Perfectly idle, reading Infinite Jest, which is not so bad as I remember. I finally got more than ten pages into it, which seems highly virtuous of me. It would have been more virtuous if I hadn’t needed to read Lysias instead.
Shaping into an utter emptiness. – oh – I was thinking, for a moment, of the world beyond the silly sighing, past the swaying hum of a string quartet, a world of mirth and loud laughter, of harsh tones and brash smiles, of confused and blurring lines, of lights unsteady and the dark ever before one’s feet. Seeing as I do not, myself, live as they do, I would like it to at least be said that I am an astronomer of others’ lives, that I watch with as precise a calculation and yet as careful a sympathy as can be felt.
History – surrounded, immersed, drowning, etc., with regards to it. Be wary of being ahistorical. Yet history has of late become mere voyeurism, people sitting in their homes before some flickering screen, or engaged in a voluntary deafness to all but the radio. Even the sound of newsprint has learnt hysteria – and this is all we know of continuity. Everything else remains the scattered moments of a single life, the finding groceries, the worrying about cash, the meeting friends or avoiding them – breathing, longing, living.
And yet history – is it possible that the ringing of a till, the purchase of book (as, for instance, Friday, Raven Books, Burney’s Cecilia, $6.95) or some other refreshment (e.g. today – soymilk, bread, apples, onion, $7.19), can be more momentous than the moving of armies. Can the observation of a leaf falling or a mist dispersing be of more significance than an orchestrated press conference? Can a smile, a momentous glance, a significant word, be more powerful than the writ of nations?
It depends, I suppose, on what you are looking for.
16.10.01 – Tuesday
At some point I find myself watching the clouds – the leaves are changing – some trees are already bare – but the clouds, the warm, the cold, the gathering, dispersing. Autumn puts me in mind of wool jackets, wood smoke, the break of apples, dust of books; also: steam rising from coffee; yellow-orange leaves against a sky the varying blue-grey-lavender of clear cloud-cover.
Reading Onians’ Origins of European Thought, according to which, the Greeks believed that the thymos, or spirit of consciousness (as opposed to the psyche, the irrational/unconscious, etc.) resides in the belly (pp. 44–89). He also has many and humorous things to say about sneezes (p. 103f.).
19.10.01 – Friday
Scrutinizing my recent reading and find that I’ve been spending far too much time ambling through modern literature – which would, I suppose, be acceptable if I were reading Proust or Eliot or some other frightfully clever & dreadfully important authors, but I’m not – I’m reading the squabblers, with personalities more interesting than their books (which isn’t, to be sure, saying much).
29.10.01 – Monday
Reading Medea (γυνὴ γὰρ ὀξύθυμος, ὡς δ’ αὔτως ἀνήρ, // ῥάιων φυλάσσειν ἢ σιωπηλὸς σοφή. (319–20)). Ah, ionic elements! We are fond of our archaicisms – and might be in danger of descending to dactylic hexameters… give us a minute.