemed what all life was made of, an elementary particle of boredom. Not sexual, not a fetish, not of interest, but a fabric of everything that was sort of the opposite of a fetish, leaving one lifeless and mesmerized by ordinariness. It was something even more fundamental than an atom, this random part of a t-shirt.

This jogger and I actually ran on opposite banks of the stream for a while after that. The trail on her side being far more meandering, I was surprised to see she’d caught up with me at George Mason, and I lost heart a bit when I lost track of her on Walter Reed.

Tale of The Dried Red Sauce

Now I have a headache; earlier I’d gone to the post office. I’d become worried while going to the post office because I’d discovered a bit of dried red sauce on my fleece and thought of the postal clerk I was sure to see there as being kind of a military type and stickler about such things, who would not be amused. Then it got worse because as I tried to contend with red sauce, scratching it off with a finger, I discovered tooth paste remnants too, not only on the fleece, but on the shorts. And yet, in the event, the postal clerk seemed alright with me this time: I wasn’t some disorderly civilian who had toothpaste all over him and didn’t give a damn, but a customer of the store who, in spite of his significant failings, needed to be treated in a professional manner. I sent off a post card to my niece and to a college friend and bought a package of post card stamps and forever stamps and left.

April 9, 2020

To be self-deceived but by truth…. (who believes in anything so much as the deceived and self-deceived do?) If only those possessed of truth, or the intellectually honest, let us say, could be as obdurate as the brainwashed and deluded… If believing in truth made one as stubborn as believing in falsehood.

…The way the self-deceived and deluded, among whom we must include ourselves much of the time, have a unique capacity to be unaffected by ideas they haven’t thought of before. In contrast, someone we might call intellectually honest would be troubled by such ideas, which have the capacity to overrule the basis for ones beliefs.

Idea that self-deceit is our natural state, our baseline state, meaning by deceit perhaps our individual mode of filtering perceptions.

Horace, Odes 2.15.13-14

April 8, 2020


privatus illis census erat brevis,
commune magnum


Each Roman’s wealth was little worth,
His country’s much

The Senselessness of Me Turning My Neck

April 7, 2020

Sun filled heat filled asphalt bike path. Speckled with whatever aggregate. Having turned my head to the side (don’t know why I turned my head to the side, and wish now I could return to that moment between when I had not turned it and when I ultimately did turn it; of all the moments of history, of all the moments one so desperately needed a time machine for, I would wish to return to that one; all of history was buried in my neck, in that senseless gesture of its turning, I supposed, and if I could just understand it, if I could only go back to rip that head off, shake its contents out, discover what had been inside it…)

Having turned my head to the side and seen among the tall brown grass trash of a sort I can’t now recall: paper or aluminium but not plastic.

Something about this moment seemed important and I knew that I would later be here, now, writing about it — which, however, hardly seemed so inevitable then, or at any point during the day, until this very one.

There was myself, the path, me passing the trash and looking at it, and there was a thought about gender and sexuality, inspired by a passage from Thoreau’s journals. Thoreau had imagined a kind of sexless union of souls between man and woman but of that union being like the sexual but refined in someway (as I took it), platonic perhaps.

I was passing the dry tall grass and the trash on it. I was “looking” in the sense of scanning: not really noticing anything but alert should there arise an object of interest. Thought of there being no gender, of there being “only human.” Sunlight, heat, sweat, activity, moisture in the air. Where Thoreau had wanted the relationship of man and woman to be transcendent, I, with the additional not entirely clear information we have today about gender, was trying to understand what happened to the sexual impulse, or even the religious impulse, when, if, it was understood there was no man and woman or male and female, no Other of any kind, no friend and no enemy — if it was understood we were, really, all one. “No other of any kind” equals, I now suppose, something close to what I have taken to be the meaning of God.

April 4, 2020

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April 3, 2020

Adolf Hitler,Robert E. Lee

Abraham Lincoln,Franklin D. Roosevelt

Robert E. Lee,Ulysses S. Grant

Robert E. Lee,Ulysses S. Grant,Jefferson Davis

April 2, 2020

Hippocrates. 2.16 / English.

ὅκου λιμὸς, οὐ δεῖ πονέειν.

More altars called for — or Altars beyond words

April 1, 2020

The Altar to pity is said, in a footnote of my copy of Pausanius, probably to be the basis for the Ara Pacis, I said.

We should have Altars to Pity here, in this country, my friend said, as well as to concepts like Air, Dirt, Forethought, Rumor. No more statues of people. Enough of that. Enough of people who did this or that. Altars to Dirt, altars to Life, altars to Stars, alters to repeated spelling errors, to microbes, climate, obscure legal statues. Markers of what we don’t see that yet exists. (Perhaps Zeus is quite like The Atom, The Microbe.) Perhaps poems are all we can hope for, by way of altars, to honor these things.

(Altars also to various tax schemes or latin terms, he added. I think an altar to 401ks would be good, and on the side there would be, etched in the marble, an explanation of what it was exactly, do you know? and of other financial and governmental terms and of technical existences that are still more recondite than 401ks.)

The Body Casts The Vote

As a voter intellectually I may be decided — but there is to consider — that it must be my body that will ultimately physically cast the vote, and my body may not be decided or may be decided in favor of doing something totally erratic, in favor of something quite opposed to what I have intellectually decided.

I can’t intellectually will my vote to be cast– transfer my thought into the ballot box — and the body has a will of its own. And the will of the body, my friend added further, or what I might call One of its great wills, is that of total arbitrariness (which should be one of our altars too: Arbitrariness) — that of having decided deliberately to do one thing instead of another, but, in the event, “Doing Whatever”– either doing the opposite of what one has decided or doing what one has decided for reasons that are un-involved with, and not relevant to, and perhaps the opposite of, one’s initial decision.

Altar to Doing Whatever

Maybe the Will to Doing Whatever is not the body’s will but again attributable to oneself: it is a hatred or distrust of what one thinks, a disbelief in one’s ability to think. The thing you think is good turns out to be bad, and vice versa, and this happens again and again, this has happened so often, sowing distrust in your reasoning capacities and sowing “the will to whatever.”

There should be a god named Whatever and another called Thinks. And we should have, somewhere, for these gods, altars, said my friend. (Or even if they are only words and not gods, we should have altars made for them, altars beyond the words.)