Friday, September 12, 2008

Preface to the Blog of Innocence

I like to think of myself as someone who is drafting and re-drafting his life until it makes sense. Life, being irrational, never fully makes sense and so I am continually making up new stories about myself in a creative and naive way.

But this is how children think. Nothing is absolute. Everything is provisional for a child. Tell the child one story, she will believe it, because any story to a child has the possibility of being true.

Adults on the other hand conform to a rigid set of beliefs, true or untrue only according to their own reality.

I write because it is a door I once opened and I continue to go back and forth through that door. I explore the byways and the tunnels of myself.

Whatever I write always has the possibility of being true--at least to me--and to write down my reality is satisfying.

The question of whether what I do is art or not. Sometimes I am intentionally creating art and sometimes I am just writing. The best writing comes out when I am not intentionally doing anything--in fact the best writing comes out when I don't know what I'm doing or saying. But I think I like to write because it feels like someone is listening. It feels like what I am saying is not only true to me but true to others as well.

In a way, I am a compulsive writer. I will write because it's a drive.

Maybe I should stop.

Sometimes I do. But when I stop writing, I read a lot and reading activates my imagination and soon I am writing again.

Whatever I've been saying in the last few paragraphs, I'm not aiming at anything. I'm circling around the mood and the moment of my experience, gladly touching the borders and playing with the edges.

Everyone has their own secret life. We all have minds which are islands--between those islands flow the rivers of our hearts, but the mind itself is lonely. Which is strange, because we retreat into our minds so often. We retreat into our thoughts, our ideas, our beliefs, and we find solace in them even though they are ridiculous.

But there is safety in one's private mind, the thoughts of which no one can read. Because they are private entertainments of the self.

If you have pets, then you know the comforts of having non-human company. The human-animal connection is unique, and for obvious reasons, animals are incredibly loved by humans.

Ultimately, I think what we are stuck with is habit. Whatever habits you cultivate within your lifetime, those are the heavens and hells of your existence. Many habits fall between these two extremes and that's why our lives are pretty mundane.

Most of our habits are mundane in the everyday sense. We go to work, we eat meals, we tend to our homes and our families, we do chores. Perhaps that's why novelty is so interesting and stimulating.

I seek novelty. If I am not seeking novelty in dramatic and bizarre ways, I am seeking novelty in the miniature sense.

I do appreciate a well-ordered life, everything manageable and in its right place. This stems from the pure gratification of a sense of control. But as far as I can tell, control is something that most people try to exert over themselves and their environments.

My habits are deeply fulfilling mundane rituals that I carry out, such as going to Borders every morning to have my coffee and read the New York Times. To me, the Times is my mainstay to a normal, functioning adulthood. I am not saying the specific paper has the same magical effect on everyone. But for me reading the paper is very soothing and it reaffirms my sense of self.

I admire the quality of the writing in the Times and I believe it improves my own writing. But there is something else about the ritual which stabilizes me.

And yet, I seek novelty.

Women provide men with an immediate burst of novelty and distraction. If you are ever bored, start a romantic relationship and you will find how interesting your life gets.

But I believe that I ultimately retreat back into my own private mind, and that shared space between me and another person gradually lessens or dries up and dies.

I believe in long-term relationships, I am cynical towards permanent ones.

Right now I don't know where I am in terms of the opposite sex. Do I want to get married? Do I want to have children? Would I prefer to stay single?

The opposite sex is delightful. Loving can also be a doorway to a higher potential for one's being, but in most cases, we are not mature in love for long enough. We stop loving and I cannot explain or understand that.

Love gets degraded over time, diminished, and terribly distorted until it is not even love but something representing its opposite: hate.

Now my cats are quiet. The heater has stopped humming and the only sound in the room is of my keys clicking.

I think about my past life, my life in Spain and Las Vegas. I think of the adventures I once had and now being here in this moment of early, untainted adulthood.

I'm making the right choices now. Thank God. I am rational about things. I am aware of habit and how it has the power to lull me into a state of unconsciousness.

We grow ourselves. We grow our personalities and our behaviors. Like a garden, we grow ourselves--and once we were sick gardens but now we are growing healthier. Once we were patches of weeds over a dusty mound of dirt, but now we are seeking wholeness and fruit.

We want to bear fruit. For ourselves, for others.

We learn in time to survive, and even better, we learn to thrive.

It is the unfortunate fact of being human that we are constantly working against ourselves. We like to be our own enemies. And I think it is better that we just accept this as a matter of fact, that we accept the demons inside of us which want to destroy us, even if that destruction is a slow-going poison.

Because, ultimately, we must die and we know we must die. So the destructive force inside each one of us is familiar and close. We know the destructive side as much as we know the creative side. We know when we do good to ourselves and our bodies, and we know when we do bad.

Good and bad are only relative to our own individual experiences. Doing wrong to others is doing wrong to oneself.

But it is almost impossible to escape the cloud of unconsciousness that hovers over each one of us. And in an ironic display, we can see everyone else's flaws but not our own.

It is like the inability to smell one's own scent. The smell is palpable to others, but not to yourself.

I don't repress the mystery about myself; I form it.

I also celebrate it.

I have been called naive before, and after all, this blog is called The Blog of Innocence.

We are all innocent in life. We are innocent to the radical mystery of it.

No matter what we do, what errors we make, what horrors befall us, we are all human, we are all innocent.

Read a recent essay, "Loving Her" . . .

Thursday, September 11, 2008


The Blog of Innocence would not be complete without all of the beautiful images. I thank the contributors with all my heart.

Please note that I have since changed my credits policy. Now I provide a link to the artist on the page of the article.

These are the credits, mostly to Flickr users, for previous posts.

Cover Banner: Paul Delvaux, The Man of the Street.

Welcome Page
: "Swedish Suburbs in The Mid-Seventies" on Flickr
Preface: "jiamgspokane" on Flickr

Approaching the Cliff
: "lowmagnet" on Flickr
Flight: Part One: "fjalarinn" on Flickr)
Flight: Part Two: "Troy Snow" on Flickr
Flight: Part Three: "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" by Goya
Descent: Part One: Matei Apostolescu
Descent: Part Two: unknown
Descent: Part Three: Vladamir Kush

Balanced or not?: "Tahbepet" on Flickr
Autumn Unfolds: "Hanneck" on Flickr
Was Don Quxiote serious?: "i am not perfext" on Flickr.
On Reading and the Web: photo by Candida Höfer, Libraries
Escape Artist: "Jobbys" on Flickr and "bass_nroll" on Flickr
The Paradox of Dreams: "merowig" on Flickr and "" for the Borges pic
The Magic Pill, or Self-Destruction: "Streams of Consciousness" on Flickr
Robert Louis Stevenson: "mjkghk" on Flickr
Michel de Montaigne: "expatriatus (hatethereligion,ovethereligious)" on Flickr
James Joyce: "Textportraits" on Flickr
Where do we stand: art by Letman

Additional Pages:
The Imaginary Audience: Vladamir Kush
The Bridge: "lowmagnet" on Flickr


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Descent: Part Three

Life presents a paradoxical situation to each of us. Life asks us to both care and not care at the same time. My flight embraces one end of the spectrum: the extreme of caring. My descent embraces the other: supreme not-caring.

How to engage both at the same time? Maintaining a balance seems contradictory and impossible.

The closed circle of flight and descent forms the essence of what it means to be human. That swing is life propelling itself forward and back through triumph and hardship, success and failure, gladness and sadness. Without this primordial movement, we would not know joy from misery, or pleasure from pain.

The cycle is so familiar to me, and yet I hardly recognize it. Like spring, summer, fall, and winter, I relive the drama of every new season. With fervor I jump from the cliff and soon find myself soaring through the clouds. “Life is really this good . . .”

What I never pay attention to is the subtle shift. If I knew that I was descending then perhaps I could prepare myself better, modulate my speed, extend my wings, maneuver my body, or look where I’m going—to ensure a safe landing.

But I plummet, as I’ve always plummeted.

So this is the true character of life and I must accept it. The rhythm is bound to rise and fall. I’m impulsive about flying and I want to live there, up in the clouds.

But the descent is pulling me down, bringing me into closer harmony with the earth and her seasons, and I will be wiser for it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Descent: Part Two

Despair comes when I feel like my work has no purpose. Despair comes from feelings of naught, I am naught, my work is naught, the world is naught . . .

But what is despair?

Despair is the conviction of the futility of life.

Despair is all efforts signifying nothing.

Despair is the abortion of possibility.

Despair is a yoke that reads “Carry Me or Die.”

My despair feels like the abrupt end to a good movie. I wish I could return to those beginning parts and relive the experience, feel those powerful emotions. I regret having felt joy; it seems like a cruel reality, something that was given and taken away.

Despair is my grandfather’s overcoat hung on the door when he comes back from drinking and gambling. The house is silent. My grandmother is crying up in her bedroom.

My despair is a pit of solitude the town bullies throw me into so they can piss on me and shout jibes.

My despair is the convincing reality that I am stuck forever.

My despair is the inability to stay in one place, physical or otherwise.

My despair is the absence of wanting to do anything. Nothing interests me anymore.

My despair is a shopkeeper who scowls at me when I enter his store.

I used to be a drug addict. I am still seeking respite.

The Internet promises fulfillment. The type of person you are depends on what that fulfillment might be.

One moment, I feel like a king surveying his realms on a map of the world.

The next, I feel like the king’s fool, making jokes about the king’s empty possessions.

For three days, I am gliding through existence—every sensation a lubricant to positive emotion, every thought an expansive, intelligent connection.

For two more days, I am shedding my charisma and beginning to walk in a growing fog of self-delusion.

By the end of the week, lethargy and despair pour in through the levees.

Cycles are part of nature right? The seasons are cycles, the day is a cycle, life is a cycle . . .

I yearn for a place outside my constant seeking. I yearn for repose at the end of the wheel’s turning.

For the first time, I am conscious of my despair.

I am conscious of the cycle that drives me to act, or not to act. For the first time, I am interrogating my sadness.

I restrain myself from becoming too indulgent in my feelings of intoxication. This is the beginning of learning detachment.

My tendency is to grasp positive emotion. Like a cunning alchemist, I will try to make joy into a fountain of ecstasy or happiness into glowing euphoria.

Now I can see the problem with that. After euphoria, there is emptiness and only emptiness; after ecstasy there is pain.

Flights of grandeur. Flights of poetic inspiration. Flights of high emotion.

Nothing lasts. The water returns to the sea. The flight I expect to go on forever will at once make its sharp descent.

Whatever is holding me, will let go.
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