Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

5.8.2018

In Life, Memoir, Nature, The Examined Life, Wisdom on May 9, 2018 at 8:00 am

Moleskine notes

Three weeks ago I left southern Virginia, west-bound. Today I entered Mountain Time. And I saw a Western Kingbird. I must be heading in the right direction.

* * *

I’ve spent a lot of time, years even, contemplating how to best live. But the real question is not How to Live, but How to Think. Everything follows our thinking, including our happiness.

“A man is as miserable as he things he is.” ~ Seneca.

Conversely, is a person as happy as he or she thinks they are?

* * *

“At the break of day, when you are reluctant to get up, have this thought ready to mind: ‘I am getting up for a human being’s work…I am going out to do what I was born for…plants, birds, ants, spiders, bees all doing their own work, each helping in their own work, each helping in their own way to order the world…do you not want to do the work of a human being…to follow the demands of your own nature?” ~ Marcus Aureluis

* * *

Man in restaurant behind me just returned his water because it had a lemon in it. “Oh my god,” said the waitress. “I’m so sorry. And I totally brag about our water too,” she said.

I must be in California.

* * *

It is late in the afternoon and the sun is low. Lucy is asleep beside the river. I am thinking about something Seneca said: plunging oneself into the totality of the world. What does that mean, I wonder? I don’t know precisely, but it must have something to do with the flight of the terns over the lake this evening. It must have something to do with the way the bark of the willow over there is gnarled. And yes, it must have something to do with that fish who just pierced the surface and the rings that are radiating toward me. Yes, that must be it. The totality of the world.

 

Advertisements

4.24.2016

In Travel on April 24, 2016 at 8:38 am

If you look deep enough you might find mixed into that basket of core beliefs you carry around the notion of home, at least that has been my recent experience. Home: a place of retreat, a safe and stable place, ideally a place of comfort. With less than one week before our departure we have emptied the house of all personal belongings except those we’re bringing with us on the road. Home as place, as an abode, has been self-consciously stripped from us. Truth be told, it’s a bit unsettling.  I like that the Old Norse word for home, “heimr,”  carries the meaning of residence, but is also the word for world. That seems especially fitting right now.

This notion seems to have settled on me with more import than on Carole. Recently, while discussing this with friends, she turned to me and said, “My home is wherever you are.” It was perhaps the sweetest thing she has ever said to me. “And besides, we’ll be towing our physical home behind us.” I can always count on her basic wisdom to set me on the right course.

* * *

“In all likelihood, I will depart this earth in the same fashion in which I entered it: clueless, but adaptable. Well, now that I reflect on it, perhaps death, being the ultimate and final event, is by definition, a thing unadaptable. Yet I know of Buddhist meditators who plan and hope to be on the cushion practicing when death comes knocking. That seems an effort to adapt, if nothing else.”

This is an except from a recent essay published at Black Lamb. Click here if you wish to read more.

* * *

As noted elsewhere, we’ve rented out our home here in Portland and will be living a full-time nomadic existence for the forseeable future. I’ll be documenting the adventure at our blog, The Airstream Diaries. Please check it out and subscribe if  you’d like to follow our ramblings. Thanks.

OS v1.0

In Creativity, Literature, Writers, Writing on February 20, 2013 at 6:00 am
Jim Harrison's new book.

Jim Harrison’s new book.

In his new book, The River Swimmer, Jim Harrison says the most succinct and astonishing thing:

“How wonderful it was to love something without the compromise of language.”

This is an observation in direct opposition to something I wrote many years ago (1992) and (re)published here recently in a post called In The Beginning Was the Word:

“It is said that we do not readily store memories until we have language; consequently, we cannot remember a pre-lingual existence with accuracy. If we were a computer we would be functioning without an operating system. The switch is on, but the screen is blank. Words are the difference; the well-written word is altogether different again.”

Harrison is, by his own reckoning, a poet first, and this comparison of quotes supports Osip Mandelstam‘s observation that “What may be meaningful to the prose writer or essayist, the poet finds absolutely meaningless.” Where Harrison calls language a compromise, I deem it functionally necessary, like an computer operating system–call it OS Version of Being 1.1. Harrison is an example of what Susan Sontag calls the “poet as elevated being.” He runs OS 1.0, the original and unadorned Version of Being.

* * *

OS Version 1.0, the Version of Being the poets run, functions on what Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892 – 1941) called the “insatiability for the genuine.” Perhaps it is captured in an algorithm. Most of us run the “upgraded” version, OS 1.1, which fixed this perceived bug. Who wants to be “insatiable,” regardless of how provocative it sounds? Consequently, we non-poet mortals find ourselves sated 24/7. There is a profundity to a Russian poet that I cannot fathom, but I once watched Harrison drink in a bar in Michigan and he didn’t seem so elevated, though I was assuredly mistaken. He did, now that I reflect on it, prove to exhibit a high degree of the genuine, however. They say the Buddha taught for forty years after enlightenment. Elevated insatiable beings walk–and drink–among us.

* * *

I experienced a phase

Of writing poetry a year or so ago.

It felt good and right, but I stopped.

If someone were to tell you: Do this thing,

You will become an “elevated being,”

You would likely do it,

Wouldn’t you?

One would think.

Most of the time I don’t know

What’s the matter with me.

* * *

Here is a video of Harrison reading. He is asked “What language do you speak when you talk to animals?” “You just squawk,” he says.

Thursday Theme day is Postponed.

In Life, Memoir, The Examined Life on February 7, 2013 at 6:00 am

It is Thursday and “theme day” here at “…the house….” I have a topic–the examined life. The post is written, but cracky dry. If it were to have texture I’d propose sandpaper, grade: fine. It’s an important topic, perhaps the most important topic, but I’m not in the mood to get all philosophical and academic today. I trust you understand. If you wish to file a complaint, so be it. You know where the office is. Regardless, Thursday Theme day is officially postponed.

It’s not as if something came along to recast my imagination, to de-rail theme day. I have no excuse, especially with the heavy lifting completed. I’ll lay it on you soon enough, maybe next Thursday, if that day finds me less cantankerous. Simply put, I think being cantankerous is a thing to run with when it hits you, especially if it hits on a day you feel a compulsion to break the rules–which is being coy, really, since the only rules here are the ones I’ve created. Yes, that would be, if not a degree of coyness, then disingenuousness.

And speaking of: Disingenuous–it is word I used to like. (See yesterday’s post for another favored word.) It is a word I tossed accusingly at a person when I was feeling aggressive and lacking in grace, a verbal grenade lobbed over the barricade. I did this once to a young man, branding him as disingenuous, and sadly he didn’t know what the word meant, and, though I did not ridicule him, I made him feel less about himself in a way that brought him close to tears. I look back at this incident and place it solidly in the category of being a jerk, a complete and utter asshole. It brings me no pleasure to think I behaved this way. I was a man competing in the world of business, a combatant, and unfortunately that world occasionally solicited a side of me that I now, upon reflection, find troubling. As I said, it’s a word I used to like.

That is the way of life, isn’t it? Trying on different clothes, going for a new look, you stand in front of the mirror, studying, preening. You turn to the side, trim and expectant, taking high measure of your appearance, only to realize later what the fool you must have looked, what a jerk you were. Yes, Lordy, grant me basic grace.

I’ve given myself free rein here (today is different from any other day how?) and could ramble like this too long but for my temperance with respect to your patience. I’ve already violated my unspoken (unconscious?) rule–yet more rules!–related to transgression and propriety and even the hoped for trust between reader and writer. If this were theater we would consider the forth-wall penetrated. So be it, I stand satisfyingly rambled. A high degree of the cantankerous has been exercised. Too, a bit of examined life revealed. Perhaps we didn’t stray that far from the syllabus, after all.

Thanks for reading–and indulging me. You are most gracious and for that I am grateful.

d

I’m a blogger. (Aggh!)

In Life, The Examined Life, Writing on February 1, 2013 at 6:00 am
Hello, and what do you do?

Hello, and what do you do?

I was at a social event recently and was asked that most annoying of questions: “What do you do?” There are so many tempting answers: “I breath in, I breath out.” “I walk the dog.” –and so on. However, we know it is not a literal question and I resist–barely–this temptation. The real question, as I understand it, is “How do you make a living, how do you make money, pay the bills?” Or, the expansive take on it: “How do you economically justify your existence?” Sorry, I know I am being cynical (I am of the tribe of Diogenes, after all). There are other ways to interpret this question–What do you do?–and they are all equally annoying: “Are you an interesting person?” “Show me why I should talk to you?” and so forth.

My basic good nature always takes over. I don’t respond as a smart-ass, though it’s tempting. In this instance, I said, “I’m a blogger.” I could have easily said, “I’m a Maine guide.” or “I’m retired.” or “I’m a kept man.” But I said, “I’m a blogger.” (I’m on record as disliking the words blog and blogger. (It must appear today that there is much over which I’m annoyed.) But blogging, despite the ugliness of that word, is the description most people best understand.) (I also like the aspect that “I’m a blogger” does not address the core unstated question, How do you economically survive? I enjoy points for evasiveness.) My response prompted the follow-up question, “What do you blog about?”

What I didn’t say is: I blog about ———-. What I did say is: I blog about books, literature, travel, nature, basically anything that enters my pointy little head. I wish I’d been concise and replied that I blog about ———–. That is what this whole damn thing is about–this thing being “…the house…“–though I’ve never come out and stated it so bluntly. (The writer should always seek a degree of obfuscation.)

The books we talk about, the adventures we describe, the philosophy we explore–these are all keys we turn in the lock to release our essential being. At the core of it all is our quest, you know to ——–. That is the territory we explore. But then you must know this, dear reader. Yes, of course you do. Please excuse me for talking down to you. You are brother and sister, companion and friend. You understand, I know. Thank you.

Let us agree, we never ask the other, “What do you do?”

Thanks for reading,

d

We are the Tribe.

In Creativity, Life, Philosophy, The Examined Life on January 30, 2013 at 6:00 am
Diogenes and members of the tribe.

Diogenes and members of the tribe.

We are the tribe of Diogenes. Through the village darkness he leads, lamp held high, peering into the blackness of night. We seek not the one to deliver us from darkness, that is not our quest. Rather, we seek companions to walk with us toward the dawn.

We push through the slumbering village herd. We hear their night talk, their groans, smell the stench of the herd. At dawn they will rise and charge off in search of food and water. They eat as the herd, shit as the herd, procreate as the herd. The herd is monolithic in ignorance. The herd is to be avoided. Danger lurks within. An individual becomes lost amongst them, or worse, witless and crushed by the stampede. The herd will always stampede. Press on.

We collect other pilgrams. You make the camp. You build the fire. You collect water. Together we rest. At nightfall we tell stories, and as some of us slumber, others stand watch. The master’s lamp is never extinguished. The journey never ends.

______________________________

According to Plutarch (ca.45 – 120 C.E.), it was in Cornith that the meeting between Alexander the Great and Diogenes took place. They exchanged only a few words: while Diogenes was relaxing in the sunlight in the morning, Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if there was any favour he might do for him. To which Diogenes replied, “Yes, stand out of my sunlight.”  Alexander then declared, “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes.”

"Stand back, Fancy Pants. You're blocking my light."

“Stand back, Fancy Pants. You’re blocking my light.”