Now that I have successfully completed the first sixth of my life, I have been gifted several packets of Wisdom from an anonymous donor (maybe God or, because they came addressed to the previous tenant and left in the mailbox, L. Ron Hubbard) that I will share with you.
Loneliness Is Beautiful
You know how sometimes you’ll be at a restaurant and pretend you don’t know how to swallow so you can get out of paying the bill? Well I think that’s wrong when you do that. That said, sometimes I stop and consider a word that I may have said a hundred times in my life but only just now am I thinking about its etymology. Recently that word was “hermit.” Like you, I thought that “hermit” came from the 1992 gals’ baseball movie “A League of Their Own,” in which Geena Davis’s character says derisively of Madonna’s, “How can she catch? Hermit is covered in grouting.”
But “hermit” comes from the Greek eremos, meaning lonely, and is related to eremia, which means desert. A hermit can be someone who lives in the wilderness, or desert, and to desert someone is to leave them lonely. I was struck by how a geographical region could be named as if it were an existential state. Like if Mar a Lago were renamed Cynicism & Despair. But, now that I think of it, there’s Hope, Arkansas and, right down the street from me, Los Feliz.
Also, people go to the desert in order to be alone. I remember doing that on my 32nd birthday. I didn’t want a party; I would be happier by myself. On the road through Joshua Tree, my path was crossed by a red fox as I was listening to “Red Barchetta.” Had there been someone else with me, making me eat cake or grouting, I would not have had the good time that I did. I think of desolation and loneliness as a stillness that I can visit and leave at any time.
Hope as a Thing To Be Handled Thoughtfully
If we don’t have hope, we die. If we don’t eat these little specks of paste that may be the only thing around right now because we are hoping for that turkey sandwich someone who is notoriously unreliable promised us, we also die. “Sometimes you have to eat paste,” I tell the kindergarteners in the cult I belong to.
Charles Bukowski, Moderation, And Blindness
I’m going blind. I’m raging against the dying of the light. I’m bending lamps to books and finishing chapters like someone else might finish a marathon. I’ll drive to a destination at twilight and arrive exhausted, feeling like all the concentration should have been enough to get me there like lifting my X-Wing from the Dagobah Swamp. I can mark the change every year. As if I were someone in a burning house, I have transferred all my precious sense of sight into my fingertips and have padded my capacity to whistle jaunty airs.
It reminds me of a joke. A priest catches one of the altar boys interfering with himself and says, “Stop that or you’ll go blind,” to which the kid says, “Can’t I just do it until I need glasses?”
There’s a bumper sticker that reads “Lord, save me from your followers.” It’s unfortunate that the late Charles Bukowski is so cherished by people who aren’t into the writing as much as they are his misanthropic worldview, because quoting Bukowski in mixed company is like posting that picture of the Clintons at the third Trump wedding with the caption “I’m just saying.” Bukowski wrote, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” I love that quote, but not enough to let it kill me. I’m going to find what I love and get a stronger prescription.
I Just Got Out My Little Red Book
I was working in the garden recently with the intention of digging down to magma level and becoming one with Earth’s fiery goo, but it didn’t work out. Regardless, I like spending time in the garden and recall I had a conversation with someone in Upstate New York many years ago in which I pointed to a copse of trees and said, “That looks like a place where Pan cavorts with the fauns.”
And she said, “The Fonz?”
Anyway, I reflected what my father might have been doing on his 54th birthday, and then my mother on hers, and as the Sun crested above me and my Shadow seemed to join with my Self, I thought of Carl Jung’s directive to integrate one’s shadow and how that might be a fun thing to do on my 54th birthday, which the Romans would designate LIV.
The moral of this section is to LIV Fast, die Jung, and leave a good-looking copse.
Anthropomorphizing One’s Pets Is No Longer A Sign of Schizophrenia
And thank dog for that because, up until the recent release of the sixth edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMVI), talking to one’s pets, talking as one’s pets, and/or inventing rich inner lives and backstories for one’s pets and having multiple conversations with them throughout the day whether they are alive or dead was considered Batshit Crazy and was a boon to the Mandated Reporter industry. Now the APA calls the practice “legit, if not sexy.”
Expressions To Avoid
“Sounds like a plan.”
Correctly identifying the syntax common to planning doesn’t make the actual plan worthwhile. When Sting said, “I think we should remake ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’ for our contractually-obligated Greatest Hits album a mere six years after the original and call it ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86,’ adding the word ‘famous’ to ‘book by Nabokov,’” and a cowed and terrified Stewart and Andy said, “Sounds like a plan,” they didn’t mean it was a good plan.
Similarly, in Bob Seger’s “Still the Same,” when Mr. Seger addresses the person who remains the same, the Silver Bullet Band replied “Sounds like a plan” when Bob asked if the line “I caught up with you yesterday” was in any way meaningful or like something you would say to someone that hadn’t experienced short-term memory loss due to a head injury. If I talked with you today about having talked to you yesterday, what purpose would be served in my telling you something that we both know to be true and have no reason to dispute? No purpose. Regardless, that’s a great song, and you’ll never hear Bob remaking it as “Still the Same ‘23” with extra lyrics about Detroit’s Vladimir Nabokov.
“I don’t know who needs to hear this, but—”
Of course you don’t know who needs to hear this. Chances are that the number of people who need to hear this are fewer than one.