Author Archives for Ellen

Xmas

I do enjoy the late December festivities. It is part of the yearly cycle of celebrations. The long nights, the cold, the lights inside the houses and outside on the streets, they do create magic. It’s not that i have a Christmas tree all decorated, but yeah, i do have some Christmas lights wrapped around a small chest. Paper cutouts of geometric Christmas trees turned around a candle.

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I enjoy the television. Lots of movies to watch. Harry Potter. Again. Cooking shows. Of course. I do enjoy them. Even though the sweet tones and angelic smiles can be a bit too much for me. Simply Nigella i like, yes. But please show me the bloopers more. I simply can not imagine anyone whisking and cutting and blending with that continuous smile. Still, with all the tv and the cooking shows and the ads on the streets and the Christmas lights up, with all the commercialism and the money making and the people playing for the camera’s, it is still a magical time. I will go to my family this Saturday. Have a little bite to eat. Hopefully it will be nice, we might play a game, we might watch some tv, we might listen to some music. It is not going to be an all festive glamorous time, but still. It’ll be nice.

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I'm happy to say i don't drink any soda. These ads from Coca Cola don't do anything for me. Apart from annoying me a bit.
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New Year is also around the corner. So is the New Years lottery. Which i actually did do. Once a year. A few years ago i did stop doing this.
Published on December 21, 2015 at 6:00 by

The final bit of 2015

This week i’m working on two jobs, which is good, moneywise. Otherwise good too. A bit of work to keep the mind straight. A bit.

I have made some decisions this week. I will be taking a short vacation after Christmas. A week of no posts, to relax and unwind.

The last post, the one on Christmas day, next week Friday, will be the post i started last week, The world is terrible. I haven’t written anything more, but it’s been on my mind every single day. I’ll start writing Saturday and give myself a short week to get it to my liking.

I’ll be doing one more food entry, Vanilla Ice Cream with a Salted Caramel Sauce. Yay!! Really looking forward to that one.

I might be doing a video clip. Not sure, i’ll have to see how it will work out. I am thinking of doing Let It Go. That is my favourite song of this year. I might sing it live into the camera. I’ll see how that goes.

The other posts, i don’t know yet. It’ll make itself clear.

Have a good weekend.

Published on December 18, 2015 at 6:00 by

Mayonnaise

The past months i’ve been making salads for bread. So far i have made egg salads, tuna salads and celeriac apple salads. I did buy mayonnaise in the supermarket. Last week i started to look into the recipe for a homemade mayonnaise. Terribly easy! And i knew that, i have made it before. Pfff.

The ingredients

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar, apple vinegar is good, so is white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 150 ml of vegetable oil, sunflower oil in this case
  • lemon, juiced (optional)

Place the egg yolk, the mustard, salt, pepper and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk them, either by hand or with a hand mixer. Start adding the vegetable oil very slowly, only drops and keep on whisking. After a while you can pour in the oil in a slow stream. You end up with a thick mayonnaise, you can save in the fridge for around 5 days.

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Egg salad
Extremely simple. Cook three eggs. Put them in cold water and heat up. Once they are cooking, turn down the fire and let them stand for five minutes. With a timer! When done, peel the eggs and squash them with a fork. Add around two tablespoons of mayonnaise, a bit of extra salt. Today i added some chives to the mix.

Another idea is to add some baked bacon to this salad. Or onion. Or cheese.

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Celeriac and apple salad
Great salad. Best tool to have for this is a mandolin. For apples Granny Smith’s are the best, fresh green apples. Use a medium width slicer for the mandolin and set the distance to around 1 – 2 millimeters.

Slice the apple on the mandolin. Slice around a quarter of the celeriac. Add around two to three tablespoons of mayo, depending on taste. For the salad on the picture i added some chopped walnuts and raisins, making it more like a waldorf salad.

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Tuna salad
Very simple. Open a tin of tuna and squash it with a fork. Use three to four small gherkins and slice them in small squares, around 5 millimeters large. Add two to three tablespoons of mayonnaise and mix. Done.

Crab salad
I will make this salad next week, for around Christmas. I saw a box filled with crab meet in the Marqt, the shop where i buy bread, butter and eggs. The easiest recipe for this is the crab meat mixed with the mayo, with some chopped chives.

A search gave me more ideas. Avocado, onion, bell peppers, scallions, parsley, cucumber, garlic, celery, these can all be added to this salad. I’ll go with the simple one first.

More salads…?
There are so many more salads you can make. Chicken, spicy chicken, ham and leek, salmon, cucumber. Depends on what you like yourself, what is in season, what is the cheapest to buy.

Enjoy!

Published on December 16, 2015 at 6:00 by

A lovely day

This morning i slept in a bit. I came out of bed a quarter past ten. I cooked an egg. I set it up with cold water, turned out the gas when the water boiled and set a timer at 5 minutes. Tomorrow i’ll set the timer to 4 minutes once again. Sometimes that might be a bit too soft, but i still like it loads.

I played a bit of warcraft. On a private server, the Rebirth, a 1x vanilla server, 1.12. I don’t play lots, only around half an hour till an hour a day. Winter Veil started again. Today i did the Metzen quest. I still remembered it from retail. I knew he was in Tanaris. My main rogue is level 52, so i could walk in easily in between all the level 43 – 44’s there.

I listened to some music. The loudspeakers don’t work. Last Thursday there was a brief electricity failure. After that they simply don’t work. I tried the cd player, but that has the same problem. I can hear the music very faintly, even when i put the sound at its loudest. Today i reconnected the wires, but that didn’t help. Hopefully i’ll be able to fix it later on. But today i listened through my Apple headphones.

I set out and collected all the papers i need to send to the tax office. I’m gonna get a statement from the tax office about this life insurance thing i had for the past five years. I stopped it, but i need a statement in which it is said what amount i deducted from my tax papers each year. As far as i know, i had put up nothing. I did ask my accountant if he knew anything about it, and he had said no. So this should mean i get more money back from the insurance. I did call the tax phone to check the address i need to send this too. The last time i called, i was told i should send it too the Office in Middelburg. All these sort of statements are being done now by that office. Only since a couple of weeks. Glad i was told in time. I walked to an outside printer’s shop to print 2 pdf files and copy the insurance policy. It is in the post now. Phew.

I walked back through town. I got me a chips with mayo. I looked around, sitting on the edge of a small green area, across from Amac, the Apple store. I went in there for a short time after i finished my chips. I looked at the iPad Pro. Hmm. Not too large. Quite lovely. Hmm.

When i got home, around four, i realized The Great British Bake Off was on. A repeat of this years show. So i turned on the tv and watched the end of it. Escape to the Country. Home Comforts at Christmas. Dr. Phil. Terrible story on there. Koken met van Boven is back! I like that show. Also a cookery show, but with attention to where the food comes from. I had to laugh when the presenter, Yvette, pulled this big smile when she was whisking the eggnog mixture. Or rather, in Dutch, advocaat! A drink i’m actually used to seeing my old aunts drink around Easter. But in the US it is a Christmas drink. I should actually make it someday. Eggs, sugar and brandy. Nothing really difficult about that!

And all this day i thought about this article i started last Friday. The world is terrible. I only wrote the first paragraph. The rest is still in my head. I do hope it will be finished this week, but we’ll see. I think, i hope, i wish it to be a special article. We’ll see.

It’s almost nine here. In a few minutes Simply Nigella will start. She smiles too much in her shows. I do enjoy the recipes, but pfff. It is all a bit fake.

Enjoy your day. Kiss!

Published on December 15, 2015 at 6:00 by

Infinite Jest: Page 3 – 31

The title. Infinite Jest. It is taken from Hamlet. The play written by Shakespeare.
Hamlet holds the skull of the court jester Yorick and says:

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!”

I’m guessing the best time to search for an explanation of a title is at the end. So that is what i will do. But i do want to state the thought of the title at the beginning. It is an easy element to forget. Important though.

inbetween

Year of Glad
Page 3 - 17
I read this part three times. Once when i bought the book. Once later on, trying again to read this book. And finally this time. So yes, i know this part. And yet, like with any book, which you simply won’t memorize completely, it is new to me.

I am seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies.

The first sentence of the book. It is strangely worded. Heads and bodies. As if the person is surrounded by marbles, disconnected from each other. This part describes someone very aware of his surroundings. Aware of himself, in a distant way.

I believe i appear neutral, maybe even pleasant, though i’ve been coached to err on the side of neutrality and not attempt what should feel to me like a pleasant expression or smile.

The I in this chapter is Hal Incandenza, eightteen years old. Hal is a ranked tennis player. He is at his admission talk for the University of Arizona.

His experience of his own body, his own speech is vastly different from how others perceive him. Other people people hear subanimalistic noises and sounds. Hal is taken away by paramedics into an ambulance. Strapped.

I’m not what you see and hear.

Unknown words
wen / harmless, usu permanent, tumour on the scalp or other part of the body

inbetween

Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
Page 17 - 26

The years have weird descriptions. The Year of Glad? Depend Adult Undergarment? Strange.

Well, this seems another year. I’m not sure what the name is of the man in this chapter. Erdedy? Not a name i have heard before. Well, he is waiting for a woman. He has made an appointment with her. She had said she would come. She will bring along 200 grams of marijuana. His mind wanders. Watching an insect. Thinking about how he wanted to stop doing drugs, how each time he calls another person to get it once again. How he had prepared his house for a couple of days of being completely out of it. How this time would be the last time. How he would force himself of taking too much. Each day.

The woman still hadn’t arrived by the end of the chapter.

Unknown words
girder / wood, iron or steel beam to support the joists of a floor

debauch / cause to lose virtue, to act immorally; turn away from good taste or judgement

inbetween

1 April – Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
Page 27 - 31
Hal is ten in this chapter, eight years younger than in the year of Glad. He is having a talk with a professional conversationalist. Hal drinks soda. Hal can cite the dictionary. Hal’s dad has made the appointment with the conversationalist.

And are you hearing me talking, Dad? It speaks. It accepts soda and defines implore and converses with you.

inbetween

These first chapters are hard. Difficult to read. The unknown words list should be longer, but i only list the words which struck me, and of which i have no idea what they mean. Other words have a vague meaning, still giving a clue to what they want to say. I know the story plays in the United States. I don’t know what years. The years are not numbered, but have weird names.

I’m guessing the first pages of this book are hard to read, the story isn’t set yet. The characters are not known. This is still the introduction.

inbetween

After i wrote this part, i went through the posts on Infinite Summer. I discovered the next bit:

How do you know Wallace can deliver before you’ve already blown the whole summer?

We have a number of reasons to trust Wallace. We have the word of smart people who have read the book, like Marcus, Jason, and Matt. We have almost 15 years of people reading and rereading, mining the book for its pleasures. We have the place to which this book has rapidly ascended in my generation’s unconscious.

But best of all we have the first ten pages.

The first ten pages of this book are remarkable. The first 100 pages are very good (if sometimes frustrating) but the first ten are amazing, and he deliberately put them there, right at the front, in order to make you a promise.

‘I’m not a machine. I feel and believe. I have opinions. Some of them are interesting. I could, if you’d let me, talk and talk. Let’s talk about anything. I believe the influence of Kierkegaard on Camus is underestimated. I believe Dennis Gabor may very well have been the Antichrist. I believe Hobbes is just Rousseau in a dark mirror. I believe, with Hegel, that transcendence is absorption. I could interface you guys right under the table,’ I say. ‘I’m not just a creatus, manufactured, conditioned, bred for a function.’

I open my eyes. ‘Please don’t think I don’t care.’

I look out. Directed my way is horror. I rise from the chair. I see jowls sagging, eyebrows high on trembling foreheads, cheeks bright-white. The chair recedes below me.

‘Sweet mother of Christ,’ the Director says.

He could have just said this: Listen up. I have a freaking great story to tell you.

If you feel yourself getting frustrated in parts, or lost. If you feel Wallace has lost your trust, stop, go back and read the first ten pages. You’ll find a promise.

I had forgotten about this passage. I just looked it up again. It was what came after it that threw me off. The rejection. The complete lack of understanding.

Talk to you again soon.

Published on December 14, 2015 at 6:00 by

Two thousand fifteen

This past year has been wild. For me. Not that anybody will have noticed. I’m outwardly quiet, friendly. I smile a lot. At home, alone, i work, i read, i sing, i dance, i watch tv. And i blog.

This year i discovered so many new things. Things i love to do. Not that i’m particularly good at them. The singing. I don’t play any instrument, so it’s a cappella for me. And yes, that is difficult. It is hard to keep it all in the same tone, it is hard to remember all the details of a song, the ooohs and aaahs, the lalalala’s and the sighs and sounds. But i do love it.

The video clips. Closer to me, closer to what i’ve been doing the biggest part of my life. I had a first discovery wild energetic go at it. Now it’s a bit more controlled. I do like the mixing of the singing and the video clips. Excellent.

This year is also a year of looking back. The books i read, the works i made, the thoughts i had. I don’t know why i stopped working in 2006. But i do feel better now. I’m not all quiet and serene, not at all. But i have ideas of what i would like to do mostly.

Getting it done is something else. Making it my work, with which i can earn a living, is something else. But that is what i wish for the most.

I have a bit more time. I got a bit of money, still. I’m not there yet.

I don’t understand where i get this trust from. I know it’s made up, by me. At times i do feel worried extremely. But it always passes. On the whole, i’m feeling entirely happy. Wonderful. Great!

I’ll leave you with this. Enjoy your weekend. Smell the fresh air. Make a walk. Drink tea. Eat a cookie. Smile.

Published on December 11, 2015 at 6:00 by

A meeting, bread, eggs, butter and some time to unwind.

I had a meeting this morning. I talked a lot. A lot even. So much to say. Somewhat hectic, i admit.

It was good.

I went to the shop afterwards. Bread, eggs and butter. My breakfast. Home. I still felt the tension inside. I listened to music, sang along with some songs. Reasons from Earth, Wind & Fire. Love that song!

I remember singing along with this song when i was twelve years old. Standing outside my older sister with the album Gratitude in my hands.

I should try and sing this song a cappella. Practice it at least. Hmm.

I did read a couple of D.F. Wallace articles this afternoon. Consider the Lobster. Hail the Returning Dragon, Clothed in New Fire. Federer as Religious Experience.

I got this idea for a post. About this last year. About the sexual feelings i had. Have. I need some time to think about this, some time to write and rewrite.

Still tired.

Published on December 10, 2015 at 6:00 by

Infinite Jest: Start Up

Starting to read Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, published in 1996. Again.

I will also watch the movie The End of the Tour, released July 2015.

Main websites for further information and help.

Journalism articles

David Foster Wallace on Ambition | Blank on Blank | PBS Digital Studios

Full HD David Foster Wallace interview with Charlie Rose (03/1997)

Another Random Bit: The Perspective of David Foster Wallace

Rereading David Foster Wallace – The New Yorker Festival – The New Yorker

This Is Water – Full version-David Foster Wallace Commencement Speech

The text [copy from webarchive] (Not sure how long i may publish this text, lets just see how it goes.)

Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address – May 21, 2005

(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to. In fact I’m gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings [“parents”?] and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story [“thing”] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I’m supposed to talk about your liberal arts education’s meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about quote teaching you how to think. If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I’m going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we’re supposed to get in a place like this isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I’d ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here’s another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.'” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”

It’s easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy’s interpretation is true and the other guy’s is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person’s most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there’s the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They’re probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists’ problem is exactly the same as the story’s unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being “well-adjusted”, which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education — least in my own case — is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to.

But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible — sounds like “displayal”]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

Published on December 9, 2015 at 6:00 by

Infinite Jest

Over the past months i’ve been rereading some of my SF and fantasy books. I’ve been through the best of them. So now it is time for me to turn to some other books i have, which have been waiting for my attention. First is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I have this book for around 5 years. I have tried reading it, but i got stuck. So i will try again. Yes! I will use resources online to help me understand the book and read notes about it. Infinite Summer i have still bookmarked, and i’m happy to see it is still online. A good place to start.

This evening i will read some articles about Wallace, tips to help me get through the book and enjoy it, warm ups and advocacy posts.

This thought just cropped up, so i do need to give it some thought before i go ahead with it. I might do a small series about the book here. Some notes, passages i noticed. This might give me some support in reading. I’ll think about it.

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After doing the clips yesterday, today i’m searching for best of lists. Also a few other clips i came across. Enjoy!

Paste Magazine‘s best of 2015 music list

Rolling Stone – 50 Best Songs of 2015

Published on December 8, 2015 at 6:00 by