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JOURNALING

My Personal Notations from “A Mere Journalist” by Aristides [Joseph Epstein] in The American Scholar (Winter 1985/86).

“Off and on for more than twenty years, I have been keeping a journal.  One expects a famous writer to keep a journal,” wrote Aristides, the pen name for Joseph P Epstein, editor of The American Scholar, 1975-1997. 

“The first function of a young writer’s journal: a place to grouse, a place to dramatize one’s condition in prose, and a place to bemoan the fact that, once again, this time in the instance of oneself, the world in its ignorance is failing to recognize another genius.”

“In my [current] journal…I have done my best to cease complaining and have taken as my motto the lines from the beer commercial that runs ‘I guess it doesn’t get much better than this.’”

“…to feature introspection and self-analysis…even in a journal has its limits.”

“Who needs this?…I suppose I alone do.  Something in me impels me to record much I have thought, or experienced, or read, or heard.”

“I find keeping a journal quickens life; it provides the double pleasure of first living life and then savoring it through the formation of sentences about it.”

Graphomania: a writer’s disease “taking the form of simply being unable to put down the pen (the authorly equivalent to logorrhea).  ‘Advanced’ stage takes the form of needing to write down everything because anything that hasn’t been written down isn’t quite real.”

“The graphomaniac’s slogan is ‘no ink, no life.’”

“I must confess that I do not write in my journal every day.  But when I do write something in my journal, I feel rather more complete…  Not that journal writing elevates me–it doesn’t, usually…”

“I do feel upon having made an entry in my journal as if I have done my duty, completed, in effect, an act of intellectual hygiene.”

“I do not often look into my journals; yet whenever I do, I am impressed by how much experience has slipped through the net of my memory.”

“I suspect that anyone who keeps a journal has to be something of a Copernican–he [or she] really must believe that the world revolves around himself [or herself].”

“Everything I have written is these journals is true–or at least as true as I could make it at the time I wrote it.  Lying, as such, is not, I believe, a question in my journal.”

“I try, when writing in my journal, to keep in mind the twin truths that I am someone of the greatest importance to myself and that I am also ultimately insignificant.  (This is not always so easily accomplished.)”

“Sometimes I am astonished at the items that find their way into this journal of mine.”

“I [once] wrote that John Wayne had become part of the furniture of [my] one’s life.  The first half of one’s life, it strikes me, one fills up one’s rooms with such furniture; the second half, one watches this furniture, piece by piece, being removed.”

“My journal has served as a running inventory of my days, and I am pleased to have kept it.”

“Though we must live life forward, ‘Life can only be understood backward,’ wrote Kierkegaard.  Yet a journal does provide backward understanding…a great aid in replaying segments of past experience, in running over important and even trivial events, in recollecting moods and moments otherwise lost to memory.”

“A journal is a simple device for blowing off steam, privately settling scores, clarifying thoughts, giving way to vanities, rectifying hypocrisies, and generally leaving an impression and record of your days.”

“When you are through with it, [and] when the time has come to leave this…earth, you can even pass the damn thing along to your yet unborn great-grandchildren.”

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“LIFE IS ONE BIG TRANSITION.”—  Willie Stargell

TRANSITIONAL

 AGAIN   ACCORDINGLY   AFTER ALL   ALSO   AS A RESULT   AND   CONSEQUENTLY   ALTHOUGH THIS MAY BE TRUE   BESIDES   FOR THIS REASON

AT THE SAME TIME   EQUALLY IMPORTANT   HENCE   I ADMIT

FINALLY   OF COURSE   IN SHORT   NATURALLY   SO   THEN

FIRST, SECOND, ETC.   FURTHER   THUS   FURTHERMORE   THEREFORE

IN ADDITION   FINALLY   LAST   TRULY   IN BRIEF   LIKEWISE   IN CONCLUSION

MOREOVER   IN SHORT   NEXT   FOR THIS REASON     IN SUMMARY

NOR   TO THIS END   LAST

OR   WITH THIS PURPOSE   LASTLY

SIMILARLY   THUS    IN ANY EVENT   TO CONCLUDE

AFTER ALL   IN FACT   TO SUM UP   ALTHOUGH   IN PARTICULAR   TO SUMMARIZE

AT THE SAME TIME   INDEED   ON THE WHOLE

BUT   MORE IMPORTANT   CONVERSELY   MOST IMPORTANT

FOR ALL THAT   PARTICULARLY   AFTER A WHILE

HOWEVER   SPECIFICALLY   AFTERWARD

IN CONTRAST    AFTERWARDS   IN SPITE OF THAT    FOR EXAMPLE   AT LAG

NEVERTHELESS   FOR INSTANCE        AT LENGTH

NONETHELESS   IN PARTICULAR       IMMEDIATELY

NOTWITHSTANDING     IN THIS MANNER      IN THE MEANTIME

ON THE CONTRARY     NAMELY   LATELY

ON THE OTHER HAND   THAT IS   LATER   STILL   TO ILLUSTRATE   MEANWHILE

YET   PRESENTLY   SHORTLY   IN OTHER WORDS   SINCE

IN THE SAME WAY   THAT IS   SOON   LIKEWISE   TO PUT IT ANOTHER WAY   TEMPORARILY

SIMILARLY   THEN   THEREAFTER   THEREUPON   UNTIL   WHILE

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“…many things have been omitted which should have been recorded. . . .  It is not easy to write in a journal what interests us at any time, because to write it is not what interests us.” –Henry David Thoreau

Still?  Haven’t started yet?  For an introduction, or a refresher, see https://memoriesofatime.com/2015/05/18/journal-keeping/

composition book 1No expensive blank-page, hardcover or leatherette book: use notebook paper, a speckled notebook, or some similar writing book.  (Avoid notebooks wire-bound that flatten or break or can scratch or poke.)  

Keeping it regularly?  Faithfully?  A few times a week?

Stuffed with “stuff,” like receipts, greeting cards, pictures, favorite essays from magazines, emails from friends?  or also filled with dreams and bads and goods?

Are you conversant with your soul?  Do you confer with those who have crossed over to the Other Side?

Can you/do you capture life as you see it, the now, the past, the present?  (You are not stuck in the past, are you?)

Do you connect the few facts you know, the slim insights you have attained, the “chance extensions of sensibility into which you have been once or twice tempted into a larger enough context to make sense of the world…or the works of art you encounter”?–[Leslie Fiedler]

Chronological order: date, day, time.  A good record (for reference, a place in time).

Not boring details.  But details.  What is that saying about details?  “The idiom “the devil is in the detail” refers to a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details, and derives from the earlier phrase ‘God is in the detail,’ expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important.”  — [Wikipedia–and other sources]

No day is bereft of material to write about…about which to write.  See, hear, touch, taste, and smell.  Then understand, react.  Then WRITE.

Note the particulars that make you your journal, your journal you.

Need more than this?  Need a book for starters?  “If you want to change your life and know that you have the answers within, then learning to journal as a tool for rediscovering what you already knew, is the best way I know how. This book stands alone; and if you want to have a master teacher guide you into the depths of your soul, get this book and the companion workbook.”  [Marcia C. Bliss comment in 2013]:  Journaling for Joy: Writing Your Way to Personal Growth and Freedom by Joyce Chapman, 1991, 2013.

journaling for joy

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REFLECTIONS ON “WHAT IS TRUTH?”

TRUTHTOM CRUISE

From notes gathered into my journals: Will I ever “get to the bottom of it?” [bottom of what?]

Should I know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

* * *
TRUTH = the quality of being true or correct according to SOME ground or test for establishing the reality of a statement (proposition, idea, thought, belief, opinion).

“Truth” assumes that what it applies to DOES depict fact or reality.

But some statements are to be tested: proposals (accept or reject); resolutions (yes, or violated); promises (kept or not); suggestions (heeded, or not); commands (obeyed, or not).

***TRUTH IS THE CONFORMITY OF THE INTELLECT WITH THE THING (logical truth, “truth of knowing”).

SHOULDS: Contain VALUE JUDGMENTS, without moral import at all. “You should turn here.”  YET, the action COULD have moral import…and consequences: “You should turn here, or you’ll….”

PRACTICAL LIVING demands certain guidelines or limits within which all humans should behave.

BASIC MORAL PRINCIPLES can indeed be set up to govern most human actions–yet exceptions can be provided for, with careful and strong justification.

So, we live with NORMATIVES (“It’s good/right.”) and PRESCRIPTIVES (“You should not do it.”).

**Yet, even if a proposition is true, there is no guarantee that people will act in accordance with it–yet the proposition still remains true whether they do or not….

THUS:
Just because they do it doesn’t mean it’s true.
Just because they believe it doesn’t make true.

* * *

PRINCIPLE OF TRUTH-TELLING, OR HONESTY:

The principle that states a human being should always OUGHT to strive to tell the truth or be honest, except when it would interfere with or seriously violate the principles of GOODNESS, VALUE OF LIFE, and JUSTICE. [This principle is necessary for meaningful communication and human relationships…]

Vital-Lies-Simple-Truths-CoverARE SOME LIES VITAL? 

VALUE OF LIFE [SANCTITY OF LIFE] = 1st moral principle = life of humans is to be preserved, protected, valued

GOODNESS/RIGHTNESS = moral/ethical = good/right
Promote good over bad
Cause no harm/badness
Prevent badness/harm

JUSTICE/FAIRNESS = not enough to do good and avoid bad, but some effort must be made to distribute the good and bad resulting from actions = moral rightness, equity, fairness:
Exchange = payment/remuneration
Distributive = merit, reward (for work performed)
Social = fair and just for all
Retributive = eye for an eye/punishment

* * *

From On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt (Knopf, 2006):

Truth is so important to us . . . we should especially care about it. Yet common sense tells us that we know what it means to tell the truth, …and what it means to give false accounts: to lie.

Higher levels of civilization must depend even more heavily on a conscientious respect for the importance of honesty and clarity in reporting the FACTS, and on a stubborn concern for accuracy in determining what the facts are.

[No one in his right mind would rely on a builder, or submit to a physician, who does not care about truth. There is a clear difference between getting things right and getting them wrong, and thus a clear difference between the true and the false.]

…societies cannot afford to tolerate anyone or anything that fosters a slovenly indifference to the distinction between true and false. AND indulge the . . . narcissistic pretense that being true to the facts is less important than being “true to oneself.”

We need to avoid being debilitated either by error or by ignorance. We need to know–and, of course, we must understand how to make productive use of–a great many truths.

Our success or failure in whatever we undertake, and therefore in life altogether, depends on whether we are guided by truth or whether we proceed in ignorance or on the basis of falsehood.

WE REALLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THE TRUTH… 

…hiding our eyes from reality will not cause any reduction of its dangers and threats.

If we have no respect for the distinction between true and false, we may as well kiss our much-vaunted “rationality” good-bye.

For every fact, there is a true statement that relates it; and every true statement relates a fact.

…caring about truth plays a considerably different role in our lives, and in our culture, than does caring about the accumulation of individual truths.

It is because we appreciate that truth is important to us that we care about accumulating truths.

It is only through our recognition of a world of stubbornly independent reality, fact, and truth that we come both to recognize ourselves as beings distinct from others and to articulate the specific nature of our own identities.

How, then, can we fail to take the importance of factuality and of reality seriously? How can we fail to care about truth? We cannot….

“…many things have been omitted which should have been recorded. . . . It is not easy to write in a journal what interests us at any time, because to write it is not what interests us.”   –Henry David Thoreau

thoreauHenry David Thoreau

Through the writings of Thoreau–Walden and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers–a person interested in journaling can begin to make connections between writing, self, and life. Thoreau is the teacher.

walden pondA journal can help its writer make such connections, make her or him feel alive, discern life; journal writing can bring insight, can shape human identity, and give life meaning.

The journal will become a place to make progress in prose style, a method of/a place for self-understanding and self-revelation.

The journal-keeper will be able to make connections with the past and the present–and have a special vision: to see and to realize the value in making those connections–and writing about them.

week on the concordNOTE: A diary is a fact book: I saw a rainbow. A journal is a fact book with feeling–or with feelings about the facts: I saw a magnificent rainbow and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the colors of a prism. Simple, no?

composition book 1The Speckled Notebook for Journal Entries

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

Most of us adjusted our clocks to keep up with The Changing of the Clocks: Daylight Saving Time (“Daylight Time”). And the world keeps on turning.

watch If the yearly changing of clocks is important for the economy and for the normal operation of living, we can be aware of what a big deal it really is.

However, it is a small instance in our being involved in rite, ritual, and myth.

Ritual plays such an important role in the life of an aware human, and knowledge of ritual and mythology makes us aware of the bond that unites us all to one another.

If you need to delve into this “myth thing,” read and study Frazer, Frye, Eliade, Wheelwright; then worlds open up reading Jung, Milton, Whitman, and Joyce. There is no end to discovering, to making connections, to becoming aware of how contemporary faiths and practices are united with/by “archaic” realities. And in the widest range possible, “faiths and practices” can even include setting back or ahead a timepiece or the Dashboard Clock.

How I do something or how I am told to do something is RITE: How to color Easter eggs.

EGG COLORING BY ELCIVICS.COM

The actual coloring is the Annual RITUAL, including hiding the eggs, making baskets, and making chocolate disappear.

MYTH is a true story that is precious, contains special elements, and is usually religious or “sacred.” (This is the story of “Once upon a time . . .”: Easter Bunny, tombs, rolling back a stone, angels passing over, etc.) We need to get used to NOT saying, “It’s a myth.” (Maybe in Shakespeare in Love, “It’s a mystery” has more meaning than appears.)

A MYTH is a narrative and an expression of ultimate reality, a statement of value: “I believe this.” Even if it’s an Easter Bunny, the Paschal Lamb, or Passover . . . or changing the time. We express, “We believe,” then act accordingly as those who have done before us from the beginning.

From here, we go to see the timepiece, the clock, as more than a time change but rather as a renewal of and re-living the myth: spring (or autumn). And all that spring announces, like dawn or birth or green (however, after the snow is finally gone), or revival, defeat of darkness of winter (resurrection?).

This is Spring. (April may be the cruelest month, but April showers bring May flowers . . .)

Living a MYTH implies a genuinely religious experience. We live it ceremonially or by performing the ritual: Easter bonnets, those Easter Parades (any parade!). In one way or another, we “live” the myth in the sense that we are “seized by the sacred, exalting power of the events recollected or re-enacted” (Mircea Eliade).

All those little things we do at this time of the year, “religious” or sacred or “profane,” take us on that journey of awareness, that ritual of discovery of our origins and of who we are: humans.

It’s no big deal, just a clock and egg and a bunny and a . . . .

© James F. O’Neil

BUNNY EGG BY LUCYLEARNS.COM

 

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

Nickname: “A name added to or substituted for the proper name of a person; some descriptive or familiar name given or received, sometimes humorous, sometimes sarcastic, some one of affection or ridicule.  Often, more likely, a shortened version of a person’s given name.”

Nicknames are certainly interesting, as is the word itself.

My wife and I were watching a TV doctor/hospital show.  The heroine’s nickname is “Pit.”  Why that?, the characters asked.  As she raised her arms in embarrassment, to rub her head, she had wet perspiration marks in the armpits of her scrubs.  Thus, “Pit.” 

I was curious about what “Old Nick,” “Saint Nick,” and “in the nick of time” had in common.  I was especially curious when I saw the movie Omen III.  An old fish, a pike, if I recall, lived in a lake.  Its name was “Old Nick.”  Since the movie is about Satan, this was worth some research.

“Saint Nick” or “Old Saint Nick”–even “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas”–are common expressions in December, on 6 December especially. 

So, like Nicholas becoming “Nick,” we have “Peg” or “Peggy”–and “Peg-o-My Heart” for Margaret.  Peter is “Pete” and Richard is…well, “Rick” (as in Casablanca’s “Rick’s Café Américain”).  But also “Dick.”  That?  Ouch!  Double-entendre here?  Because he could be a….  Ah, you can work that one out.  I grew up knowing that a penis was a “peter” (or even a “doodle,” for God’s sake).  Catholic boys in my young days had some mind-difficulties with Saint Peter’s nickname during our puberty….

Anyhow, continuing, Charles is “Chuck; William is “Bill” (not “Willie–and definitely not “a willie”), yet we have the 1993 film Free Willy.  Romualdas becomes “Rom”; Eugene is…yes, “Gene”; Thomas is “Tom” or “Tommy” (but “Tommy gun” is from the manufacturer Auto-Ordnance Company, naming the submachine gun for its designer, John T. Thompson).  (“British Tommies” will require another story.)

One of our teachers was Glennon E. Figge, initials “G.E.F.”: we called him “The Geef” (not a nickname used in his presence, of course).

And so it goes.  My name is James, that is “Jim,” “Jimbo,” and “Jimmy” (when my mother really wanted my attention).  In college, I was “Jim.”  That’s it.

Until Saint Patrick’s Day, 1961.  Whatever possessed me (“possessed”?) to paint a pair of my shoes green?  No doubt, “The Devil made me do it.”  There I was, celebrating my Irish heritage with green paint–bright green, for sure.

I attended the campus festivities of March 17, 1961:  corned beef and cabbage–possible. Special dessert?  I cannot remember.  Nor can most of my classmates at our small college.  However, many do remember my bright green shoes, though not remembering them as well as a pair of “ruby slippers” in some Wizard movie…  But, hey, I made MY mark to this day.

“Greenie, how are you?  “Hello, Greenie.  How are things?”  “  Greenie!  What’s up?”  A lasting memory from one special Saint PADDY’S Day (a “patty” is a hamburger-thingy; “Patty” is a girl’s name–mostly….  Look it up.).

©  James F. O’Neil  2014  

Note: A special thanks to my Irish classmate Michael Toohey for suggesting I write this memory.  “Thanks, Mike.”  Or, is that “Mikey,” “Mickey,” or “Mick”?  Or would that be now “Mícheál”?  Ah, that good old Hebrew name….

 Irish_clover

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