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Just caring

Sunday 8/13/23

It's somewhat early--about five in the morning. Woke up with a headache which is happening most days now and is worrying me. It goes away pretty fast. Had a cup of peppermint tea left over from yesterday, made cups of hibiscus and green tea for later--they just sit in the microwave. I have some empty cranberry juice bottles and I put three tea bags in each--green and hibiscus in this instance--and boil a pot of water and pour that in to make iced tea. Made a pot of Dunkin' Donuts Midnight Blend, too. There is a lot of liquid. Concluded yesterday drinking water and cranberry juice (separately). Drink your way to health.

Was sitting here just now waiting for the headache to go away by listening to Jonathan Keeble read M.R. James. I'm so impressed by how he reads, the way he does the voices. You don't have to read like that. Michael Hordern didn't read the James stories in that fashion. I don't read that way. It's not what happens in my head. I'm not sure I'd want to hear anyone else read in this manner. But this guy is really good at the way he does it. I'm going to need to hear how he reads something else soon. He has an audio version of Dracula. That would probably be a good next place.

Downloaded Ray Charles' complete Atlantic recordings.

Red Sox lost to Detroit yesterday. Can't be losing to these junk teams. Bello isn't that good. I had said that the Sox need him to be ace-like. He's not. I was looking at the WAR totals of Sox players yesterday and a lot of guys are at like 1.4. Alex Verdugo--who really doesn't give you much in any phase of the game--leads the position players at 3.0. That's not good.

As I've written, there is no old and there is no young in the calendar sense--only if you want there to be--but people sure do play to type. I also saw where someone in a baseball history group started a discussion saying players are disgraceful now and they celebrate their home runs too much with their "high fives"--those damn high fives! (which, what, reached their zenith in the 1970s?) and bat tossing. They should do it like Mickey Mantle, these angry old men were saying. The Mick would never have done that. There were, I don't know, call it 100 comments. One miserable, cantankerous old man after another. "In my day..."

It really is amazing how readily people slot into that persona. I also think many things in sport at present are ridiculous, but I would have thought that at eight-years-old, too. For instance: this thing where a player hits a double and then has to make his special little gesture back to the boys in the dugout? I don't think it's professional. I'd feel like a twat doing that. I prefer professionalism. I just think that sets a better tone for efficiency, accountability, and winning. The Red Sox wearing these yellow and blue uniforms more than for just that Patriots' Day weekend makes a mockery of their uniform, what they are and how that is represented in the visual sense. Honor what happened on that day in 2013 on that weekend. You have a great uniform, a classic uniform. Wear that and stop bastardizing it with the all-red top, too. You also get the feeling they're just trying to sell more kinds of jerseys at the pro shop, but while also not signing star players to come here anymore as this rich franchise that has taken to cheaping out. If you're the Red Sox, be the Red Sox.

But this is very different from "Back in my day everything was blah blah blah." It's not even about the sport. People just love to be old. They want to be old and done and on the sidelines and bitter as quickly as they can in life. Then they have less to do, which takes less trying and effort, and they can just complain and also make excuses for themselves. Note how many people almost brag about--and certainly accept--their so-called mom or dad bod. Get off your ass. You're thirty-eight. You don't need to have whatever is hanging down from your arms like that. Do some push-ups. It's not age that is stopping a person. It's not health (not usually, that is). it's not time or a lack of it. It's certainly not me. It's them. They're stopping them.

There's no variation once these old men start making these comments. They could all be from the same person. What stands out to me most of all is the lack of self-awareness. This is why that kind of man gets made fun of and is viewed as a cliche. They feed right into it. Help it along.

You see people who just stopped thinking and being in the world a long time ago. You see that with people of all ages. Miserable publishing people who are alive at this point solely to get wine drunk for another night in a row, write nothing, hook up people like themselves, be clannish, and finger their cats were ancient at twenty-five. They're not a lot different than these old men I was talking about, save that publishing people usually hate anything to do with athletics, having always been incapable of anything athletic themselves.

I saw another angry old man complaining about how "they"--meaning the vague powers that be (in his view) that run--there's rarely a past tense when people use the word "they" this way--never should have retired Wade Boggs' number. Of all the people to complain about on that front. How could you not retire Wade Boggs' number? Wade Boggs is one of the five best players in Red Sox history.

People want to sit on the sidelines and complain. I had an ex-girlfriend who contacted me some years ago. She said that she thought I'd be proud of her. Which was very odd to me. Like she was a kid and I was her dad. People want my respect. They often think they don't have it. Not because of anything I've done to them, or said to them; but because of how they perceive me--what I am, what I do, my mind, my work, and various qualities. It's akin to how I've learned that people will think I think they're obtuse. And it's often not because of anything I say about them.

It could be. The other day I wrote that if someone writes at a second grade level, I have a hard time taking them seriously. In and of itself, I don't view that as an inflammatory statement, but I know others would. I'm sure people would read that and think, "He's talking about me! He said I'm dumb!"

People are insecure. They are also paranoid. They have rabbit ears in the extreme, and rabbit ears that distort a mundane--or truthful--statement into this concentrated, unmitigated, to-the-death attack on them personally. On them and them alone. They don't have a strong foundation of self. They will think things are about them that are not--if they're negative things. And if you are forty and haven't mastered second grade language rudiments, don't you think you should? Do you want that to be true about you? Are you angry someone else can see this? Is that they're fault? Basic questions with obvious answers. So do something about it. It's not some unsolvable conundrum. Doing something about it starts with having the right amount of self-respect. You should be able to talk and write like an adult who doesn't express themselves on a second grade level. Who wouldn't agree with that? I mean, is there someone who would say, "No I shouldn't!"

I was talking to someone about this, and what we were saying is that people are going to think the same thing--that I think they're obtuse--when they just see what I did. What I know. As depicted here in a day. A morning. "This morning I wrote this, read this, saw this, heard this, posted this, had this published, did this workout activity, here I am casually references this, that, and this." Or when they read the formal work. It's not like other work.

But whether I say the thing about not being able to take someone seriously who can scarcely express themselves or I do what I do at the level I do it--and in just being me--it comes down to the same thing. A person goes, "He thinks I'm dumb." They create this hypothetical situation, even without consciously trying to do so, where they are evaluating you against them. That's how people work.

Look at the people with large followings, awards, who are hyped, paid. What do they all have in common? No one would ever think that they're on a different level than they are. And that is the key. No one thinks, "That Stephen A. Smith, he's so much smarter than I am."

So even though he may have contempt for that person, and it's right out there, they also feel like they're on his level. That's what people want. They don't want entertainment or insight or humor.

Take any other writer right now. Anyone could be that person, if they came from the right background, were in those circles. You don't think anyone could be Justin Taylor? What does it really take to be Justin Taylor? Do you have to be a genius? Obviously not. If you stuck anyone in Justin Taylor's environment, over the years, of course they could be Justin Taylor. It doesn't take anything special to be Justin Taylor. There's no talent there, no knowledge. It's basic shit. Just the privileged Brooklynite version with the right MFA program, the right circles. There's more imagination involved in filling out a grocery list.

You never think, "Wow, I couldn't do that." And given that there are no readers anymore--because this is the culture those people in that industry have created, with the predictable results in the culture at large (that is: the culture at large doesn't want it, and nor should it, so the culture at large turned its back on it, moved to others things, and forgot all about it)--the readers are those same writers.

What do you think they want? To feel crushed beneath someone else's talent, production, range, imagination, with no chance of getting to that writerly or artistic level? Or do you think they want to think, " I could do that" when they read?

These are people who struggle to write anything. Who go years without writing. Who have a crippling fear of the blank page. Who have nothing to give the world as writers and know it. Who have written less this summer than I'm writing in this entry before I bust out of here, and wait until one learns what I've been formally writing lately.

We can even put it this way: Do you think they're going to like the person who doesn't write at all and struggles when they do finally write, like they do, or do you think they're going to dig the person who writes the 30,000 words every single week or their life, with seeming ease? Who do you think they're going to want to support?

To be fair, there usually is truth regarding the "he won't or doesn't respect me" bit. I respect people of intelligence and honor and strength who grow. That's not a lot of people. And I think if we all did that, the world would be a much better place. Because people would also have to respect themselves for the same reasons--considering that so much starts there--and that means they'd have to hold themselves accountable and try to be someone of intelligence and honor and strength who grows.

I think that's a good thing. Your ability to love someone else starts with yourself. How much you can give to someone or the world begins with you. How you are with you. What you are, what you know you are. Or what you discover you are, in acts of positive intent and deep effort. I may like someone or something about them, but that's different than respect. I do no harm to anyone, lest they do harm to me or to a greater good, and it is about a principle, or someone being denied what they deserve, or having something unjustly done to them, and then the harm I do comes in the form of the truth. The truth is at the center of everything in my life. It is part of every choice I make. It's a constant. I am always with it or in search of it.

She also said, "God, are we old." And I thought, "You're the one who is old. You're done. All of your major life events have already happened. And you won't try to create any more. Eventually there will be grandkids and then death. You have decades in front of you of playing out the string. I have barely even started."

I didn't say any of that. You don't say that. I didn't really say anything else.

All of this is different than thinking--correctly--that in the past, we were smarter, there was a greater emphasis on substance, people were not as weak, less mentally ill, less toxic, less narcissistic; they were less apt to be broken, people did write and speak better, music was better, better things were created. But this is not about being old and complaining. It's about the truth that culture is devolving. People are devolving. Society. Humanity. Art is virtually nonexistent. No one makes it. No one can. So one can definitely prefer how things were at earlier times and hope that some of those things return again. Come back stronger yet. And with things that weren't there previously, or to a greater degree. That's just caring. And not being an obtuse person who can't see what's happening and where things are at. And it's spirited. Forever youthful. Caring is youthful. Passion is youthful. Passion and complaining are not the same. Passion points out and seeks for an answer--or something great. Complaining is to complain.

What I want more than almost anything is to be able to respect everyone because they are intelligent and decent and grow. As I've said, intelligence is more of a decision than just about anyone knows. Very few people are born with any special mental acuity. A person decides to try. It's like someone who decides to write down and learn a word when they don't know it from an early age. Or from any age. What will the result be? That person will know more words than other people. They put that time and effort in. They tried a little. Intelligence works on the same principle. If you let yourself go mentally, it's the same as letting yourself go physically. You'll be a round blob. As in body, as in mind.

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