Diary, 9/9 to 9/17/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Abraham Maslow, psychologist

{9/10/19}  Weight 223.0.

Clearly, the “rotisserie chicken diet” isn’t working—though it would if I could stick to it.  I would need to find some “standard lunch” to have with it.  Yesterday I “supplemented” with half a package of cookies, potato chips, and a few nuts and prunes and a couple of granola bars.  That is, I kept eating until my “mouth hunger” was sated.

I suppose I could try to make it more of a science, weighing and calculating everything I eat.  The alternative would be to not buy any snack foods, such as chips and granola bars.  I’ve already, theoretically, “stopped buying cookies and ice cream.”  Nuts and dried fruits were to be my “acceptable” desserts and snacks.  Perhaps I’ll keep going with this for a while longer, if I even can.

{9/11/19}  Weight 222.2.

Watched Democracy Now and saw the full interview with Greta Thunberg.  She inspires me, seriously, and makes me ashamed that I am just another adult who does nothing about the climate.  She’s also incredibly cute and dear.  It seems, however, that she won’t change my life.

Reading the last bit of Maslow.  Some of it is very thought-provoking:

“[Growth] often means giving up a simpler and easier and less effortful life, in exchange for a more demanding, more responsible, more difficult life.”  (p. 204).  This has me thinking about “my neurosis” and what I might do to give it up and take the more responsible approach…whatever that might mean.  At any rate, this is what I need to do:  read much, and experiment on myself.

Also, I was reminded of Gandhi’s vow regarding fear:  so I also need to make the effort to FHFFS and have that conversation with Donna.  Where else is my life stunted by fear?

“Stunted” is a word used by Maslow to describe those who are non-actualizers:  “Human diminution (the loss of human potentialities and capacities) is a more useful concept than “illness” for our theoretical purposes.”  (p. 204)  Seems like it would also be more useful to me, though I still think that “neurosis” is useful also.

“Self-actualization” as used by Maslow seems to require a distinction:  he says that it’s something that everyone does, at times, and this is what “peak experiences” are; but he also says that this is what self-actualizers, his “healthy people,” do most of the time.  In other words, I think he conflates normal activity and especially mature persons (a group which accounts for less than 1% of the population).

Today I had thought about going to Wal-Mart, but I should be able to get picture frames and a wastebasket at a thrift shop.  So I’m going to do that this morning.

Maslow quotes L. Feuer:  “The distinction between authentic values and inauthentic ones is one between values which are expressive of the primal drives of the organism and those which are anxiety-induced.”  (p. 176n, attributed to L. Feuer:  Psychoanalysis and Ethics, Thomas, 1955, p. 13-14, italics as in Maslow.)  My approach-avoidance with Donna is anxiety-ridden; the approach is authentic, and the running away is inauthentic.  Maybe.

But what an important book!

Antisocial personality disorder:  was I suffering from that in my teens?  Here’s the definition from Arthur Reber, Rhianon Allen, and Emily Reber:  Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, Penguin Books, New York, 1985-2009:  “A personality disorder marked by a history of irresponsible and antisocial behaviour beginning in childhood or early adolescence (typically as a conduct disorder) and continuing into adulthood.  Early manifestations include lying, stealing, fighting, vandalism, running away from home, and cruelty.  In adulthood the general pattern continues, characterized by such factors as significant unemployment, failures to conform to social norms, property destruction, stealing, failure to honour financial obligations, reckless disregard for one’s own or others’ safety, incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, poor parenting, and a consistent disregard for the truth.  Also noted as an important feature is a glibness accompanied by a lack of remorse and a lack of, or lessened, ability to feel guilty for one’s actions.  Other labels that have been used over the years to capture this syndrome include psychopathy, psychopathic personality and sociopathic personality.”  p. 48.

The evidence is equivocal.  But I might include these thoughts in KM.

{9/12/19}  Weight 222.2.

{9/13/19}  Weight 222.2.

The Shut-Up-and-Write Meetup yesterday morning was encouraging, as four people showed up (counting me and Pablo).  I started writing the material I described on 9/11/19 as “the story of my neurosis,” but didn’t get very far.  The organizer, Ben, is a freelance writer and editor who happens to be into D&D.  I told him that I might want to make use of his services in about a year.  We had an excellent conversation.

Also talked to Donna yesterday.  As I anticipated, the writing I see her doing at Dagny’s is a journal which I think she said she started after the death of her husband five years ago.  Something about keeping her on her “spiritual path,” which is not a great sign for me, but at least she was friendly.  Apparently, each day she reads her entry from five years back before writing the day’s entry—an idea I could use.  Pablo and I were on our way to Lorene’s; I should have asked her along.  Next time, I will.

I’ve been troubled by a slight indigestion or heartburn for two days or a bit more.  Also troubling is the muscular weakness I felt yesterday, the leadenness in my arms and legs.  I take this as a sign that I need exercise—no surprise.

I finished reading Abraham Maslow:  Toward a Psychology of Being and began typing up quotes.  It’s an important book that has had a strong influence on my thinking about myself and human nature and the meaning of life.  Very valuable, though of course it’s almost sixty years old.  But it’s hard to tell how much of it is science and how much is circular reasoning and wishful thinking; at least I can say that it’s persuasive and I find little to disagree with.  It’s also inspiring, as previous diary entries show.

I’ve also started rereading Noam Chomsky:  What Kind of Creatures Are We? and I’ve resumed the Corngold book on Walter Kaufmann.  Corngold has me checking the dictionary often, not quite once a page.  I’m not highlighting as I go, which I’ll likely end up regretting, but perhaps it’s not that kind of book, i.e., not something I think of as being worthy of study.

Kaufmann’s Twenty-Five German Poets, which I’ve dipped into this week but don’t plan to read straight through right now, is remarkably opinionated about poetry in general.  It’s also more interesting than I thought it would be.  He dismisses a lot of recent and modern (1960ish) poetry, essentially dividing modern Anglophone poets and/or poems into two classes:  the obscure and the trivial.  That’s a bit of a caricature of his point of view, but I do mostly agree with him.  That is, I think there are some exceptions; or perhaps I just like some (Gwendolyn Brooks and Millay and Frost come to mind)—I don’t know how to separate “I like this” from “this is good.”  And some poets have a few poems that I like (Plath, Stevie Smith, Leonard Cohen).  Those are mostly women, which is more a coincidence than a preference.  But I rarely take time for poetry, at least, modern poetry.  I’m still limping occasionally through The Faerie Queene, which I find about as interesting as Paradise Lost, i.e., not very.  But one wants to try these things anyway, if only just to know.

I just said, I don’t know how to separate “I like this” from “this is good.”  This deserves more words.  I can’t trust the opinion of others on what constitutes a “good poem.”  I’ve read some criticism, but never found it worthy of study.  And I find the same situation in all the arts, with the possible exception of dance—there, I can see that some “standards” make sense, because classical ballet clearly can be done well or badly.  But in poetry, literature, painting—one can never be quite sure whether the artist is being deliberately, ironically “bad” or is just “incompetent.”  If a line in a sonnet, for instance, has six stresses instead of five, how is one to know whether the poet is criticizing the tradition, or just can’t count?  I suppose this is an example of “the intentional fallacy”; I reject “the intentional fallacy.”  My references fail me—I cannot look up “intentional fallacy” here and now.

On the shelf is The Norton Introduction to Poetry which probably could persuade me that there are legitimate ways to distinguish “I like this” from “this is good.”  But perhaps at the end of a course of study, I would still be…confused?  Or, worse, believe that I know.  I am content in my ignorance, or “ignorance.”

I want to read some Marlowe, but not now.  Unfortunately, I may always say “not now” regarding Marlowe.  I read his Edward II for a class many decades ago, and Doctor Faustus, ditto.  Meh.  Given the two groaning shelves of poetry & plays I have, my ambitions are negligible.  In prison I read The Top 500 straight through (maybe 600 pages?), with little gain, I thought.  So I’ve really tried with poetry, and still, almost all of it is meh to me, if not positively annoying (Eliot).  And I keep trying, desultorily and half-heartedly.  It may be recalled that I recently bought the complete Dickinson.  I suppose I’d rather spend money than time—and not just on poetry (cough-exercise-cough).

{9/15/19}  Weight 222.2.

Yesterday’s “Meetup” for Pathfinder was very successful, with a total of five in attendance and, happily, one member volunteered to act as DM.  Today’s Hemlock Club could have two new people also, one from the Pathfinders, and another who RSVP’d.

Watched Rashomon and Throne of Blood yesterday evening.  Toshiro Mifune, who stars in both, seemed to me a pretty terrible actor:  he false-laughs his way through the former, and yells all through the latter.  Granted, his facial expressions are remarkable.  Rashomon is very effective and seldom drags, even though I’ve seen it three or four times previously; the actress was good, though her crying was no more convincing than Mifune’s laughing.  Throne of Blood seems like a lot of horses galloping in fog, back and forth, and while its Macbeth roots are evident, most of what makes Shakespeare great is missing, i.e., poetry.  I had tried to watch it once before and got so bored in the first half hour that I turned had it off.  This time I was determined to see it through, since it is one of Kurosawa’s more celebrated efforts, and in fact it was watchable, but I’ll never watch it again.  Aside from the subtly poisonous wife, Mifune’s ferocious faces, and the astonishing ending, there was nothing much to it—though the Japanese culture, of course, always makes their films a bit more interesting.

It seems that the way to build up a skill is to practice it as slowly as is needed to do it correctly; the increased speed essentially then comes of itself.  Now the question is, how can I apply this insight to my study of German?  Memorize correct sentences?  Analyze the grammar of correct sentences, perhaps even learning and applying sentence diagramming?  What I’ve been doing is reading that book of dialogues, as quickly as is consistent with understanding.  Sometimes I focus on the grammar of a sentence, where it is something other than the most common stuff.  Perhaps this is okay; perhaps slowing down or even memorizing would be better.  What to memorize, I think, is not actual sentences, but something closer to the bone, the structure.

On the other hand, when I’m reading, I’m not translating—I’m staying in the German, essentially thinking in German, which I believe is what’s wanted.  In other words, when I read “Das Buch ist rot,” I’m going right from the words to the image of a red book—if, indeed, I ever get to the image, which I suspect sometimes I do not.  Perhaps making sure that I have an image in mind before going on to the next sentence, would be an improvement.

Watching Season 1 of Dance Moms and hearing Cathy say that she can “get dirt on the other moms” by having lunch with Melissa.  What kind of thinking is this?  It really creeped me out—and this is what she’s willing to say to the camera!  What’s she thinking but not saying?  I’m assuming, of course, that this isn’t scripted for her to say.

{9/16/19}  Weight 221.0.

{9/17/19}  Weight 221.6.

A dream fragment:  a long counter made of steel with a row of faucets along the back, as though for sinks, but there were no drains, no washbasins.

Watched a few movies on library DVDs that I haven’t previously mentioned.  Aeon Flux is a good-looking movie set in a far future, starring Charlize Theron as another “Atomic Blonde,” this time with black hair.  Otherwise nothing special, and AB was better.  Little Birds is an unpleasantness about two “teenage” girls in a close relationship; one is rebellious and drags her friend along on a misbegotten trip to Los Angeles.  An unusual point of interest:  they’re living on the shore of the Salton Sea, a very smelly place I visited once for some great birdwatching.  The actresses were actually convincing as teenagers, though they weren’t.  Finally, Arthur, the old one starring Dudley Moore as a drunken scion of wealth.  I enjoyed Gielgud’s acerbic butler, the reason I tried the movie at all and of which there was far too little, and was so annoyed by Moore’s happy drunk at the start that I fast-forwarded through it until I saw Gielgud.

Thinking about our climate doom and seeing Naomi Klein on Democracy Now, I see a new tweak to Kick Me.  Basically, the thought is this:  I’m telling, in part, the story of how I changed from asshole to empathetic (asshole), and this is my angle on attacking the indifference that seems to be the response in the U.S. to climate doom.  This is in accord with my mission statement:  to make the world a better place through my writing.  I have a lot of work to do.

The last meeting of the Hemlock Club was most excellent:  Julian and Neil (sp?) arrived around ten o’clock, J at 11:30.  We talked for four-and-a-half hours, in part about my mission statement and what “world” meant.  Neil talked a lot about Sumer and something about cuneiform; he apparently believes in an alternative history, including a “hundred thousand year old gold mine” and an older-than-commonly-believed Sphinx.  I didn’t challenge these beliefs.  Julian didn’t say very much, though he was responsive, mostly to direct questions.  Now I wish I’d taken notes at the time, or even later that day, but here I am, two days later and remembering very little.  As it was, I was the first to leave, so I’m anticipating that we’ll have these two as repeat members.  Even a simple list of “subjects discussed” would help a lot right now.  We sat outside because Julian had his dog with him.


Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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