Many years ago, a friend of mine was a big fan of Thomas Pynchon, particularly enamoured with Gravity’s Rainbow. I tried to read it. All 700 some pages. It is an outrageously funny, complex and difficult read. I was within 80 pages of finishing. I’m a guy who rarely gives up on a book. I came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to resolve the insanely convoluted plot in the last 80 pages. I put it down and never picked it back up.
The trailer for Inherent Vice a film based on the Pynchon novel of the same name, sucked me in, with the same results. Becky and I watched it with another couple and at least one person was snoring by the time we packed it in. At one point we thought, “We’ve spent this much time on it, we might as well gut it out to the end.” But then we realized that there were still forty minutes left. We went to bed.
But I knew Pynchon was loved by many of my literate friends and I decided that owed it to myself to take another look. In the course of my research I ran across a list of the great contemporary writers which mentioned Pynchon, but also named Don Dilillo. The only thing I knew about him was that my mind always went to Don LeDildo when I saw his name. So when I found a copy of White Noise at the used bookstore, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
White Noise doesn’t feel like a novel to me. It’s more like a collection of short stories with the same characters. Or maybe Saturday Night Live skits. It’s got that post modern ironic flavor that makes you feel like you’re not smart enough to figure out how good it is. Like cod live oil, I kept taking it because I thought it was good for me. It helped that it had short chapters. Some passages were brilliant, one is a riff on misinformation that starts with a simple statement and each subsequent response evokes another misconception. But then I ran into a long chapter. And I found that I was totally uninterested in what was going to happen next. I couldn’t go on.
On that same trip to the used bookstore I picked up books by Elmore Leonard and Saul Bellow. I read the Leonard book first, which is like having dessert first. After I gave up on Delillo I started the Bellow. One page in, I already knew I was going to enjoy Humboldt’s Gift more than White Noise.
I mentioned earlier that I had started meditating. I’ve found it very useful in maintaining a good outlook, being positive and resilient. However I am by nature extremely skeptical of new age mystical magical supernatural phenomenon. I don’t believe in ghosts.
I had an experience this week that was, shall I say, unreal. I often use guided meditation, and I particularly like a podcast called Meditation Oasis. The guide, Mary Maddox, has an incredibly soothing voice and she’s really helped me with my practice. The podcast has dozens of meditations for various situations and I recommend it highly.
One of the meditations is for “Morning Energy.” I use it often when I’m starting out my day and I’ve found that it did indeed seem to increase my energy. One of the things she does is to ask you to imagine a center of energy in the middle of your pelvic region. She asks you to imagine it spinning and glowing and absorbing light. These days I mostly experience prostate pain in that region. Weird stuff. Then she asks you to turn your attention to your feet, the soles of your feet and feel the energy flowing up from the “core” (of the universe?) through your feet, up your legs, through your body and up to the “crown chakra” at the top of your head and then feel it shoot out the top of your head like a fountain of energy. C’mon, really?
I did this exercise a few times and experienced some level of increased energy, but I stopped, partly because it just felt a little to “New Age” for my tastes. Then late last week I tried it again. I shifted the way I was trying to imagine that ball of energy and the flow of energy through my body. I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a very vivid experience of those things actually happening! My limbs were twitching as if a rush of energy was flowing through them and I really felt as if it was shooting out of the top of my head and showering down around me like some kind of fireworks display. I had the same experience the next time I tried it. I’ve never experienced anything like it. OK I’ve never experienced anything like it without being under the influence of psychedelics. Hey, I came of age in the late ’60s.
I almost hate to admit this happened, I’m a proud skeptic, after all. I’ve tried this twice since, but I was somewhat distracted and the experience was much less intense. I’m guessing that what was going on here was some sort of self-hypnosis, and I’ll admit that I’m pretty susceptible to suggestion and have always had a vivid imagination.
I will not be packing up for Tibet to go on a year-long silent retreat, a la Sam Harris, anytime soon.
I’m sitting in a converted Barn situated on the Crow Wing River west of Brainard. It’s an idyllic spot, the quite only occasionally interrupted by 50 caliber machine gun and howitzer fire. The other side of the river is Fort Ripley, a National Guard camp, and the boys are playing with their toys. I’m on one of those storied ‘boys weekend up north’ trips. It started as a fishing and golf trip, but has turned into mostly a drinking and golf trip. Since I neither drink or play golf, I’m kind of the fifth wheel. I’ve spent the last two days in the solitude that I get most days working at home. But it’s a pretty spot and I’ve been woodshedding on the guitar and doing some meditating.
Of course in these awful days of connectivity, I’m also ending up doing some work. As little as I can get away with, but work none the less. And of course it’s around a big emergency technical problem that is beyond my pay grade. It’s a good thing that I have a great support network, but it’s just kind of a pain having to stay connected to monitor the progress, sooth the client and try to apply my feeble reasoning to the issue.
And then of course there’s the issue of having that nagging voice in your head telling you to worry about the outcome. Taking full responsibility for the mess and not being able to give myself over to the moment. The meditation helps with that. In fact, I’ve been able to have extended periods of adolescent foolishness without the job even crossing my mind.
Tomorrow the boys aren’t golfing so we’ll have some extra time to spew stories and lies and think up ways to get into trouble. I believe that we are going to try to put our host’s portable dock into the water and then move it 50 yards upstream to a new position. So five guys in their sixties in the river with a large metal construction, four of whom will certainly be inebriated to some extent and the fifth with really bad knees and crappy balance.
What could go wrong.
Hi. Remember me, I used to blog here. Seems as if I had a writer’s block with the magnitude of Hoover Dam. I couldn’t think of anything to write and when I did think of something, I couldn’t write it. I’d start and then I would get the feeling that it was going nowhere, and it was just to exhausting to contemplate finishing.
I hope that’s going to change. I feel like it is. Continue reading OHM OMG
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I’m an old dog and I’ve been trying to learn new tricks. I retired from my soul sucking corporate job five years ago, with the intention of doing freelance work. I’m 65 years old, I think most people are winding down and looking at real retirement at that age. I tell people I’m semi-retired; my 401k got hit by a semi. Continue reading Old Dog New Tricks
If you’ve been following this blog… wait, who am I kidding, no one follows this blog. If anyone was actually following this blog and you were that hypothetical person, you would know that I’ve been in a major productivity slump lately. My writing isn’t so much blocked as it’s embedded in concrete. Every time I sit down to write and manage to think of something to write about, my first conclusion is either “That’s not something I want to share with the world,” or “No one in the world would be the least bit interested in that.”
I noticed awhile back that the word “I” shows up a lot in my posts. And I guess I concluded that was a bad thing. I decided I was going to write more about ideas and causes and art and all that important stuff. But then I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really know enough about any of those things for anyone to care what I had to say. After all, no graduate degrees here. I guess that’s the perfect recipe for concrete. Continue reading Writing about writing