Category Archives: Banes

Questo, e questo; París, y 4, y 5

Hoy le ha entrado una astilla. Me viene, hay días, una gana ubérrima, política. These are the poems I would like to present this week.

That pain that is so often just below the surface. “You are in crisis,” someone said. “You are so calm and meditative,” said another. “You are in a panic,” said a third. But it is that pain just below the surface, that I want to pull out.

*

Hazards of professordom were said to be publication requirements and snow, but the malevolent environments were not mentioned. And it was the malevolence, not research or weather, that made me want to leave. But my mother hated me for what I had done already, and if I did another thing like that, another career, advanced degree, I might never be able to make it up to her. The story might go something like that. I was to repeat her unhappiness; I have done. I should end that.

If I worked at a place that had sabbaticals I would be coming up for one right now. It would be a collegial place, with research resources, and sabbatical would not mean salary reduction. I would still go to campus and the town would be friendly, and I would take small research trips.

That is really all it is. A marginally collegial environment including marginally collegial collaboration (as opposed to war) on teaching, and research time. And calm — I really do not like jerking from one political crisis to the next, as we do. That is really all I require. Yet it is a great deal.

Axé.

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“Malicious, intentional destruction, guided by ill will”

It is what is done to my field and research in my field by the university, and from a much broader point of view there is this.

Axé.

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“Grotesque incompetence,” “Threatening,” “Malevolent,” “Evil,” “Ill will”

Those were some words and phrases the Emeritus Professor used tonight in response to my description of some activities of the upper administration.

Axé.

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More from Miller

  • Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  • When you can’t create you can work.
  • Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.

Those are our three points du jour, although my favorites are still “Work on one thing at a time until finished” and “Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.” (I have a great deal to say about turning oneself into a creative person again, or a person with subjectivity and agency again. You must cultivate yourself and this is what people do not understand; even sacrificers and penitents cultivated themselves.)

I want research time and Fulbrights. It is unrealistic to expect oneself to work here because of the atmosphere, or elsewhere because one’s things are here. How to manage these problems. I might need a New Orleans sublet. (I must stay in touch with Hunter.)

I want to understand how I self destructed for once and for all, and stop wondering. I know and knew exactly what I wanted to do. How to walk through those glass doors and ceilings now?

Axé.

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Henry Miller was right

Miller works the way one did before having to listen to the harangues of professors who read Boice. He lived at Big Sur at one point–perhaps the mystical awareness came to him there. Here are three of his points, with my comments:

  • Work on one thing at a time until finished. [Even when others demand you do something else, and even when you are efficiently accomplishing many things.]
  • Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’ [This second point is what is meant by the dictum against perfectionism — allow things to be finished when they are finished. It does not mean you should not finish things or not allow yourself to produce things that satisfy you.]
  • Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. [That is SO different from the idea of setting a timer and your jaw that is recommended now, but it is what a real writer does.]

I am fortunate to have known these things early on. Really fortunate. I should sit in this knowledge more. Everything is fine when I have, or take more research and writing time, and more recreational time, and do not listen to those who say one does not know what one is doing and is only serious if committed to grim drudgery, or sacrifice and penitence without spirit.

*

I have been feeling well the past few days and it is because some things have come together. The situation was not created by me entirely, or by me alone, or perhaps we could say it was not created by me. What I have to say about these things is, very briefly, about the “disease model” of “depression” (which I don’t think I have, I think I have oppression, which may be another thing).

Disease model: it is useful insofar as it insists that the phenomenon is real. It fascinates me how many people think it is not. They really do think everything is a question of attitude, or in some cases correct Protestant-style morals. But it is destructive when people want to use it as an excuse to check out, or want you to. I find that a slight reduction in oppression goes a long way, but I also find that so many people feel they are entitled to so much that if you gave them the chance to say a reduction in oppression would help, they would decide they should just wait for more things to be served to them on silver platters.

In any case, though, I feel different lately. I feel as I did before psychotherapy and academic jobs, before I was told I was the wrong person, before I was told my accomplishments were not real and my pleasures not legitimate, and before I began to feel I had better either flee or hide if these were the things I was to believe in my current universe. The fact that I feel different is proof that depression, or oppression, are real things and really impair you. I do not believe they are biological matters and I am not at all convinced that you can recover just by taking the semester off.

Axé.

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This could be a “therapy goal,” if one is needed

Not to withdraw, not to dissociate. To be aware of the tendency to do these things. To keep in mind that it is safe not to.

(It really is amazing, the difference between not suffering anxiety/fear/panic and doing so, the difference between withdrawing and remaining in the foreground of oneself, and the difference between not having physical pain/fatigue and having these.)

(I do not fully understand why I learned to berate myself for not being able to concentrate while also creating as much suffering as I dared. I would never have done this earlier.)

Axé.

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Even more for Henry Miller: the unsafe space

  • Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  • Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’
  • Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  • Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  • When you can’t create you can work.
  • Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  • Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  • Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  • Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day.Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  • Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  • Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

MORNINGS:
If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.

AFTERNOONS:

Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.

EVENINGS:

See friends. Read in cafés.

Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.

Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.

Paint if empty or tired.

Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.

Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.

One final note: people always said that the reason I wanted a research job was arrogance, and the reason I would take a research job outside academia over a teaching job within it was fickleness and lack of dedication. But those are not the reasons. The reasons have to do with taste and interests, but also with the fact that cliquish teaching institutions are unsafe spaces for me particularly–tight little family-type atmospheres are just hard for me to navigate.

I am depressed, says a psychologist, and if I behaved and thought differently, I would “manage” better. I am not depressed, says a doctor who knows me in real life and sees me in action — I merely have anxiety, panic, and claustrophobia as rational reactions to a real situation. It is possible to have these afflictions without being depressed, she says. “We must turn from the inappropriate use of the disease model of emotional distress and understand that individuals’ psychological pain arises within social systems as well as within their own brains,” someone said.

Axé.

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