I woke up around 4:25. It will be 5:20 when I finish writing this. Last week I kept telling Betsy, Toni Morrison woke up at 4AM, even after a night of partying. Maybe this was me threatening myself to do the same. I read this week in an essay Bobby sent me that Stanley Crouch called Morrison’s work “bottles of bathtub corn liquor” and despised literary critics who put their “high-class seals” on her books. I feel that way about a lot of literary critics today.
Yesterday, between calls, I was having what used to be called lunch, sitting out on the sun-drenched porch eating a cauliflower rice bowl and plant-based chicken nuggets, reading a tome from the 1990s called Death Studies. The scientists learned there is not much difference, for a student, between the statements “I am a college sophomore” and “I am a college senior” but there is a difference between “I am alive” and “I am dead.” Funny, I felt like I was dead right after college. Most of the students in the study didn’t believe in their own death, thought it would happen much later than statistics say it will, thought it happened more from heart disease than cancers and suicides, thought it would happen at home, surrounded by loved ones, as opposed to how it more often happens: alone, isolated, in a hospital. It was a massive study of students, in the 90s, and I wondered if Conor Oberst cut class that day, but later wrote, “I Don’t Want to Die (In the Hospital).”
I have good taste. But I want to get worse. I want to wake up earlier. I want to learn more things, read more books, see more people, make the wrong decisions. I have a dream that the entire world will step down for the tyrant, be it Vladimir Putin or Joe Biden. The tyrant will come and we will kneel. Hello, my phallus! What if we said to the tyrant, well, there’s just nothing we can do about your greatness, just like we can’t do anything about climate change, just like we can’t do anything about Medicare for All. We’re just going to have to live with this new reality. Kafka wrote of the messiah coming not on the last day, but on the very last day. For the world, that is the day to come.
Stuart, go back and read some of those Nicholson Baker essays about pacifism during WWII. But why is it necessary to read about pacifism? It is already here, changing everything. Yesterday I was out on the strip and thought I heard the opening melody to Bruckner’s 2nd, but it was only a battle of car horns mixed with the screams of the very sick man the city won’t house. Reza’s gives him a meal and a Heineken, every day. There is a lesser-known setting for male voice by Schubert, it is an unknown poet’s prayer, that peace may descend and silence the “storms of the heart” and the “vain dreams” whose burgeoning brings pain. The soul is to rest as “in a grave filled with flowers” until it rises, healed.
I am in a seasonal fight with some of my qualities. Being too confusing. Being weird. Being brilliant. Putting too much into everything. Making everything too perfect. Assuming that if the robot voice can’t read it, some human voice will choose to. Then again, I am embracing, even harder, some others. I will be open to everything. I will have no sense of context. Having no sense of my own worth, my own value, I’m bringing no received opinions. I am listening to the music of youngest people, which is impossible to listen to, this music is killing me. I will deny the cultural things that bring me comfort, the things I know are good, and I will admit only what I don’t know.
The closest I got to death was one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had on earth. Death didn’t scare me. I wasn’t even sad about the people I’d be leaving behind. Who was I, to think that this body belonged to them, or belonged to me. If I am to have a death bed, and not die alone in the hospital, I would like my final words to be I am discovered! But Death Studies called death a terrifying construct. Especially for students. Which I eternally am. A terrifying construct. That’s how I feel when I see the Freedom Tower, which rose on the tyrannical ruins of the WTC; and those empty pages, those discursive ruins, of 432 Park Avenue. It’s not exactly how I see death.