In this record I am careful to address myself, and an imagined reader, an imagined audience, a conceptual reader/audience. A figure who is out there. And maybe the figure is made up of a million other figures. Or in time it will be. I think that is how one writes a journal, even one of this nature, which is intended as something more than lines written to one's self, that no one else will ever see. Did Thoreau write his journals with the expectation, understanding, desire that no other human eyes would come upon them? Pepys his diaries? I don't think so. But I always try to stay within the parameters of writing for me, and for that reader figure, or figures, who will come along later. Given the nature of this setting--the internet--they can come along now, in theory, but I make as if I am writing on notebook paper, and at some point the words will be seen. Thus I am guarded against being dialogic. That is why the comments are shut off. I'm not here for back and forth, as such, in this record. A record of a life, an artist's quest, a saga of endurance, the story of a mind, a time in history, and what it was like as art was made that was timeless.
At times I will not know how to broach something. For instance, there are quite a few unsubscribers recently. One would almost think I was spouting very base and brutish and toxic words indeed. I don't think it's a good use of my time or energy--and energy is far more vital to me, given the singular relationship I feel that I have with time, and how I can alter components of it--to wonder what may have caused offense. I don't think I say much to cause offense. I think I provide an exceedingly human record of a life deeply lived, in difficult circumstances. I say truths, and if someone felt that what I put forward as a truth was not a truth at all, then I don't believe they could also say that my reasoning was not calmly and exactingly formed. I fly off of no handles. There is reason and reason on top of reason for each conclusion I come to. I don't cogitate emotionally. In the last eight years, I have walked 24,000 miles. When you walk 24,000 miles, thinking the entire time, creating the entire time, always alone, living with your thoughts, examining the self, you're not going to be a cause great offense person, except, perhaps, insofar as truth causes great offense right now.
I do fear for a world where it does seem that a person has two options for success as someone who is a thinker, writer, speaker: 1. You can say absolutely nothing about anything. Be bland, add nothing, but adding nothing means risking no offense. You can offend people with anything. By saying that Help! is among the Beatles' weaker albums, even as you explain why. Because it is someone else's favorite. The one idea, or feeling, or argument, shouldn't chafe against the other. Both can exist simultaneously. But the way we are now is that if Help! is one's favorite album, and someone else makes a critical case against it, then the former person can take that personally as an indictment on them, that they are lacking in some manner, are flawed, are not good enough. I think we are that compromised right now. I think we are that unsure of ourselves. I think we're that frightened, that lacking in self-esteem, that we can be robbed of our eyes, robbed of reason, robbed of perspective and balance, robbed of demarcation lines and an ability to compartmentalize, i.e., "This reasoned criticism is not an attack on me." Then, 2. You say one simple thing. You never change it. You repeat it in slightly different forms. You go full-on one-note. You get your base that way. To be very simple, it's like people are apples or oranges, and you make a decision to play to the apples, and you get them. But the oranges have zero interest. The apples tune in not because you have insight about apples, or you're entertaining on the subject of apples, or you're funny with apple-based material, but simply because the other apples out there want to see their thoughts--which are often born of fear, animus, their own self-loathing, their own insecurities, an absence of critical thinking--echoed. Said exactly. By someone who just happens to have a different name, a more important sounding title, a platform, a blue check mark.
I cannot name a single person in America right now, with a big following, a platform, an audience, who does not fit into one of the two above categories.
If you know a lot about a lot, you think critically and creatively, you deal in ideas, you seek truth, you have mental, intellectual, and experiental access to ideas and possible truths, and you attempt to bring that out for people to see, you run the risk of offending people, and low numbers. A complete shunting aside.
I say a lot on here. Yesterday I wrote how when I am working out, I might call myself a fat load in my head to get myself to push on harder. That's just me. That's not me calling anyone else anything. That's how I can be, with me, right now. But maybe someone is out there, and they're struggling with their weight. They can latch on to that, distort it into an attack. They may think body shaming is going on, they're being attacked, because we think through our emotions, not through reason. Often. Emotion overruns the levee. It floods us. Floods our brains. Overwhelms the village of reason, and in a second, huts are floating away, never to be seen again. Everything goes underwater. The higher ground that could provide the better, truer view, is gone, washed away. Then it's a free for all of whatever one feels, which is then labeled as what one thinks. This is the tragic, en masse, psychological modulation of the twenty-first century. Factor in nonsense about "my truth," and such, and the shunting of truth for a form of prescriptive, faux-reality that goes unchecked, that is amplified by a culture of the tweet, the post, the share, and the like, and we get to a conclusion of "he is a dick" awfully quickly. And there need never be any basis in reality for this process, and this conclusion.
Our society is collapsing. Individuality is collapsing. Connection is collapsing. The seeing of truth, the acceptance of truth. Empathy is all but dead. There is precious little connection. You can't go this way where someone who is fighting so hard to see it, accept it, share what they know of it, as best they can, is the villain. A person like that. As a rule, a theme, a truth itself. Civilization will just die. It is dying. Culture is dying. We are making it so that no one can live a life and not be a pariah. Live a life. Live. Truly, deeply, actively. Not exist. Swim to the bottom, and back to the top, and down to the bottom again. Living as a growing individual.
My reaction when I see the people leave is perhaps a surprising one. It's not really anger (though if it's someone I've known for six years, or someone I've given lots of work to, I do think it says something about the person they are), or a sense of betrayal, or a fear that I'm not good enough, or I've done wrong in some way. It's one of pity.
Paradoxically, the traffic is going up of late.
What do I make of that? No clue. I have some explanations for what my numbers are on here, and on Facebook, and on Twitter, Instragram, but in other regards I have no idea why certain things are what they are right now. I do know that this is a unique artist, with a unique body of work, doing unique things, in a unique career, and in a unique period within that career. Sometimes I do drive myself all but batty trying to figure out answers to certain questions, but I try to return to a place of faith, of "Let this be what it is right now, whatever it is, trust in your work, yourself, your outcome, block out everything else that does not potentially contribute to that outcome."
What else? A contract arrived for Musings with Franklin--my second novel--that I must look over. I updated--and I hope I managed to include everything, because it's a huge amount--the entry on here that catalogues the list of short stories composed between now and going back to June 2018. My piece on Art Tatum will occupy the final page of the January issue of JazzTimes, in somewhat truncated form, while the longer version will run online. I'll be writing about Duke Ellington's The Nutcracker Suite for JazzTimes for Christmas.