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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[MOTHER’S DAY GIFT: REVISION OF MAY 2014 POSTING]

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

MOTHERS’ DAY: The current holiday was created in 1908 as a day to honor one’s mother.  President Woodrow Wilson made the day an official national holiday in 1914.

Have you ever been asked, “Who is the person you most admired from your childhood?”  I believed from once upon a time that everything “must be true.  My mother said so.”

Yes, that worked for me, with my religion of motherolatry.  I thought it was true: My mother was all-powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise–seeing all.

M-O-M = G-O-D.

Then it happened: 9th grade for sure.  World History.  Discussion question about . . . and my answer: “My mother said so.”  And the teacher’s response: “Your mother is not God!” shouted back by my man-teacher wearing his black cassock.  “NO?”

How could I have been so naive?  How did I ever make it into high school believing that my mother had the VERUM VERBUM, the true word?  When did I stop believing?  When did I come to that realization the Game of Life was changing?  That I had to learn for myself?

verbum-dei

Somewhere, sometime, I said, “NO!” to Mom-God.  There I was, probably shaking while or after the words came from my mouth.  My Act of Rebellion.

And so it goes in the Game of Life, as we grow through adolescence into adulthood (which my pop-psychology taught me.  Or was that Gail Sheehy: Tryout Twenties, Turbulent Thirties, Flourishing Forties, Flaming Fifties, and Serene Sixties?).

* * *

I cannot imagine not having a mother, losing her to disease [Steel Magnolias], in a car accident [Raising Helen], in childbirth [The Sign], to a hunter’s bullet [Bambi], or to the many other awful things that happen to mothers before their children know them. 

“I lost my mother when I was five.”  “I don’t remember my mother.”  “My mother died of cancer, when I was seventeen.”  “My mom never came home from the party.”

And on it went, as I read college essay after college essay, year after year, for over twenty years.  This question was my choice.  I wanted my students to do personal narratives by which they could express themselves–and do their best writing–I hoped.

As the semesters ended, I turned to my readings.  Often tired, I usually would become pensive while reading.  I tried to be an objective reader, weighing the writing against the grading standards.  Yet so often I was pulled into the story being told.  I think I was, at times, like Miss Lonelyhearts [by Nathaniel West], encountering sad story after sad story, truth stranger than fiction.  I could not help it.

Essays ranged from the “My mother took care of me when I was sick” to “My mom had it rough raising the nine of us with no father…or with a druggie father…or with an alcoholic father…or with a___ father.”  [How did she manage?]

While I was drifting off, and away from the papers, my own questions, my own answers snuck in: How did my mother manage to sleep, work nights (mostly), raise the four of us, and keep up with the household duties–and be a wife, too?

Doing the dishes was the job that fell to my sister, Janice, and me.  We learned–and were outstanding dish-doers.  “Glasses, knives, and forks.  Dishes, pots, and pans.”  That was The Sacred Order.  I learned that way, from Mom.  [Trait One: MANAGER]

Years before (maybe when in 9th grade?) as I was washing coffee cups after supper, I reached into the soapy water, reaching after a cup that slipped from my soapy left hand.  My hand went automatically to retrieve the cup, but the broken cup sliced into the fingers of my left hand.  Blood in the water.  Panic from the immediate intense pain, soap-in-cut.  My sister screaming for, of course, “M-O-M!”  [Trait Two: NURSE]

“Mom, can you read my story before you go to work?”  [Trait Three: GRAMMARIAN]  ‘Nuff said.

grammarian amazon

Mothers cheer us on: “You can do it.  Go ahead!  Go ahead!”  I remember vividly, her feeling good on a warm Saturday evening in Chicago.  She had just ridden the (used) small bicycle bought for me.  I ran alongside her with glee.  At the corner, she turned around, giving me the bike.  My turn.  My first two-wheeler.

“You can do it.  Try again,” I heard as I tried to gain balance, but fell into the bushes.  Getting up, scratched arms be damned!, I tried again.  Her laughing encouragement behind me grew as I cycled away from her.  At the end of the sidewalk, near the alley, I stopped (applying the brakes expertly), then fell over–and off.  I turned back to see my mom waiting at the end of the street.  I rode to her.  “Expertly,” of course.  Yeah, wobbling from side to side, houses’ steps and bushes on the right, grass-curb-city street on the left.  I pedaled the gauntlet.  To Mom.  [Trait Four: CYCLIST TRAINER]

50s bicycle

50s BICYCLE (CREDIT: LIVEAUCTIONEERS)

“What do you think I should do?”

If there is one question I ask, probably more than any other, it is “What do you think I should do?”  My kids do it.  My wife does it.  We all do it.

Looking over my Early Asking Age to now, I realize this has to be The Ultimate Question: Each of us is a Grand Inquisitor.  We seek answers.  I seek (and sought) answers.  However, the answers that come from “What do you think I should do?”, though not unique to kids asking moms, make us Deciders.  For the answer usually is, “You’ll have to decide.”  It means, “You’ll have to make up your own mind–and live with it.”  This is not cold, harsh, cruel, but is concerning, caring, and–when I think more about it–allowing the Inquisitor to grow and live.  Therefore, we talk and discuss and ask: “What should we do?”

Yes, just like a mom, she said, “Yes, you’ll have to decide.”  Just as I expected, not unexpected.  [Trait Five: NON-DECIDER/DECIDER]

Good move, for, as we all know so well, not just Mother Nature, but “Mother knows best” (often).

So I would search those student essays for goodness and admiration, stories that demonstrated “goodness” and “admiration.”  “All the good” moms do . . . “is oft interred with their bones.”

NO!  The good DOES live after them.  I CAN recall the good times, the admired times; memories of the hard times, the rough times; illnesses, job layoffs, or . . . .”

Too, from Trait Five, I learned: to be able to reach decisions, come to conclusions, after rational thought, not impulse thoughts, but rather, like a good Indiana Jones Crusader, to choose wisely.

 So, “The person I most admire from childhood . . . .”

 © James F. O’Neil   2014;  Rev. 2017

* * *

 ~Irish Proverb: “A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best, but his mother the longest.”

happy-mothers-day shlomoandvitos.com

(CREDIT: shlomoandvitos.com)

 

“MAGIC MOMENTS” : Magic moments, when two hearts are carin’ // Magic moments, mem’ries we’ve been sharing … Time can’t erase the memory of // These magic moments filled with love … Magic moments filled with love  [Songwriters: Burt Bacharach / Hal David.  “Magic Moments” lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC]

“There’s a magic and mystery in positive events.”  –Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, psychologist

The term magic has a variety of meanings, hence there is no widely agreed upon definition of what it is or how it can be used.  However, some treat magic as a personal phenomenon intended to meet individual needs, as opposed to a social phenomenon serving a collective purpose.  The explanatory power of magic should not be underestimated, however.  Both in the past and in the modern world, magical belief systems can provide explanations for otherwise difficult or impossible to understand phenomena while providing a spiritual and metaphysical grounding for the individual.  [See “Magic” in Wikipedia.]

“It’s a mystery!”  –Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare in Love

“…moments of epiphany, or revelation, of radiance…with meaning essentially wordless, for words are always qualifications and limitations.”  –Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

“Persons who come for therapy do so because they lack power; they complain that they cannot achieve.  …  Patients want ‘magical knowledge,’ and no matter how correctly the therapist explains that insight is not magic, it still feels that way to the person when an insight ‘dawns.’”  –Rollo May, “Faust in the Twentieth Century” in The Cry for Myth (1991).

“There is no myth which is not the unveiling of a ‘mystery,’ the revelation of a primordial event which inaugurated either a constituent structure of reality or a kind of human behavior.  [But] when no longer assumed to be a revelation of the ‘mysteries,’ the myth becomes ‘decadent,’ obscured; it turns into a tale or a legend.”  –Mircea Eliade, “Preface” in Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries (1957)

“MEMORY”:  Midnight // Not a sound from the pavement // Has the moon lost her memory // She is smiling alone // In the lamplight…  Memory // All alone in the moonlight // …I remember the time I knew what happiness was // Let the memory live again // … Tonight will be a memory too // And a new day will begin // …  –Andrew Lloyd Webber, T. S. Eliot, Trevor Nunn, Zdenek Hruby • © Universal Music Publishing Group, Imagem Music Inc.

interrobang  MagicalMysteryTourDoubleEPcover.jpgMagical Mystery Tour

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

Destry Rides Again is a 1959 musical “comedy”–a Western with music and lyrics by Harold Rome and a book by Leonard Gershe.  The play is based on the 1939 classic film of the same name, starring Marlene Dietrich and Jimmy Stewart.  The musical starred Dolores Gray and Andy Griffith.  Tom Destry (Griffith) abhors guns but becomes sheriff of the town of Bottleneck.  There, The Last Chance Saloon singer, Frenchy, proves a distraction in his mission to bring the bad guys to justice.  Poker, swindle, shooting, murder, and “bad women” form the substance of the drama–somewhat of a “classic” Western.  As the story goes, the character Gyp Watson has been arrested for the murder of Sheriff Keogh early in the play.  [See Wikipedia and other sources]

[The video clip is “Are You Ready, Gyp Watson?” performed on a TV variety show, featuring the original 1959 Broadway cast.  The great Dolores Gray appears as Frenchy, and Michael Kidd did the choreography.  Songwriter Harold Rome’s counterpoint melody inspired Kidd to turn this into a major dance number, which contributed to his winning the Tony Award for Best Choreography.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG4Mjq0H6Ic

I had never heard of the play nor heard the music until I was in college “back then.”  I was attending a men’s college, a small Roman Catholic seminary in Missouri.  Part of our curriculum, and a large part of our spiritual life, was song, and Gregorian chant.

Haec Dies Quam Fecit Dominus gregorian

Songs and hymns during liturgical services took place almost daily with the entire group of students.  One of my classmates, Ray Repp, approached me one day with an offer to join him and a few others to have a musical audition in a classroom.  He wanted to start a group to perform for the students.  Ray got us together, worked us, found us music, chose us a name, and set up a practice schedule during our free time.  We would sing when the school had time allotted for various entertainment activities, like one-act plays, songfests, movies, and amateur nights.

The Princetons were formed.  We were a timely group, with our musical repertoire for the ‘60s:  “Lemon Tree” “The River Is Wide, I Cannot See” and other ballads requiring good voices and one guitar.  And, of course, Gyp Watson’s funereal hymn which I still hum–and cannot ever get out of my head!  “Are you ready, Gyp Watson?  Are you ready, for to die?  Are you ready, Gyp Watson, for the last big roundup in the sky?”

And The Princetons had their “outfits”: black pants/trousers, black shoes, and white shirts, sleeves rolled up twice.  However, the distinguishing feature had to be our haircuts.  “Seminary” haircuts?  That would never do.  Not military cut, either.  Better, the “Princeton” cut:

princeton classic haircutA Princeton haircut–an Ivy League, or Harvard Clip–could be a kind of crew cut with enough hair styled on top for a side part.  Many individual variations came about.   

The hair on the sides and back of the head is usually tapered, short to medium.  (An Ivy League is traditionally groomed with hair control wax, sometimes called “butch wax”–a bit stronger than Dapper Dan pomade used by Ulysses Everett McGill in O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

princetons haircutsFAMOUS WEARERS OF PRINCETON HAIRCUTS

The Princetons of St Louis had their time, and made their mark.  And it was fun.  Ray thought we were good–and wanted us to make a recording of some of his music.  We did go to a small recording studio in St Louis and sang our best.  A tape was made.  Each of us had to contribute dollars for the master to be sent to various radio stations and critics.

Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Kingston Trio, and other groups were similar in some respects.  (Some memory tripping here: the Brothers Four, The Limeliters, The Chad Mitchell Trio, The New Christy Minstrels.)  “As noted by critic Bruce Eder in the All Music Guide, the popularity of the commercialized version of folk music represented by these groups emboldened record companies to sign, record, and promote artists with more traditionalist and political sensibilities.”  We certainly were in good company, but were not very popular.  And so ended my “semi-professional” music career, though I did not cease to sing. 

I had always loved to sing, was always told I had a good voice–good enough for church choirs, high school chorus groups, and men’s choirs and choruses.  I sang the full range from young castrati-type soprano (with a Michael Jackson voice) to first tenor, like that of my Chicago Opera-singing friend, Jimmy Pappas [from Pappas Ice Cream Shop]  (who helped me love classical music and Lakmé and La Boheme, among other operatic works), to second tenor.

I have sung in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arkansas, Washington, Texas, Florida–at churches and sporting events, at weddings and at funerals.  I can still be “choked up” at “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave // O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

All this has been good.  I have had few bad experiences with song, or with reading music, or with hitting the proper notes.  There is, however, one forever-lasting impression of my place in the music world.  Once, in mid-life, I answered an ad, a call for auditions to the Florida Symphony.  I submitted all the proper paperwork, and found my way to the audition hall.  I was dreaming of tuxedos and travel and concert halls.  The audition practice began with Handel’s Messiah.  Some members of the chorus I already knew; some were like me, novices with the chorus, trying out, trying it out.messiah for satb

I knew I had to banish thoughts of black ties, patent-leather shoes, tuxedo tails when I realized pages of music were being turned–and I had not gotten there yet.  More tries.  More pages and notes and directions than I had ever experienced.

“Buddhism considers humility a virtue that must be won through a long process of self-observation.  It requires a healthy measure of self-confidence and courage to achieve a realistic and humble understanding of the self.”  (Sam Keen)

O say can you see how humble an understanding of myself I had at that time?!  At the break, I told the director that I could not do it.  End.

I am a hoarder, an addict, a collector: once upon a time, I probably had a thousand music CD’s, long after I had a record collection of classical and other music, choruses and operas included.  Downsized now, I still surround myself with music as much as I can. 

And, from time to time, Poor Jud Fry in Oklahoma, Tony in West Side Story, Gyp Watson, and a few other characters bounce around in my life–coming from I-don’t-know-where.  Though I am glad I have them to remind me of my days of song, and my brief musical career, and to bring me such memoriesofatime.

©  James F. O’Neil  2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.”  –Anon.

Once upon a time, as the story goes, there were three bears, a Lorax, and seven dwarfs.  They all planned to sit down on the forest lawn one late spring morning for a leisurely brunch, complete with honey, biscuits, green eggs and ham (this was a typical New Orleans Brennan’s-style meal), and some good apple pies baked by the old hag who also built gingerbread houses.  Well, because of the whims of Thor and the other gods, the brunch party was called on account of rain.  But they all lived happily ever after, for they knew behind every rain cloud there was a silver lining.

THE END.

SO IT GOES.

HEIGH, HO!

Narration is to entertain, by storytelling, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Mostly.  There is FACTUAL narration and FICTIONAL narration.  (Some get them mixed up.)

FACTUAL presents a sequence of events (and people involved) as they are, CONCERNED WITH TIME AND ACTION.  The events have significance or meaning to the teller of the tale, even though he or she may not have been directly involved in the event (what I might know from a historical happening). 

(Sometimes, though, narration or storytelling is used to make a point, or even to make an argument, as in a parable, a fable, or in a sermon [or at a political rally]).  In telling, tellers capture and use DETAILS and organize and present with FEELINGS and EMOTIONS, yet ordering with reason-ableness.  (A reader or listener wants to hear or read details that emotionally involve–“Yeah!  That happened to me!”; details that are understandable; details that present a sense of time and past-ness to make it all ring true–memoriesofatime)

TELL A GOOD STORY.  BE HONEST AND TRUE.  PUT IT ALL IN GOOD ORDER: incidents, anecdotes, memories, nostalgics, milestones, autobiography, biography, family history. 

Jean Piaget told some teachers once upon a time that most people usually do not reflect upon their lives–and maybe cannot–until they are 18 or 19.  (He said some writers need to be taught how to reflect.)

Finally, once upon a time, the author Flannery O’Connor remarked that anybody who has survived childhood (the 18 or 19 mentioned by Piaget?) has enough information about life to last (to write about?) the rest of his or her days.

THE END.

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ: 1 May 1881–10 April 1955, was a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist, and Teilhard de Chardintook part in the discovery of the Peking Man.  He conceived the vitalist idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving).

Although many of Teilhard’s writings were at one time censored by his Catholic Church, in our time he has been posthumously praised by popes.  However, some evolutionary biologists are still negative.  Nevertheless, Chardin has had a profound influence on the New Age movement, being described as “perhaps the man most responsible for the spiritualization of evolution in a global and cosmic context”–even being described as a “visionary” philosopher and a contemporary “truth-sayer” or “prophet.”  Teilhard de Chardin has two comprehensive works, The Phenomenon of Man, and The Divine Milieu.

(Teilhard is mentioned by name and the Omega Point briefly explained in Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stephen Baxter’s The Light of Other Days.  The title of the short-story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor is a reference to Teilhard’s work.  The American novelist Don DeLillo’s 2010 novel Point Omega borrows its title and some of its ideas from Teilhard de Chardin.  Robert Wright, in his book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, compares his own naturalistic thesis that biological and cultural evolution are directional and, possibly, purposeful, with Teilhard’s ideas.)  [Wikipedia]

“The perception of the divine omnipresence is essentially a seeing, a taste, that is to say a sort of intuition bearing upon certain superior qualities in things.  It cannot, therefore, be attained directly by any process of reasoning, nor by any human artifice.  It is a gift, like life itself, of which it is undoubtedly the supreme experimental perfection.”  (The Divine Milieu, p. 131.)  

“When a distinguished but elderly statesman states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.  When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”  –Arthur C, Clarke

“Mystics seem intent in regarding the death of earth as the birth of the new cosmic man.  In this respect, Teilhard de Chardin’s vision is remarkably like A. C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End”: ‘Let us suppose from this universal centre, this Omega Point, there constantly emanate radiations hitherto only perceptible to those persons we call “mystics.”  Let us further imagine that, as the sensibility or response to mysticism of the human race increases with planetisation, the awareness of Omega becomes so widespread as to warm thechildhood's end jackeet earth psychically while physically it is growing cold.  Is it not conceivable that Mankind, at the end of its totalisation, its folding-in upon itself, may reach a critical level of maturity where, leaving the earth and stars to lapse slowly back into the dwindling mass of primordial energy, it will detach itself from this planet and join the one true, irreversible essence of things, the Omega Point?  A phenomenon perhaps outwardly akin to death; but in reality a simple metamorphosis and arrival at the supreme synthesis.’”  –Chardin, The Future of Man, p. 127, in Harper’s, December 1971: 77-78)

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Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS (16 December 1917–19 March 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.

How dare he change the symbols for evil used by Christianity for hundreds of years and iconoclasticize them into order, truth, and peace?  He did dare, in a small, powerful, prescient novel published in 1953–Childhood’s End–, taking place in the year 19–.  In 1968 came 2001: A Space Odyssey–filled with myth, archetypes, rituals–and IBM and HAL.  An odyssey by the master artisan who writes a sequel to Homer’s story of the wanderer.  Then, among others, Rendezvous with Rama (1972); 2010: Odyssey Two (1982); and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997).

Arthur C. Clarke opens up the possibilities of gaining or losing: souls or history, in speculative fiction in the spirit of Jonathan Swift.  He writes of trade-offs for survival.  He speculates upon the worlds of peace, the new/next Golden Age.

As much as Milton or Bosch, he has a vision.  But he is sometimes, not unlike Teilhard de Chardin, showing evolution continuing, not stopping with the human, which may be a missing link.  Man is moving toward the Omega Point.

One looks to Clarke–SERIOUSLY–for metamorphosis, for mysticism, for the awareness of the fragile beauty surrounding [us] earthlings.

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