My New Diary, 11/17 to 11/21/2018

By Alan Carl Nicoll

Copyright 2018 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

{11/17/18}  Weight 220.0.


{11/18/18}  Weight 220.4.  An hour and a urination later, 219.8.

What is it like to be me?  [The following concludes my investigation of this question, begun in a previous post]  It has been hard to see how to answer this question, but I think now I may be able to.  Categorizing possible answers has been key.

First and most obvious is preferences.  When we’re meeting someone for the first time and we’re trying to decide whether we want them as a friend, we’re likely to ask about their preferences, such as, “What do you like to read?” or “What’s the best movie you’ve seen lately?” and so on.  But this doesn’t come close to the heart of “what it is like” to be someone.

Then there are bits of personal history:  where you’re from, marital status, current employment, what have you done that you are most proud of, and so on.  This is of minor importance, mostly, though the job someone is doing can “speak volumes,” such as if one is a hog butcher.

And there are goals and desires:  “Where would you like to be in five years?” or “What do you most want to accomplish in your life?”  Clearly, these are important in understanding someone.

There are thoughts:  “What do you think about the Guernica?” or, indeed, “What do you think about a lot?”

But if we really want to understand what it is like to be someone, perhaps the most revealing kind of information may be things like, “What makes you cry?” and “Can you be deliberately cruel?”  Situations that typically evoke one’s emotions seem to me to come the closest to what it is like to be someone.  Assuming, of course, in all cases, that we can get thoughtful and candid answers.  Evasions or lies won’t help at all, even if we know they’re lies.

Meta-questions might also work:  “What is the most important, or revealing, thing to know about you?”

I think also that it would take a lot of answered questions—more questions than most people would care to answer, to a stranger or even to a spouse.

For me personally, I think this diary provides more information on my preferences, history, goals, and thoughts than anyone would care to read.  Presumably the “most important” is my criminal past.

But what makes me cry?  Scenes in movies in which an admired character expresses love to another, notably at the end of Cyrano de Bergerac and the parting scenes in Now, Voyager.  Also, when Othello kills Desdemona.  And opera, yes!—Madame Butterfly’s death scene and Rodolfo’s grief over the dead Mimi.  Presumably these are scenes which make many people cry.  Perhaps we want the surprising causes of tears.

Does it reveal who I am if I say that I once wept over a Brahms piano quartet?  Or that I did not weep over the death of my mother?  Is it important to know that I am happy about the first, and that the second tends to depress me and cause me to question myself, though not seriously?  And sometimes I just get weepy over nothing much.

“Take the next two hours and tell me what it is like to be you.”  What a burden this places on one!  Yet, this is what would be needed to get a feel for what it is like to be me, or you.  Somehow, this does not seem entirely satisfactory, but I’m pretty sure it’s the best that I can do.

A shorter question could be, “Tell me the best and the worst things about you.”  But the answers wouldn’t come close to what we want; rather, this is like a place to start.  I daresay that no single answered question, short of the two-hour thing, would be quite enough.  Perhaps now I can lay this matter to rest.

Watched an excellent movie last night, Thoroughbreds.  Reminded me a lot of Heavenly Creatures, with a dash of the Coen brothers, though not really that good.  More weird than affecting, that is, very weird and somewhat affecting.  Attractive leads, very strange and sometimes tedious music (got very sick of the bass drum), good plot and cinematography.  Really, I enjoyed it very much, and it’s only in the cold light of morning that its flaws begin to stand out.

Reading the Library of America volume of Reinhold Niebuhr’s works and enjoying it very much.  I had previously tried his Moral Man and Immoral Society and was very impressed early on, but I think I got bored with Chapter 2 and gave it up.  Currently I’m reading his Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, which ranges from 1915 to 1928, when he was 23 to 36.  He talks about his work as a pastor in Detroit, theological and ethical questions, a trip to Europe, and the [religious and moral] failings of other pastors and the general population.  Detroit at the time was of course very different from what it is today, I suppose primarily because of the automobile industry, poverty, and drugs.  There’s hardly a dull page in the whole 130.


{11/21/18}  Weight 220.2

Dream about catching a bird.  I was looking into a shrub and less than a foot from my face was a small, drab, green bird with a beak like a warbler’s.  I grabbed the bird in my hand, as gently as I could—something I hope that I would never do—and held it to look closely.  It felt very hot, and the beak had changed to that of a finch.  That’s all I remember.

Albert Camus

When reading Camus, every once in a while a come across something that impresses me with an emotion I can’t name, nor can I say what about it impresses me.  One such occurs in Albert Camus:  Notebooks: 1935-1942, Philip Thody (ed., tr.), Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 1962-2010, pb.  It starts, “Every day he went off into the mountains and came back speechless, his hair full of grass, and his body covered with the scratches of a whole day’s rambling.”  (p. 45)  The passage takes half a page, so I won’t copy it here.  The start is like something Thoreau could have written about himself, expressing a communing (a word I never like) with nature of a sort.

Shortly after I started highlighting in Reinhold Niebuhr, his book got boring (again it was Moral Man…).  It’s too abstract, too sweepingly generalizing—I can hardly understand it, sometimes.  Am I giving up on it?  Probably.  Looking ahead through the Table of Contents was not encouraging; I want to skip, but saw no place to skip to.  So I turned to Camus, a book I liked and had put aside (10/15/18) because I was involved in something else, and now have time for.


Diary entries from 6/1 to 9/30 are available in this file:  link.
Diary entries from 10/1 on are available here:  link.

Copyright 2018 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All right reserved.

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