The onset of my Summer cold inspired in me my first burst of real insomnia in weeks.
As the weekend is almost here, I can tolerate a bit of "under-the-weatherness".
My in-laws visit us this weekend. They are such nice people, and I have not seen them since the holiday season. I am glad they're coming.
Today I've got quite a busy schedule at work. I felt really good about my Thursday accomplishments, but I am really in a produtive mode now, and want to get much more done than I do. I'm slowly getting my my personal office space more organized, although the process moves at a snail's pace. I wonder how it is that since roughly kindergarten I've always found this such a challenge. Only my first year of law school seemed entirely organized.
Last night I auctioned 14 issues of Blitz Chess Magazine on eBay for a surprisingly good return. The cosmic stuff balance seems to have "righted itself", though, because the eBay purchase of a literal huge boxful of sheet music for nearly nothing came in the mail last night. This is an incredible collection, ranging from
a 1912 songbook to a collection of Joan Baez' early songs. I saw the auction and realized that I could bid on it, keep the half dozen books I want, and then auction the remainder off again, in essence getting the books I want for virtually nothing. But now I must sort and pick what I want, and begin auctioning again.
I spent some time at a website which sets forth lyrics, music and biographies regarding thousands of church hymns last night (www.cyberhymnal.org). I was amazed, as I often am about such things, how many obscure hymns unknown to me exist in this world. It's like one of my other interests, cactus--who could imagine that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of species existed? Biographies of people who are not heads of state or literary lions and lionesses always intrigue me. Quotations from Fanny Crosby, sightless but the author of hundreds of hymns, expressing gratitude that an inflammation in infancy robbed her of her sight. This quote intrigues me: "If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me". My own view of matters differs from hers. She wrote 9,000 hymns, often charging the publisher 2 dollars a song. She gave away much of what she earned. They had to invent pseudonyms for her authorships, because she was so prolific.
So many of her lyrics are in the current protestant hymnbooks. Her lyrics can be quite sentimental, and definitely seem to be from another time. She hails from an era when poems by definition rhymed and people could write "thee" with a straight face in "serious" literature. Her songs are filled with "Blessed Assurance" and with cries to "Rescue the Perishing". Her 19th Century life seems familiar and remarkable, and yet so very alien to my own way of living and looking at things.
Victorian times seem so near, and so far away. Take the biography of Hannah Whitall Smith. A Quaker who flirted with many of the other Christian religious movement of her time, in 1875, she wrote "The Christian's Guide to a Happy Life". She and her husband became celebrated evangelists. Her life proved to have at least the normal share of unhappiness. Her husband embarked on several extra-marital affairs, ultimately involving them both in a public scandal. She lost several children to premature death. Her own children disappointed her by her own moral lights, one leaving her husband and children to link up with a lover, another marrying the atheist Bertrand Russell, and a third rejecting her chosen faith. I always wonder how people set themselves up as having a particular form of holiness. I don't think that "saint" is really a resume item.
Of course, folks nowadays with different Christian theological beliefs than she had trumpet her "error". But to me, people are just people. Her story could be happening even as we speak, on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. It's not just a religious thing. I think a bit of Joan Baez, appearing barefoot on stage and singing protest songs, but using her first real money to buy a Jaguar XKE. There's nothing wrong with Jaguars (I love to pronounce that name in 1960s Avengers style, with a lolling "Jag U RRs"), nor with folk singers making money, of course. But it's an asychrony.
It's just flat out demanding, this being human business. Everyone, more or less, has feet of clay. I suppose that's why the notion of being washed clean by faith appeals so much.
I think of the poet Dylan Thomas, hounded by creditors and alcoholism during some of the times when his best writing appeared, and then dead by forty. He said "I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression". He also said something I find fun: "When one burns one's bridges, what a pretty fire it makes".
I found myself over at vault.com this morning in my insomnia, posting replies once again to prospective law students about whether to go to law school. I used to spend a fair bit of time there, but stopped when vault's pricing policies made access to old bulletin board posts, including my own, "paying customer" content, at roughly 4 dollars a month. I don't mind paying for services I use, but being denied access to my own posts seemed a bit much.
Nonetheless, I broke my silence to put in my two cents about career plans. I think in another life I would have been a career planner for a living. It's so fun to assemble career ideas, like so many Lego blocks. Yet I find that there are so many variables, and so many chances and mischances of fortune. How can you explain in a paragraph the difficulties of an unfair boss, or the esoteric minor differences between an "A" examination, which will help one get a great job, and a "B-", which will relegate one to lesser law firms? Perhaps one should write hymns at 2 dollars a pop instead. I am worried, though, that my hymns would be a bit prickly, and not
Yesterday on NPR they discussed whether depression is taught by mothers to infants.
I don't know anything about that, and it's a glib enough topic that I can mention it in broad outline, and my readers will know instantly how the article sounded--right down to the earnest, educated intellectual woman who assured us that if she had another episode that she would realize that her first priority was to her baby.
Although it's easy for me to parody the sensible-shoes surrealism of NPR, I must say that the piece touched me, a bit. We all struggle on with the hiking boots we're wearing.
Yesterday a dulcimer salesman wrote to offer me a chance to buy a strumstick.
A strumstick is a three string thing that looks like a weird little guitar, but it is fretted like a dulcimer. I asked "how much?",and the seller quoted me a price greater than my cost to buy a really good new one. I wonder if I have a stamp on my forehead that makes people offer me products at a premium. It's funny, though, because I tend to be a rather frugal shopper. I suppose it's a compliment, in a way, to be thought of as an easy mark. But it is a compliment only in the most oblique sense.
I hope we can keep my in-laws entertained. I wish our older dog were younger.
I think that I am bored of the Swift Boat Veterans, Bob Costas, and reruns of MASH.
I actually had an editor of a journal write me and kindly suggest I submit a poem.
I failed to follow through. Sometimes I wonder what I am thinking. I did almost the same thing with a chance to review books for someone else. I get bored of my self, sometimes. My Ford seller did leave me feedback that my Ford was "better than described", which is at least some comfort. May my ordinary days be, from time to time, "better than described".