God of the Forest: Diary, 5/31 to 6/2/21

Anna Faris

{5/31/21}  Weight 215.2 at 6:40 am, 214.8 at 8:15 am.

Well, my “commitment to writing” this morning was a failure.  I was at a loss for what to write; I decided to continue the half-finished Man and Mother Nature, possibly with a new title, God of the Forest.  But I couldn’t remember enough of the existing pages to continue, so instead of writing this morning (it’s now almost 2:00 pm) I spent my time before breakfast reading the old pages.  This reinforced my desire to continue the novel.  I had left off with Kat fainting; she will wake with the idea of seeking “the God of the forest,” though with no clear idea of what this means.

After that I had breakfast, then took a two-hour nap.  Since then I read in Helen Vendler’s Poets Thinking, completing the first chapter which I had started a couple months ago.  It’s a brilliant technical examination of Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man.  Coincidentally, this book consists of Vendler’s “Clark Lectures,” like Forster’s Aspects of the Novel.  I’ve been a Vendler fan since reading her Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries in prison, probably one of the many “closeout” books I got from Hamilton Booksellers, or maybe something Charles and Julie supplied me.  I did read, or muddle through rather, quite a few of Dickinson’s poems while in prison, and Vendler’s analysis of some of them came as a revelation and ensured my status (if that’s the word) as a fan of both writers.

Listening to Shostakovich’s fabulous, grim, bombastic Symphony No. 11, long a favorite.  Alas, it’s only 37 minutes long, so I have to change the CD or sit in silence.  Silly me!  On returning the CD to the Shostakovich Edition, I found that I had been listening to his Symphony No. 12.  So now I’m listening to 11.  “Favorite” indeed.

Watched Scary Movie last night after Pablo left.  Made me a fan of Anna Faris, the “ingenue” star with a remarkably sweet and pretty face.  The movie, mostly a satire of Scream and, inexplicably, The Matrix, is often hilarious, though often also ridiculous, in the Airplane mode.  The Wayans brothers wrote and directed.  I bought this at the library along with SM4, fifty cents each.  I recently saw SM3 on cable and liked it.

In checking my blog just now, I saw that someone had looked at my diary entry 1/2 to 1/14, so, curious, I took a look at it and saw, to my amazement, that I started dictating my Prison Diary into the computer this year—so I’ve done 800 pages in five months.  Clearly, I could easily finish the dictation this year, too.  This is something I can do in afternoons and evenings.  I’ve laid off for several weeks, pursuing my mission statement goal of making the world a better place through my writing, i.e., spending hours on Twitter.  I think it’s more important to do the PD.  I can post this to the blog with a request for donations and see how it goes.  Maybe put it on Amazon?  Do I want to support the evil?  No.  Do I have a choice if I actually want to earn money and acquire readers?  I must investigate.  Clearly, just the blog isn’t enough.

102° outside, 84 inside—holding my laptop in my lap makes “too warm a friend.”  Maybe I can put the laptop on my TV-tray table and dictate that way.  Or use the red cart.  Something easy to set up and take down is absolutely necessary, or I just won’t bother.  Simplest would be a shelf resting on the arms of the chair, anything to get some air between lap and top.  The shelf that I have, alas, is rather inconveniently large and is holding up books.

{6/1/21}  Weight 214.6 at 7:15 am.

Watched Scary Movie 4 last night; Anna Faris continued to charm me, but otherwise it was inferior to SM1.  Some good laughs; fans will not be excessively disappointed.  Sendups of The Village and… um… I forget.  Oh, yeah, the War of the Worlds remake.  A lot of extras, not worth much.

Reading in an old copy of The Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, With Life, Reprinted from the Best Editions, no editor named, no publication date.  The “Life” was interesting, though it had unkind words for Pope’s “Essay on Man,” the work I’m most interested in right now because of Helen Vendler’s book, Poets Thinking, praised here yesterday.  I like Pope in small doses; how I’ll do with large doses is unknown at this point, but I have never been up for the long haul in poetry before.  I think the longest poem I actually like (in parts) and have read all the way through is Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.”  Wordsworth’s “Prelude” defeated me, as did Spenser’s “Faerie Queen.”  I read Shakespeare’s long poems, “Venus and Adonis,” etc., but do not remember them with fondness.

My “new commitment to writing fiction” has borne very modest fruit, two new pages of The God of the Forest, formerly Man and Mother Nature, mentioned here on 5/18 and subsequently.  Teenaged brother and sister go camping on Mt. Pinos and tragedy strikes.  It’s not so much a mystery as a supernatural thriller in the “magic realism” vein.

{6/2/21}  Weight 213.4 at 7:30 am.

Pablo gave me a copy of Monica Furlong:  Zen Effects:  The Life of Alan Watts, a most welcome gift.  On p. 207 I found an extract from Watts’s Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown:

When I stand by the stream and watch it, I am relatively still, and the flowing water makes a path across my memory so that I realize its transience in comparison with my stability. This is, of course, an illusion in the sense that I, too, am in flow and likewise have no final destination—for can anyone imagine finality as a form of life? My death will be the disappearance of a particular pattern in the water.

Furlong continues, “The human problem, as Watts sees it, is the attempt to gain control of the ‘streaming,’ a habitual tension that sets up a chronic frustration, the belief that force or effort or will can solve our difficulties.”  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1986, p. 207.

Reading this stimulated the following note: “Self-mastery” is an attempt to gain control of the river.  Yet, while complete control is impossible, I believe that partial control is very valuable.  And what is the alternative?  Floundering?  What is best?

I have sometimes complained here about being moved by my moods, lurching from impulse to impulse, and in fact I have been seeking self-mastery for most of my life, I mean, like for sixty years or more.  I have not sought this directly, such as by testing my ability to delay gratification, as in the famous marshmallow experiment (You can have one marshmallow now, or wait fifteen minutes and you can have two—a test that has been given to children, with controversial results).  Rather, I have tried to learn about the mind, essentially sneaking up on my goal from behind.  Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Willpower Instinct, was important to me a couple of years ago, and has helped in this quest.  So, where am I now?

I certainly have more self-mastery than I had at fourteen.  But the difference seems rather small; I feel far short of “complete self-mastery,” if that has been my goal.  Some tasks or goals, such as daily exercise, are as far away as ever; weight control is spotty at best; writing commitments are still an open question.

I feel no clarity, probably because the question is ill-defined.  But I wanted to record my note here, so I’ll leave it at this for now.

Watched Bugsy Malone on DVD; it was cute, and the singing was better than one might expect, in fact that was the pleasant surprise, since the movie as a whole was pretty dull and not funny.  The gimmick is it’s a sendup of ’20s crime movies, with all the actors being children, typically mid-teens.  Includes Scott Baiao and Jody Foster.  Can’t recommend it.

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