Friday was that day of the year when a couple people invariably write me and say that come the morrow--the first day of the new year--they will be a Zulu warrior in all things. They will work out, they will explode into every day, they will learn, they will read, they'll take their kids to museums, they'll become one with nature, they'll engage with ideas, they will honor their word, etc.
Today is the day each year when all traces of that are gone, and the people who texted me with their boasts and intentions are fully back to their slothful passivity and doing as little as possible to get by and making no more effort than they have to in anything. "I'm going to do my version of what you do." Sure you will. They'll say the same thing next December 31, too.
I will wonder if it's wrong that I don't respect them. Should I? I think it is easy for them to respect people like themselves who are this way. Parallel. They're not going down. They're going even, so to speak. I am going down. Everything in my life is a going down. The people who are my "friends," it's just a case of less going down than with others. The way to be is like them. Because then there is only a simulacrum of respect, because to not respect the people around you when you are that way is to not respect yourself. People shouldn't, in most cases. But who wants to live--exist--that way? It's not very practical. Then I think, "it's tolerate this person, and make due with that--certainly for now--or just don't have anyone at all, for anything, even the piddling whatever it is that they offer you at this point."
I don't think I'm wrong. I don't think they are, in a way. That's just how it is. What can I become? What can they become? There are people like them and there are not people like me. Keats isn't swinging by in his car later to pick me up so that we can go hiking on Cape Ann. I had mentioned that my situation, as the bigots have fashioned it, alters who I know. That is true, because my reach is not what it should and will be. And when it is, I will simply meet more people, be exposed to more people, and more people knowing my work and story will be coming to me. There will be different opportunities. I'll have better numbers in my favor. Then maybe I will meet some people to have in my life. And maybe someone very special to share at least some of that life with. She's not lurking amidst the mindless gutter slugs who make me want to stab out my eyes with butterknives on some wretched dating site.
Scariest Twilight Zone episode: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Most overrated: "Time Enough at Last." Most prescient: "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." Most underrated: "The Grave." Most atmospheric: "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" Best: "Walking Distance."
The Twilight Zone has a Grateful Dead component in that there are many diverse strands that make up the whole. For the Twilight Zone, we have science fiction, horror, the cautionary tale, historical fantasy, family drama, a quasi-absurdism, magical realism, parable. When the show aired, you could tune in each week not really knowing what you'd get. Not only do I like this, I think it's crucial.
Have you noticed that most people confer value on something by how much they agree with it? (Or that it is what they expected it to be. You find this with books. There's a kind of person--usually they're a broken publishing person, who is terrified of life; or a bitter, nasty old man who just wants to bitch, though no one has really listened to him in decades; or a jealous academic--who wants to see in a book exactly what they come in expecting to see. They are completely closed off to anything beyond their limited expectations and imagination. They enter with a checklist. They want their basic, rote expectations met. You could give them something worlds beyond any of that, all freshness and newness and life and one of the great experiences of their life, just waiting for them to have it, but by jove, if they want a miserable, boring family drama without a single surprise, in prose like the prose that every MFA student ever writes, that's what they want; or if they want some paint-by-numbers, dry-as-desert-sands music book with quotes from the stepson of the engineer's assistant on the album session, that's what they want, and if they don't get that pointless, miserable, valueless dull book that adds nothing to anyone's life--save allowing a prick like this to check off his boxes--they will rage, in their sad, sullen, beat-down-by-life way, which is also a kind of confession--though they're too stupid, embittered, angry, and weak to know it--of how much they hate themselves.) By that I mean, what they already thought. As someone who doesn't think much and doesn't revisit.
What you think, what you believe, should be a journey. To believe something doesn't mean you stop journeying with it and testing that belief. To test belief, and see that it holds, is to reinforce that belief. A belief has more value this way--in the testing. Not the leaving alone. Test that which you believe the most, and test it often. But why do I care if you agree with what I say? How much have you thought? How much do you know? What have you probed? What is your expertise? Compared to that which I have? "I agree." Usually, those two words are but a statement of someone else's ego, which is often someone else's insecurity. And it can indicate their passive aggressiveness, and the latter was forestalled in this instance by an ego-based form of confirmation that is meaningless and not real. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. We're not discussing whether you agree. We are trying to get to truth. Which has nothing to do with agreement. We want agreement more than we want anything--and certainly more than we want the truth. Agreement is that dreadful, deadly parallelism of which I've been talking lately in these pages. But another form. So few times in my life have I ever met anything interesting with the words, "I agree." I can hardly think of anything less relevant to say, or less productive to the exchange. That's about you. And often your limitations. It's not about the reality at hand, the reality to be probed.
And it's just so uninteresting to say whether one agrees or doesn't. Who cares? That's not a thing in and of itself. (It's even less sensical to say it to me.) And it often speaks to how someone has failed to journey and probe. It's a bizarre, empty form of clubbiness. "I am in the group with you! I belong! We are not at odds! I am good enough!"
Agreement is also why people need mediocrity in their lives. They are usually mediocre--at best (in part because they are so willing to be mediocre; people, ironically, commit to mediocrity)--and mediocrity is parallelism. Disagreement--which also takes the form of someone knowing more and someone knowing better--is often seen as a threat, an attack, a condemnation of not being good enough. Smart enough. Right enough. Etc.
Mediocrity also allows another person to think they are in agreement, if you will--they are smart enough, right enough, talented enough, good enough, etc. That is why the most mediocre people have the largest platforms and followers right now. That is why everything publishing pretends to venerate is stock, bland, lifeless--the most mediocre work from the most empty people. There is no threat. All is "agreement." All is parallel. To say "This is good, this is great," is also to say, "I am good, I am great," when one is nothing of the kind. It lubricates the illusion. And nothing is more central to our dead culture and society right now than the lubrication of illusion.
Heard something remarkable and unspeakably rare: an off-air recording taped by a fan of the Who covering “Baby Don’t You Do It” on the BBC days before the release of their first album. I will be incorporating it into the proposal for the British rhythm and blues book, which hopefully will get the okay. I can do this book in no time and I should do it. That is the directive--get as many books out as possible right now. Part of the plan.
If a million people are saying something, I don't want one of them to say it to me. So don't. The thing where people go on social media and see this thing they think is interesting, which they then tell me, when I've already seen it that aforesaid a million times. And I'm not on there much. But I'm up to date. That they think this is new and unseen and worth repeating speaks to how myopic and un-extended, you could say, people are now. Even the "best." Tunnel vision. Logic is something you have to extend outwards; extrapolate. "Would this be new to him? Probably not. Why say it? What am I trying to do?"
Oftentimes, with me, people are trying to compete with me, measure themselves against me. Not compete compete, but in some snide, pot-shotty kind of way from the side of the street. Not compete like hey, we're on this field, and it's broad daylight, here's my prose against yours, sir. Not that. Never that. It's exhausting. I only take it seriously in how exhausting it is. We saw this on Thanksgiving with the drunken Donald Brown/the professor version of that guy from Phantasm episode. People "on my side" do this, too. In catty, childish ways. They'll make a point of not hitting that like button so they can do their little comment thing. Their thinking is always so simplistic and flawed. Now, they won't do this--ever; I've noticed; I've watched; I've made a point of following this--with someone else who is more like them. They will kiss that ass until their lips just about fall off. Especially if that person has the same dislikes that they do. Political dislikes, for instance. Big tech dislikes.
But the fault is also with me here, and it's something I work on and must continue to do so. Leaving the pot-shot and passive aggressive instances out of it, and looking at just the comments that are but comments, I must remind myself that people are simply trying to be conversational. What, realistically, do they have to draw on? Their conversational contributions will be necessarily limited. There's no wellspring of invention. Orson Welles had the same issue that I do, and he would have to remind himself that, as he put it, your heart is God's little garden. (Then again, he also knew people whose equivalent I wish I knew.) So, try not to get too frustrated. Having said that, Welles would cut into people often, and I don't do a lot of that, excepting with publishing people, but that's about something quite different, and I have no choice there, unless I am going to be complicit in someone else's abuse of me and discrimination against me.
I will tell you what does interest me, though. The person who is saying that one thing that no one else is saying that is either the truth, closer to the truth and being correct, put memorably, or, something well thought out that is not the truth, but fosters a discussion, that can be used to move closer to truth. I'll give you an example of the latter. Some of what Ian MacDonald says about the Beatles in Revolution in the Head. I think it's dead wrong, but he knows his stuff, he's laid out what he thinks in an interesting way, and this is valuable and enjoyable. Others are threatened by it when he says what he does about their favorite song--because they see that as a personal attack, given, again, how fundamentally insecure they are, and their need for parallelism. I find it exciting. He has given me something new and uniquely stated, and that is rich meat and drink.