Friday, February 26, 2016


I tell myself that I haven’t killed myself yet because I still want to understand. But what do I want to understand?

I want to understand the world. I also want to understand myself, because I am part of the world.

The world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Is this true?

Of course it’s true. I’m not a fool. Neither am I arrogant enough to assume that anyone who disagrees with me is a fool.

Neither am I foolish enough to assume the world is a better place than it seems to me, merely because other people seem to tolerate what to me seems intolerable,

It's not that they and I see the world differently. They see the same world I do. They tolerate it either because they don't care if others suffer so long as they don't, or because they see what I can’t.

They see something that reconciles them to the world’s pain, something they think gives meaning to what seems to me a meaningless battle of ignorant armies; and it gives them hope.  

I see no reason to hope. But is this because who and what I am blinds me to the truth?

When I was young, I thought I was going to change the world for the better. Others thought so, too. Were they and I wrong about me, or wrong about the world?

Am I arrogant enough to think that, if I couldn’t change the world, no one can?

I'm sure there are those who could do what I couldn’t, but I don’t see anyone who wants to.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Today I read yet another article about The Third Reich. They keep appearing, but no longer with last year’s justification that it was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army (Why would the US celebrate anything done by the USSR?) because the US’s love of fascism needs no justification.

Most Americans of my generation consider the defeat of the fascist nations in World War II to be the most important historical event of our time; and they believe that defeat was accomplished almost entirely by the US army. They see the ‘Cold War’ as a continuation of World War II, with communists replacing fascists as our enemy. They speak of the two ideologies as though they’re interchangeable, because both opposed what Americans call capitalism and/or democracy (also interchangeable).

What historians call the modern age was an age of revolution. The revolution that founded the USSR was not the last, but certainly the greatest, revolution of our time; and the counter-revolution that followed was equally great. 

At first capitalists welcomed the fascists as leaders of the counter-revolution against communism; but when the fascists proved too extreme, capitalists turned against them. 

The fascists were defeated, but fascism itself, in a less extreme form, became the ideology of the victorious capitalists. Not in the US, nor anywhere in a world dominated by the US, is there any ideology of change to rival fascism; not evolutionary, much less revolutionary, change. 

It may or may not be possible to slow the accelerated rate of change that we call revolution down to a manageable pace, as those we used to call conservatives sought to do; it is definitely not possible to stop change, much less reverse it, as those we now call conservatives seek to do. 

Change is inevitable. The more people refuse to change, the more certain it is that, when change finally does come, it will be violent. And fascists welcome violent change. Sick of this world, as are we all, they long to enter the purifying flames of the apocalypse, like swimmers into cleanness leaping.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


I woke this morning with an overwhelming feeling of disgust. I don’t remember the dream that inspired it, but I know it was about Bunin.

I don’t love him and he doesn’t love me, which is unusual. It’s not unusual that I don’t love him, because I love no one and nothing any more. It’s unusual that he doesn’t love me. I’ve never before owned a cat that didn’t love me. 

The idea of owning another animal has always disgusted me. It’s slavery, whether the other animal is human or not. I justify owning cats because every cat I’ve ever owned has come to me as a stray whom someone else abandoned. They’re domesticated pets, not wild animals. If I didn’t take them in, they’d die.

And they always expressed their gratitude by loving me. Or so it seemed.    

What most people call love is the desire to own someone they imagine has or is something they want. I'm sure that's what inspired my feeling of disgust. I want everyone to have what they want, be free to love whom they want, even if it’s not me.

Monday, February 15, 2016


I sometimes ask myself why I write this diary when no one reads it except me. Then I remind myself that, when I started writing it, I didn’t want anyone else to read it because I wanted to be completely honest, and no one is that when writing for an audience.

I stopped writing it in a notebook, and started typing it on a computer, because it’s easier to type than to write. Easier to read, too, since my handwriting can be difficult to read even for me. 

Then I posted it online.

I told myself that posting this diary online would keep me honest. The need to explain myself to someone else, even if I know that someone is imaginary, would force me to examine myself, as the religious are supposed to examine themselves when confessing to an imaginary god.

No one reads my online diary, just as no one read it when I wrote it in a notebook. But posting it online keeps me honest. I confessed to myself that I do want someone to read it, and know me as I really am.

Most people are afraid to let others know them as they really are. They’re afraid of knowing themselves as they really are. If I’m not afraid, perhaps it’s because I’m more conceited than most people.

But it’s not that. At least it’s not only that. 

It seems to me that I usually know other people better than they know themselves, probably because they don’t want to know themselves, and I do. 

I want to know them as much as I want to know myself. But they're difficult to know, for me and for them. I examine myself because it’s easier, and because I’ve learned from examining them that it’s better not to know them too well. 

I can be honest with them because I’ve learned to despise them, or most of them, so I don’t care what they think of me or anything else.      

Friday, February 12, 2016


I’m peeling away layer after layer of illusion. I must do this, even though I already know what I’ll find when I’m done.

I don’t know everything, but I’ve always known that, beneath all the illusions of this world, there’s nothing. That’s why I’ve always held back from this world we’ve made.
I’ve always known that I have nothing to do with this world, nor it with me. I'm a microcosm of the macrocosm that is the real world. That’s not too crude and simple a way to put it. The truth sounds simple to those who know it, and complex to those for whom it's no more than an idea.

For some time now scientists have been saying what mystics have always said: our reality is an illusion. This idea sounds crude and simple the way they put it because it’s new to them.

The universe, physicists now say, is a hologram, a three-dimensional image of a two-dimensional reality; but what that reality is, they don’t say. Consciousness, aka the mind, cognitive scientists say, is an illusion; but what consciousness is experiencing this illusion, they don’t say.

Some say the reality beneath these illusions is what we used to call god; but that’s not helpful because the word ‘god’ no longer means what it used to; and it never did mean the same thing to everyone.

“What is truth?” asked Pilate, for which he was and is vilified by those ignorant enough to think they know the truth because their leader supposedly told them “I am the way and the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father except through me”. 

I prefer to think Jesus didn’t say this. He said many wise things, for which I respect him; and if he didn’t say them - if these things were put into his mouth by others - I respect whoever did say them, and am content to call that person or persons ‘Jesus’ just as I'm content to call the person or persons who authored the Iliad and the Odyssey ‘Homer’. The truth is true no matter who says it.

I hope the foolish things Jesus said were also put into his mouth by others; but if he really did say those things, I can forgive him doing so. He was just a man, after all; a poor ignorant carpenter. Forgive him, Father, for he knew not what he did. None of us do.

Wisdom is knowing how ignorant we are. Only the ignorant assume that, if they don’t know everything, they know everything they need to know.

Thinking of Pilate reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld, who was vilified for saying much the same thing Pilate said, but not as simply nor as well. “There are known knowns,” said Rumsfeld. “These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know”. 

Those who vilified Rumsfeld accused him of merely attempting to deny what he knew, what everyone knew. And of course he was. Nevertheless what he said was true.

Even when we attempt to lie, as Rumsfeld did, we tell the truth inadvertently. Most of what we do, we do inadvertently, because we don't know ourselves. 

Wittgenstein advised us to never say more than we know, which was a foolish thing to say because we always say more than we know. We never know enough to speak with certainty about anything, and yet we speak. Rumsfeld, I suspect, knows that's true, even if he used that knowledge to lie, or attempt to lie. We can't lie because, in order to lie, we would have to know the truth.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


To be or not to be.

To be one moment, and not the next. It seems strange.

Is this the fear I’ve always heard everyone feels? Am I feeling the fear of death at last? It doesn’t feel like fear.

Maybe I don’t know what fear feels like. I’ve always heard everyone fears death, but I’ve never feared it.

It’s not because I’m fearless. I fear pain. 

Everyone fears pain, so there’s no reason to fear death, because death ends pain. Only the living feel pain.

Everyone fears losing those they love, so there’s no reason why I should fear death, because I’ve already lost everyone I love.

Everyone fears the unknown, so there’s no reason why I should fear death, because I know what death is. 

Death is nothing. I was nothing before I was born and I’ll be nothing again after I die.

Maybe it seems strange to me because I’ve lived long, and am used to living. If so, I've lived too long. It's life that's strange. 

Monday, February 8, 2016


I had a strange dream last night.

It wasn’t really a dream. It was no more than a fragment, like a bit of celluloid cut from a movie; an outtake.

All my dreams are like movies. I’m never in them. I only watch them.

The scene is the lunchroom at the tech center. All the tables are occupied.

The camera dollies between the tables from one end of the room to the other, like a tracking shot by Max Ophüls, and finally stops at one table.

Sitting at the table are the men I worked with at the tech center. They all face the camera, with appalled expressions, except for one man whose back is to the camera.

This man is wearing a brown suit, so I assume it’s me. Loren once told me the people in our department called me ‘the man in the brown suit’ when I first arrived, until they learned my name. Apparently there was only one man in the whole department - perhaps the whole tech center - who dared defy convention and wear a brown suit.

“This building is an architectural landmark, one of Eero Saarinen’s greatest works,” the man in the brown suit was telling the others. “Do you even know who Eero Saarinen is?” Then he sighs and shakes his head.

"I know working here represents success to you, the pinnacle of your career," he says. "But it's failure to me."

I’m as appalled as they are, because I would never speak to anyone in that condescending manner, no matter what I might think. I'm surprised, too, because it’s not my voice. He has an English accent.

The camera slowly circles the man in the brown suit until I see it's Alan Rickman, the English actor.

Rickman died recently. All the obituaries praised him for the skill with which he played villains, because in real life he was known as a kind and generous man, as villains often are. It’s those who play heroes who are not to be trusted.


I wrote, in an earlier post, that I’ve always thought of myself and my relation to the world as that of microcosm to macrocosm. But that’s not a thought. It’s too simple, too crude to be called a thought. It’s no more than the preparation for a thought, establishing its parameters. I haven’t had a real thought in years, decades. Not since I was a child.

I put away childish things, stopped playing games, including intellectual games, early and went to work. Serious work, men’s work. Doing what I had to do, not what I knew I should do if my life was to have any meaning, any value. Most men do what they have to do in order to survive, not what they should do.

Now I’m retired. I used to tell myself that, when I retired and no longer had to waste my time working, I would finally have time to think.

I have the time now, but I no longer have the mind.

I go through my papers, reading things I wrote half a century ago, and I’m in awe of the mind that thought and wrote these things, the person I used to be. Now when I try to think, I’m only plagiarizing that person, and not even saying the same things as well as he did.

I would have to begin again, from the beginning. But I don’t have the time.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Bunin is my last cat. In the unlikely event that I outlive him, I’ll not get another. I want no more company, human or otherwise.

But I didn’t get him. He came to me, dirty and battle-scarred, and meowed outside my door until I came out.

I didn’t take him inside. Instead I put him in the car, drove him to the vet and had him patched up. I wanted him healthy and presentable when I took him to the animal shelter, so he’d have a chance of being adopted.

I was surprised when the vet asked me if I wanted him declawed, because I hadn’t known until then that he had claws. He’d fought me when I carried him into the vet’s office, struggling to get away, but never unsheathed his claws.

After the vet was finished, I carried him out to the car again, still intending to take him to the animal shelter. He was limp and groggy from the anesthetic, but as soon as I opened the car door he leaped out of my arms and ran away.  

I assumed I’d seen the last of him, and drove home. But when I pulled up to my door, there he was, on the front step. So I took him in.

This is his home now, but only in the sense that the farm was Silas’ home in Frost’s poem: Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. 

Bunin doesn’t love me, and I don’t love him, which is a new experience for me, if not for him. Animals have always loved me, ever since I was a child. Dogs leaped their fences and followed me as I walked to school. Birds and even butterflies landed on my head and shoulders. But no longer.

Bunin purrs when I brush him; but he doesn’t sleep with me, jump into my lap when I sit down, or follow me from room to room. Even other people’s cats and dogs used to do that when I visited their houses.

Sometimes I still think I should take him to the shelter, and give him the opportunity to be adopted by someone who would love him, and who he would love in return. But what I see of other people persuades me that he’s better off with me.

Friday, February 5, 2016


I had a conversation yesterday with someone online (these are the only conversations I have nowadays) who called Ronald Reagan a moron because his IQ was reportedly only 99. I said that psychologists define a moron as someone with an IQ between 50 and 70, and told her I went to college with someone whose IQ was 70 (I didn’t mention that he struggled, even with my help, and eventually dropped out). I also pointed out that 99 is only one point below the average. She replied that she recently learned something about the average IQ that appalled her.

A psychologist told her that people with an IQ of 100 are considered ignorant by psychologists. Apparently she didn’t already know that the average person is ignorant.

I had many conversations in the past with average working class people whom most members of the middle class scorned to talk with, and usually found them more interesting than the conversations I had with people of what was then my own class. In those days working class people knew they were ignorant, and were therefore eager to learn, more so than middle class people who usually assumed that, while they didn’t know everything, they knew everything worth knowing. Now that has changed. 

Our rulers have decided they no longer require the services of the middle class, so it is disappearing, and its former members are struggling to learn what workers have always known: how to survive under adverse circumstances. Seeing the educated lose confidence in themselves, the ignorant have decided that, while they don’t know everything, they know everything worth knowing.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


When I was a child, the people who knew me best assumed I could and would do great things. I assumed it myself. But I’ve done nothing.

Partly this was because I could do too much. I could paint and write, sing and dance, compose music and play it, all with equal facility. 

People told me I could do anything I wanted to do, and asked me what I wanted to do. I answered painting or writing, singing or dancing - whichever I happened to be doing at the moment - but when I asked myself, the answer was none of these things. I wanted to change the world for the better, and painting or writing, singing or dancing were no more to me than means to that end. Perhaps if I had taken them more seriously, treated them as ends in themselves, I might now be a successful painter, writer, singer or composer; but that wasn’t enough for me then and it wouldn’t be enough for me now.

When I was I a child, I wanted to change the world for the better; not because I was unhappy - on the contrary, I was a happy child, comparatively speaking – but because I knew most people were unhappy most of the time, and I wanted to help them. I still do, now more than ever, because they seem so much more unhappy now than when I was a child; but I’ve accepted that I can’t. No one can.

Not because one person can’t change the world. There have been, from time to time, persons who did change the world, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse; but this is not one of those times. 

Our society, the world we’ve built for ourselves, seems to have acquired a life and a will of its own, and its will is destructive and self-destructive. One person is no more than a cog in this infernal machine, and can do nothing to stop it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Everyone fears death, or so I’ve read. Everything we create, all the monuments we build, are supposedly attempts to leave something of ourselves behind when we're gone. 

This seems a plausible enough argument, in an age when everyone is so obviously afraid. Yet the people I see don’t seem to be afraid of death. They seem to be afraid of dying without ever having lived.

 I sometimes wonder why I’m the exception, but of course I don’t think of myself as the exception. No one does. We all think of ourselves as the norm, and wonder why everyone else isn’t like us.

Some say we’re all alike at some level, and of course that’s true. Anything is true at some level. The question is what’s true for us, at our level. Immortal truths, if they exist, have no meaning for mortal beings like us.

Children are not aware of their own mortality, or so I’ve read. Only adults who’ve forgotten their own childhood could believe that.

The younger we are, the more aware we are that our lives had a beginning. Before that moment, we did not exist. And everyone knows, if they know anything, that whatever had a beginning must have an end.

Children rejoice in life because everything is new to them. They know it must end one day, but there’s no reason to think about that day now, at the beginning. It’s adults who think about the end.

Adults want to live forever not because their lives are wonderful - most people are unhappy most of the time – but because their lives are not going the way they expected. They think they want to live forever only because, as finite beings, they have no idea what forever is. They actually want to go on living long enough to do whatever it is they think they could do and should do. They fear death because they haven’t yet begun to live.   

I haven’t done what I could have and should have, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. And I’m tired of trying.