Life As a Series of External Events

A few days ago these two guys I work with, one is a Shakespearean actor and the other is a cinephile, started talking about books, so I got involved. I don’t think that the conversation helped anyone. Before I knew it, I was telling them which translation of Crime and Punishment is the best and why, the actor was telling me that I was confusing Robert Heinlein with Werner Heisenberg (I wasn’t), and I think none of us are going to read what the others were suggesting. I never really talk about books out loud but I don’t think I will try again. It felt like we were masturbating in a circle in a crowded kitchen.

Today I’m going in early to take care of this health insurance bullshit. I am making lists and trying to plan things. Yesterday I was walking to work and I thought about what kind of life I really want to have. I couldn’t think of anything besides cutting down trees of course.

I tried to think about why do I even read books. Do I really read the classics because they are entertaining, or so I can tell people I’ve read them? I hope I read them because they express eternal truths, but I don’t know. I like the idea that stories tell a truth that can not be told any other way. The fact that I slogged through Les Miserables and then sped up through the ending as it got more entertaining shows that I read it for entertainment and pleasure. But then I think I should read Sparknotes so that I can understand what the characters are supposed to represent and all. But then maybe I should just go back and try to figure out that for myself. But then there are so many other books to read.

I decided again that I have a bad attitude and a tendency to complain because it’s fun. But then maybe that leads to actually feeling more miserable overall. And then I tried to think that I thought about myself too much anyway, and that’s why I was miserable. And maybe if I could just think of others or of the world as a whole or just focus on action or focus on whatever I need to focus on, then I could have a successful life.

But I already have a pretty successful life. I wake up reasonably late, I work few hours and yet still pay all my bills, I’m in good health (at least superficially), I’m married. Maybe I should just stop thinking about it. I think I have a good life when I don’t think about it. Like when I consciously put my life on hold when a friend comes over. Or when I have to work a lot and I just think of the days as already wasted so I don’t put any thought into it, or try to achieve something extra.

Maybe if I could just focus on writing as a technique driven exercise I would be happier doing it. John Gardner says most of what you write you write because you have to get this character into this room or you have to foreshadow something or you have to create some character to create this emotion in another character. Maybe if I could just focus on accomplishing some definite action while I’m writing, then I would be better at it and create more. And he says that when you write the story, your interpretation of the story must come out of you since it’s you that is writing it. So instead of trying to say whatever you want to say, just write the story and the truth that you have discovered will end up in there.

Maybe that’s like life.

Maybe if I just focus on the action of life, while being present and engaged, then whatever meaning there is won’t end up there because I thought about it half the day and thereby put myself into a narcissistic black hole, but it will be there because I did those actions. Maybe that way my life can be clean and pure, like a weathered old man in the tundra cutting down a tree.

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